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A barrister is skilled in courtroom advocacy and may be best-placed to present your defence to the jury. Our solicitors can advise whether a barrister is needed in your fraud trial. We work with some of the leading fraud barristers in the country, ensuring you have the best possible team working on your case.
Have you been accused of fraud?
Have you been accused of fraud? Speak to our experienced fraud and financial crime solicitors today. We are highly skilled in this area of the law and can help you further. Contact us now for a free initial enquiry.
What does my barrister do during a fraud trial?
If you are accused of fraud, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will decide whether or not to pursue criminal charges against you. If formal charges are laid, you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
If you plead not guilty, there will be a hearing at the Magistrates’ Court. If the fraud is serious, the magistrates will refer the matter to the Crown Court where there will be a full criminal trial. A judge or a jury will decide whether or not you are guilty of the alleged offence (or offences, as the case may be).
So where does a barrister come into all of this?
The main role of a barrister is to represent the client in court. Barristers are skilled advocates. This means that they know how to argue a client’s case in the courtroom. They also hold specialist legal knowledge in their chosen practice areas, such as fraud and financial crime.
Find out more about What to Expect When You Go to Court.
Why can’t my solicitor represent me in court?
Traditionally, solicitors could not advocate on behalf of clients in the Crown Court. Instead, the defendant had to instruct a barrister to present their defence case. It therefore became the norm for barristers to advocate on behalf of defendants accused of serious crimes – which are the only crimes heard in the Crown Court (more minor crimes are dealt with by the Magistrates’ Court).
The law changed in 1971, which extended full rights of audience to solicitors in any court. However, before a solicitor can advocate in the Crown Court, they must apply for something called ‘Higher Rights of Audience’. This involves passing advocacy assessments. Not all solicitors have Higher Rights of Audience.
So why do I need a fraud solicitor?
This might lead you to wonder why you need a fraud solicitor; why wouldn’t you just instruct a fraud barrister instead? In theory, you can instruct a fraud barrister directly through the Direct Access scheme (also known as Public Access). However, there are some very important reasons why you should instruct a fraud solicitor first.
Solicitors handle the day to day running of the case
Firstly, most barristers do not handle the day to day running of the case. Without a solicitor, this duty will fall to you. There is a lot to do in a fraud trial, including gathering evidence, preparing disclosure and liaising with the court. Gathering the evidence in itself can take many painstaking hours, especially where fraud and financial crimes are concerned. Complex paperwork and figures must be sifted through, expert reports obtained and the findings analysed. This requires an expert hand.
Barristers cannot be paid via Legal Aid
Secondly, barristers cannot undertake any publicly funded work. In other words, barristers cannot be paid via Legal Aid, whereas solicitors can. If you instruct a barrister directly, you will have to pay their fees on a privately funded basis, likely meaning from your own pocket. Solicitors who are part of the Legal Aid scheme (such as the solicitors here at Ashmans) can check whether you are eligible for public funding and apply for it on your behalf. As your legal aid solicitor, we can then instruct a barrister for you, if required.
You might not need a fraud barrister
Finally, you may not actually need a fraud barrister. Remember – barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy. The charges against you may be withdrawn before your case gets to court. Or, it may be settled in the Magistrates’ Court, where solicitors can represent their clients. It may also be that your solicitor actually has Higher Rights of Audience, as some of the solicitors here at Ashmans do. This means your solicitor can represent you in court throughout proceedings, including at the Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court and on appeal.
What’s the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?
To summarise, a solicitor and a barrister are both lawyers, but they have taken different qualifications and perform slightly different roles.
A solicitor has qualified by taking the Legal Practice Course plus a training contract. Solicitors are regulated in England and Wales by the Solicitors Regulations Authority (SRA). Most solicitors are employed by a law firm and work in one particular area of law, such as criminal defence or personal injury. They are usually a client’s first point of contact. They:
- Provide expert legal advice
- Represent suspects during police interviews
- Represent defendants during hearings at Magistrates’ Court
- Draw up legal documents and contracts
- Prepare a case
- Deal with all the paperwork and correspondence
- Manage the day to day running of a case
A barrister has qualified by taking the Bar Professional Training Course plus a pupillage. Barristers are regulated in England and Wales by the Bar Standards Board (BSB). Most barristers are self-employed, but are affiliated with a particular Chambers who promote their services. Like solicitors, barristers tend to specialise in one area of law. They:
- Help a defendant’s solicitor prepare for trial
- Represent a client in court
- Present their client’s case to the court, cross-examine witnesses and do the opening/closing remarks
- Advise on legal arguments and the merits of a case
Therefore, a barrister is required in situations where a case may be settled in a court of law. A barrister would not help someone draft a Will or apply for probate. Instead, they are the ones who do the talking in court, particularly in the higher courts where the charges are serious. The majority of their work takes place in the courtroom, or beforehand when they are preparing to appear in court.
Should I speak to a fraud solicitor first?
If you are accused of fraud, then you first port of call should be a specialist fraud solicitor. We have an experienced team of fraud and financial crime solicitors who are ready to help you. Your solicitor can accompany you to police interviews, advising you what questions to answer and how to answer them. Your solicitor can then manage the running of your fraud case. This includes gathering evidence, assessing the actions of the police and other authorities, and preparing your case for trial.
If we believe that you would benefit from the services of a barrister, we will instruct one on your behalf. We have excellent working relationships with some of the leading fraud barristers across the country. It is usual practice for a solicitor to instruct a barrister on behalf of their client. We can explain to you more about why we have done this and how it works. We may also decide to instruct other experts, such as forensic accountants, who we can call upon as witnesses.
The barrister we instruct will form part of the defence team. He or she will be your representative in the courtroom, using their specialist advocacy skills to establish your innocence. If you are still wondering why you need a barrister during a fraud trial, then the simple answer is because we think it is the best person to argue your case in court. Our priority is to get you the best possible outcome. If we believe that a fraud barrister is needed to achieve this, then we will not hesitate in our instructions.
We understand that a fraud trial is a scary prospect. When you instruct our fraud solicitors, you benefit from our support and guidance throughout the whole process. We are experts in this area of law and know how to get a positive result on your behalf.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.