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Innocent but broke – rough justice?

Penelope Gibbs
03 Oct 2015
If someone is dragged through the courts through no fault of their own and is acquitted, they should get their legal fees back from the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) budget. Maybe that will make them focus on whether a case is worth pursuing
Nigel Evans, MP

In 2014 a little-known change to the justice system hit the headlines when the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons was cleared of rape but left court £130,000 the poorer.

Should those who have been acquitted be able to get their legal costs back? Before 2012, people could get “reasonable” costs back if they had paid privately for a lawyer and were found not guilty, or if the prosecution withdrew the case. New Labour tried, and the coalition government succeeded, in changing the law, so that private payers who were found not guilty could only recoup a small fraction of their costs.

Some of the defendants who pay privately are eligible for legal aid but choose private defence. But many of those who end up out of pocket are excluded from legal aid altogether or only eligible to have some of their defence costs paid. In this report, Transform Justice challenges why the innocent should be financially penalised and advocates reform of the “innocence tax”, specifically some new way of reimbursing legal fees when a defendant is acquitted or the case collapses.