Client Care and Complaints information
We aim to offer a high quality professional and friendly service to all of our clients. Our office is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.15 p.m. Monday to Friday. We operate a 24 hour call out system. If you have been arrested or require urgent advice please call us.
People responsible for your case
If you ask for our help then we will appoint someone to have the conduct of your matter in their capacity as a lawyer in the firm. They will normally be assisted by at least one other member of the Team to ensure continuity and that there is someone else available who is familiar with your file. If that person is not available when you call, please leave a message with one of their colleagues who may be able to answer your query or who can ensure that your query is dealt with as soon as possible.
Peter Seigne is the Partner with overall supervisory responsibility for the firm. The Partners in the firm are all qualified solicitors with a range of qualifications and experience. The firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees. The firm maintains an equality and diversity policy, a copy of which is available upon request.
If it is necessary for your case to be dealt with at the Crown Court and you wish us to instruct an Advocate of your choice then please inform us at the hearing in which your case is allocated to the Crown Court. If you have no particular instructions on this point or if we do not hear from you we will choose an appropriate Advocate based on their expertise and experience represent you at the Crown Court.
Costs of our Services
If you wish to instruct us and we confirm that we can accept those instructions, you will have to either pay for our services privately, or if eligible your case may be covered by a Representation Order in accordance with the terms set out by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and our contract to provide legally aided services.
However, in legally aided cases we must stress that as the funding comes from the LAA it means that we have a responsibility to them to ensure that our costs are reasonable and not to incur any major expenditure without their prior approval. This is, of course, a limitation on our freedom to act solely on your instructions.
If you pay us privately all costs will be agreed in advance which includes disbursements. Any private paying costs will fall due for payment on the day the first chargeable work is undertaken whether that is a fixed fee or hourly rates. We will not undertake any such work without payment being made for such work on the day the work agreed is concluded.
Legal Aid Funding
We are required to give to you information about your Legal Aid and related matters. There are certain restrictions and conditions that will apply if you are granted Legal Aid.
At the Police Station
Advice and Assistance at the police station is always free, it does not matter how much your income is or how much you have in savings.
Outside the Police Station
If you have signed a CRM2 Form, We are allowed to carry out a limited amount of work on your behalf. This work includes telephone calls and letters but does not allow us to represent you in Court. If you are financially eligible for CRM2 advice and assistance you will not be required to contribute to the costs incurred under this scheme. It is possible in very limited circumstances to get an extension to the costs we can incur, which will allow an increase in the amount of work we can do for you. This form of legal advice and assistance is available to you because you are on low income or on benefit. We shall need to have sight of documentary evidence of your entitlement to benefit so that we can either copy it or make a note of it for my file. If you are not financially eligible for CRM2 funding and you require me to undertake any work on your behalf outside of the Police Station then we will have to charge you for this work.
If you are eligible for Magistrates’ Court Legal Aid then you will not be required to pay anything towards your representation. Most people on benefits and those under 18 years of age are eligible for Legal Aid.
If you have disposable income in excess of £37,500 you will not qualify for Crown Court legal aid. The rules, and the calculations of income are complex and in many cases we will have to make a ‘hardship’ application on your behalf to assess full eligibility. If you remain ineligible for legal aid we will discuss with you the option of paying privately for your defence. If you are eligible for legal aid in the crown court then you may be liable to pay contributions for the first 6 months of your case (income contributions) and at the end of your case if convicted (capital contributions). Most people on state benefit pay nothing (if you plead guilty or are found guilty you may be liable to pay prosecution costs).
The rules in relation to crown court legal aid are complex and we will guide you through the application process. If legal aid is granted you will be informed as to whether there is any contribution payable. If you find the payment proposals unacceptable then you must notify us immediately so that we can reject the offer of legal aid. If you are required to pay contributions towards crown court legal aid and fail to do so, interest charges will be added and the Legal Aid Agency may take legal action to enforce the monies owed. Enforcement action can include the clamping, seizure and/or sale of your vehicle (and please note that there is no legal aid available to assist you in challenging this enforcement).
Other enforcement options include:
charging order secured against any property owned
8% interest on charging orders
High Court enforcement or distress warrant to visit to client’s home to seize goods to value of order
third party debt order against any money deposited in an account
attachment of earnings order
It is vital therefore that you fully understand the financial implications of accepting legal aid subject to income or capital contributions. Legal proceedings, particularly the trial process can be very expensive, often running into many tens of thousands of pounds. If you have capital above the limit (£30,000) this is therefore at risk and you could for example ultimately lose your home.
If you have paid contributions but are acquitted of all charges, monies you have paid (with interest at 2%) will be returned to you. If you are acquitted of some but not all charges the amount payable under contributions may in some cases be apportioned, meaning that you will pay less. We will discuss this with you further should this situation arise.
If you are not eligible for legal aid, or you reject the offer of legal aid, we will not be able to act for you unless you agree to pay privately.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty the Prosecution usually ask the Court to make an order that you pay a contribution towards their costs. Before the Court makes such an order they would consider your financial circumstances.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty you may be asked to pay a fine and/or compensation. In some cases the prosecution will seek to recover from you the ‘proceeds of your crime’ (called a ‘confiscation order’) – if yours is such a case we will discuss this with you at a very early stage as it may impact on the plea you wish to enter.
There will also be in most cases a victim surcharge to pay. We will discuss the implications of these costs once the nature of the case against you in known.
If you are granted Legal Aid you must:-
Tell the Court immediately if your address changes.
Deal with any requests for information from us or the Court quickly. If you try to hide information from the Court or deliberately give them incorrect information then you may have your Legal Aid taken away (revoked).
If your Legal Aid is taken away then you will no longer have the benefit of free representation.
You must not ask us to do anything which would cause unnecessary costs to be incurred.
Revocation and Withdrawal of Legal Aid
You should be aware that in certain circumstances your Legal Aid can be revoked or withdrawn. Revocation means that you are considered never to have been assisted by the Order and you are responsible for all the costs incurred in your case up to the date it was revoked.
Your Legal Aid could be withdrawn in a number of circumstances. The most likely situation is where you do not co-operate with us and we indicate to the Court that we can no longer represent you. Your Legal Aid would then be withdrawn and you would cease to have the benefit of a Legal Aid Order from the date of the withdrawal.
Recovery of Defence Costs
If you are acquitted and have incurred any expenditure in attending Court such as loss of earnings or travelling costs you must keep the receipts should you wish to attempt to recover those costs from Central Funds.
If you have paid for your Defence Privately then upon acquittal you will be able to apply to recover some or all of your Defence Costs. However, this recovery will only be at Legal Aid Rates and will only be possible in the Crown Court if you have applied for and been refused Legal Aid. We will provide you with the appropriate information to enable you to make such an application for recovery.
Client Care/Complaints and Quality Assurance
We are committed to providing our clients with an efficient and effective service. We hope that you are pleased with the work that we do for you. If you do have any problems with the service that we have provided then please let us know. Peter Seigne is the Partner who deals with complaints. If your complaint is about Peter Seigne please direct any complaints to Warren Robinson. We will try and resolve any problem quickly. We maintain a complaints policy which is available to you upon request.
If we are unable to resolve the complaint between us then we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and complaints and redress mechanisms are provided through the SRA and the Legal Ombudsman.
We aim to fully resolve any complaint fully within 8 weeks but if that has not been achieved then you can refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman. You will need to bring a complaint to the attention of the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving a final written response from us or within 6 years of the act or omission about which you are complaining or three years from when you should have reasonably known there was a cause for complaint (if the act took place more than six years ago). We suggest you make contact with Ombudsmen within 6 months of our last contact with you.
Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton. WV1 9WJ
Tel: 0300 555 0333
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.legalombudsman.org.uk
We are committed to a policy of continuous improvement in the quality and efficiency of the services that we provide to clients. To assist us in achieving this, we may; from time to time; be subject to inspection by independent assessors or auditors in connection with quality assurance schemes like the Legal Aid Agency. Those assessors may want to assess a sample number of files. Unless you confirm to us in writing to the contrary we will assume that you agree to our permitting an inspection of any files relating to work carried out on your behalf. Any inspection will be on the understanding that the information in the file remains strictly confidential and will not be released by the assessor or auditor to any other person.
Communication, Confidentiality and File Storage
We will aim to communicate with you by whichever method you request. We may need to virus check disks or emails. Unless you withdraw consent we will communicate with others when appropriate by email or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by email or fax. The Data Protection Act requires us to advise you that your details are held on our database. From time to time we may send details of information that we believe may be of interest to you.
We are under a professional and legal obligation to keep client information confidential. This obligation is subject to a statutory exception. Legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Where a solicitor knows or suspect that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering the solicitor may be required to make a money laundering disclosure.
If while we are acting for you it becomes necessary to make a money laundering disclosure we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure had been made or the reasons for it. Where the law permits us to do so we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.
At the conclusion of your case your file will be stored securely by us for a period of not more than 6 years. Should you require any information from it please let us know. In the event that you require any information from your file we reserve the right to make a charge for any costs incurred in providing the information.
Privacy Notice: how we will process personal information
We will only collect information from you that is relevant to the legal services that you have asked us to provide. In particular, we may collect information of personal details, of family, lifestyle and social circumstances; of financial details; of details of criminal proceedings and convictions.
We may also collect information that is referred to as “special category”. This could include information on physical and/or mental health details or of racial or ethnic origin.
Any processing of your personal data is carried out in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Our legal basis for processing your data is because we have an agreement with you to provide you with legal services. Any processing carried out by us that falls outside of our agreement with you will be because we have a legitimate interest or a legal obligation to do so.
We will use your information to provide you with criminal and prison law advice and to progress your criminal case in accordance with your instructions. We may also use your personal information to administer your file, to process your payments to us or to submit an application and obtain payment from the Legal Aid Agency as relevant; to assist in the prevention or detection of fraud; to comply with our legal obligations; to carry out any legitimate interest.
Unless you otherwise authorise us, we will only share your information with the Legal Aid Agency; our regulators; external advisers (such as my accountant or if I instruct a lawyer to act on my behalf); law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, like probation, and the courts, subject to your instructions.
Where you expressly authorise us, we may share this information with external legal counsel (such as barristers), third party experts who we engage to assist with your case, with your medical or social work team (if appropriate), and/or your family, associates or representatives. We may also disclose your information to debt collection agencies if you do not pay valid invoices.
We will use appropriate technical, security and organisational measures to ensure that your data is kept safe. This includes confidentiality obligations with third parties, password protected computers and systems and keeping your paperwork secure.
We will keep your information for the duration of the period that we work for you and thereafter for a period of 6 years after your matter is closed or for so long as is necessary for us to administer your account.
You have a series of rights under the GDPR and implementing legislation, including the right to receive a copy of the information we hold about you (known as a Subject Access Request). Please ask us for more information if you wish, or see the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office, (the privacy regulator) (www.ico.org.uk/for-the-public/) for more information.
If you are unhappy with how we are using your personal data, then initially you should contact us, and if your complaint remains unresolved then you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office, details available at www.ico.org.uk.