Instructing a solicitor is a serious matter, not least because of the issue of legal costs. Here we explain the funding options available to you when bringing actions against the police, including conditional fee (“no win no fee”) agreements.
For more information, or to start your police misconduct claim, please complete our online form or call us on 08000 124 246.
A word of warning: this is a long piece! We’ll save you the trouble of reading it if:
- you think you’re eligible for legal aid. Donoghue Solicitors does not represent clients using legal aid. If you are interested in finding a legal aid lawyer click here
- you’re from Scotland. We only represent clients in England and Wales. Click here to contact the Law Society of Scotland for help.
Before you consider how to fund your civil action against the police, find out if your compensation claim has reasonable prospects of success. That way you are not wasting valuable time and money (read “How Much Does it Cost to Make a Police Compensation Claim?” for more).
To learn more read the actions against the police page and the linked pages, where you will get
- a better understanding of the law in civil actions against the police,
- available remedies in claims against the police,
- how to calculate police abuse compensation,
- time limits in actions against the police,
- information police misconduct solicitors need to help you, and
- other things, including why we think you should use us.
How to Pay for Your Police Misconduct Claim
Unfortunately, we cannot take every case, even if you have funding available. But if we can help, at the beginning we will discuss with you:
- how to fund your case while it is ongoing
- how to deal with any shortfall if you win. This is because the losing party (usually the police force involved) has to pay most, but not all, of your legal costs
- what happens if you lose.
You can fund your case in various ways. These include:
- Conditional Fee (“no win no fee”) Agreements
- Instructing us to act on a “private client” basis
- Using “before the event” insurance
- Legal aid.
Compare your options below.
1. Conditional Fee (“no win no fee”) Agreements in Actions Against the Police
If your case meets the necessary criteria (click here to read more about this), and only where appropriate, you can instruct us using a no win no fee police claims agreement. You and Donoghue Solicitors will enter into a contract which protects you by being enforceable at court. For your protection, the terms detailed in the signed conditional fee (no win no fee) agreement and “after the event” insurance policy (if obtained) take precedence over anything you may read elsewhere, including here. That way you have everything in writing and know exactly what to expect.
Advantages of No Win No Fee Police Claims Agreements
In the conditional fee agreement, we promise that
- you will not have to pay our legal fees during the lifetime your case, and
- in the event your claim is unsuccessful, you will not pay any of our legal fees*. This means that we have a strong incentive to help you win your police misconduct claim: if you don’t win, we don’t get paid!
And you get to choose your own solicitor instead of using one appointed for you (see below).
What is a No Win No Fee Success Fee?
As you will appreciate, we are taking a big risk by working under a no win no fee agreement. To justify it we ask you to pay a “success fee”. This is only paid if you win and is our reward for:
- taking the risk that you will not be successful (which means that we will not be paid)
- agreeing to delay payment even if you win, and
- funding your legal costs in the meantime.
We calculate the success fee by referring to our basic charges. You pay it out of the money you recover when you win so you are never out-of-pocket. We limit the success fee to only 25% of your damages for personal injuries (known in law as “pain, suffering, and loss of amenity”) and past financial losses. We guarantee that you will recover 75% of your compensation for them. (This limit applies to first instance proceedings only.)
What If I Lose My Claim While Using a No Win No Fee Agreement?
Provided you meet the terms of the conditional fee agreement, if you lose you will not have to pay any of our fees*.
Disadvantages of No Win No Fee Police Claims Agreements
- The success fee is deducted from your damages. Other methods of funding (below) do not have success fees.
- *In certain circumstances, you may have to pay other fees. For example, if you are unwilling or unable to obtain after the event insurance and lose your case you may have to pay your opponent’s fees and your own “disbursements” (experts’ fees, court fees etc.); or if you miss a medical appointment to help claim for assault, the doctor may charge a cancellation fee. Full details of these exceptions are detailed in the no win no fee agreement between us and other papers we give you.
- And unfortunately, we can’t act as no win no fee solicitors in every case. As solicitors, we are under a duty to act in your best interests. Sometimes that means telling you something you don’t want to hear, like refusing to represent you if it’s not in your best interests to claim. For example, your case may have poor prospects of success, so you personally could be at risk of paying the police’s substantial legal costs if you lose. Or your case could be of low value. Damages in actions against the police can be small, despite the often serious effects, making it uneconomical for you to pursue a claim. Read Why won’t a solicitor take my no win no fee claim? to find out more.
Instructing us as a private client means that you agree to pay us personally to take your actions against the police. If you choose to do this, and we agree to act (solicitors are generally free to decline instructions, even if the person involved wants to pay them privately), where possible we will agree a contract for work including:
- the scope of work to be done (e.g. initial investigations and evidence gathering pre-proceedings)
- likely overall legal fees and hourly rate for that work
- payment on account for us to start working for you
- ongoing payment terms (e.g. monthly, quarterly bills)
Advantages of Private Client Funding
- Private client funding allows you to choose your own solicitor without one being appointed for you.
- It also means that you can progress your case if you can’t find a no win no fee solicitor willing to act under a conditional fee agreement (e.g. if your claim’s prospects of success are not good enough for solicitors to justify the risks detailed above).
- And, if you are successful in your claim, you will receive all of your damages as, unlike no win no fee agreements, there are no success fees.
- You also have certainty as you know the scope of work to be done and likely (but not fixed unless agreed) cost of your own solicitor’s fees.
Disadvantages of Private Client Funding
- You will have to fund your action against the police yourself with an initial payment on account and regular interim payments (if the payment on account is spent). This can be expensive, as claims against the police can run into the tens of thousands if they proceed to trial.
- And even if you win your claim you will usually have a shortfall in recovered legal costs, which you still have to pay.
- If you lose, you will have to pay all your own legal fees, together with your disbursements, barrister’s fees, and opponent’s costs.
3. Before the event insurance
“Before the event” insurance is cover you have in place before an incident occurs for which you could make a claim. Car, home, and pet insurance are good examples. You might also have it with trade union membership.
Advantages of Before the Event Insurance
- If available, before the event insurance will provide you with cover for your own legal costs, disbursements, and opponent’s fees up to certain limits.
- No success fee should be deducted from damages.
Disadvantages of Before the Event Insurance
- This insurance very rarely applies in police misconduct claims because claims against the State are often excluded from policies. If they are not, because these claims are so hard to win insurers often decline cover, arguing poor prospects of success.
- Before the event insurers use their own law firms, or approved outside firms, to run claims. Usually you will have to use their chosen solicitors, even if they do not specialise in this complex area of law.
- Insurance can be withdrawn at any time if the insurers decide your case is unlikely to win. At that point you would have to find a solicitor willing to take your case privately or under a no win no fee agreement.
4. Legal Aid
We are not legal aid solicitors. If you want a legal aid lawyer find one on the Government’s website.
Advantages of Legal Aid
- Provides funding for your own legal fees and disbursements and protection for your opponent’s costs (subject to rules and exceptions).
- No success fee deducted from damages (but see below about other charges).
Disadvantages of Legal Aid
- Very difficult to get. Since 1 April 2013, when the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) came into effect, legal aid has been limited to people on very low incomes and with exceptional cases. The Legal Aid Agency apply strict merits and financial means tests, which mean that most people don’t qualify for legal aid.
- This hard-line approach to legal aid by the Government was upheld in the recent Court of Appeal judgment in Director of Legal Aid Casework v The Queen on the Application of Sunita Sisangia (2016). In that actions against the police case the Court found that Ms Sisangia should not have legal aid in her claim for false imprisonment because she could not show the police intended to act dishonestly or break the law, something many legal aid applicants would find impossible to prove. (Note that the law relating to legal aid changes frequently. Contact a legal aid lawyer for advice.)
- You have to use a legal aid lawyer. As with insurance company appointed solicitors, they may not be your first choice or specialise in police misconduct claims.
- Even if you are eligible, you may have to pay your solicitor personally to complete the legal aid application, deal with any appeals, and keep the Legal Aid Agency informed. These costs are not recoverable from your opponent.
- You might also have to pay a lump sum and/ or monthly contribution towards your legal costs. In some circumstances you may have to pay back some, or all, of the legal aid costs later even if you lose or discontinue your claim, leaving you out-of-pocket (e.g. if your financial situation improves so that you are no longer eligible for legal aid and you don’t tell your solicitor. In that situation you might even be criminally prosecuted (see here).).
- Your legal aid can also be taken away if, for example, your prospects of success fall below the Legal Aid Agency’s high standards.
- If you win your action against the police, you have to pay back the legal aid costs. Even though you would expect to receive most of your costs from your opponent, the “statutory charge” applies to your award. This charge means that if you do not recover all of your costs from your opponent, you have to use your compensation to pay back the Legal Aid Agency.
Alternatives to Legal Aid
Because of the strict conditions which apply to legal aid, most people are not eligible. For them, a simple no win no fee agreement is the best way to get on with their compensation claims against the police.
The main advantages that no win no fee agreements with Donoghue Solicitors have over legal aid are:
- Quick and easy to set up
- Minimal paperwork
- No delay in starting case
- Straightforward to explain and understand
- No need to provide proof of (very low) income at the outset and throughout the lifetime of the case
- No need to justify the merits of the case to anyone else other than your solicitor and insurer (if obtained)
- No fees to pay during the lifetime of the case
- No risk of the Legal Aid Agency withdrawing funding during the case
- No statutory charge complications.
For others, paying as private clients or (rarely) using before the event insurance is a better alternative.
Congratulations on reading this far! You now know more than most about funding actions against the police.
Our clients tell us that they appreciate our frank and clear approach to doing business, so we included information here others may not be comfortable advertising on their websites, such as details of “success fees” in conditional fee (no win no fee) agreements.
We’ll be happy to discuss any other questions you may have when you contact us. Simply complete the online form on this page or call 08000 124 246. Our website is secured by 256-bit encryption so you can be sure your details are safe, will be dealt with in the strictest confidence, and will never be sold on.
Whichever method of funding you choose, if you instruct us to act in your actions against the police we will fight hard to get you the justice you deserve.