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Certificate for Assigned Advocate (Certificate for Counsel)

In serious and complex cases, children are entitled to be represented by two lawyers, a solicitor and an advocate (a barrister or a solicitor with higher rights). If the child is being tried in the youth court, legal aid to cover the cost of two lawyers can be obtained by making an application for an assigned advocate.1

Most cases involving children are tried in the youth court.  Adults with similar serious and complex cases would usually be tried in the Crown Court and would be represented by a solicitor and an advocate (a barrister or a solicitor with higher rights). As a result applications for Certificates for Assigned Advocates are much more common in the youth court than in the adult magistrates’ court.  Where the Certificate is granted, Legal Aid will extend to the provision of an advocate in the case (this includes both barristers and solicitors with higher rights).

The regulations cover applications for an assigned advocate rather than for an advocate with a particular level of expertise. The extra funding available once a Certificate for Assigned Advocate is granted should allow those representing children in relevant cases to instruct advocates with experience in youth justice and the particular area of law to which the case relates.  In R v Grant-Murray and Henry; R v McGill, Hewitt and Hewitt [2017] EWCA 1228 the Lord Chief Justice commented that “it would be difficult to conceive of an advocate being competent to act in a case involving young witnesses or defendants unless the advocate had undertaken specific training.” (paragraph 226).  Sex cases tried in the youth court are an example of the type of case in which a certificate for an assigned advocate is usually granted.

 

Making the application

Applications can only be made when a child is charged with an indictable offence. Applications will be granted where the relevant court determines that because there are circumstances which make the proceedings unusually grave or difficult, representation by an advocate would be desirable 2.

The application must be made to the court hearing the case and the decision as to whether to grant the certificate is made by the magistrates or District Judge. Applications3 must be:

  • made in writing; and
  • specify what the relevant court is being asked to determine; and
  • set out the grounds for the application. This must contain information about why the case is ‘unusually grave or difficult’ in comparison to a ‘usual case’ of its type.

The court must give reasons for its decision following an application. If the application is successful the legal aid order is amended to allow for a solicitor and an advocate to be instructed

The Inns of Court College of Advocacy has produced a guide on Applying for a Certificate of Assigned Advocate, which includes an example application.

  1. The Criminal Legal Aid (Determinations by a Court and choice of Representative) Regulations 2013, paragraph 16  (back)
  2. The Criminal Legal Aid (Determinations by a Court and choice of Representative) Regulations 2013, paragraph 16  (back)
  3. The Criminal Legal Aid (Determinations by a Court and choice of Representative) Regulations 2013, paragraph 11  (back)