A Certificate granting enough legal aid to cover the cost of two lawyers following an application for an assigned advocate.1
The application is most likely to be made in serious and complex cases where children are entitled to be represented by two lawyers: a solicitor and an advocate (a barrister or a solicitor with higher rights). This is because adults with similar serious and complex cases would be tried in the Crown Court and would be represented by a solicitor and an advocate. However, even in very serious matters, a child’s case is often kept in the youth court.
The legal aid 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 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. 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
An application for a Certificate for Assigned Advocate can only be made when a child is charged with an indictable offence and must be made to the court hearing the court.
Applications2 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. An application 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.1
The court must give reasons for its decision following an application.
The Inns of Court College of Advocacy has produced a guide on Applying for a Certificate of Assigned Advocate, which includes an example application.