The Derby office of a firm of solicitors is now practising legal aid representation in criminal cases for the first time.
East Midlands-based Elliot Mather, has conducted criminal defence work in Chesterfield and Mansfield for more than 100 years, but the new funding regime has allowed it to expand not only into Derby but also Nottingham.
Changes proposed and subsequently abandoned by the Ministry of Justice means criminal legal aid practitioners have faced considerable uncertainty over the last three to four years which has caused some firms to give up such work.
Elliot Mather had to bid and go through a tender process before the Legal Aid Agency – run by the Ministry of Justice – awarded the firm a contract for legal aid work in the two cities.
Mark Croft, senior solicitor and and business development manager, said: “We are now able to undertake publicly-funded criminal cases at both magistrates and crown courts plus police stations across South Derbyshire.”
This means that Mark and colleagues Felicity Coates and Joe Harvey are now on call around the clock every day of the year, with Zahra Hussain providing a similar service in Nottingham.
Felicity heads up the police station and magistrates court team at the Derby office in Friar Gate, having previously worked from the Chesterfield office for nearly 10 years.
She said: ”I’m looking forward to the fresh challenge of establishing a base for our criminal practice in Derby.
“Our office, centrally-situated on Friar Gate, provides a convenient location for all of our clients and allows our team quick and easy access to represent them at the police station and magistrates court.
Joe, who heads the crown court team at Derby, is a higher court advocate and has represented clients at the Court of Appeal. “With our crown court team at Derby we can ensure that our clients receive the highest level of service in their case from police station to crown court,” he said.
Mark said: “It is vital that anyone who finds themselves facing a police enquiry seeks legal assistance at the moment that enquiry begins. This advice at the police station is always free of charge regardless of a person’s financial circumstances.”
In addition to criminal law cases Elliot Mather provides a wide range of specialist services, including family law, company law, commercial property, employment law, and wills and probate, from Derby and its other offices at Nottingham, Matlock, Chesterfield, and Mansfield.