Why Should Criminal Defence be Funded With Public Money?

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It is very unusual for somebody accused of an offence to be able to fund a team of expensive solicitors and lawyers. Almost all criminals are funded from central public funding that comes from the taxes we pay. Many would say that this is unfair but there are a number of reasons for this situation.

The justice system, in particular the criminal justice system, is meant to be balanced and fair. Anybody accused of a crime is supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in practice, there is a great burden on anybody accused to defend themselves against the allegations being made. This is because the prosecuting authorities can often be heavy handed and make allegations based on assumptions. In the case of asset confiscation, this is actually what they are supposed to do!

It is important therefore that the accused is able to answer all allegations fully and explain any areas where he feels that he is being wrongly targeted. For example, in a complex fraud case it can be very hard for the prosecution to really understand what has been going on, let alone explain it to the judge and jury. In these cases the the prosecution very often assume guilt and use a mountain of confusing paperwork as a smoke screen that can sway a jury to a guilty verdict.

If a businessman has been running his company using sharp business practice but not venturing over the line into fraud, he may need the services of a forensic accountant to demonstrate his innocence in the matter. Like lawyers and baristers, the forensic accountancy services do not come for free.

So rich and poor criminals alike are given the same opportunity for funding their defence with public funds, to make an even playing field. Also, in many criminal matters, especially where money is involved (drugs, fraud, extortion, theft etc) an accused person’s assets are usually frozen by the courts in anticipation of recovery by confiscation procedures following the trial.

Mark Jenner is a fraud investigator and forensic accountant. He enjoys scuba diving and writing articles for his blog site