A farmer cleared of shooting a suspected burglar at his isolated East Yorkshire home is backing a campaign to change the law enabling defendants acquitted at court to recover their legal fees.
Despite being cleared of a charge of grievous bodily harm by a jury at Hull Crown Court, Kenneth Hugill, 83, faced paying legal fees of more than £20,000, which he said would take him “20 to 30 years to pay back”.
Following the trial, celebrity lawyer Nick “Mr Loophole” Freeman – who had no involvement in Mr Hugill’s trial – set up a JustGiving page to help fund the pensioner’s legal bill.
The page received almost 1,000 donations and raised in excess of £22,000, with Mr Freeman and his wife donating £1,800 to the farmer’s cause.
On the back of this case, Mr Freeman has launched a petition calling for the law to revert to the pre-2012 position, where acquitted defendants were able to recover their reasonably incurred legal costs. He is dubbing it ‘Hugill’s Law’.
Yesterday, Mr Freeman met Mr Hugill for the first time and presented him with the proceeds from the JustGiving page.
Mr Hugill said: “I have no idea how to say thank you, not only to the people who donated but also to Nick, for everything he’s done.
“It’s absolutely marvellous and very surprising that so many strangers would want to help. It was overwhelming when I heard that people I’d never met before had donated – I was close to tears.
“I’d never been to court before but everyone was very polite. When I heard the verdict, I felt relief surge through me – I hadn’t even thought about the costs at this point.
“If I can help Nick change the law in any way, I will. Signing this petition could help someone just like me be treated fairly.”
Mr Freeman, whose clients include Jeremy Clarkson, David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson, said: “Everyday people like Kenneth Hugill walk free from the courts and yet are burdened with hefty legal costs.”
“In our legal system there is a presumption of innocence and yet the current cost system flies in the face of this presumption.
“The law relating to defence cost orders was sneaked through the back door by statutory instrument, avoiding parliamentary debate or publicity, in 2012.
“When I read about Mr Hugill’s trial, and the fact he was facing financial ruin despite the jury taking just 24 minutes to acquit him, I had to do something.”
“I’d never set up a JustGiving page before, but I knew Ken’s case would resonate with the public. When you’re faced with costs like that which you can’t recover, it hangs over you and affects your everyday life. It’s a lot of money at any stage in someone’s life to have to find.”
“It’s an entirely unfair system and that’s why I’ve launched this ‘Hugill’s law’ petition. The current system is an injustice and I urge everyone to sign it in order to make this necessary change.”
“I was delighted to meet Ken and I wish him the very best. I would also like to say a huge thank you to all those who so generously donated to such a worthwhile cause.”
The petition can be found at: https://www.change.org/p/justice-secretary-liz-truss-defendants-acquitted-at-court-recover-their-full-legal-fees?recruiter=696170402&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink
About Freeman & Co.
Freeman & Co. are a specialist firm of road traffic and criminal defence solicitors based in Manchester but with nationwide coverage.
Freeman & Co. specialise in a wide variety of road traffic cases, ranging from drink driving, speeding and mobile phone offences, to name but a few.
The firm was created by Nick Freeman, who has been dubbed “Mr Loophole” by the press for his technical legal ability and robustly challenging the prosecution.
Nick is well regarded as an expert road traffic lawyer and has successfully represented many high profile clients for a variety of motoring offences as well as criminal offences.
The firm of Freeman & Co. embodies the way Nick works, with minute attention to detail and challenging the prosecution at every turn.
If you are facing a road traffic matter or criminal offence and need the services of Freeman & Co. please call on 0161 236 7007.
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Freeman & Co Solicitors
8 Oxford Court
Tel. 0161 236 7007