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Lawyer Nick Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, has launched an online petition calling for a reversal in the law which prevents defendants acquitted in the courts recovering their costs.

In 2012, the law was changed without proper consultation, leading to hundreds of people each year facing financial ruin despite being cleared of the charges they were facing.

Last week, 83-year-old North Yorkshire farmer Kenneth Hugill was cleared of GBH by a jury at Hull Crown Court. Despite him walking free, the pensioner – who has never been on the wrong side of the law – has been left with a legal bill in excess of £30,000.

Nick Freeman

Mr Freeman, who launched a crowd-funding page to help the Hugill family pay for his defence, has now launched an on-line petition calling on Justice Secretary Liz Truss to ensure acquitted defendants can recover their reasonably incurred legal costs, as it was pre-2009.

He has been supported in this action by Tory peer Timothy Kirkhope, who raised the matter of Mr Hugill’s plight in the House of Lords.

Mr Freeman said: The law was changed without proper consultation so that defendants acquitted by a court are not allowed to recover their reasonable legal costs.

“This injustice happens on a daily basis throughout the land and was perfectly illustrated by the acquittal of Kenneth Hugill, a man of good character.

“Despite being found not guilty by a jury in just 24-minutes, Mr Hugill is now left with a legal bill in excess of £30k which he estimates will take him two to three decades to pay off.

“This is grossly unfair. It is not justice and flies in the face of the presumption of innocence.”

The petition is 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

The JustGiving Page is found at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/supportkennethhugill