Criminal Defence

Criminal Defence Solicitors

Clifford Johnston & Co. are leading criminal defence solicitors with over 30 years’ experience providing high quality effective representation in criminal cases. We are committed to all aspects of criminal law and advise and represent clients in a variety of proceedings and investigations including murder, complex fraud and serious sexual offences.

People from all walks of life may, at some point, be subject to a criminal investigation. We are aware that a criminal conviction may have life changing consequences. We have the knowledge and skills to help you and provide the best defence.  No matter how serious the offence, we are well equipped to defend your rights. We will guide you through each stage of the process and discuss your options, defence strategy and advise you on the possible outcomes.  Whatever the allegation, it is very important that you obtain expert advice from a specialist criminal lawyer.

People choose us because of our outstanding client care and exceptional reputation. On the 18th April 2017 Clifford Johnston & Co. received a rating of Excellent (Category 1) by the Peer Review Team of the Legal Aid Agency. All firms with a legal aid contract are subject to a mandatory periodic review of their work by the most experienced criminal practitioners.  We were classed as Excellent, the highest of the 5 categories available placing us in the top 3% of legal aid providers in the country.  We are delighted that external assessors share our view that we excel in the area of Crime.

Clifford Johnston & Co. specialise in large, complex and serious offences.  We defend clients across the UK in a wide range of criminal law matters.  We have a national reputation for providing high quality legal advice.  We will ensure that every avenue is explored, that inadmissible evidence is challenged, robust defences are advanced on your behalf and that important evidence is disclosed and used to assist your case.

We enjoy a close working relationship with a network of leading legal experts including barristers, QC’s, forensic accountants, forensic scientists, pathologists and medical experts.  We always select the best expert for your case based on merit and experience.

All our staff are extremely skilled each with a minimum of 15 years’ experience. All our solicitors are accredited as duty solicitors and we have three Higher Rights Advocates who, between them, have over 25 years’ experience of appearing before the Crown Court and dealing with the most complex of matters.

We are trusted by professional bodies to represent their members and we have a successful track record at the Police Station, Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

We deal with a full range of criminal offences including:

  • Murder/Manslaughter
  • Large scale drug conspiracies
  • Serious sexual offences
  • Fraud/White Collar/Business Crime
  • Trading Standards, Customs & Excise and Health & Safety Prosecution
  • Assault
  • Theft, Robbery and Burglary
  • Public Order Offences
  • Driving Offences

Our people

Our staff are very experienced and the legal advice that we offer is provided by senior solicitors and/or police station accredited representatives with over 15 years of experience. Your case will be dealt with personally by a very experienced solicitor. Unlike many firms in Manchester we do not ask trainee solicitors or paralegals to prepare cases therefore you can rest assured that every decision and piece of advice has been carefully considered by someone with a wealth of legal knowledge.

We have a number of Higher Rights Advocates who regularly practice at the Crown Court and they bring a wealth of legal and practical knowledge to each case. Members of our staff present training course to fellow solicitors and are at the forefront of developments in the law.

Clifford Johnston & Co. has a growing immigration department. Our solicitors have a breadth of knowledge of international affairs and law. We have travelled extensively in pursuit of our clients cases, including Rwanda and Jamaica. Where there is a crossover between criminal and immigration matters we are able to provide a nuanced service ensuring that we defend not only our clients liberty but also their right to remain in the UK.

The Investigation

Before a prosecution is brought the police conduct an investigation. They will gather evidence and sometimes conduct an intrusive investigation, searching premises, seizing property and making arrests. It is at this point that key decisions are made by the police and prosecutors about who is to be taken to court and upon what charges. Obtaining expert assistance at this time can be pivotal. Effective representation may prevent a matter being taken to Court or significantly improve the prospects of success.

Everyone is entitled to free legal advice and representation at the police station. It is essential that, if you are to be interviewed under caution by the police, you have a legal representative present at that interview.  Many cases are won or lost on the presentation of the case at the police station.

Magistrates Court Cases

All criminal prosecutions commence at the Magistrates Court. The most serious matters will then be transferred to the Crown Court to be dealt with.

There is a group of offences of moderate seriousness which may be tried at either the Magistrates or Crown Court. Other less serious offences, including most road traffic offences, are heard at the Magistrate Court.  It is important that you have expert representation as soon as possible.

Even relatively minor offences may have a profound effect upon your life or career. We are able to provide clear advice as to the evidence you face and as to the likely progress of your case.

Defending road traffic prosecutions, for example, requires detailed knowledge of this specialist area of law together with access to the best forensic experts and barristers in the field. We are able to provide a comprehensive service. We  understand how important it may be for you to keep your driving licence and we have an excellent record of success in this area.

Crown Court Cases

The most serious matters are heard at the Crown Court. We have  successfully represented numerous defendants on cases of the utmost seriousness.  We have experienced Crown Court Advocates as well as a national network of barristers that we can call upon.

We have a reliable network of the best forensic and medical experts and are able to put forward well researched, cogent and credible defences. You can be sure that every avenue will be explored on your behalf. We will give reasoned and reliable advice on the weight of evidence.


Mistakes can be made by Courts and the appeals process is set up to seek to rectify those mistakes. An appeal can be taken from the Magistrates to the Crown Court and from the Crown Court to the Court of Appeal.  Mistakes arising from points  of law may also be heard at the High Court and, where there is a point of public importance, an appeal may go to the Supreme Court and unusually to the European Court.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an investigatory body set up to refer cases back to the Court of Appeal where new evidence or law justifies that.

We have a wealth of experience and have conducted cases at each of the above Courts. We can provide comprehensive advice on all the options to correct a miscarriage of justice

A wrongful conviction can be devastating and we understand the need to ensure that where things have gone wrong they should be put right. Appealing a conviction is never easy and we will not mislead you about the difficulties that may ensue. We are however uniquely placed in Manchester to give good quality coherent advice on all aspects of appeal.

Proceeds of Crime

We have significant experience of defending cases involving fraud and money laundering.  We have a growing body of experience in regulatory work and as such are well placed to advise individuals and businesses as to the financial implications of a conviction.

Applications to confiscate money following a conviction are now routine and can not only involve a defendant but can also target the assets of partners, family members and friends. The law in this area is draconian and a successful defence of these proceedings requires an expert knowledge of the law and thorough preparation.

International Law

Unusually for a firm outside London we have a proven track record in aspects of international law. We have substantial experience of extradition law and practice and have close ties with the leading exerts in this area.  We have knowledge and experience of international tribunals and of the Red Notice procedure for the arrest of suspects across jurisdictions.

Civil Liberties and Protest

We have considerable experience in representing protestors and  have been part of successful campaigns to change the criminal law to protect individuals against discrimination and to allow freedom to protest and demonstrate.  Our solicitors have been at the forefront of developing innovative strategies to protect civil liberties and we have experience, that we believe is unique in Manchester, of pursuing cases to the High Court, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.

Protecting Public Servants

The pressures on those working in public service have increased dramatically over recent years. Cuts in funding have led to dangerous staffing levels and increased pressure of work. The regulatory burden has at the same time increased. The use of criminal sanctions for alleged failures to comply with that burden has also increased significantly. We are committed to providing a sympathetic and professional service to ensure that in these cases the rights of hard working public servants are protected.

Sexual offences

There has been an explosion in the number of people prosecuted for sexual offences over recent years. These cases are traumatic and often rely on the word of one or two people about events that occurred many years ago. We know that a good defence requires us to carefully listen and understand what may be the root of false and malicious allegations and how we can develop a body of evidence to expose them.

Funding your case and Legal Aid

It is traumatic to face criminal prosecution and it is important that the funding of your case does not add unnecessary additional pressures. Legal aid is available for many cases and we have a contract with the legal aid agency that allows us to provide a full range of legal aid services. Unfortunately, legal aid has been subject to a range of cuts over the last 20 years and there are some cases where legal aid provision is either very limited or non-existent. The process of applying for legal aid is rigorous and you will be asked to provide evidence of your income and savings.  Our recent peer review grading demonstrates that we provide some of the best legal aid representation in the country.

Police Station Cases

Everyone is entitled to free legal advice and representation at the police station.

Magistrate Court Cases

Legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court is means tested and subject to what is known as the ‘Interests of Justice Test’. The interests of Justice test looks at how serious the matter is and whether there is a risk that someone will lose their liberty or suffer long term damage to their livelihood or reputation.

The means test does not apply if a person is under 18 or on certain benefits.

In all other circumstances a person’s finances will be assessed to decide whether they are eligible for Legal Aid. Their annual household income and family circumstances will be taken into account and then:

  • If their annual household income is £12,475 or less they’ll get free Legal Aid
  • If it is £22,325 or more they are not eligible for Legal Aid.

If a person’s annual household income is more than £12,475 but less than £22,325 then the Legal Aid Agency will look at their disposable income. This is the money they’re left with after they’ve paid their main bills.  If they’re left with:

  • £3,398 or less a year (£283.17 or less a month) they get free Legal Aid
  • More than £3,398 a year (£283.17 a month) they are not eligible to receive Legal Aid

Crown Court Cases

Legal aid is available in the Crown Court and is also subject to means testing.

A person will not have to pay towards the costs of their defence case if they are under 18 or if they receive certain benefits.

If a person’s annual household disposable income is below £37,500 then they will be eligible for Legal Aid, although they may have to pay a contribution towards the costs of their defence if their annual disposable income is above £3,398

The regulations and criteria surrounding legal aid can often be confusing and complex.  Our highly skilled team will guide you through each step of the process.

Appeals and Other proceedings

The legal aid provisions for the more unusual cases are complex and advice can be given on an individual case by case basis

Private Funding

Given the constraints on legal aid, we have developed a significant private practice representing individuals and professionals in various fields.  Legal aid doesn’t always cover the sheer amount of work that we believe is necessary to do a case properly.

Funding your case privately means that you will be guaranteed a quality, individually tailored service from start to finish.  You will be represented by the same senior lawyer throughout the case.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible under the legal aid scheme.

Clifford Johnston & Co. understands that even a minor criminal conviction could destroy a client’s career, reputation and personal life.  It is, therefore, vital for many of our clients that they are represented by the best and without the constraints of the legal aid scheme.  For example, many of our clients instruct Queens Counsel to represent them in circumstances where legal aid is not available.

Increasingly our clients choose to fund their case privately, either agreeing fees with us at the beginning of the case or paying on an hourly rate. 

Our team of expert criminal defence solicitors are on hand to assist wherever you are and can defend you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are accused of an offence, have been arrested, charged or are on bail, please contact us as soon as possible.

Need some professional advice?

Do you have any issues that you are worried about? Contact our professional team for a free, no-obligation informal discussion, where we can discuss your particular requirements in greater detail.