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 Nick Freeman
Nick Freeman is probably the best known solicitor practising in the country today.
He has been dubbed "Mr Loophole" by the press owing to his vast technical knowledge of motoring law matters and his ability to successfully challenge the prosecution over procedural irregularities.
Nick is widely known for his celebrity client list and high profile criminal defence cases.
Nick is the head of Freeman & Co. Solicitors and although based in Manchester, represents defendants in motoring and criminal cases all over the country.
After graduating from Chester Law School in 1979, Nick started his career as a prosecuting solicitor for Greater Manchester Police.
Nick soon became known for his technical legal abilities and robust court room style and he was soon recruited into private practice by the highly respected solicitors firm of Burton & Co. He was soon to be made a partner at the practice but in 1999 he decided to start his own firm following which Freeman & Co. was formed.
Owing to Nick's meticulous case preparation and technical legal skill he soon made Freeman & Co. one of the most respected and sought after criminal solicitors firms in the country.
Despite the celebrity client list and media attention, Nick and Freeman & Co. have built their practice on representing ordinary members of the public with the same tenacity as those more high profile cases that are reported in the press and on TV.
Outside of his professional practice Nick is a regular expert guest on TV and radio and is well regarded as an expert legal commentator. He is an ardent supporter of defendant anonymity in sex cases.
In recent times his credits have included Tonight With Trevor MacDonald, Close Up North West, Channel 4 News, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live to name but a few. He also appears regularly on Sky News, BBC News 24 and Legal Eagles on ITV's This Morning. Nick is a regular legal commentator for the Sunday Times.
A father of 2 children Nick is a keen golfer with a 2.9 handicap and enjoys vigorous exercise with his Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Contacting Nick Freeman
For professional matters and representation Nick can be contacted through Freeman & Co. on 0161 236 7007 or you can send him a confidential email by clicking here.
If you would like to contact Nick for a media appearance or legal comment please call David Simister on 0845 389 26 26.