I am very stressed and anxious and feel I have no one to speak to about this. I would be grateful for any help anyone can offer me.
I will keep it as brief as possible. Thank you for reading and taking the time out to help me.
I was arrested for a very foolish issue in 2009, my assets were frozen so I received legal aid as I was unable, due to the restraint order being in place on my assets, to pay legal fees myself.
In 2012, after many, many (expensive) meetings with my solicitor and barrister, I plead guilty and am sentenced to prison. I come home in 2014 and have to sell my family home to settle a large confiscation order – no issue with all this – I was a fool and it's fair and correct that I pay back what I made through my ‘crime’.
House sold in 2015, confiscation settled. I am aware that I have received Legal Aid (of course) but my solicitors advise that ‘if they don’t contact you, forget about it’ essentially. Now, after selling my home and settling my confiscation order, I am left with a sum of money, certainly well over £30k.
I was half expecting a letter from the LAA whilst I was in prison or at least as soon as my home was sold and the freezing order lifted – but I heard nothing. Assuming the onus is not on me to call them and pay my legal aid bill, I assume (that word again) that all is clear and I can move on with my life.
The funds I had remaining are slowly spent on rent, repaying family and friends who had loaned me money and a failed business investment (it’s been a rough few years _
In December 2017, everything changes.
I receive a letter from Rossendales asking for £100,000 plus in the form of a Capital Contribution Order – the first I’ve heard of it and a ruined Xmas ensues. Rossendales letter states that they think I still have all the assets from before settling the confiscation order, which I do not have anymore. I decide to engage with the LAA direct and they seem fair and I explain that I used to have the assets that Rossendales mentioned on their letter but they were sold to pay the confiscation etc.I send proof of this of course.
The LAA ask for annotated bank statements covering the last few years which I send - they show that there is little money remaining and the funds, that I suppose, they feel are theirs, have been spent on 'living' by me - to repeat - I had no idea I owed this money beyond knowing I had received legal aid.
My communication with the LAA has been along the lines of 'you missed your chance as all my funds have been spent since being released from prison and your letter came out of the blue etc' –
I have been totally transparent and honest with them and have nothing to hide, if they had asked me for the COO upon selling my home back in 2015, I would have had the funds to pay them in full with no argument – but writing to me 2.5 years later, the funds have been spent.
After various emails and receiving 3 years of annotated bank statements, the LAA appears to accept that I have spent almost all my funds but because I was left with enough funds on selling my home in 2015, the COO should remain and I ‘still have a liability to pay towards the Capital Contribution Order’.
They appear willing to remove my rent payments and settlement payment to HMRC from the funds I was left with, but nothing else.
I am struggling with these points:
- I have a job and earn c£30k a year – but even if I agreed to pay £250-£500 a month towards the COO – this would cause me real hardship and still take me the rest of my life to repay the debt.
- Was the onus on me to contact the LAA once I was free and settle this matter?
- Are the LAA likely to make me bankrupt or would they rather I make a payment each month to settle my debt over many, many years / decades
Perhaps you could give me some suggestions – I feel really worried and feel like giving up all together frankly. I don’t really dispute that I received legal aid, but I don’t have the money to pay this debt that has come from nowhere.
Thanks for reading this far.