Skip to main content

Criminal Defence Services

Dealing with any criminal matter can be particularly stressful. If you have been accused of or charged with a crime, it is important that you receive clear advice and strong representation at the earliest possible stage.

At Thorntons, our expert Criminal Law team are on hand to help you, whether you are being interviewed at a police station, or face going to Court. We will advise you on the best approach to take, whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty, and help you understand what is involved throughout.

We have lengthy and extensive experience in representing clients in courts throughout Scotland, and can support and represent you at every stage.

Case types

We can advise and represent clients in a wide range of case types, including the following.  However, please note we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.

Motoring offences can include:

  • Careless driving
    If you are driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users, effectively in a manner that falls below the standards of a considerate and competent driver, you may be charged with careless driving. It is a lesser charge than dangerous driving
  • Dangerous driving
    This is more serious than careless driving and is where the driver’s actions fall well below the accepted standard, such as carrying out a dangerous manoeuvre or excessive speeding near a school
  • Speeding
    For more minor speeding offences, you may be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice, if you are caught speeding. For speeding offences, where driving well in excess of the speed limit If you want to contest your FPN, our team of road traffic lawyers can advise you if you have a case for defence.
  • Drink driving
    Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is an offence to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a vehicle on the road if you have drunk more alcohol than the prescribed limit. You will have to undergo a breathalyser test and may be required to provide a urine or blood sample.
  • Driving with no or invalid insurance or without a licence.

At Thorntons, our road traffic criminal defence lawyers can advise you on your options and best approach if you are charged with a driving offence or given a penalty notice. We can also advise you if you have special reason grounds for, not endorsing your  licence  with  penalty points or if you can establish exceptional hardship to avoid disqualification

If you are hurt in a road traffic incident, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. Contact our Personal Injury team to find out more.

Crimes of violence include such offences as murder, robbery and assault, and can be the most serious of charges. If you are accused of any of these offences, you need to have good representation and legal advice as soon as possible. Our Criminal lawyers are on hand to help you with specialist legal advice and representation.

  • Murder - With a murder charge, there may be possible defences, such as self-defence. Or you may face a lesser, but still serious, charge of attempted murder or culpable homicide, which is an act or failure to act that causes death.
  • Robbery is different from a theft charge and is a more serious crime. Robbery involves violence or the threat of violence.

Assault is attacking or attempting to attack someone with the intent to cause harm . The  assault, may be aggravated for example

If you are accused or charged with a sexual offence, this is a serious matter that can have a major impact on you and on your family. Sexual offences include:

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Grooming
  • Child abuse
  • Child pornography
  • Revenge pornography
  • Sexual exposure

These are often complicated and sensitive cases. Our Criminal Law team can advise you on your case  and any defence and strongly represent your interests in court.

The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 sets out the type of threatening or abusive behaviour that used to come under the common law umbrella of breach of the peace. It also includes the pattern of physical and/or emotional behaviour and action that counts as stalking.

Our Criminal Law team can provide you with specialist legal advice and representation for your defence.

Financial crime includes offences such as fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.

With a fraud, an individual uses intentional deception to take dishonest advantage, usually of money, property or services. Fraud can occur in a range of situations and can include VAT or HMRC fraud, benefit fraud, business or insurance fraud.  

Money laundering is the process where illegal proceeds of criminal activities are disguised to appear to come from legitimate sources.

Embezzlement is when someone secretly takes funds that belongs to their employer or  takes money that is placed in their trust.

If you are accused of or charged with a financial crime, it is important to take legal advice as soon as possible. We can advise you on your options and represent you through the investigation process and at court if criminal charges are taken by the Procurator Fiscal.

Our specialised Criminal Defence team can help you if you are accused or charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Drugs offences cover controlled drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines, and charges include:

  • Possession of controlled drugs
  • Possession with intent to supply
  • Supply
  • Being concerned  in the supply
  • Production or cultivation of drugs

Theft is different from robbery in that it does not involve violence. It can range from small-scale more minor theft and low-value shoplifting to the stealing of items of high value.

At Thorntons, our team of Criminal Defence lawyers can advise you on the best defence for your case and provide legal support and representation throughout the process.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 covers the range of ways people can be victims of domestic abuse by partners or ex-partners, including physical, emotional, mental or sexual abuse, and recognises these as a crime.  

If you are under suspicion or charged with domestic abuse, we understand the impact this can have on you and the people around you. We are on hand to help with legal advice and can act as your legal representation throughout what can be a very difficult situation.

Often bail conditions may be put in place by the Court preventing or restricting contact with your children and our Family Law Team can assist you with contact arrangements.

Environmental crime is criminal activity that damages the environment. It includes a diverse range of issues such as pollution, fly-tipping, unauthorised discharges of waste into rivers or the atmosphere and damaging habitats.  

If you or your business have been accused of an environmental crime, contact our Criminal Law team to discuss your options and to talk through the defence process.

Pet owners, livestock farmers and others responsible for animals have a legal responsibility to ensure the welfare needs of their animals are met under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. Animals that are suffering or in danger of suffering can be removed from their owners.

Our Criminal Defence Solicitors can advise you of your options if you are accused or charged over animal welfare and work with you to achieve the best resolution.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to protect your employees and others from health and safety risks. A healthy and safety breach can mean action under both civil and criminal law:

  • The individual affected could make a civil claim for compensation.
  • Your regulator could take action against you and you could be prosecuted under criminal law.

We can talk you through the process and your best approach. We can also robustly represent your interests if the case goes to court.

Court system and criminal process

Here we look at the different Scottish courts, jurisdiction and the process you may go through.

Scottish courts

There are four main types of court in Scotland that deal with criminal cases:

  • Justice of the Peace Courts – Here a Justice of the Peace, a lay magistrate, deals with lesser crimes such as speeding and minor shoplifting.  
  • Sheriff Courts – Most criminal cases are dealt with here. Cases are either heard by a Sheriff (a Summary Trial) or more serious cases are heard by a Sheriff and  Jury (known as Jury trials
  • High Court of Justiciary – This deals with the most serious cases, such as murder and rape Cases are heard by a Judge and jury. Defence at the High Court is usually carried out by an Advocate, (similar to a barrister in England.) or  a Solicitor -Advocate
  •  Sheriff Appeal Courts – Appeals are heard here against judgements from both the Sheriff and the Justice of the Peace courts. The High Court also deals with Appeals.

Depending on your case, you may face court action. We will discuss your options and approach with you, talk you through the court process, and provide you with representation. If you are called to the High Court, we will instruct an Advocate to represent you.


Various factors affect which court has jurisdiction over your case:

  • Type of crime – different courts handle different types of cases, see section above on Scottish courts.
  • Location of the alleged crime

Case process

It can be a very confusing and stressful time if you are accused or charged with a crime. While each individual’s case is different, the general stages you may face are as follows:

  • Allegation or under suspicion of a crime – Legal advice as early as possible can help you understand the situation and best approach.
  • Police station interviews – We recommend that you have legal representation with you in the interview.
  • Court appearance – Your legal representative will represent you and present your case in court.
  • Lodge appeal if needed – Your legal team can lodge the appeal and arrange representation in the Appeal court.

Our team of Criminal Defence lawyers can advise and represent you at every stage, ensuring you understand your options at each step and providing legal support throughout the process.

How much will it cost?

We offer an initial free no-obligation chat over the phone to outline your options and the possible costs. 

In some circumstances, such as a guilty plea for speeding or drink-driving, we can offer you a fixed price package. If we cannot offer a fixed price service, we charge based on the time we spend on your case, including meetings, emails, phone calls and court representations. We provide you with a clear indication of average or typical costs at the start and keep you informed of the costs as your case progresses. If the likely costs increase, we will always let you know. If we have to obtain an Expert Report for your case, for example from a road traffic or a medical expert, you will need to cover these costs. 

Please note: we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.  

Call the Thorntons Criminal Law team on 03330 430150 to find out more about our criminal defence services and advice, or complete an online enquiry form and we will contact you.

How can Thorntons help?

At Thorntons, our Criminal Law team can support and strongly represent your interests throughout the criminal case process, with clear, practical advice and guidance at what can be a very difficult and stressful time for you.

Our Solicitors are all highly experienced and skilled in conducting Criminal cases and regularly appear in both the Sheriff  and Justice of the Peace Courts, presenting Pleas in Mitigation and conducting trials . We are also regularly involved in preparing cases and instructing Advocates (also called Counsel) in High Court matters.

We can help you at every stage of the case process, ensuring you fully understand your options, rights and best approach at each step. We work to achieve the best outcome for you.