Monday, October 31, 2005

Absconding From Prison

I represented a Client at a Magistrates Court recently who had been charged with offences at the Police Station and who had been taken to Court in custody. The Client was accused of fairly serious crimes, but his list of previous convictions was good with only one previous conviction. The real problem with getting this Client bail was that he had absconded from an open prison!

It took about 10 minutes of me talking to the Client before he accepted that it was impossible for him to leave the Court on bail and walk out using his own two feet. The Client was clearly trying his luck to see if there was anyway he could get bail and avoid the inevitable return to prison.

I had not been provided with details of the absconding so after I had dealt with the Client's hearing I asked how long the Client had to serve in the open prison before he was due to be released on licence. The Client told me that he only had to serve two weeks in the open prison prior to his early release on licence. So rather than just serve two weeks the Client went on the run - he now has about one year left to serve the remainder of his sentence!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bad Back

Sorry for the lack of posts this week but due to ill health I have been pretty much housebound.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed soon.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What Rubbish!

I was looking around the Attorney General's web site earlier today when I saw a press release on the subject of disclosure. I downloaded the press release as the only way to view the press release was to download the document as a MS Word file. I then read part of it that referred to a case that I had recently dealt with:

"Harmondsworth detention centre riots, Croydon Crown Court, 2005. A judge ordered disclosure of everything the defence wanted, in complete disregard, say the prosecution, of the CPIA. He also ordered wholesale disclosure of 500 hours of video surveillance, commenting in response to prosecution objections ‘The defence will soon get bored at looking at it all’. It took several days for the prosecution to amass the material for inspection, and several days longer for the defence to go through it all, but before they finished they decided that they had had enough. There was nothing that could help their case, and they felt no need to examine them further. Nothing the judge had ordered to be disclosed met the disclosure test. The defence conceded at some point that their search through the unused material was pointless, and they stopped."

This was a multi-handed case which originally involved 16 defendants, eventually when it went to trial there were only seven or eight defendants left by the time the jury retired to consider their verdict as the others slowly pleaded guilty or their case was discontinued. The statement from the Attorney General's office is completely wrong. The Prosecution voluntarily disclosed 3,500 hours worth of CCTV, and not 500 hours. This disclosure came before the prosecution had even considered the CPIA! The prosecution did not object to the disclosure of this CCTV material as they knew that it was material that may undermine their case so they were obliged to serve the CCTV. There was no order to disclose the CCTV. The prosecution had amassed the material during the course of the Police investigation and only had to make arrangements to copy the material instead of spending several days to amass the material for inspection. It took months (for the defence) to go through the material, not days. The relevant CCTV material that was on the CCTV was also served in a highlights DVD as a prosecution exhibit - this was then played back by my Client's defence team to the jury (after a very few edits) to show that the CCTV proved he did not damage property, assault any prison officers, or get involved in a riot.

The content of this particular point in the press release is so far removed from the truth it iunbelievablele.

Victim's Code Of Practice

The Home Office has now published the Victim's Code of Practice which sets out the responsibilities and duties owed towards victims of crime by government bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service.

One part of this document contains details of how the Crown Prosecution Service are to keep their victims and vulnerable witnesses informed about proceedings. In many cases the Crown Prosecution Service are obliged to report to vulnerable witnesses within one day why a decision was made to do what the Crown Prosecution Service has done. The Crown Prosecution Service are now going to be involved in a burdensome administrative procedures in both trying to prosecute a case and to keep the victim or vulnerable witness informed of the progress of the case. The Police have similar duties.

The government is often accused of creating red tape where it is not necessary. I believe that this is a fine example of a government meddling with a system and imposing changes that are likely to have a negative impact on the criminal justice system. It may well be advantageous for victims of crime to be kept informed of the progress of their case but is it really in their interests when a massive administrative burden will be placed upon the government agencies that are sometimes struggling simply to carry out their duties in the Police Station and Courts?

I watched three cases be dismissed today because the Crown Prosecution Service had been unable to get their papers, and evidence, in to a satisfactory format for the case to be committed from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court. The reason given by the Prosecutor for not being properly prepared for the committal hearings was that there was a backlog of work in the CPS typing pool that had not been overcome since the case was last in Court.

Well done Mr. Clarke, this is another fine addition to the criminal justice system. I am just so happy that the Victim's Code of Practice places no duties upon me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


As I was in my office in the afternoon today I decided to make some enquiries on a case. My Client had been disqualified from driving in his absence from one Court and had appeared in another for driving whilst disqualified.

My instructions were that my Client knew nothing about the disqualification as he had not received the Court summons for the prosecution that resulted in him being disqualified from driving. In order to find evidence to support his instructions I had suggested that I make enquiries with the Court that disqualified him about the proceedings. My Client thought that this was a good idea, and so did I until I made the phone call.

I spoke with the Court:

Me: Was he disqualified in his absence?
Them: Yes
Me: Was there any correspondence between the Court and my Client?
Them: We sent him notices about the case being adjourned, and then when he was disqualified in his absence we sent him a letter informing him of the disqualification.
Me: So did he ever appear in Court or write to you?
Them: No
Me: So there was no response from my Client?
Them: No, but a friend of his phoned up saying he couldn't attend on one date.
Me: Oh.

At this point I realised that I had uncovered something that possibly went contrary to my Client's instructions. If my Client claimed not to know about the case why did his friend phone the Court? Perhaps I dug too deep? I have now arranged an appointment to see my Client so that he can clarify his instructions.


After announcing my resignation earlier this week I have received a number of messages wishing me luck in my new job. I would like to thank these individuals for their kind words of support.

There was one comment that asked whether the blogging would stop when I changed jobs. Fear not, I am simply changing firms and location. I will continue to work as a criminal solicitor doing defence work and I will continue to bore others with my random and mundane postings on this blog.

How Pleasant, No Defendants

My morning was fairly simple today, I had three cases in the Magistrates Court and for each case the Defendants attendance had been excused.

Dealing with Court cases without Defendants is often so much easier. You do not have to wait for the Client to attend, you do not have to take instructions and provide advice on the proceedings, and ushers usually are more likely to call your case on if you sit waiting in Court because they do not have to go in search of the Client who is likely to be anywhere but standing outside of the Court. You just get on and do the job.

My cases were called on quickly and I got out of Court quickly - all very satisfying after yesterdays waiting around for most of the day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Deputy DJ On Her First Day

I had a mundane day today waiting around at a South London Magistrates Court. Rather unhelpfully my Client arrived an hour late for Court so by the time I had taken instructions from him and had been placed in the usher's list of 'ready' cases I was unlikely to get on until the afternoon.

As I sat in Court observing the proceedings I watched the Deputy District Judge act in a rather hard way. No one was getting bail, all guilty pleas resulted in pre-sentences reports considering all options for sentencing including prison - this DDJ was taking no prisoners.

It transpired that this was in fact the first day that the Deputy District Judge had sat at this particular Court and that she was going to be sitting at this Court for sometime. She appeared to be stamping her mark on the Court.

Crime Pays

I mentioned that I signed off a bill this week for at least £20,000 worth of work. I was at a South London Magistrates Court today and bumped in to the barrister who was instructed by me as leading counsel. I am not quite sure what he was doing in the Magistrates Court but never mind that.

As I sat discussing various complicated legal issues I asked if he had been paid on the case that I had submitted my bill for. He said that he had been paid and that he received a cheque for about £80,000 last week! That shows you where the real money in crime is. If you can get the work Crown Court advocacy can pay well. He got paid 400% more than my firm did (although my bill might get enhanced)! The barrister read the same set of papers that I had, he saw the Client less than I did prior to the trial, he watched less of the CCTV from the case, but clearly he did more advocacy during the eight week trial.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I resigned today. Having worked at my current firm for the past two and a half years I decided that enough was enough. Over the past few weeks I have had a number of quiet meetings and formal interviews that resulted in two very good job offers. I spent the weekend trying to decide which offer to accept and today I made my mind up. In the new year I will start working in Essex.

I took a gamble when I started this current job. The firm was not an established 'player' in the criminal defence market and it had no other duty solicitors working for it when I joined. When I started at the firm I showed enthusiasm for training others to become Police Station accredited so that the trainees and paralegals could attend at Police Station cases. I showed enthusiasm for training others to become duty solicitors to build up the flow of business in the firm. At first the firm reciprocated my enthusiasm and paid for the accreditation courses for a few members of staff, but those staff left before they completed their exams (although I know that within a few weeks of leaving my current firm they passed their exams). The firm then decided that it would only pay for Police Station accreditation in exceptional circumstances. Great policy idea!

As a result of my firm's backward thinking policy and a new Legal Services Commission policy (the one that says only Solicitors who have obtained, or who have registered by 31st October 2005 to obtain, the necessary qualifications in the form of the police station accreditation can attend at Police Stations to dispense advice and assistance) means that as of 1st November 2005 I will be the only employee in the firm who can go and advise Clients at the Police Station. When the new year comes and I leave there will be no one in the firm who can provide advice and assistance at the Police Station.

I handed my resignation in after coming back from Court. I sat at my desk reading an e-mail that due to a general lack of billing in the firm that it was likely to lead to 'streamlining'. It appears that my resignation may assist the streamlining idea.

Looking at the firm now I think that my gamble did not pay off and I am jumping off of a sinking ship. I am going to predict within a year the criminal department will close.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Billing No. 2

During my mundane day I signed off a bill for a big Crown Court case. A few years ago I billed all of the Crown Court cases that I dealt with so when a big case finished I always had the horrible task of making sense of my notes and turning attendance notes in to pound notes.

This bill that I signed off came in at just under £20,000 worth of work before an uplift. I am happy to say that a lot of that work was done by my fair hand. The bill has been prepared by one of the Costs Draughtsmen employed by my firm and this particular bill seeks an uplift for attendance and preparation work. This means that whatever work has been done is sought to be paid at a slightly higher rate on the basis that the case was complex.

When I see these sizeable criminal legal aid bills it makes me think that there is still some money to be made in criminal defence work. If the uplift is applied to the case it should cover the cost of employing two trainee solicitors or paralegals for a year.


Today I spent most of my day billing files for cases that have been concluded at the Police Station and Magistrates Court.

This mundane task is a necessary evil in the world of legal aid. To ensure that there is a constant flow of cases being billed each month the firm that I work for sets a date for each month when each fee earner must bill all billable files under their control.

What often causes trouble when billing files is trying to locate the attendance notes that other fee earners should have put on the file but for some reason have not. Also if Counsel has been down to the Magistrates Court they often phone through with the result of their case and later fax through an attendance sheet - for some reason the firm's high tech fax to e-mail system seems to loose half of Counsel's attendance notes!

After doing the usual searches and making the usual phone calls I managed to sort out the vast majority of my billing to sufficiently please those in control at the firm. As long as they see money coming in they are kept at bay for another month.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I Said No Comment

I went off to the Police Station in the afternoon today to deal with a youth. The youth seemed to have a particular dislike for the Police. After discussing the case with the Client it was agreed that he was not going to answer questions in the interview and that I would read out a prepared statement on his behalf at the start of the interview.

The interview started and I read out the prepared statement, my Client then started giving his reply of 'no comment' to all questions. The Client seemed to get frustrated during the interview, particularly when he believed a question was being repeated:

Q: Where do you live?
A: No comment.
Q: Do you live at 68 Potter Street?
A: No comment.
Q: Do you deny living at 68 Potter Street?
A: I've already said, no comment?
Q: So you agree that you live at 68 Potter Street?
A: Are you stupid, no comment.
Q: So you don't live at 68 Potter Street?
A: For f***s sake, no f***ing comment, are you deaf?

The Clients interview transcript is not going to make pretty reading if he is prosecuted. As the interview progressed the Client realised that the earlier he said 'no comment' the more he could frustrate the questioning process. As the question was being asked, and before the Police Officers got a chance to finish the question the Client started to answer 'no comment'. Eventually he started saying 'no comment' repeatedly whether he was being asked a question or not. The Police followed their interview procedures and continued despite my Client's best efforts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Crime Reduction Ideas

As you may have noticed there are Google Ads running on this site. The Google Ads that are displayed are not chosen by me but displayed on the basis of the content of the blog as scanned by Google.

The usual adverts seem to focus on the word solicitor and therefore drag up compensation adverts. Usually there are a handful of adverts that are based on criminal defence work. Blog adverts often get displayed. Every so often an unusual advert pops up. The latest unusual advert that I was was for a company called Dyejet.

Dyejet provides the following information: "Protect yourself... When the offender knows they will be identified and marked out, protection starts for you. Woad be dyed You!!! Offender
You will be coloured blue, (dyed in woad) if you miss behave against the community and the dye will mark you out for what you have done! You will be identified and punished. Woadbetied you!! This is how in the past, offenders and criminals were marked out from the innocent people of the community, in order that the laws of the land could be enforced. Dyejet the Offender is the modern answer for innocent people to identify offenders and protect themselves against modern crimes by marking that person out from the crowd, so the police can recognise and question anyone involved?"

This device struck me as being something akin to a rape alarm in that it was carried by people to prevent an attack. I had a look at the web site and noticed that it had suggestions in how to best deploy the dyejetoffender. I found the instructions slightly amusing as the manufacturers seem to think that firstly that you will actually have the opportunity to see an attacker before they strike, and then secondly that the offender will care whether they are sprayed.

I know that many of the street muggers that I deal with could not care less if they were sprayed, provided that they got some property of value that they could sell on. Prevention is always a good solution but for the hardcore criminal a blue DNA based spray is unlikely to stop them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

C'mon, Keep Up

I am on the Court Duty Solicitor rotas for two busy London Magistrates Court. One of the Court Duty schemes can be quite productive, the other is a complete shambles.

The original rota system for one of the Courts was drawn up and seemingly operated without problem. Out of six active Courts three of them have a dedicated Duty Solicitor. A new Court scheduling system was then introduced but the Duty Solicitor rota was preserved. Due to the antiquated Court Duty rota slots are now allocated to Court rooms that are scheduled to have trials. On the days when I have appeared as Court Duty Solicitor for a Court room that has trials scheduled I am simply told to help out with other Courts. This often involves going to the other Courts that are already covered by Duty Solicitors to ask if they need any assistance, and to be told that no assistance is required. Of course no assistance is required because those Duty Solicitors rarely want to relinquish work when there is a scarcity of well paid legal aid criminal defence work in the first place.

Today I was Court Duty Solicitor for the remand Court at the shambolic Court. There were no overnights to be dealt with, and first appearances do not take place on a Tuesday at this Magistrates Court. That meant I was supposed to assist anyone who had already appeared at Court who wanted the Duty Solicitor. But the fact that people were returning to Court meant that the vast majority were already represented by other solicitors, if anyone had previously seen the Duty Solicitor then they are usually precluded from seeing a Duty Solicitor on a further occasion. Guess how many people I assisted today? Only one.

This particular Court Duty rota badly needs reorganising, and despite my whinging to the Court staff there seems to be no prospect of things changing.

Guess how much I get paid for waiting around at Court as Duty Solicitor and dealing with no cases? I get paid as much to deal with cases as I do for sitting on my backside. The wonders of the remuneration system for Court Duty Solicitors means that I paid a flat rate to deal with cases or not to deal with cases.

This Court Duty rota is causing waste in the criminal justice system and needs to be sorted out.


I was thoroughly bored at Court today. Whilst waiting to assist Clients I sat and observed:

1. A defendant who had mental health problems who had pleaded guilty to criminal damage. A medical report suggested that the Defendant should be given a hospital order to receive treatment and then be released from the care of the hospital when he was deemed fit. The District Judge cut straight to the chase and sentenced the Defendant to a conditional discharge and a compensation order. The District Judge identified that the Defendant coped well when taking medication and had recently received back dated benefits. So if he continued to take medication he would probably not offend again.

2. A solicitor explain that he is having problems obtaining prior authority from the Legal Services Commission to pay a psychiatrist to provide a report on his Client. The Legal Services Commission had previously granted prior authority for a report from a psychologist, but now had to consider a new application for a psychiatrist. A trial for this case was about two months away and everyone seemed resigned to the fact that two months was not long enough to get prior authority to pay a psychiatrist, then to find a psychiatrist, and then to get a report from them.

3. A solicitor who attended at a pre-trial review for a matter of failing to provide a specimen of breath after being suspected of drink driving. This solicitor confirmed that he was not calling any expert evidence and that he was not calling any medical evidence although he was running a defence that his Client was medically unfit to provide a sample - this case looks to be doomed to failure.

4. The Court Clerk loose his rag when requesting a hearing date over the telephone in open Court. He first phoned through to his scheduling office and received a hearing date. He then rung back two minutes later to cancel the first date and make a further hearing date. During the second telephone conversation with the scheduling office the Clerk became rather irate when he was told that he could not be given a further date over the telephone - he only realised that he became irate when he put the phone down and saw that everyone was looking at him.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Don't Shake Their Hand

Over the weekend I went out to dinner with a group of parents from my daughter's school. As we sat chatting I spoke with one particular parent who works as a Special Constable. Our conversation consisted of having little digs at each other in terms of Clients being apprehended by the Police and me doing my utmost to defend them. We did not agree on much.

There was one subject that the did agree on, and that was no one should ever shake the hand of a person detained at the Police Station unless the person greeting the detained person is wearing rubber gloves.

The Special Constable explained to me one of her recent experiences whilst working in an Essex town during the late hours of a Friday night. She stated that she had arrested a female for drunk and disorderly and this person had been handcuffed and placed in a Police van (affectionately known to the passengers as a meat wagon). The Special Constable then left the female under the supervision of another Police Officer and returned within a number of minutes to find the female masturbating in the back of the van! The handcuffs were quickly moved from being at the front of the female to the rear.

I then told the story of a colleague. My firm had received a call about one of our regular Clients one night who was to be interviewed in the morning. We were warned on the telephone that the Client was acting a bit mental and had also been arrested for criminal damage as he had daubed excrement around his cell. My colleague who attended at the Police Station made the fatal error of walking in to a consultation room and then shaking the hand of this Client without even questioning whether the Client had washed his hand or not!

Despite the fact that a welcoming firm handshake can act as a very good introduction to inspire confidence in Clients it is rarely a good idea to do it unless you know what they have been doing with their hands.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Newton Fun

In the afternoon today I attended at a Magistrates Court to deal with a Newton hearing. My Client had pleaded guilty to an assault but disputed some of the facts that the prosecution say happened. When the hearing date had been set back in September I had drafted a basis of plea document that set out what my Client accepted happening and what he disputed about the prosecution case.

When I turned up to Court today my Client (despite having bail conditions not to) had spoken to the victim of the assault. The victim did not want to come to Court to give evidence in the Newton hearing and was quite happy to accept the basis of plea entered by the Client.

I walked in to Court and spoke with the prosecutor dealing with the case. After trying to make a deal she went off to speak to the victim who stated that they did not want to give evidence or take part in the Newton hearing. The prosecutor then spoke to me and suggested that she would call the victim as a hostile witness and apply to have their statement read to the Court.

I had been given clear instructions by my Defendant to avoid a Newton hearing and arrange for the prosecution to agree a basis of plea that was favourable to him. I set about my task engaging with the prosecutor discussing the finer details of the case:

Me: My Client accepts punching them in the face a few times.
Prosecutor: That's not enough I want the fact that he hit them with the remote control and iron, then dragged them around the floor by their hair to be in.
Me: No. He will certainly go to prison for that. I'll offer you the punching in the face and hitting them with the remote.
Prosecutor: He needs to accept he has caused an injury. He caused bruising and swelling.
Me: Okay he punched them in the face causing bruising and hit them with the remote.
Prosecutor: ...and hit them with the iron.
Me: No.
Prosecutor: He either accepts the iron or the hair dragging as well otherwise we do not have a basis.
Me: How about punching, the remote, and that he grabbed the hair and shook them? No iron and no dragging.
Prosecutor: Okay.

So there I was bartering over punches, being hit with an iron, remote control, and being dragged around on the floor by their hair. Once the deal was struck the victim left Court apparently happy that they did not have to give evidence. My Client was happy because many of the aggravating factors in their case had been swept away with the agreement of the prosecutor.

The Prosecutor had a hard time giving the facts of the case to the Magistrates because her case summary no longer made any sense as it referred to facts she had agreed that could be dispensed with. Eventually the case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports, I am predicting that my Client will now receive a community sentence rather than the inevitable prison sentence that he had been looking at if convicted on the basis of the prosecution's facts.

Two Day Trial (Part Two)

My Clients for my two day trial turned up to Court at 11.05 am today. As they had not given any instructions since being at the Police Station three months ago their late arrival caused some problems. I embarrassingly had to ask for further time from the District Judge when I had already been given time to 11.00 am to locate and take instructions from my Client.

After 10 minutes the trial cracked. My Clients changed their instructions, admitted limited responsibility, pleaded guilty to lesser charges, were sentenced there and then, and walked out of Court to start their community based sentences. I am pleased to say that the Prosecutor was being sensible and accepted proposed pleas to issues where he had evidence and withdrew charges where there was no evidence. Previously the prosecution had been unwilling to agree to these kind of suggestions.

It is all rather depressing cracking a trial at the last moment as it means my great efforts in preparing the case go to waste, unless my considered advice to plead guilty after a very thorough examination of the evidence can be considered as good preparatory work.

The only downside in finishing the two day trial early is that I then had to go and deal with afternoon cases that a colleague had difficulty in attending at!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Court Hopping

I went Court hopping today.

I received a telephone call yesterday informing me that an application to break a two day Youth Court trial was going to be listed today at the request of the solicitors for a Co-defendant in the case. I was already due to be at the Magistrates Court that was a mile up the road.

Due to only being told about the application to break the trial fixture yesterday I was unable to arrange for someone else to cover the hearing. A number of my colleagues are away, another was already attending at an on going Crown Court trial, and the others also had existing Court commitments.

I set off for the first hearing with my fingers crossed that the hearing would start promptly at 10.00 am. I hoped that the second hearing would not start until 10.30 am as the second Court starts sitting at 10.30 am. Unfortunately my first hearing did not start until 10.25 am. I ran out of the first Court after making a flurry of phone calls warning about my late arrival.

I got to the second Court by 10.50 am to find that the second case had not been put on to the list. Neither the Court nor the CPS had a file. I had to wait around until 12 noon before the Court had made up a file and listed the case in a Court, then shortly after the Court file emerged a CPS file was found. Despite being ready shortly after 12 noon I had to join the queue at the end of the list and eventually got called on at 3.05 pm.

The Court hopping was successful in so far as I got to be at the right places at the right time - it is just a shame that the second case took so long to deal with.

Two Day Trial

I am starting a two day trial tomorrow that will start on Friday and finish on Monday. The trial should be good fun as there are four people involved in the case, and one has pleaded guilty to robbery - this is the same offence that my Clients are charged with. I will probably run a cut throat defence blaming the person who has already pleaded guilty. I say I will 'probably' run a cut throat defence as my Clients have simply not provided any instructions since they left the Police Station. Despite repeated letters and phone calls I have got no instructions other than what was said in the Police interview.

Without detailed instructions I am going to have to get my instructions before the trial starts - I am certainly in for a busy few days!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Never Ask A Witness A Question That You Do Not Know The Answer To

I went off to the Youth Court in the afternoon for a trial over possession of a bladed article. My Client's instructions had always been slightly fluid and it did not help that he kept changing the witnesses that he claimed would corroborate his case.

I had previously warned the Client that the chances of success in his trial were reduced if he had no witnesses to corroborate his account. The Client turned up to Court with two witnesses. I was placed in the position whether to call the witnesses without having time to proof them and go through their evidence in detail, or simply call the Defendant and ignore the fact that his witnesses could assist his case. A request to adjourn the case was refused and a request for further time to prepare was refused - and rightly so as the Client had been given ample opportunity to bring his witnesses to me so I could proof them. The Client opted to run the case by the seat of his pants and after 5 minutes with each witness the Client told me that he wanted both witnesses called even though I could not be sure that their accounts were supportive of his in every detail.

Things went horribly wrong in Court as the Client gave an account, the first witness gave an account that was different over minor details, the second witness gave an account that differed from both the Client and the first witness. I even resorted to asking questions that could only be answered with yes or no to try to keep the witnesses from deviating from the Client's account. At one point I was warned about my leading questions by the District Judge. I had trouble in controlling the witnesses simply because I only had a vague idea what they were going to say. There is a golden rule in trials: "Never ask a witness a question that you do not know the answer to". Unfortunately I was put in a position where my Client had provided express instructions for me to break the golden rule!

My Client was convicted because the District Judge did not believe his evidence and in giving his reasons to the Court he called my Client a liar and the witnesses liars. He was probably right.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Today was rather bizarre. Whilst I had been in Court I had been left a voicemail message on my mobile from a prospective Client asking if I could represent them tomorrow. After I had finished at Court I returned to my office and as I walked in the door this prospective Client phoned me through my office landline.

After discussing their case I took down their details and then realised that they were well known and could even be described as famous or a celebrity. Apparently I had been highly recommended by a Client I had acted for in the past.

Ten minutes after putting the phone down on this Client Radio Five telephoned me and asked if I would be available to go on air during their morning phone in about the whether youth sentences were too low. A few weeks ago I had spoken to a Radio 5 researcher about this blog and they had dug up my details from that earlier conversation. Foolishly I declined the offer to go on air as it clashed with other Court commitments that I had to cover.

Within the space of 10 minutes I had picked up a well known personality to represent and independent of that case I had been asked to speak on Radio 5.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What A Cheek

There was an interesting article in the Guardian today, "Goldsmith attacks defence 'fishing expeditions'". Lord Goldsmith has accused defence lawyers of running up thousands of pounds worth of legal aid bills by looking for disclosure. He has also suggested that cases have had to be abandoned due to defence request for disclosure? Is this man insane? Does he not realise that defence lawyers are supposed to act in the bests interests of their Clients and from time to time that means pursuing a line of disclosure with the Prosecution until it has either proved successful or unsuccessful?

Here are some of the comments from the report: "He will call for a crackdown on disclosure in a speech tomorrow to prosecutors, who he admits are not blameless themselves. Prosecutors sometimes "hand over the keys to the warehouse", rather than go through the documents and provide only those relevant to the defence."

May be he should be more careful who he instructs to act for the prosecution then rather than blame a shoddy prosecution performance on a defence lawyer?

Here is another comment from the report: "Lord Goldsmith said in some cases prosecutions were derailed when the defence demanded disclosure of documents which were in the hands of a third party. Prosecutors might not know whether the material was relevant or not. He cited the Prudential fraud case, which collapsed last April after running up £10m in legal aid costs without reaching trial. The judge ruled that the defendants could not receive a fair trial because the prosecution had persistently failed to disclose documents to the defence and had neglected to take action to prevent the Prudential from destroying large numbers of its documents."

I see Lord Goldsmith, you would prefer it if us defence lawyers did not test the evidence, that we perhaps simply accept that a persistent failure to disclose documents is a fair part of the justice system?

Another comment: "In another move which could produce legal aid savings, he said ministers hoped to have a provision allowing the most complex fraud cases to be tried without a jury in place by January." I have an even better money saving scheme that would impress Lord Goldsmith, don't allow defence lawyers to represent the Defendants!

Sometimes the comments that people make drive me insane! Surely Lord Goldsmith can see that he is talking rubbish and the failures in the system that have been opened up by defence lawyers just goes to show that he needs to get his own house in order?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bar Strike Prediction

My prediction several weeks ago that the Bar strike would be called off and an announcement would be made that they are going to consider their position after the Carter review has been completed seems only to be half correct.

I have spent the week speaking to various characters that I have bumped in to. The Bar is split in to different 'circuits' representing different geographical areas of England and Wales. Apparently different circuits are taking different action. The South Eastern circuit which includes London is not going on strike but the Northern circuits are.

This strike action is not going to have an effect for a short while as it is only going to effect new cases after 3rd October 2005. It will be interesting to see what happens during the strike.