Friday, July 21, 2006

Nothing To Say

I went off to one of my local Magistrates Courts today to deal with a Client who had been refused bail by the Police. I got to Court and picked up his papers. He was accused of a relatively minor set of offences. Unfortunately my Clients list of previous convictions was rather long. The Prosecutor immediately told me that she was going to object to bail due to concerns about by Client committing further offences whilst on bail, failing to attend at Court and interfering with witnesses. The Prosecutor based her fears on my Client's previous convictions that showed he offended whilst on bail, that he failed to attend Court, and that he had committed offences against the same complainant who had made the allegation against him for this offence.

It is an unwritten rule in the world of criminal defence work that you are expected to make a bail application for a Client when they first appear in custody at the Magistrates Court. This unwritten rule is strictly kept to because Clients love to see their solicitors fighting for them in Court and trying to secure their freedom. It really does not matter what the offence is, or what the chances of bail are - if your Client appears in custody at the Magistrates Court you must apply for bail.

I saw my Client in the cells and took his instructions. I usually look for a few key points in a case to base a bail application on such as the Client has never been convicted of an offence, or perhaps they do not have convictions for breaching bail or Court orders. I struggled to find one good point about my Client's case, eventually I decided that I would point out that my Client was being prosecuted, amongst other things, for an assault and that the evidence for the assault did not come from the person assaulted but another person who was heavily intoxicated.

I left the cells, went up to Court and the case was called on. Whilst sitting listening to the Prosecutor I then had a moment of inspiration, with nothing good to say I decided that my best tactic was perhaps to distract the Prosecutor. I had noticed that one of the Magistrates looked uncannily like Dr. John Reid so at an appropriate point during the Prosecutors objections to bail I leant over and said to her, "Have a look at the winger on the left, it is the Home Secretary". The Prosecutor looked over and started to snigger. My effort at distraction worked for a few seconds and did interrupt the flow of her speech, but unfortunately my effort at distraction was about as good as my chance of getting my Client bail - pretty poor.

I stood up and delivered my well argued bail application which was duly refused. Never mind I thought, at least the Client got his wish to make a bail application. I saw my Client in the cells after the Court hearing, he was happy that an effort had been made on his behalf, and in all reality he knew that he had no chance of bail.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh how true.

I often liken bail apps to beauty contests. If you don't fight then your client will go elsewhere. Having said that if you don't ask, you don't get. I quite like doing no hopers because if you get bail the client is extremely happy, and so are you.

This morning did a bail app for a client charged with various conspiracies and firearms matters. Prosecution had no AD for me at all. (For those who don't know AD is a copy of either the case summary or witness statements forming the basis of the case.) I told the client that even though the evidence against him was not the best, he would not get bail because of the nature of the charges and the fact that it was that particular court. Sure enough remanded in custody. However, when I went down to the cells, the client was happy with the application and not too concerned that he had been remanded.

Anonymous said...

" It really does not matter what the offence is, or what the chances of bail are - if your Client appears in custody at the Magistrates Court you must apply for bail."

A good waste of court time. At least you look good though. Well done.

Gavin said...

Anon said: "A good waste of court time. At least you look good though. Well done."

Maybe it was a waste of time but the Client is entitled to make the bail application and there are sometimes random cases where bail is granted when it normally would not be. It is sometimes like gambling, some you will win against the odds, others you will most definately lose.

WigAndGown said...

Anonymous - A Solicitor / Counsel is there to REPRESENT a defendant. Whilst this doesn't mean acting as their mouthpiece for whatever they want to say, it does mean acting on their instructions. If someone wants an application for bail made, then you can advise as to the merits / tactics, but it is ultimately their choice.

I'm not sure if you are the same 'anonymous' who comments on most postings in a 'all lawyers are money grabbing scumbags who help criminals' vein, but I'm begining to think that your exposure to the Criminal Justice System is limited to reading the Daily Mail.

Can I suggest that you and the others on this site who share you views, actually visit a couple of Magistrates' and Crown Courts, do some research as to conviction rates and have a look at the new proposed rates of pay for legal aid work before continuing to rant about something that you clearly know little or nothing about.

Bystander said...

I can see the brief now, standing up, buttoning his jacket, looking the bench in the eye, and uttering the words,

"Sir, I am instructed to apply for bail this morning".

He and I know that means "Sorry, I'll be as quick as I decently can, but he wants me to have a go, so here it comes."

bagpuss said...

Just occasionally you get bail .. as a trainee I was sent to the Crown Court to make a bail application to a Judge in Chambers. My boss explained to me before I left that there was no chance of gettting bail but the client has instructed us to apply. I found myself in frony of our local 'hanging judge' and the third of 3 bail apps, the other two of which were refused, with the applying counsel coming out longing rather shell-shocked. My the time I went in, I was highly nervous. To my astonishment (and later that of my client and my boss) the applicaiton was granted. I then had to go out until I could find a solicitor I knew in the court building to ask what I should now do, as having not expected to get bail I didn't know what I had to do next to get my client released....

reflectingdippy said...

i often go and sit in courts having a keen interest in law wanting to be a criminal defence barrister

is it me or would i be right in saying that if you are remanded at the police station and taken to magistrates at next open point you are likely to be remanded by magistrates i base this on the fact that i have never seen an escorted defendant be granted bail in the magistrates court