Thursday, November 22, 2007

Send Him Down

I went to a Youth Court recently to represent a young man where he was due to be sentenced for an offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. ABH is an offence that can span a wide range of injuries from the fairly trivial to the rather serious. This particular case involved my Client stamping on an individuals head with one blow.

The case was always going to be a difficult one to deal with as the offence was nasty, and sentencing guidelines suggest that for such an assault prison, or in this case youth detention, should be considered as the sentencing starting point. On the last Court hearing the Court had ordered that a pre-sentence report be prepared to assist the Court in sentencing my Client. The report produced was very positive and made particular reference to the fact that my Client had an excellent record of attendance and compliance with the Youth Offending Service when he had been sentenced for other matters.

I informed my Client before the Court hearing that if he got lucky he would not be sent to prison, and if the Youth Court adopted the standard sentencing guidelines he could expect at least a four month detention and training order (i.e. the youth equivalent of prison). The hearing went well, my mitigation came out as I had planned with the usual speech of, "He should be given one last chance before you consider sending him to prison." I could see that the Bench were nodding their heads at the right parts of my speech. Once I had finished addressing the Bench they turned their attention to my Client and asked him what he had to say about matters - thankfully my Client had the sense to say that he was sorry. The Bench then asked my Client's father what he wanted to say, unfortunately he said something like this, "Send him to prison, it is the only way he is going to learn". That was exactly the kind of parental comment that an advocate dreads.

My Client was lucky enough to avoid being sent to prison, despite the seriousness of the offence, and despite his father's unhelpful comments.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Dad was right.

Yui are an apologist for a thug.

Gavin said...

Thank you for your comment.

I fail to understand why people read this blog if they only make comments such as yours. By the very nature of my work I will often anger people. The role I perform in the criminal justice system is to defend people against the state, if that role was not performed the usual checks and balances against abuses by the state would not exist.

Anonymous said...

Does that help little sound bite help you sleep at night??

As a police officer I regularly watch Briefs who are on paid via the duty scheme (ie by tax payers money) to represent a detainee tey know are guilty.

Then watch them shake their heads at clients as they walk out front door of nick.

Unless your Perry Mason or some other genuine gladiator for the oppressed I'm surprised you can be so proud....

Gavin said...

You have your opinion and you are entitled to that.

Read this, as it probably deals with most of the objections you have about defence solicitors: http://criminalsolicitor.blogspot.com/search?q=this+is+for+fred

totallyun-pc said...

Hello. I often read you blog, admittedly often through gritted teeth. I realise you have a job to do, so have I.
We see the same people.... and of course I know you have a professional pride in the work you undertake. We both have people in our occupation who let the sides down, but equally some very good people doing the best we can in difficult circumstances. Not everyone who goes to court is a career criminal, up until that point, they are a suspect.... But at my level, nearly everyone who I send to court treats the process as an occupational hazard. I guess the point I've tried to make is this.... I see these people commit the crimes, then I see the evil in them when they are arrested and detained, then I see the way they treat everything in their tainted and often despicable lives, then I see them smile as they walk free. The thing that doesn't sit right with me, is the nice cheesy handshake from the defence as they leave..... you have a job to do, but just once... just once, do you ever think.... I wish I'd lost that one!!!!?

totallyun-pc said...

Ps. when I say walk free, I'm obviously meaning free from incarceration... we all know by now that standing over a bleeding corpse with a knife saying "I'm glad I killed the bastard!" is no longer enough evidence for the CPS, so guilt is only a matter of formalities for whoever gets there these days.... I'm refering to the reduced and nil sentances.. and susp sentances for anyone of says sorry, however insincere!

Have a nice day now!

Bystander said...

It's interesting, is it not, that any police officer who fals under suspicion of any kind rushes off to see - yes - a lawyer.

Gavin said...

totallyun-pc said, "you have a job to do, but just once... just once, do you ever think.... I wish I'd lost that one!!!!?"

There have been a few times. But if I start to judge whether people are telling the truth, or whether I think they should be convicted, then I stop being objective and I start being subjective. To do my job I have to remain objective.

Anonymous said...

Bystander- of course a police officer 'under suspicion' has to see a liar (sorry, I mean 'Lawyer' the two words are so similar) otherwise they'll be screwed by the other sides lawyer. Thats the problem with the adversarial school-debating style of justice we have in this country. The only winners are the laywers and their fat fees.

totallyun-pc said...

Its also worth noting... How many times I have asked a suspect if they need a lawyer, and they say "nah, I ain't done Nuffing"

Its almost like... well when they have done something, they require the services of a Lawyer to see what they can get away with!!!!!

Martin said...

I have given evidence in mags court today. Nice middle class drunk lady, 35 ish, seen driving, failed to provide. During the arrest she kept slurring to me "YOU CAN'T DO THIS I HAVE SEEN IT ON TELLY" and other choice nuggets. She would not get out of the car, we pleaded with her for around 10 mins, eventually she was dragged from the car and decided to go completely limp meaning that she had to be carried to the waiting police van. During booking in she was obstructive, refusing to answer questions. She was of course offered legal advice via telephone, but declined. Thanks to her antics it took a good one and a half hours to get her into the intox room. Soon after the procedure was started, and the tube was looming, she decided that she did wanted to speak to a solicitor. She was told several times that she would be allowed to speak to a solicitor as soon as the procedure was done. After around 30 mins of this the machine timed out and we decided that that was that and she had refused to provide (now 2 hrs since the arrest). She was charged with failing to provide.
Now, in court today there was no question that she was drunk. There was no question that she had been seen driving whilst drunk. Her antics in the police station were on camera. Her defence were winging that she should have been allowed to speak to a solicitor as soon as she asked for one, not after the procedure. Fair enough, I disagree. But that is what the court is for.
My question is, the defence solicitor knows that the lady is guilty of an offence which is extremely dangerous, with thousands of drink related deaths and injuries on the road each year. He knows that the lady could have hit and killed someone, maybe a member of his own family. Still he tries to get her off. Why? Does she need defending from the state? Or do the public need defending from her?
Sorry that was so long!

I like the blog, please keep it up!

Howard Wilson said...

Good result Gavin, I'd rather see a thousand guilty yobbos walk free than ONE INNOCENT PERSON being nailed by the MALICIOUS PLOD!

Anonymous said...

I see so a youth with previous convictions escapes prison because he should be given 'one last chance'. How many other chances was he given I wonder? No doubt a bunch of dodering old fools behind the bench who have become complacent about the seriousness of crime.

I hope you sleep well at night, knowing that the cum you defend roam free to beat, burgle and rob because you gave a good speech. One day you might return to your home to find its been broken into. I'm sure you'll want some real justice, like prison, rather than some punitive punishment like probation or other liberal rubbish.


I spend too much time in the custody block because solicitors and their runners like to make sure they have their (usually unemployed) clients NI numbers for that all important legal aid!

In reality Gavin you do the job for money. If the money was better as a prosecutor then you'd be on the other side of the fence. The feral scum you defend don't deserve my money wasted on greedy fools like you.

Gavin said...

Anon read this.

I get many comments such as yours left on this blog.

PI Guy said...

I think that everyone is entitled to be considered innocent until found guilty and everyone is entitled to have a lawyer represent them and if i were ever accused of a crime i would definitely want this lawyer representing me to the best of his ability without judging me. I love your blog BTW.

phatboy said...

"At 22 November, 2007, Anonymous said...

Does that help little sound bite help you sleep at night??

As a police officer I regularly watch Briefs who are on paid via the duty scheme (ie by tax payers money) to represent a detainee tey know are guilty.

Then watch them shake their heads at clients as they walk out front door of nick.

Unless your Perry Mason or some other genuine gladiator for the oppressed I'm surprised you can be so proud...."

Yes, and I've watched enough police officers trying to fit suspects up to know that without a strong defence service we'd be in the same shit we were in during the 1970s and 80s when the police were almost universally hated and huge numbers of suspects were convicted of crimes they never committed because of bent policemen!

You forget that the reason suspects were given the right to free and independant legal advice in the police station is precisly because of the abuse many suffered at the hands of the police!!

I only wish that people like you had the bollocks to admit what your views are AFTER you've been arrested!! It amazes me that every single police officer I've ever represented following their arrest doesn't have a problem with defence solicitors!!

phatboy said...

"At 28 November, 2007, Anonymous said...

Bystander- of course a police officer 'under suspicion' has to see a liar (sorry, I mean 'Lawyer' the two words are so similar) otherwise they'll be screwed by the other sides lawyer. Thats the problem with the adversarial school-debating style of justice we have in this country. The only winners are the laywers and their fat fees."

You're an idiot who knows nothing about the subject he's preaching on!

First, defence lawyers very rarely receive fat fees!! In fact, we charge less per hour than kwik-fit recently charged me for a 20-min job (they charged me £67 by the way for 20-mins and we currently charge £49 p/h). Hardly fat cat is it?

Secondly, you talk about the adversarial system of justice being wrong. I notice you didn't suggest an alternative! In any case, it's a myth tham other countries have wildly different systems. Even in civil law countries, such as France and Germany, it is only the civil side of the law and is non-adversarial. Criminal trials are still adversarial even in those countries.

Thirdly, you say that police officers accused of a crime need a lawyer to prevent them being screwed by the othersides lawyers. So, you accept then that everybody needs a lawyer as presumably everybody will be screwed over, or do you think that the police will try extra hard to get one of their own?

So, what exactly is your objection to criminal defence lawyers?

You are a moronic prick and I hope that if you are ever arrested you will give the lawyer who you will call for help the benefit of your views of them. But you won't, because you don't have the bollocks to represent yourself.

phatboy said...

"My question is, the defence solicitor knows that the lady is guilty of an offence which is extremely dangerous, with thousands of drink related deaths and injuries on the road each year. He knows that the lady could have hit and killed someone, maybe a member of his own family. Still he tries to get her off. Why? Does she need defending from the state? Or do the public need defending from her?
Sorry that was so long!"

For fucks sake are you really so dumb? He did it because that's his job!

When somebody appears before a court they are entitled to be represented. This was a legal argument (which was destined to fail) and one which should be put to a court by a lawyer not by a layperson.

So many people forget that the lawyer acts on the instructions of the client Once a solicitor is instructed it is very difficult to get out of a case. A barrister must accept every case that he is given provided he is paid enough, has time to do it and is experienced enough to do it.

Also, you forget that nobody else in the court room was there. Just because you 'know' something happened doesn't mean that anybody else does. Nor does it mean that anybody else automatically believes what you say is the truth!

phatboy said...

"In reality Gavin you do the job for money. If the money was better as a prosecutor then you'd be on the other side of the fence. The feral scum you defend don't deserve my money wasted on greedy fools like you."

Two points.

First, the money is MUCH better when you prosecute!! I am a solicitor-advocate and am paid £26,000 (due to the huge funding cuts I was denied a payrise when I got higher rights, but in any case would expect to be on around £34K). As a Crown Advocate, the starting rate is £49,000. As a Crown Prosecutor its about £30,000.

So you can see that it is infact much better paid at the CPS - also you get better holiday and flexitime!

Secondly, why do you assume that just because we defend we don't agree that sentences are too lenient? My job is to defend and I will do that to the best of my ability. The prosecution pay a lot better than most private defence firms and so can afford to high just as good advocates!

Personally, I would increase the sentences for most of the cases I see. But, as I'm not a judge I can't do that.

If you don't like sentences why don't you become a magistrate?

Caroline said...

I have been a volunteer appropriate adult for 2 years. It is the saddest experience that I have ever had. I have spent hours sitting in custody suites chatting to detained juveniles.

The lives that they describe to me and that I hear described during interviews are devoid of all the things that children need in order to thrive and grow up to be happy, useful people. Often they live in financial poverty. Always they live in emotional and intellectual poverty. After all, nine times out of ten, the reason for my being their appropriate adult is because no-one in their family can be bothered to come to the police station. The lives they live are unbelievably dreadful. Sometimes when I leave the police station I sit in my car and weep.

I can hear some of you saying how pathetic it is to be crying over some hoodie. Given the lives that they are born into, it would be amazing if they were not juvenile offenders. Anger should be aimed at a society that makes these children what they are. The fact that the state provides them with a solicitor in the police station is the least that they deserve.

Martin said...

To Caroline

Firstly, good on you for doing the ap role, unpaid as well.

You write "Given the lives that they are born into, it would be amazing if they were not juvenile offenders" Spot on, I agree totally. However, if an individual is a danger to those around them, or a danger to their property, then regardless of the factors that have lead to that individual being such, then I feel that society is right to expect to be protected from them.

I am not sure that anyone, except the victims of that individuals behaviour, has any right to give them a second, third.. fiftieth chance to behave properly, because who ever does so, does so at the expense of others,.

Pitty the poor wretches, but don't let that stop us from protecting the other poor buggers who have to live near them. There is something inherently unjust about a system in which the decisions regarding what happens to offenders is taken by those who never (rarely) suffer from the consequences of the crimes.

Officer of Customs said...

I'm a Customs Officer. I have worked too in a prosecutor's office as a Legal Exec' so have had a lot of close contact with lawyers, most of whom have been defence lawyers at some point during their career. Solicitors are like mercinaries, so are customs officers, police officers and anyone who is paid to do a job. For the money you receive you assume a position. You may not agree with your job all of the time but you work to the rules by which you have to play, its called professionalism. I get on fine with defence lawyers, we'll chat and maybe joke but once in the interview room you assume your position and stick with it. Once you leave the room and the task is complete its behind you, get over it. I have only had one defence lawyer before me who I disliked and he just looked down his nose at me and spoke to me as if I was some kind of scum, he however dealt with 'family matters' and had to stand in as a legal rep' as his firm were short of hands. I just ignored him after leaving the interview room unless anything he said mattered. I am amazed at the amount of information lawyers (prosecution or defence) can digest, analyse, interpret and advise on, especially where the subject gets a bit crunchy so I take my hat off to you all (except the guy I mentioned!)but don't expect me to be so in awe that you'll get anymore out of me than you deserve!! All the best.

antoine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Antoine said...

please please please everbody who has made a comment on this blog watch "murder on a sunday morning" a french made documentary on a random American case. It won an Oscar and explains better than anything I have ever seen or read on the importance of Defence Lawyers.

Rhinoplasty Los Angeles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

When someone is as caught "bang to rights" why do you instruct them to go "no comment"? Is it just incase the complainant decides to withdraw the complaint or is there some other reason. I know that CJSSS has recently come into being and you are on a fixed rate (whatever that means), if that isn't true please let me know. Point in case, male arrested after being followed by CCTV in possesion of a knife after threatening number of persons.Police arrive and directed to him. He was subsequently arrested. During interview he was advised to go no comment. Bailed for CCTV. Re-attends, defence view CCTV and told to give full and frank. The representative must have known that the recording was available. Why did he waste so much time and money with his first advice? I know you are paid to defend them but surely even you must know when right is right and wrong is wrong. It was even the same representative. Your views please.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I was the arresting officer and gave the rep full disclosure prior to the first interview.

Gavin said...

When Client's are caught 'red handed' they will sometimes go no comment because they do not believe that a witness will turn up to Court that is crucial to prosecution case etc., etc. Also sometimes they simply do not want to admit to an offence. Technically you get no official credit for accepting guilt at the Police Station, although in practice admissions in interview will create goodwill for a Client who thens pleads guilty at Court.

I would imagine in your case because the CCTV was not available the Client went no comment to see if the CCTV did in fact exist.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying and am not being confrontational but he still had the knife on his person when arrested. Why the advice on the first interview? He was subsequently charged with bladed article and S. 4 POA. In this current climate the bladed article was deemed the more serious offence of which there was no doubt he was in possession of.

Anonymous said...

Gavin,
I see you have posted further since I last added to your blog. Why won't you answer my last question? Can you not provide a good and reasonable answer? Maybe you too are just looking for more money from the tax paying public. Feel free to delete this if you feel necessary.......John.

Gavin said...

John,

Maybe I am missing something but I cannot see any other posts signed off as coming from "John". If you let me know what your comment was I will answer it.

Anonymous said...

What all you coppers are forgetting is that it is the Court who decides the case, not the defence lawyer. The last time I checked, a fair trial is still required in this country.

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