Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Conflict of Interest

I spent seven hours yesterday afternoon and evening at a Police Station dealing with a Client. The case I dealt with was really quite serious and the evidence against my Client was pretty poor - the case needed a positive identification in a video identification procedure before the Police would have enough evidence to go to the CPS for the CPS to authorise a charge.

I got to the Police Station just after 4pm. After a short interview the Police announced that they were going to carry out a video identification procedure. The identification procedures took from 6pm through until 10.30pm to be completed. During that time my Client's video image was captured, eight "stooges" from a Police database of several thousand people were selected. Some video editing was undertaken by the Police Identification Officer to pixelate out my Client's tattoos. I then previewed the video parade and ultimately I was present when the two witnesses viewed the video identification parades.

I was tired yesterday. The fact that I was at the Police Station from 4pm until after 11pm made me grumpy - especially as it was not my turn to be on call. I could have phoned my colleague who was on call yesterday and told them to get down to the Police Station but I did not think it was appropriate to just leave the Client - I generally do not like to leave Client's in the middle of a case.

Whilst I sat observing the two witnesses view my Client in the video identification parade I had a sudden conflict between my urge to see the Client released from the Police Station and the thought that if he was not identified it was likely that the case against him would be dropped. This was a horrible thought as it was a conflict between my natural desire to do my best and achieve the best possible result for my Clients, and, the business instinct that a Police Station case that turns in to a Crown Court trial can be a case that generates a reasonable fee. Thankfully when the second witness identified my Client I felt a sense of disappointment that my Client was going to be charged with an offence and was quite likely to be kept in custody for the foreseeable future.

Friday, March 12, 2010

HCA - Finally

Today I received a certificate in the post from the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This certificate approved me as a Higher Courts Advocate for criminal proceedings giving me the ability to appear in all criminal cases before a Crown Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Although it is rather pleasing to have finally obtained the title of Higher Courts Advocate or Solicitor Advocate it is rather daunting knowing that at some point in the future I am going to be thrust in to the Crown Court for a trial in front of a Judge and Jury. I regularly deal with trials in the Magistrates and Youth Courts and it has been may years since I felt out of my comfort zone in a summary trial.

I have done work in the Crown Court as an advocate using what rights of audience a "normal" solicitor has - those being Crown Court bail applications, committals for sentence from the Magistrates Court, appeals against sentence and even appeals against conviction.

My career has spanned some 12 years in criminal law now. The first few years were filled with a burst of activity in obtaining new qualifications. First of all I became a trainee solicitor, then I obtained accreditation as a Police Station representative. I then qualified as a solicitor and subsequently became a "Duty Solicitor". I have waited about nine years for my next qualification - my status as a Solicitor Advocate. I am not sure that there are any further professional qualifications a criminal solicitor can obtain that would of any real use in a career in criminal defence work.

Now I am just waiting for my first proper brief to appear in the Crown Court.