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.

114 comments:

carey suante said...

Lovely!

Didn't know how hard being a lawyer could be. Am more appreciative now!!

phatboy said...

I know the feeling, especially in the current system where police station work is so poorly paid.

Unfortunately, what the government fail to understand is that when they constantly squeeze people in our position then focus switches (consciously or not) from whats best for a client to whats best for business.

While a lot of people have no sympathy at all for this dilema, the problem is that when all focus is on business then the innocent are badly represented and more people who should not be charged are charged, which in turn puts more strain on the courts, CPS and police and actually raising the overall costs of the CJS as well as risking more miscarriages of justice.

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Anonymous said...

If you have that kind of internal conflict you should not be a lawyer.

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conveyancing stockport said...

I had no idea that police station work is poorly paid. I can understand your dilema over wanting your client to 'win' but also not wanting to live off a poor wage.

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I can completely sympathise with this. Police station work can be so boring, you almost feel like you're being kept in custody sometimes!

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phatboy said...

"Anonymous said...

If you have that kind of internal conflict you should not be a lawyer."

Anon, maybe it's time that you joined the real world. You sound like some kind of beginner law student who's been indoctrinated with the notion that the Court of Appeal is always right and lawyers are all total professionals who can set their own needs aside no matter what the personal cost to them. We are all merely human.

conveyancing stockport, yes police station work is poorly paid and getting worse. In my area you typicall earn about £200 - £250 per case, which is one of the highest rates in the country I think. That fee covers the initial attendance (at least 2 or 3 hours) and then every thing else that happens at the police station, e.g. writing to the client, taking/making call, seeing the client in the office, attending bail to returns etc. In the olden days we were paid £49.70 per hour and a typical police station case would earn anything from £400 - £1,000. I think the most I got paid was about £2K for a murder case that took a year to investigate and had something like 10 bail to returns to the police station. So, you can see how much the rates have been reduced where I work, although we're still expected to do the same work as before.

Worthing man said...

All professionals have conflicts between how they feel and how they should feel.

Doctors treating ungrateful patients who won't look after themselves or prolonging lives pointlessly.

Accountants helping tax dodgers.

Corporate lawyers defending the indefensible.

I guess it's just in criminal law there's a more obvious sense of right and wrong.

Solicitor said...

Very interesting. Reveals alot of the contradicitions that many of us, as solicitors go through, the natural desire to do my best and achieve the best possible result for the client. Keep up the good work, the blog is real informative read.

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Ontario Criminal Lawyers said...

hey, I think being a lawyer it is very important to handle a case in a proper way otherwise it might be happen that innocent people may be suffer. I think you really done a better a job.

Law Job Manchester said...

That sounds like an exhausting way to make a living but I guess it must be very rewarding at times too. I have only just come across this blog and its really interesting to read what really goes on within the criminal justice system. Keep up the good work!

West London Solicitors said...

Very interesting comment. Completely understandable that you may be put in that situation sometime. Really allows me to respect the work and decsions that go into your type of work.

auto insurance quotes said...

Gavin, this only proves that you are a human with desire to succeed. After all it is not you who has put your client in that position. We faces with moral issues everyday with our work. We could give in to employees, suppliers and cutomers and keep them happy or stand our grounds and stand a chance of making money.

Criminal Solicitors said...

Bit of a crie de couer from you in this posting and of a type that any honest professional can recognise and if nothing else, would silently acknowledge.

Conflict of interest isn't restricted to criminal law. For example, lets look instead at the incredibly well paid world of cosmetic surgery.

Harley Street consultants will typically earn in excess of £250k p.a and it's by no means unusual for fees to exceed £500k p.a. without taking into account their NHS salaries.

Your own conscience was pricked enough to make you write this piece about the internal dilemmas you face as a criminal lawyer wanting to do his best for a client, set against the desire or even need, to make a more handsome profit than the poorly remunerated legal aid system allows.

You're to be applauded for this posting because it took guts to begin even thinking about writing your thoughts down let alone publishing them.

I for one would be interested to see a plastic surgeon writing an equally candid blog about the personal dilemmas THEY face when dealing with their patients needs,
set against their own temptations of arranging lucrative but perhaps unnecessary (and unfair) additional services/appointments for a patient.

circa £120+ for a 15 minute consultation, £400+ for a scan, £2.5k+ for a 90 minute rhinoplasty operation (nose job). It all adds up you know!

Then again, perhaps Im not comparing apples with apples and perhaps NHS treatment would be a better comparison with legal aid work, but hopefully, you understand the point that Im making.

Either way, all's well that ends well - you have your case and your client has a solicitor with integrity....

Minnesota Criminal Lawyer said...

This is very inspiring post from a person like you who has the profession indeed hard and challenging. You must be applauded for sharing your dilemma to your readers. That only means that lawyer has their conscience but still stand for the best for their clients.

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Tarbender said...

Clearly being a lawyer isn't nearly as glamorous as they depict on television! Thanks for this peek behind the scenes of real-life criminal law. I'm kinda glad I just stuck to goal setting instead of law school when I was a kid!! Cheers.

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