Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guilty Pleasure

I quite enjoy watching Silk on BBC One - but it is a bit of a guilty pleasure.

I have watched tonight's episode and have again seen many errors in how matters proceed in Court - but I am sure that these errors are either unintentional or created in order to make the programme more entertaining. I could not work out why evidence was being given in Martha's case when it appeared to be a guilty plea - there was no apparent issue in the facts that suggested there was a dispute that required a Newton hearing. The hearing was not a trial as there was no jury present in Court. It was just odd. In Clive's case the level of abuse between the prosecutor/defence advocates and the witnesses was terrible. There were also errors where people were questioned about their previous convictions without there being any application to seek the Court's approval to have permission to ask them about previous misconduct. Also, questions about previous sexual conduct of the victim would have had to be approved by the Court before they could be asked.

Despite the errors I was still entertained. Views on Silk in the legal profession seem to be divided. Some enjoy it as I do, others find that they cannot stand to watch the programme.

Southend Magistrates Court in the Papers

The Guardian has today published an article on one of my local Magistrates Courts.

I was not at Court on Monday so I cannot take the credit for any of the defence representations.

Magistrates Courts lists are sometimes full of what appear to be relatively mundane cases. Each case has it's own story which is very important to all parties involved in the case - that being the defendant, the victim and those who represent those individuals. Each case would have been a battle that was hard fought on either side.

What is described in the article is "bread and butter" work and represents what defence solicitors and prosecutors do day in and day out in Magistrates Courts up and down the country.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Free CPD Point for Solicitors

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is running a free webinar on Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates where solicitors can earn one free CPD point.

If you are interested in a free CPD point follow this link.

I Better Finish This Off

Last year I dealt with a plea and case management hearing where I had an informal chat with the CPS lawyer. The case was odd in that it involved a scuffle in the street with a knife. The case was odd because the people directly involved in the scuffle had not given witness statements and the only person who was involved in the scuffle and the proceedings was the Client. Witnesses had provided statements suggesting that my Client had been attacked by two men, other witnesses suggested that my Client had attacked the two men.

My firm had written to the CPS suggesting that they should not continue to prosecute the case because their evidence was contradictory and the Client had a valid defence for having the knife. When I got to the plea and case management hearing the Client was wavering and suggested that he wanted to plead guilty despite his defence to try to reduce the risk of being sent to prison.

I spoke with the CPS lawyer and asked if the CPS were considering dropping the case and was told that they were going to continue. The Client pleaded not guilty and his case was adjourned for a trial. I later found out that the CPS lawyer had been concerned about the case but decided to continue because he had heard me mention at an earlier hearing that the Client may consider pleading guilty to bring the case to a swift end.

When the case was listed for a trial I made sure that my diary was free so that I could do the trial as I felt I had an obligation to finish the case off as my comment appeared to be one reason why the case was continuing. I am pleased to report that my Client had a trial and was eventually found not guilty.

I sometimes wonder if my input in to cases does have a real impact which changes the outcome of a case in a positive way. I would like to think that my decision to finish the case had a real input in securing the acquittal of the Client.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hello Again

Is anyone still out there?

I have not posted anything here for a long, long time.

Where have I been? Nowhere really, I am still doing criminal defence work in Essex.

Things have changed in my world. I was working for a firm of solicitors which faced the prospect of imploding due to differences between the Partners and the direction they each wanted to take the firm. I am very pleased to report that my entire criminal department got up and joined an existing major crime firm in Essex.

The world of crime has remained very similar - there are still too many people out there chasing a ever decreasing pool of money to make a living. The government is still hell bent on cutting fees for legal aid work.

My work has diversified. I am now spending more time in the Crown Court than anywhere else. I have prosecuted cases in behalf of a local Council. My firm has also become a preferred supplier to prosecute Probation breaches in the Crown Court.

If people are still out there reading this blog then I will carry on posting about the murky world of a criminal solicitor.