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Acid attacks and the CPS response

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I wrote recently about the spate of acid attacks and the proposals for dealing with them suggested by some MPs. Today, I want to talk about the comments by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders.
Ms Saunders comments appear to show that she is somebody who has no understanding of the role of the CPS or the law itself. Now Ms Saunders is a very experienced prosecutor and lawyer. She has risen to the very top of her organisation and I do not for a minute believe that she does not understand what the CPS does or what the law is regarding acid attacks. According to the Guardian newspaper, Ms Saunders said that there is a strong public interest in her authorising the CPS to give out the strongest punishments to acid attackers. I suspect she didn’t say that exactly since it’s not a direct quote and is most likely badly paraphrased by a journalist. But, it’s worth saying that the CPS do not give out punishments. They can influence the final sentence through the offence they charg…

Extended court openings – update

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This is a quick update on the blog I posted yesterday about the plan to extend court sitting times from 8am to 8pm in various pilot locations across the country. In that blog, I argued that courts are currently underutilised and that HMCTS should look to resolve that issue before thinking about sitting earlier or later.
I have now had a chance to take a snapshot of the Crown Courts across England and Wales today. I have done this in quite a rough and ready way by looking at the lists for each court and counting up the numbers of courts that are either marked as not sitting or that do not appear on the list when they should do if they were sitting today.
My findings show that 16.4% of the available courtrooms in Crown Courts across England and Wales are not being used at all today. In addition, there were a significant number where the courts were not sitting before 2pm or where only one case was listed for the whole day where you would not normally expect that hearing to take up the wh…

Extended court hours

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Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is trialling extended court opening hours in several courts across the country. The courts will be open 8am til 8pm – some will open from 8am til 6.30pm while others will start later and finish at 8.45pm. I’m not entirely clear what time the late finishing courts will start no doubt because I’m one of the many ill-informed lawyers of whom Lord Justice Fulford spoke. Of course, I might be a little more informed if HMCTS actually told us the plan but there you go.
The hope for extending court opening hours is that HMCTS will be able to make better use of the existing court buildings, which is fair enough if there is a shortage of courts available to head cases. But, is there a shortage of courtrooms?
Monday last, I attended Thames Magistrates’ Court to act as duty solicitor for courtroom 1. I arrived to find that court 1 had been closed for the day due to a lack of staff to operate it. Historically, Thames has been the busiest magistrates’…

Criminal charges for Brexit bus claims

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LBC radio tweeted a report that Lord Sugar, a cross-bench member of the House of Lords, told them that the people behind the infamous Brexit bus claim (and similar claims) should face criminal charged against them. Judging by the response to that tweet a lot of people agree and I’ve seen a number of people, lawyers included, arguing that fraud or misconduct in public office charges should be brought. But, how successful would such a bus-based criminal charge be in practice?
First, let’s just remind ourselves of the facts. On the 23rd June 2016, the UK voted in a referendum on whether it should remain a member of the European Union. In the run up to that vote various arguments were put forward by both sides – a few of the arguments were sensible but an awful lot were fantastical, e.g. David Cameron’s claim that a vote to leave the EU would inevitably lead to World War Three. On the Leave side, the most disputed point that is still being talked about is the suggestion that if we left the…

Acid attacks - MPs plans aren't as daft as some claim

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In the past few days there was a spate of attacks committed in a small area of east London, presumably by the same people, over a period of around 90 minutes in which acid was thrown in the faces of moped riders who were then robbed of their vehicles.
The use of acid seems to have become more common recently, although whether that is because there are more acid attacks or because they are more widely reported I don’t know. What I do know is that 10 years ago my old firm dealt with a case in which a teenage girl was gang raped over a number of days then disfigured by having caustic soda poured over her face and body. While I think it is more strictly an alkaline, lime was used centuries ago to blind attackers by pouring it on them from the battlements above.

Whether acid attacks are truly new or not, the recent London attacks has led to calls for a ban of the sale of acids to the public and regulation as to who may possess them. MP Stephen Timms tweeted that carrying acid should be an of…

Arming prison officers

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I heard on the radio this morning that prison officers are calling for better protection against violent prisoners.


Currently, I understand there are 19 attacks on prison staff every single day in British prisons. Understandably, those on the receiving end of it want to be able to protect themselves from such attacks.


The suggestion is that prison officers be armed with taser guns and CS spray in addition to the batons they already carry, which many seem to feel is inadequate. In addition, they want stab vests and body worn cameras. The last is presumably to deter violence against them and capture evidence of it when it does occur.


You can understand why they would want such protection when you hear stories of prisoners attacking each other over the most minor provocation and prison officers having to step in to break up the ensuing mess. As one anonymous prison officer says, "I've seen it first hand where a prisoner has attacked another prisoner with a razor blade over a packet…

Charging decisions: cyclist mown down by driver

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As a specialist motoring solicitor I spend a lot of time talking to the Crown Prosecution Service about charging decision - usually trying to get them to reduce or drop the charge against my client. But, in this case, I think they got the charge badly wrong. Earlier today Justine Henshaw-Bryan was imprisoned for three-years (she won’t serve anywhere near that long) after she chased cyclist Damien Doughty in her car before deliberately running him over as he attempted to escape her by getting out of the road.
You can view the footage here but be warned it isn’t nice:
Ms Henshaw-Bryan pleaded not guilty to a charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and was banned from driving for four and a half years. But the big question for me is why she was charged with that offence at all. Her driving was certainly dangerous and she did cause serious injury, Mr Doughty spent three days in intensive care, but her actions were also very deliberate.
The maximum sentence for causing serious i…