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Showing posts from November, 2010

Politicians

I try not to pay much attention to politics any more.  I used to love it, but more and more I'm forming the view that politicians are a bunch of lying corrupt bastards.  In fact, I'm so angry at them that I am not attending a party at the Supreme Court tonight as I was worried I might slap Ian Duncan-Smith who is due to be attending.

This week, I have mostly been enraged by Ed Balls and Vince Cable.

You may recall that during the Labour administration they constantly ramped up fear of terrorism and told us that they needed new and ever more draconian powers to curb the threat to our nation.  Since they lost the election, something has clearly changed.  Ed Balls told the BBC that Labour got the balance between national security and civil liberties wrong.  He admits, for example, that his party were wrong to try to pass a law allowing terrorist suspects to be detained for 90-days without charge.  He says they were wrong to try for 42-days.  And, now he says that despite fighting…

Worth it

I have just come across a case where a man with what the police officer in disclosure at the police station called "a serious mental disorder" was arrested at what the officer described as a "care home for the mentally ill" after the man had smashed a window and caused a disturbance.  At the police station, the care home manager indicated that she was happy for this man to return as this was his first violent outburst in 10-years of being in their care.

I don't for a moment seek to criticise the police for the arrest as that removed him from the situation and gave everybody a chance to calm down.

He was interviewed by the police and I can tell you that the advice given was to  "put forward [his] version.  Client is guilty - admits he did break window."   He then went into interview and made a full confession.

For some reason, instead of cautioning or taking no further action in a case where a conviction will clearly serve no purpose a CPS lawyer autho…

Rape anonymity

I have just read on the BBC news site that the Government has abandoned it's pledge to grant anonymity for men accused of rape.

This was always a controversial  proposal and I was very surprised when it was included within the coalition agreement as it was always something that would attract little vocal support from the public and was always going to come in from intense criticism by a number of women's groups.

Personally, I think that rape is one of the few offences where an accused's identity should be protected.  Not because the identity of the complainant is protected, but because there are real cases every year where either a completely false allegation is made or where the wrong person is identified, accused and subsequently cleared of the offence.

Being falsely accused of rape, or indeed any sexual offence, is a stigma that sticks to the accused even after their innocence has been proven.  Anybody who pays attention to the newspapers and press cannot help but notic…

Too many law students

As under-graduates are busy causing havoc in London (and incidentally blocking my usual route home) there are growing calls from members of the legal profession to reduce the number of post-graduate students training to become lawyers.

To qualify as a solicitor most people complete a law degree, the Legal Practice Course and two-years of on the job training.  Similarly at the Bar you do your degree, the Bar Finals (they have a new name that I can't remember now) and then one-year on the job training, called a pupillage.  Currently the LPC at BPP Law School costs £12,500 in London and the Bar Course costs an eye watering £14,995.  By the time you get near doing these courses you will have either a law degree, currently costing about £9,000 or a non-law degree (still £9,000) plus the Post Graduate Diploma in Law £8,730.  If I qualified today using the route I took then I would have paid £23,734 just in tuition fees.  That is significantly more than any trainee solicitors will earn o…

Letting victims down

I spent yesterday conducting the defence in a magistrates' court trial.  This is something of a novelty for me as I rarely venture into mags court trials, although I do a lot of other hearings there.  I just don't like them, they can be very informal and law is often an irrelevancy if you happen to find yourself before an inexperienced bench/advisor.

Yesterdays trial was a long one and, contrary to what I have just said, very heavy on the law.  I have about 6 legal rulings noted in my book given by the magistrates at some point yesterday.  Even though I am contradicting what I said just a moment ago, each one of the legal arguments was complicated but each one of the rulings was detailed, to the point and correct (including the ones I lost).

In the end, I won the trial.  I shouldn't have won though.  At the start of the day the evidence against me was overwhelming, in my opinion.  However, the police and CPS seemed to be conspiring together to let the victims down as much …

Defence adjournments

Defence lawyers have cases adjourned to increase their own fees.

That's what everybody seems to believe, but in fact it's rubbish.

In the Crown Court solicitor are paid a litigators fee.  The litigators fee doesn't change whether there is 1 hearing or 100 hearings in court.  It does increase if the trial goes on longer than a set time, which varies depending on the offence.  But, importantly the litigator has bugger all to do with how long the trial lasts.

Judges are charged with responsibility for preventing cases going on longer than they should or having more hearings than they should.  If they feel that somebody is causing unnecessary waste then they can disallow that persons fee and even make him pay the costs of everybody else in the case!

In the magistrates courts, solicitors are paid a standard fee depending on whether the defendant pleads guilty (fee of £284.35) or not guilty (£484.60).  There is a higher or lower fee for each and you move into the higher fee if y…

Oops

I left the robing room at Court today and walked in to the hall way.  Talking in the hallway were two police officers in full uniform.  Before they saw me, one said to the other in a very worried voice, "we're not gonna get away with this".  The other agreed.

Co-incidentally, at the same Court two police officers were being called to give evidence about what they had seen on CCTV.  The only problem in that case seems to be that the CCTV they claimed to have watched in October 2010 was in fact LOST in January 2010...

Hints and tips

Once in a while I will be providing useful hints and tips as and when something occurs to me.

Today I have a hint and a tip for defendants in criminal trials.

Hint - Your lawyer knows more about both the law and your case than your friends.
Tip - If you listen to your friends advice over that of your lawyer then expect to end up in prison!

This week I have been conducting a trial at a Crown Court.  For reasons that are beyond me, yesterday the defendant showed up with a friend who insisted that she a) refuse to give evidence in her own defence; and b) call a particular witness.

This causes problems.  First, the defendant declined a solicitor when interviewed by the police and made some damaging remarks that she now needs to explain - clearly she cannot do that without giving evidence.  Secondly, the witness the friend insists is called gave a statement that says the defendant is guilty!

Thankfully, I gave the client my hint and tip last night and this morning she showed up without the…