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 friend and ready to listen to sense.


  1. Uh-Huh.
    So now you have convinced her that telling the truth to the cops was a mistake.
    I guess now a few adjournments before being found guilty anyway, will help you pay the office rent - shame about the cost to the country though.....

  2. Surely whether you go to prison or not depends upon whether you committed the offence? NOT who you listened to for advice? I think you have given the game away. Just advise them to tell the truth, strange concept as it may seem to you.

  3. No, as in most jurisdictions our criminal courts operate on an adversarial basis. That means that each side puts forward their case according to their instructions.

    In my case, the defendant's instructions were that she was not guilty. She now states that she was confused in interview and was talking about events that happened outside the scene not at the scene - in this case it makes a big difference. Also, the witness is one whose details were provided to the police (in fact the witness is a police employee working in a local custody suite) but the officers decided not to take a witness statement from her.

    You (and the jury) may or may not believe the defendant's current instructions, but I would be worried about anybody who thinks that she should be deprived of the right to put forward her version of events.

    Because we operate an adversarial process each side must pick what evidence it uses. Just as we decided not to use the witness who was damaging to us, the Crown decided that one of their witnesses was damaging to them and chose not to use that witness.

    I am not allowed to advise a client to lie and I would not do so. However, as long as we have an adversarial system lawyers from both sides will have to take tactical decisions about the presentation of their case.

    If you don't like the system then maybe you should propose an alternative system that could work and provide justice.

  4. Oi, I meant to ask how you know that she was telling the truth to the police during interview? I certainly don't know if she was telling the truth then or now or at neither point. Criminal trials in the Crown Court have juries to decide points just like that. It's their job to decide who is telling the truth, not mine, the prosecutor's, the police or the judge's.

    If you would like to start a petition to have me appointed as ultimate arbiter in all disputes then I would be happy to accept the position... although would you really want to live in a medieval society where one man can decide the fate of anybody in his kingdom... which seems to be the ultimate end to your plans for me to pass judgment on all those I meet.

  5. 'you should propose an alternative system'

    OK, try this for size:

    Advise them to tell the truth.

    Everything else is smoke and mirrors, and you know it.

  6. So he/she advises the defendant to tell the truth. Defendant says they are innocent. We're back where we started aren't we?

  7. But he knows her friend wants to say she did it in court............. and he advises her not to let this happen.

  8. gadget is correct as usual....

    some simple advice of "tell them what happened" seems to be appropriate.....

  9. But it is obvious that this statement (not from a friend if you read it again) is claimed to be incorrect, so you want them to admit evidence they think is incorrect, and then try to explain it. Why should the defendant have to do that? They are presumed innocent.

  10. And as I said, the police were given this witnesses details from the start and she was easy to find working as she did in a police custody suite. But, the police chose not to do their jobs (fancy that). So, you'll have to excuse me if I don't ride to your rescue Gadget.

    Anon, my advice to her was almost word for word "tell them what happened" funnily enough she didn't tell the jury the same story as the witness.

  11. 'the police chose not to do their jobs (fancy that)'

    but she was obviously charged, so someone met a CPS evidence threshold didn't they! Oh wait, that would have been a police officer.

  12. So they did part of their job and just didn't bother to do the rest... brilliant.


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