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Showing posts from May, 2011

Respecting the police could end in your arrest

Last Friday night I had been out for a drink with a couple of friends (ironically one of them a PC from British Transport Police).  After we left the pub on the Strand, I decided to walk up to Buckingham Palace and catch a cab home.  On the way, I stopped to look at the memorial to police officers killed on duty that can be found just past Admiralty Arch on the Mall.

Apparently, paying your respects to police officers who have been killed is highly suspicious activity. 

A couple of minutes later as I walked up the road toward the Palace, four police cars descended on me and the officers within demanded to know what I was up to as they'd had a report from a CCTV operator that I was acting suspiciously.  My ID was checked and I promise I've never been so relieved as when I heard the words "no trace" come across the radio followed by confirmation that I hadn't done anything to the memorial.

I mention this story partly as an amusing story but also as a reminder of wh…

PC to be prosecuted for manslaughter

In a brave decision, Tim Owen QC has advised the CPS and Keir Starmer in particular that PC Harwood should be prosecuted for manslaughter over the death of Ian Tomlinson.  I say brave as they may both now find themselves facing the ire of police officers across the country.

I am not quite sure that Keir Starmer meant when he said that the inquest had allowed "a degree of clarity to emerge" regarding the medical evidence.  It sounds as though he is saying that the medical evidence wasn't clear when the CPS took their original decision not to prosecute.  If that is the case it rather beggars the question: "Why didn't they CPS seek clarification prior to making the original decision?"

Bail in criminal cases

Following the remand into custody of Dominique Strauss-Kahn the head of the International Monetary Fund, I thought I'd say a few words about the subject of bail.

There have been some high profile cases where serious crimes have been committed by those on bail, for example Police Inspector Gary Weddell who was released on bail for murder and subsequently committed another killing or that of  Garry Newlove, who was murdered by a gang, one of whom was on bail.

In England and Wales, section 4 of the Bail Act 1976 entitles a suspect in a criminal case bail except in certain circumstances or where the suspect is charged with treason, some form of homicide or rape.  The main three reasons for refusing bail are that the court has a real fear that:
the defendant will commit further offences while on bail;will fail to surrender to bail; orwill interfere with witnesses or otherwise try to obstruct justice.When considering bail, the court is required to consider the prosecution case from it…

Changes to motoring offences

The Government recently released its Strategic Framework for Road Safety, which looks at the causes of serious road accidents, identifies areas that need to be developed and introduces some sensible and not so sensible plans for driving offences.

Fixed penalty notices

The most talked about plan is the continuation of Tony Blair's policy of excluding the courts from the Criminal Justice System through the use of fixed penalty notices and effectively turning police officers into road-side prosecutors, judges and juries.

The latest batch of fixed penalty notices will allow police officers to punish careless drivers with an on the spot fine.  The Framework gives two reasons for this change.  First:
"... to make it more efficient and less time consuming for police to enforce."Sorry to any officers reading this, but if we render that sentence into plain English, it would appear that the Government are suggesting you are all too lazy to take cases to court.  The second reason is:

I'm drowning in forms

We hear in the press a lot about how the police have too many forms to fill in, but one of the reasons that solicitors fees can cost a lot is because we have way more to keep track of.

I have just updated our forms database for weeks 13 to 18 (which is a five-week period if you can't be bothered to count) and various government departments have either introduced or amended 734 forms.  Most of the time these are simply pointless updates that do nothing of any substance, for example, the CDS14 is the form to apply for legal aid and is now in it's ninth edition after being introduced about three-years ago.  Now bearing in mind that the merits criteria for granting legal aid has not changed in 45-years since it was recommended by Lord Widgery in his 1966 review you might wonder why the LSC needs to release so many updates to its forms.   You might also wonder whether government organisations could better use public funds than paying teams of people to re-draft forms so frequently.

Wasting time

I am currently in court where my client is ineligible for legal aid and says he lacks the funds to pay for his defence privately. He has found a lawyer he wants to represent him, me. Because of the nature of the allegation he is not allowed to cross examine the complainant. An order under s. 36 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 would allow me to cross examine the witness on his behalf even without legal aid. However, for some reasons the court wants to list a second hearing to decide whether a solicitor should be appointed to handle the cross examination.

I don't see what is going to change between now and then. The only thing that this delay does is causes the witness concerns about who will be questioning her and adds yet another hearing to an already overloaded court list.

Ironically, the clerk who advised the bench to delay their decision spent the adjournment moaning about how busy the court list is!

Tomlinson unlawfully killed

The BBC are reporting that Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed when a police officer hit the newspaper seller with a baton and pushed him to the ground.

Should the officer now face charges?

There are a few potential charges:
Common assault;Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH);Assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, s.20 (GBH)Assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, s. 18 (GBH)Manslaughter.

All forms of assault are basically the same; all require an assault (usually by way of battery).  The difference between the offences is the level of injury caused to the victim.  So, common assault there will be little or no injury.  The injury needed to get home on an ABH is defined as being "more than merely trifling" and GBH is commonly accepted to involve the breaking or both layers of the skin, although you'd probably find yourself facing a GBH charge if you smashed somebodies skull in without killing them

The difference between the two types of GBH is that s.18 requir…