Showing posts from June, 2011

What would you do?

Having just read a set of case papers, I was struck by the reaction of one witness to what he describes as a group of 3 men and a woman viciously attacking a lone man on the street outside his home.

Let's imagine that you wake up in the early hours to see a man taking a serious beating on your doorstep, do you:

1. Watch for 10 minutes;
2. Find your iPhone and video the attack;
3. Hide so that the attackers don't see you at the window; or
4. Call the police.

In this case the man did the first three.  He watched for ten minutes then when a break in proceedings came along he found his iPhone and videoed part two taking care to hide so he wasn't seen. 

At no time did he think to call for help.

Comparing apples and pears

I have just listened to the latest Today programme on the BBC website catch up service.

I had to laugh when I heard Ken Clarke accuse the head of the Bar Council of being disingenuous for comparing the legal aid spend in England and Wales with that of our closest neighbours in Europe only then go on to point out that our spend is four-times that of New Zealand.

New Zealand seems like an odd choice I thought.  I've never been but I always thought it was quite a small country in terms of population.

When faced with points like that my first reaction is to turn to the CIA for assistance.  As ever the Central Intelligence Agency was very helpful in pointing out that the UK (admittedly including Scotland and Northern Ireland) has a population of 62,698,362 while New Zealand has a population of 4,290,347.  The CIA also helpfully point out that London has a population of 8.615 million, which while I've never been very good at maths looks like more than twice the size of New Zealand i…

Police bail limited to 96-hours

I have just read a BBC report saying that a court has ruled that the police cannot bail anybody for more that 96-hours or 4-days.  The BBC are a little late with this story as it was reported by CrimeLine last Friday, but there you go.

The case, called Greater Manchester Police v (1) Hookway, (2) Salford Magistrates' Court, is a judicial review brought by the police following a refusal by a District Judge to grant further time for them to question a murder case suspect.

CrimeLine's Andrew Keogh (a well known and highly respected criminal lawyer who provides extensive training for much of the criminal law world) described the judgment as "... one of the most bizarre cases I have ever read... ".  He goes on to say that he understands the case is being appealed, which is not a surprise.

Before going on, I should explain for those who do not know that when a person is arrested the police have 24-hours in which to question the suspect and make a decision whether to charge…

Are further restrictions on your rights coming?

The new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has been published.

Clause 12 allows for suspects in police custody to be represented.  This is good as the right to free legal advice has been with us for a long time now.  A lack of legal advice has also led to convictions being overturned by the appeal courts for various reasons that would not have occurred had a solicitor been present.

However, clause 12 appears to be slightly different to the current position, which allows for representation to be provided quickly for most detainees.  Clause 12(6) is concerned with regulations that a civil servant (probably the head of the Legal Services Commission) will be able to make regarding the hoops that must be jumped through before you can receive advice from your police cell.  It reads:
Regulations under subsection (5) may, in particular, include——
      (b) provision permitting or requiring applications and determinations to
           be made and withdrawn in wr…

Who is failing child sex abuse victims?

This morning I read a report on the BBC news website saying that Barnardo's claim that child victims of sexual exploitation are being failed by the Criminal Justice System.

There are a number of different offences that you might chose to call child exploitation that range from rape of a child aged under 13 through to causing a child to watch a sexual act.  In between are offences such as meeting a child following sexual grooming and abusing a position of trust (which unlike other offences has an age of consent of 18-years not 16-years, so if a teacher had sex with a 17-year-old student with his or her consent the teacher would be guilty of an offences).

In criminal law, to secure a conviction the prosecution must make an allegation (the charge or indictment) and must then prove so that the jury are sure (in old language this was beyond reasonable doubt) that the defendant is guilty of the offence charged or indicted.  The proof is shown by producing evidence, which could be the te…

Be careful what you wish for

Following Ken 'The Beast' Clarke's announcement of his policy of reducing sentences for sex offenders by 50% in return for a guilty plea a lot of solicitors and barristers felt that this was a bad idea and that it should be scrapped.  Low and behold it now has been scrapped.  But where does that leave the lawyers?

There is talk that scrapping this plan will cost in the region of £130 million.  This means that the Ministry of Justice will have to find another way to save that money or they could ask the Treasury for a hand out.  If the Treasury gives them the money then all the other departments will coming running with their begging caps held out.  So, a Treasury bail out looks pretty unlikely to happen; the MOJ isn't a bank after all.

What then are the MOJ to do?

They could scrap the Victims' Commissioner but I doubt that would save much money and would definitely make bad headlines in the Sun, although I know a few bloggers who would be pleased to see the back of…

Waiting game

I arrived at court bright at early this morning to represent my client for GBH.

It's 10.30am now and there's still no sign of any prosecution papers or the client who is being brought from the police station. Also, they claim we have a judge but no sign of one yet!

In the old days we got paid to wait so I wouldn't have minded the delay so much. But these days we travel and wait for free.

Edit - after writing this I realised that in fact as this is a hearing known as a section 51 transfer, we don't get paid for any part of it whether it's travel, waiting, preparing, advising or conducting advocacy.  As I arrived about 9am and left court around 2.45pm that's quite a bit of free time I contributed.  Who said that solicitors don't give good value for money?

Advocates to be assessed by judges

The Solicitors Regulation Authority have today approved a scheme whereby advocates will be assessed by the judges before whom they appear.

This is an interesting decision for a number of reasons.

First, the scheme has attracted widespread criticism from judges who a) don't want the extra work; b) object to being asked to undertake a lot more work for no extra pay; and c) do not necessarily have any advocacy experience themselves, or their experience is from decades past (okay they don't admit to the last one but it's a very real point).

It is also interesting for the SRA to approve this scheme since it appears to undermine part of their function, which is to regulate solicitors rather than allowing judges (most of whom are not solicitors) to conduct a significant portion of that regulation.

I also find it a difficult decision to stomach as a number of judges are hostile to solicitors conducting Crown Court advocacy.  This is an attitude common at the Bar, just the other we…


As I sat in Richmond Mags Court this morning I thought of a topic for a really great post.  Unfortunately, I have since forgotten what it was, so instead I will simply mention that last Saturday Amnesty International celebrated it's 50th birthday.  I've been a member for a number of years, although not terribly active in the past couple if I'm honest.

If you have time to write a couple of letters once a month or can help in any other way then check out their website and join them, I think it's about £24 for what I think is a lifetime membership.