Showing posts from January, 2012

Stop delaying justice

The MOJ has brought out a new initiative called Stop Delaying Justice... okay so it's technically an initiative of the judiciary in the magistrates court but its an MOJ thing really.

The idea is that rather than allow defendants to take full advice on a case and their representatives to properly scrutinise the evidence, pleas should be taken on the first hearing and the case disposed of at the second hearing.  That means you enter a plea at first appearance then trial is second appearance no exception.

That's all well and good, but the truth is that if you speak to the duty solicitor at Thames Mags he might well have 15 other clients to deal with.  How much scrutiny do you think he's given you case?  Not much is the answer.  We can all say "well Mr X should know if he committed the crime or not".  But that's often not the case.  And, even if it is this country operates an adversarial legal system meaning that the prosecution must prove the defendant's gui…

Legal aid myths

I have come across this document from the Justice for All campaign that highlights a few myths about legal aid.

It's interesting and worth a read.

Incidentally, the salary figure for a solicitor is probably accurate in London, where salaries are between about £23-26,000 p.a.  Outside of London I've seen job adverts for newly qualified solicitors starting as low as £19K p.a.

Justice does NOT move quickly

At the start of the year, I dealt with a client who was accused of an affray.  The case was considered too serious for the magistrates so the bench directed that it be committed for trial at the Crown Court.  The defendant was remanded in custody for his own protection (he was considered to be at high risk of self-harm).

For reasons known only to the CPS, they took the view that as the allegation was so serious they would reduce the charge to common assault thus reducing the maximum possible sentence and meaning that the case could now only be heard in the magistrates' court.  A trial date was set for the end of February.

Yesterday the case came before the court.  By now the client had been assessed by two psychiatrists and deemed to have no mental health problems.  Having calmed down a lot in three weeks since I last saw him he no longer appeared to be at risk of self-harm and was hoping to be released to await trial.

The judge spoke to the list office and we were offered a trial…

This is why granting legal aid saves money

Yesterday I represented a man accused of criminal damage.  I collected the papers from the prosecutor but when I went through them I thought I must have been missing something.  He was accused of causing just £40 worth of damage to a piece of plastic on a car, he had no previous convictions and had spent 10-days in prison thus far.

Given that on conviction he was likely to receive a fine in the region of £100 plus costs and £40 compensation for the repair I was pretty surprised that he had been remanded for so long.

When I spoke to him it emerged that he was technically homeless, which in the minds of many magistrates seems to equate with untrustworthy and thus inclined to skip bail.  It also turned out that he hadn't received any legal advice prior to speaking with me, nor had he seen the papers in his case and was thus mostly unaware of the accusation against him.

Yesterday's hearing was the third listing as the Prison Service failed to produced him for the last hearing and …