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Showing posts from March, 2012

Sobriety Orders

The BBC reports this morning that the Government is planning to pilot Sobriety Orders as a method of preventing people from committing alcohol fuelled crime.  The thinking being that if you commit a crime that is linked to alcohol (usually meaning you were drunk at the time, but not always) then somebody will test you regularly to make sure that you are not drinking.

As with all new initiatives, it really isn't that new.  Sure it has the unique selling point of the breath tests and ankle bracelets for reporters to get their teeth into, but will the new orders actually be any different from an ASBO?  Now, ASBOs are widely used in England and Wales to criminalise behaviour that wouldn't otherwise be criminal.  Prosecutors for years have been applying for ASBOs that require people to cease being drunk in public.  Judges are loath to grant such ASBOs for the very simple reason that often the people against whom they are targeted are alcoholics and while the courts would very much …

Magistrates make me mad

If you find yourself accused of a criminal offence you may be asked to chose whether you would like to be tried in the magistrates' court or the Crown Court.  Frequently, your solicitor will advise you to select trial by jury.  There are a few reasons for this but the most common that I've heard is that solicitors consider jury trials to be fairer for a variety of reasons.  Now, magistrates, particularly lay magistrates (that is non-lawyer magistrates) hate this advice because they consider themselves to be jolly decent chaps who are as fair as the next man.

Today I came across a magistrate who reminded me why solicitors so often think of trial by jury as fairer than trial by magistrate.

I was appearing in a court for a defendant who had been convicted at trial of burglary and was being sentenced by a lay bench.  The allegation is simple that the defendant went into a shop that had already been broken into and intended to steal - not that a theft actually took place because no…

Profit margins and committal fees

I'm making a new years resolution to blog more... so it's a bit late in the year for new year resolutions?  Well, sue me.  Er... hang on I know a few lawyers read this so lets not do any suing just yet.

Last year the Legal Services Commission did NOT abolish committal fees - these were paid to solicitors for work done in a magistrates court on cases that were later committed for trial to the Crown Court.  I say they didn't abolish these fees because, I did read a slightly pedantic letter from some arse at the LSC that pointed out that the fee still existed but had simply been set to £0.

It was widely predicted at the time that this would lead to hordes of unrepresented defendants at the magistrates court.  Personally, I saw this coming a long time back and took steps to ensure that my clients would always be represented through deals with Chambers etc.  I do not know personally whether the changes have led to the levels of unrepresented defendants that were predicted; but …