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Showing posts from February, 2013

Drugs policy

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it is time for the UK for re-evaluate its drug policy and overhaul drug offences.

Whether you like it or not the police are losing the battle against drugs such as cannabis, which is smoked openly on the streets.  I live in a reasonably well to do part of London.  Earlier this week I left my house and bumped into a man leaving a house around the corner.  I don't know him or anything about him other than he is white, around my age and smokes cannabis.  I know the latter because I saw and smelt him doing it.

Jump on a motorbike and ride around town - any part it doesn't matter - and you will smell cannabis being smoked in at least one car every traffic jam.  By traffic jam I pretty much mean any line of cars more than 100 yards long.  I've noticed this to be true across the capital.

When I act as custody court duty solicitor I can be guaranteed that if I actually get a punter there will be drugs involved somewhere.  Either they are…

Anonymity for rape defendants

Maura McGowan QC is the chairwoman of the Bar Council and she has recently suggested that men accused of rape should receive anonymity.

While we talk of men being convicted of rape it's worth noting that women can be convicted of it as well and it happens once in a blue-moon.  Only a man can be the principle offender, but a woman can be guilty of rape through joint enterprise or in a more limited way by aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the offence.

While we talk of women being the victims of rape, men can also be raped.  As can children of both sexes.  The rape of an adult man is relatively rare.  I don't have figures for the numbers of male/female children raped each year but when I used to defend those offences the numbers I come across were roughly even.

Why are rape victims given anonymity? Rape occupies a unique position in our law whereby the complainant is automatically granted anonymity for life and that anonymity can only be lifted by order of a court.  Typ…

Courts are a farce

Today I spent the morning in disbelief as I watched the goings on in a trial court at a magistrates' court.  If a TV show portrayed proceedings as they actually happened nobody would believe it.  They'd say it was a caricature of the system, deliberately made worse to make a point about inefficiencies.  But, it's not.

At 10am I sat in court as the bench walked in.  Unfortunately, no prosecutor was in court, he had been in but had left.  A list caller went to fetch him.  She returned saying she had seen the prosecutor but he did not pass on a message and he wasn't with her.  The court waited.  The list caller was dispatched again.  She returned still prosecutor-less - personally I had an image of him sitting in his room telling her to "f**k off".  All I can say is I had to twist his arm to get him to bother to read my two one-page witness statements.  A tannoy announcement was made by the clerk ordering the prosecutor to attend.  Nothing.  For a third time the…

The Future of Rape Trials

There has been a lot of media attention recently about how rape trials are conducted following the suicide of Frances Andrade who took her own life after giving evidence against the man she claimed raped her as a teenager.

Many people have suggested that it is time to stop nasty lawyers deliberately upsetting victims of rape when cross-examining them.  These comments have come from such esteemed sources as the Crime Editor for the Times newspaper, somebody who really should know better.

Since I began practising law, things have got much easier for the prosecution in all types of criminal case.  When I started out we were filled with maxims such as, "It is better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man is convicted".  When I started out the presumption that you were innocent until proven guilty was still firmly enshrined.  However, that has changed little by little.  First, despite being presumed innocent, the accused was banned from cross-examining the complainant …

Sentences

Generally speaking a court will sentence according to the guidelines laid out by the Sentencing Guidelines Council or according to the precedent established in previously decided cases in senior courts.  There is a good reason for this.  If you allow courts to do as they please you find that sentences vary wildly.  This is not in anybodies interests as it leads to injustice for the defendant in one are and injustice for the victim in another.  Guidelines ensure consistency in sentencing across the country.

There are a number of these guidelines with which I disagree completely.  They are often either too lenient or far too harsh for the offence in question.

Last Saturday I was court duty solicitor for the West London area.  Due to court reforms we were sitting in Westminster Magistrates' Court.  The same court was hearing its own local cases and cases from the City of London.  Due to the confusion caused by jumbling so many areas up into one courtroom I ended up representing some…

Injustice is here

Last year I talked about the coming changes to Defence Costs Orders, which are the Orders made by courts that allow an innocent defendant to claim the cost of his defence back from the authorities who wrongly accused him or her.  These changes are now in force.

At the start of this year I was contacted by a defendant via the London Drink Driving Solicitor website.  He had been accused of failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis but said he was not guilty because he suffers from severe asthma and was physically unable to provide the breath specimen.

I explained the costs and the new Defence Costs Order system, which means that even if acquitted he might not get back all of the money he pays out to defend himself.

Last week he told me that he had decided he could not see the point of fighting and winning only to have to pay out as much as the fine would be if he pleaded guilty.  For him, he couldn't afford the risk of winning and losing his money as well as lost income …

Word verification

I'm sorry about this, but the blog has been inundated with comments trying to advertise other websites since the start of 2013.  I have therefore been forced to bring in the very annoying and tedious word verification facility on all comments and to only allow moderated comments on older posts.

This is the first time I've done this in the 2 or 3 years this blog has been going, but blog-spam is now at a point where it has to be done.  So sorry again.