Points, Lies and Prison
One of the most serious offences that can come before a court is ‘perverting the course of justice’, this is because it strikes at the very heart of the justice system.
Due to its seriousness, immediate custody almost always follows, yet there are a surprising number of people who commit this offence, thinking that they will easily get away with it.
“Offences of perverting the course of justice are intrinsically so serious that they will almost always attract an immediate custodial sentence unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying a different course” (R v Cronin (2017)).
The Panicked Driver
The scenario is a common one, one person in the family already has 9 points on their driving licence, and a notice of intended prosecution drops through the door in relation to another traffic offence.
A traffic offence that is in itself so relatively minor that it will only result in 3 penalty points and a modest fine. But, in this instance due to the previous points on the licence, it will possibly result in the loss of that licence. This was exactly the scenario that faced Chris Huhne in 2003, when he was a Liberal Democrat MP.
It might appear easy for another person to take the blame, perhaps even name a relative abroad; who would possibly find out?
Of course, this is the breeding ground for many a mistake – that belief that you will not be caught.
In reality, however, the police take a keen interest in these cases, and often it requires only a modicum of detective work to reveal the true offender.
The consequences can be horrendous, the points follow, as does the disqualification which now becomes a reality with no realistic prospect of arguing exceptional hardship, and worst of all, two people are arrested, possibly in the early hours, in front of friends and family, maybe even young children.
And finally, a prison sentence follows. All to avoid a few penalty points.
The irony is that in many cases the disqualification could have been avoided if early advice had been obtained from an experienced road traffic practitioner.
Many otherwise decent hardworking people find themselves before the court through decisions made in panic. Before acting always seek advice.
Contact John Howey on 02073881658 or firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on all road traffic issues.Read More
A Criminal Solicitor is required to join JFH Law’s established criminal law team. The successful candidate will have at least 2 year PQE in criminal work, and will have excellent legal knowledge and procedural understanding. The candidate must have duty solicitor status, and have prior experience in undertaking magistrates’ court trials. The successful candidate will be a confident advocate; higher rights of audience would be advantageous, but not essential. An interest in and experience of Extradition Law would also be an advantage. The candidate will be expected to undertake both legal aid and private paying files, and will have a keen interest in business development. They will be handling a varied and busy case load from start to finish.
This is an excellent opportunity for an enthusiastic criminal solicitor to join a dynamic and modern law firm with fantastic career progression opportunities.
Police forces across England and Wales are preparing for a rollout of ‘Body-worn Cameras’, and the government has announced that prison officers will shortly be assisted by this new technology.
What are Body-worn Cameras?
BWCs are small recording devices, very similar to a GoPro, which allows for constant audio and video recording in an unobtrusive manner.
The evidence from these cameras can be used to support a prosecution, and some argue that with officers and others aware that their actions could be caught on camera, it will result in a positive effect on behaviour.
Is behaviour calmed when a camera is present?
It is usually accepted that we behave better when being watched, for example, we are less likely to speed past a roadside camera or get involved in unlawful activity.
In 2011, researchers at Newcastle University posted pictures of a pair of male eyes and the caption, “Cycle Thieves: We Are Watching You.” Bike thefts decreased by 62 percent in those locations — and not elsewhere.
A study in Rialto California (USA) in 2012 appeared to show dramatic changes in police behaviour. Complaints against police officers were down 90% compared to the previous year. Critics, however, have been sceptical of this study, in part because only 54 officers participated.
That caution did not result in a slowdown of BWC deployment and by 2015 95% of US large police departments had deployed BWC or had committed to doing so.
Now, police forces in England and Wales are following suit.
The Rialto findings seemed to accord with common sense, but a new 18-month study of more than 2,000 police officers in Washington (USA), published on 20th October has disclosed ‘almost no effect’ on police officer behaviour.
Are BWCs a waste of money then?
This is a controversial question, and there may be many reasons for the Washington findings.
Other arguable benefits of BWCs are:
- Detecting rogue officer behaviour after the event
- Accurate recording of evidence
- Building community trust in the police – In another new study that will be published in the November 2017 issue of the journal Policing, researchers interviewed 249 people who had recent encounters with officers wearing cameras. Those who were aware of the cameras perceived the encounters as more “just” than those who were not.
It would appear that the jury is out as to the efficacy of BWCs. Supporters claim that there are definite benefits for both police and public, while detractors cite privacy concerns, sizeable public expenditure and a lack of cogent evidence to support their continued deployment.
What is clear to us is that we see the evidential worth of cameras in an ever increasing number of cases. Such evidence must, however, be analysed carefully, so as not to fall into the trap of believing that ‘the camera never lies’. We often find that video evidence is taken out of context, is distorted, and on occasions when it might be thought helpful to the defence, goes missing. It relies on the officer switching his camera on at the right time, and leaving it on for long enough.Read More
Convicted Before A Magistrates’ Court – Can I Appeal?
Many people convicted before magistrates feel aggrieved at the outcome, and wish to consider an appeal.
A grievance may arise because they think that their case was not prepared correctly, or that the court reached the wrong result.
For many people, a conviction could be a major barrier to employment or travel overseas, even where the offence itself is relatively minor.
The court process is far from perfect. If you have a grievance, it is only right and proper that you consider your options.
So, what can I do about it?
The first thing to remember is that you must act quickly as you only have 21 days from the date of sentencing to appeal your conviction – you should not delay in contacting us.
If more than 21 days have passed, then get in touch as soon as possible as we can advise on ‘out of time appeals’.
When you contact us, we will also be able to consider whether other avenues of appeal, namely judicial review and appeal by way of case stated (both to the High Court) are more suitable.
I pleaded guilty, can I appeal?
You might be able to appeal against ‘conviction’ if you pleaded guilty, but only if your plea is ‘equivocal’. In this instance, there are two remedies that we can explore with you.
Do I need permission to appeal?
An appeal against conviction from the magistrates’ court to the crown court is what is termed ‘an appeal as of right’, which means that you do not need any permission to appeal.
In effect, you are entitled to ‘2 bites of the cherry’ although there are some other issues, such as sentence and costs (see below) that you should consider first.
Is sentence suspended pending an appeal?
Your sentence is not suspended pending appeal, although:
– We can apply for bail if you are in custody, and
– Apply for any driving disqualification to be suspended.
If you have been made subject to a community order, this will need to be complied with, although we will take steps to try and expedite the hearing.
What happens at the appeal hearing?
The crown court, presided over by a Judge and Lay Magistrates (not a jury), hears the case afresh.
We do however have a valuable opportunity to review what might have gone wrong at the first trial and take steps to remedy any failures.
We can also examine what other evidence ought to the gathered on your behalf, or what lines of attack we might usefully deploy against the prosecution case.
If I lose the appeal, what happens?
If that happens, you will be re-sentenced by the crown court, and be liable for prosecution costs. We will discuss the costs implications with you in detail before any decision to appeal is made.
It is important to note that the crown court is not restricted to the same sentence imposed by the magistrates’ court, so, you may receive a higher penalty.
This is one of the risks that you need to balance – and one of the reasons why we will at an early stage examine the other avenues of appeal with you (judicial review and case stated).
Can I get legal aid?
Some people are eligible for legal aid, and in some circumstances we can apply for legal aid on your behalf.
We will be happy to discuss fixed fee arrangements – the price of high-quality representation is almost certainly much less than you might imagine it to be. If you are successful in your appeal, some of your costs may be refunded.Read More
‘Follow the money’ is a rather clichéd line from the film ‘All The President’s Men’ which charted the scandal that engulfed President Nixon in the 1970s.
But even today, the money trail is very much the first line of investigation in serious fraud cases, and one that is increasingly difficult to follow.
Not so long ago, the ways of committing fraud were somewhat limited and for that reason also somewhat simplistic.
That can no longer be said, as financial markets spanning the world transfer billions of pounds during each hour of trading. Bitcoin and other emerging ‘crypto currencies’ complicate the picture even more.
Swaps, derivatives, forwards, securities, bonds, secondary markets… We could go on and on…
Why does this matter?
It matters to us as lawyers, as a mere understanding of the law is not enough for the successful defence of these complex cases, your lawyers must understand first and foremost the environment in which the crime has been said to have been committed.
Your lawyer must confidently speak ‘your language’
What is shocking, however, is that in a recent high profile case a purported expert witness for the prosecution was so out of his depth that he had to ask advice on basic financial terms.
The Court of Appeal observed:
“It’s not a matter to be downplayed when the Crown in a major prosecution calls a witness who is wholly out of his depth.
We take a very serious view of what in the judgment we will describe as a debacle, whatever the outcome.
We want to know how did it come about that he was instructed when he lacked expertise? We are very concerned as to how he can have been instructed, the due diligence, and how it came to light.
We are troubled by it.”
This particular witness was exposed by what has been described as a ‘devastating cross-examination’ by a defence barrister.
While the appeal courts are there to correct mistakes, it does not mean that every trial error will result in acquittal.
It is therefore vital that things are right the first time.
This requires a defence team who truly understand the business of international finance, who can unravel the complexities of your case, and can work as a team with top advocates capable of ‘devastating cross-examination’.
John Howey, Senior SolicitorRead More
Forensic Testing Scandal – Is Your Conviction Safe?
New details have emerged about forensic testing deficiencies at two of the country’s leading laboratories. Police are currently investigating the circumstances, and a number of people have been arrested.
Randox Testing Services (RTS) and Trimega Laboratories handle samples for some of the most high-profile criminal and family law cases, the accuracy of the tests being of paramount importance to people facing criminal prosecution for offences ranging from drink driving to murder.
‘Most drug tests from RTS between 2013 and 2017 are being treated as potentially unreliable. RTS was mainly commissioned by individual police forces when investigating criminal offences.’
It is believed that the results from as many as 10,000 tests could be under question.
Is Your Conviction Safe?
If a conviction in your case rested wholly or partially on the reliability of forensic tests, it is essential that you seek further legal advice.
While the Crown Prosecution Service will be carrying out a review into criminal cases, this will take a considerable period of time, and many will question whether the body that brought the prosecution in the first place is ideally placed to make decisions as to the safety or otherwise of a conviction.
Those affected will, therefore, wish to consider whether any further forensic testing ought to take place, and even whether or not there are grounds to appeal. All convictions will need to be considered on a case by case basis.
Even if your cases did not involve the two laboratories currently under investigation, this scandal throws a spotlight on the hidden world of forensic testing and calls in to doubt results from other forensic testing providers.
How We Can Assist
Regardless of whether we handled your case initially our experienced team of lawyers has the expertise to ensure the safety of your conviction is beyond question.
If you believe that inaccurate forensic testing may have led you to be wrongfully convicted (and that includes pleading guilty to an offence), please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.comRead More
The latest Ashes series between the cricket teams of England and Australia began today. There was a noticeable absentee from the England team, Ben Stokes. You may remember that Stokes was arrested in the early hours of 25th September on suspicion of ABH. Shortly after that, CCTV allegedly showing the incident was widely circulated in the media, and two key witnesses finally came forward towards the end of October.
Released under investigation
After his arrest and interview, Stokes was ‘released under investigation’. In April 2017 legislation aimed at reforming pre-charge bail came into force. An officer of the rank of Inspector or above can authorise pre-charge bail for a maximum of 28 days. In limited circumstances, this can be extended for up to 12 months.
The stated aim of this change was ‘to stop people remaining on bail for lengthy periods without independent judicial scrutiny of its continued necessity’. In practice it has made no difference at all. Suspects are now simply released under investigation, with no idea at all when a decision is going to be made about their case. At least under the previous regime, suspects were given a bail date and there was an expectation that some progress may have been made by the time that date came around.
Stokes’ case is typical of the delays within the criminal justice system. This is, on the face of it, not a complicated case. There are very few witnesses, there is good quality CCTV footage of the incident and the suspects have been quickly identified, arrested and interviewed.
Over 8 weeks have passed since the incident. During that time Stokes, like many suspects, has been effectively suspended from work and faces uncertainty about his career. The others involved, complainants and witnesses also face uncertainty over whether they will need to go to court and give evidence.
Whether he is guilty or not, Stokes and others in his position deserve better than being held in limbo like this.
If you would like advice about a criminal case, please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More
In some instances, it is possible to apply to a court and ask that a driving disqualification is ended early.
Therefore, if your circumstances have changed since being disqualified, it is worth discussing with one of our criminal law specialists whether or not you can take advantage of this legal provision.
What are the rules?
You can ask the court to reduce your disqualification period after you’ve been banned from driving for:
– 2 years – if the disqualification was for more than 2 but fewer than 4 years
– Half the disqualification period – if it was for between 4 and 10 years
– 5 years – if the disqualification was for 10 years or more
We are often asked by clients who have been disqualified for a second drink-driving offence whether they too can apply. The answer to that is yes, although the application will be complicated as the High Court has stated:
“I would only add that justices … may if they think fit regard a mandatory disqualification as one which they are somewhat less ready to remove than a discretionary disqualification.”
But it will depend, as always, on the individual circumstances of the case, in Boliston v Gibbons (1995) for example the High Court showed itself to be very sympathetic to the applicant’s plight.
What are the criteria?
The law states that:
“On any such application the court may, as it thinks proper having regard to—
(a) the character of the person disqualified and his conduct subsequent to the order,
(b) the nature of the offence, and
(c) any other circumstances of the case, either by order remove the disqualification as from such date as may be specified in the order or refuse the application.”
In essence, what needs to be established is that there is some compelling reason why the ban should be brought to an end, such examples include employment opportunities, reliance on a vehicle for caring responsibilities, personal immobility etc.
Will the application be opposed?
It is very rare for an application not to be opposed, so we work incredibly hard to ensure that an impressive argument is put before the court.
Merely turning up and throwing yourself on the mercy of a court is unlikely to result in a return of your driving licence.
If the application is refused, can I make a further application?
Yes, you can re-apply again but must wait at least three months from the date of refusal.
How we can help
We can assist in preparing and presenting your application to the court. Our experienced team have significant advocacy expertise and are best placed to secure the return of your driving licence.
Is legal aid available?
Legal aid may be available subject to a means test. Private representation is available at competitive rates.
Contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.com to arrange an appointment.
As we put Halloween and Bonfire Night behind us, easing into those dark wintry nights, it isn’t long before Christmas is in our sights and party season gets underway.
As night follows day, this time also coincides with a national police initiative concerning drink driving, as forces across the country prepare for a spike in the numbers of those tested and arrested for drink and drug driving offences.
While these offences may not seem particularly serious when viewed against other offences, what is not often understood is the real impact that a conviction can have.
Research shows that loss of a licence leads in a great many cases to loss of employment, in turn to loss of housing as bills cannot be paid, and sometimes it is the final straw that breaks a relationship. The financial costs will be felt for many years thereafter as insurance premiums will be greatly increased.What we also see is that a great many people come before the courts with alcohol readings that are not high, and where offences have been detected the ‘morning after’. Offences that can be said to have been committed perhaps more out of ignorance than a wilful disregard for others.
A single error of judgment with devastating consequences.
What is a safe level of drinking if I propose to drive?
No alcohol is the safest level as it ensures that when you get behind the wheel, your reactions are not impaired to any degree at all.
Crucially it also prevents the guesswork that brings so many people before the courts.
Urban myths such as ‘2 pints are ok’ have long since been proved to be false, as have back of the envelope guesses as to how long it takes alcohol to leave the body.
Different people will deal with alcohol in different ways, and even this can vary for a single person depending on a multitude of factors. The alcoholic content of drinks is generally greater nowadays, and measures of, for example wine, bigger than before.
Merely feeling OK to drive is not a reliable indicator as to whether you are below the legal limit or not.
As we get merry, we reach a tipping point; we can make foolish choices that will prove costly, sometimes not just measured in financial terms but in injury and even loss of life.
You do not hear a lawyer say this often – but we do not wish to see you this Christmas.
Think, before you drink and drive.
How we can assist
If you do find yourself in trouble, there is a lot we can do to assist.
The police must follow complex procedures to establish a case against you – we can ensure that this has been done.
We can also investigate issues such as ‘laced drinks’ and ‘special reasons’.
Well-presented mitigation can make a real difference to the outcome and even where a disqualification cannot be avoided, we can often achieve a reduction in length.
Since 13th November, it is now an offence to fail to tell a Magistrates Court or Crown Court your nationality. Anyone committing this offence can be sentenced to up to 6 months imprisonment; the same as for offences such as common assault, assaulting a police officer and driving whilst disqualified. The maximum sentence is twice as long as the maximum sentence for criminal damage with a value of up to £5,000.
It has been suggested that as defendants already give their name, address and date of birth, there is no real difference in providing their nationality. But a defendant is asked to give their name and date of birth to confirm their identity, and their address so the court knows where to find them if they need to contact them or they don’t turn up. No matter how you try to dress it up, being asked to provide your nationality is simply a way of making it easier to identify foreign criminals so the authorities can try to deport them.
The Government themselves have said:
“Where an individual is identified as a foreign national offender this will allow the Home Office to begin consideration of deportation action as quickly as possible. We are absolutely committed to removing foreign national offenders from the UK and continue to work closely with international governments to increase the number of prisoners deported.”
It is difficult to see how a non-UK national can have confidence in a justice system that has, as one of it’s stated aims, a desire to deport foreign criminals. Whether or not there is bias, there is certainly going to be an appearance of bias. Why should it matter at a first appearance what someone’s nationality is? There is no justification for seeking that information at that stage. If the deportation of foreign criminals is the aim of this legislation, then why can the court not wait until after conviction, and after sentence has been passed, to enquire?