Victory for JFH Crime at Willesden Magistrates Court
Duncan Roberts recently represented SM in relation to an allegation of common assault on his ex-partner. The trial took place at the Willesden Magistrates Court with a rather unusual occurrence during an adjournment of the proceedings.
The trial itself was fairly routine with SM raising the issue of self-defence as the reason for physical contact between himself and the complainant. During her evidence in chief and cross-examination the complainant accepted that she was angry with SM and had taken possession of his expensive laptop and had fully intended to smash it. She accepted that had she not been physically stopped she would have smashed it.
SM’s evidence was consistent with his account in interview and was credible and consistent in the face of cross-examination by the prosecution. After less than 10 minutes of deliberating, the magistrates found that they could not be sure that the prosecution had disproved self-defence of property and acquitted SM.
Chair retired in the middle of the case
Due to a lack of court time, the matter had to go ‘part-heard’ after the prosecution had concluded their case. This in itself is not unusual, however, the chair of the bench turned 70 the day after the trial was originally before the court. The Courts Act 2003 stipulates that 70 is the mandatory retirement age for magistrates.
An eagle-eyed legal adviser was aware of the issues that may have been caused by this and contacted the Lord Chancellor’s office for special dispensation for the former chair to return to the bench to conclude this particular case as it was part-heard.
Despite postponing the case for the Lord Chancellor’s office to return the legal adviser’s numerous calls, the permission was not forthcoming.
As SM was keen to have the matter resolved he instructed that he would be content with the matter to proceed with just two lay magistrates despite the potential deadlock if they were unable to decide on the outcome of the case.
Eventually it was proposed that the retired chair take a seat on the bench as an ‘interested observer’ so that he could hear the remainder of the case, a final attempt would then be made to obtain the Lord Chancellor’s consent; if granted he could sit with his colleagues for deliberation, if not the decision would be made by just the remaining two.
Unfortunately, the Lord Chancellor had still not made his way through his email and urgent messages by 12:30 when the evidence had finished. He therefore was not party to the discussions which saw our client acquitted.
We would like to thank the chair for taking the time to sit as an observer in the hope that he would be granted permission and to wish him a long and happy retirement.
If you are facing criminal proceedings in the Magistrates or Crown Court and want the team at JFH Crime to represent you, please contact us on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.com
Duncan Roberts, Solicitor
Win for JFH Crime at Harrow Crown Court
Duncan Roberts and counsel secured a not guilty verdict for his client at the Harrow Crown Court following an allegation of sexual assault.
Our client was accused of a serious sexually assault; the woman alleged that she had been forced to engage in a series of sexual acts against her will. Our client denied the offence, stating that any sexual contact had been with the woman’s consent. A full denial was made in an initial interview and the defendant entered a ‘not guilty’ plea at the Magistrates Court. The case was committed to the Crown Court. Unusually our client declined to attend the trial and the Court decided to proceed in his absence.
We were able to challenge the prosecution evidence, even without being able to put forward a positive defence.
After less than an hour deliberating, the jury unanimously found our client not guilty.
Putting the prosecution to proof
This case serves as a good example of “putting the prosecution to proof”. This can be just as important in conducting criminal litigation as advancing a positive defence. The burden of proof rests with the prosecution and they must convince a jury, or magistrates, of the defendant’s guilt. Clearly, there must have been some doubt in this jury’s mind even without the defendant giving evidence.
Of course, it should not be seen as an encouragement not to attend a trial. Our client has been found not guilty of a serious sexual offence, but will now be facing a charge of failing to surrender.
If you are facing criminal proceedings in either the Magistrates or Crown Court and require representation contact us on 020 7 388 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duncan Roberts, Solicitor
Victory against unlawful stop and search
Duncan Roberts recently represented a client charged with possession of a bladed article.
The client had been present at the scene of an incident he had witnessed and was assisting police. Almost an hour after the police met him they decided to search him. They recovered a knife in the pocket of the jacket he was wearing.
Duncan argued that the officer who had been speaking to our client had no reasonable grounds for suspicion, and as such could not legally search our client. The officer claimed that he was relying on his superior officer’s suspicion. Duncan argued that as that officer had not been named and no statement provided by them, those suspicions amounted to hearsay and therefore could not be repeated before the court.
This meant that the Officer who conducted the search had no lawful reasons for searching our client.
There were also a number of other aspects of the search which were not conducted in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).
The result of this argument was that if the search was unlawful, the fact that the knife was found could not be relied upon and there was no case to answer.
4 Main procedures in a stop and search
- The police officer must identify himself appropriately;
- must show his warrant card;
- must identify the item sought;
- must provide a written record of the search or inform a suspect that a record can be made available for them.
If one or more of these procedures are failed, the search itself could be unlawful, and therefore weaken the case against you.
If you have been found in possession of a weapon, drugs or anything else illegal and are unsure whether the search was lawfully conducted contact us. We can advise on the procedures the police should undertake and whether they have conducted a stop and search appropriately.
Please contact us on 0207 388 1658 or email email@example.com. We have a dedicated team of lawyers specialising in criminal law who are here to help you.
Julia Furley, Senior Barrister
Crown Court ‘Drug’ importation trial success.
The JFH Crime team have successfully defended a Portuguese national accused of importing approximately £500,000 of Class A dugs into the country. Our client had travelled from Dubai and said that he believed that he was importing gold in order to avoid the duty that would otherwise have to be paid payable. He was arrested when he met another man to hand over the bag containing the drugs. The other man was arrested, eventually pleaded guilty and received a long prison sentence.
The prosecution relied on telephone evidence, but after looking at that very carefully, we were able to show that there was no link to the other defendant. The phone evidence showed that our client had no idea who he was supposed to be meeting and that he was receiving instructions from a third person, believed to be in Portugal. There was nothing in the phone evidence to suggest that our client knew that he was bringing drugs, rather than gold, into the country.
Our client was held in custody throughout the build up to the trial, and over the course of a number of visits to see him, we were able to take his detailed instructions. The fact that he was able to provide such a detailed account of his actions no doubt helped him at his trial. At the end of the trial, the client was found not guilty, and released from prison. He has now returned home.
The client was represented in the Crown Court by Ms Amanda Hamilton from 15 New Bridge Street Chambers, instructed by John Howey of JFH Crime.
If you have a case in the Crown Court and need representation, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 02073881658Read More
The Sentencing Council has today published a consultation paper on sentencing for manslaughter. The timing of this consultation is particularly apt, giving the recent announcement of charges being brought in relation to the Hillsborough disaster and the possibility of charges resulting from the Grenfall Tower fire.
Although much of the media reaction has been to suggest that Judges are being told to impose longer sentences, that is not what the consultation is about. The sentencing guidelines exist to provide a framework within which judge’s work, and to try to ensure consistency throughout the judicial system. There are a number of guidelines already in use, covering robbery, theft, burglary, assault, sexual offences and drugs.
Manslaughter has always been a difficult offence to sentence for, as there are so many different sets of circumstances. The consultation sets out different guidelines for different types of manslaughter; unlawful act manslaughter, which often involves death as a result of a single punch; gross negligence manslaughter; manslaughter by loss of control or by diminished responsibility. There are some significant ranges within the guidelines, for example the guidelines for diminished responsibility range from 3 years imprisonment to 40 years. This is simply reflecting the difficulties that judges have faced for years.
If you want to know more about the work of the Sentencing Council, visit their website here; https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/
The Sentencing Council guidelines for ‘Reduction in Sentence for a Guilty Plea’ come into force from 1st June 2017 for all offences sentenced after that date, but what do the new guidelines mean for defendants? Will they still get credit for an early guilty plea?
There is not a great deal of difference between the existing practice and the new credit for an early guilty plea guidelines. What the guidelines do is commit the existing regime to a more formulaic approach, with a handy flow-chart for courts and practitioners to follow. Credit for an early guilty plea still exists and the reasons for doing so are unarguable. Credit for an early guilty pleas mean that cases conclude earlier, the process is quicker, and the public purse is saved a great deal of expense. Most importantly witnesses are spared the distress of having to give evidence at court.
The earlier in proceedings a guilty plea is entered, the greater the credit available to a defendant.
At a first hearing in the Magistrates court that credit is generally reflected as a one third reduction in the type of sentence – eg a fine of £150 would be reduced to £100, a requirement to undertake 90 hours of unpaid work reduced to 60 or a custodial sentence of 18 weeks reduced to 12. The same applies to sentences at the Crown Court albeit often on a grander scale due to the greater sentencing powers available.
Should a defendant choose to enter a guilty plea at a later stage in proceedings their credit is reduced to a maximum of one quarter reducing on a sliding scale to just one tenth depending on how near to a trial they change their plea.
In circumstances where an offence falls squarely into a particular sentence type the credit can be applied easily. However, the guidelines do still allow for the sentencing court to shift from one type of sentence to another to reflect an early guilty plea. Potentially a defendant’s credit could be the difference between a custodial sentence and a community order.
What does appear to be of concern is that the guideline explicitly states that maximum credit for an indictable only offence will be given on indication of a guilty plea. Indictable only offences are those that are so serious only the Crown Court can deal with them. Such cases still begin at the Magistrates Court and are sent to the Crown Court; crucially a plea is not formally entered at the Magistrates Court. The concern here is that at a first appearance, particularly for indictable only offences, the CPS do not necessarily provide a full bundle of evidence. As a result it is not possible to fully advise as to the charge, the strength of evidence and of course the appropriate plea.
There will still be circumstances in which full credit may be given outside the very first appearance as the guidelines allow some flexibility. In order to justify the full amount of credit the court must be satisfied that “there were particular circumstances which significantly reduced the defendant’s ability to understand what was alleged or otherwise made it unreasonable to expect the defendant to indicate a guilty plea sooner than was done”.
Obtaining legal advice as early as possible will ensure that you are able to maximise your chances of receiving full credit for an early guilty plea, of course only if you are guilty of an offence.
For a copy of the full guidelines, click Here.
If you require advice in relation to criminal proceedings, whether pending or ongoing, contact our team on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.comRead More
What happens from the time you are arrested can be vital in determining the outcome of the case. The first thing you should do is get a solicitor. We always have someone from our team of experienced solicitors and police station representatives on call and available to help.
Once arrested it will generally be because the police wish to question you in relation to your suspected involvement in a criminal offence. By having legal representation at the police station you can ensure that your representative protects your legal rights and advises you on the strength of any potential case against you from an early stage.
The things you say and do from the moment you are arrested and cautioned can potentially be noted by a police officer and used against you as evidence if your case is taken to court.
By having a solicitor at the police station you can ensure that any potential defence you may have is raised from the outset. This could avoid an adverse inference being drawn against you if your case is taken to court.
Remember advice and assistance at the police station from one of the JFH Crime team is free and independent. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a member of your family or one of your friends is arrested, you can get a solicitor for them, if they don’t have one.
Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to a qualified and experienced criminal solicitor if you require our help. In an emergency you can call our 24 hour helpline on 07939 958767.Read More