We interchangeably use many terms to describe legal professionals: lawyers, solicitors, legal advisers, attorneys (an Americanism), a ‘brief’. There are countless others in common usage.
Regrettably, this flexibility with language allows for confusion. When viewing many legal websites, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are dealing with a qualified legal professional. Often, however, in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
The distinction between a ‘real’ solicitor and anyone else is necessary.
A solicitor is a highly qualified legal professional, having study for a number of years and undergone training. Solicitors are also regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’) and admitted by the Law Society.
Crucially, there is insurance in place so that if anything does go wrong, there is full protection, and of course an adherence to the highest ethical standards.
Likewise, when dealing with persons employed and supervised by solicitors, these same protections apply.
Ironically, it is not always the case that unregulated people charge less in fees. So not only is there an inferior service offered, it often comes at a higher price.
Solicitors Act 1974
The title of “solicitor” is protected under section 21 of the Solicitors Act 1974:
“Any unqualified person who wilfully pretends to be, or takes or uses any name, title, addition or description implying that he is, qualified or recognised by law as qualified to act as a solicitor shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the fourth level on the standard scale.”
Section 20 of the same Act states:
“No unqualified person is to act as a solicitor.”
An offence under section 20 carries up to 2 years imprisonment, and custodial sentences are the norm, underlying the seriousness of the matter.
Some areas of legal advice are ‘reserved activities’ which means that even if a person does not pretend to be a solicitor, they are prohibited from acting in those matters.
In short, the simple way around this confusion is always to check that you are dealing with a real solicitor.
How to check:
You can check whether you are dealing with a real firm by using the SRA website, ensure that any site visited is the actual web address for the firm concerned, you should also check the postal address, email and telephone numbers as the copying of real websites is another problem at the moment.
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Everyone will be aware that Brexit is coming and it is likely that we will be leaving the EU on 31st October 2019. Now, details have begun to emerge as to the legal and regulatory position if we leave without a deal. Some of the first information released relates to firearms legislation, for instance. Unfortunately, it raises more questions than it answers.
Given the importance of complying to the letter with firearms laws both here and abroad, those affected must take steps to keep up to date. This is likely to involve quite close monitoring over the next few weeks. The same is true in relation to other areas of regulatory and criminal law compliance.
What is the current situation?
A UK resident traveling to the EU with their shotgun or firearm can apply for a European Firearms Pass. This is a licence, or passport, that allows travel between member states. You must also have a licence from the UK to hold the firearm. Depending on the country you are travelling to, there may be other documents required. All weapons have to be declared to customs and also to the travel company you are using for transport.
What will change?
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you will no longer be able to apply for a European Firearms Pass.
What will happen instead?
You will need to check the firearms licensing requirements of the country, before travelling.
This will also apply if you are in an EU country with the firearm with a European Firearms Pass at the time the UK leaves the EU.
What about visitors to the UK?
If you are sponsoring a visitor from the EU, who wants to bring a firearm to the UK, you need to apply to the local UK police force for a visitor’s permit. A permit that is issued before the UK leaves the EU remains valid until it has expired.
Once the UK leaves the EU, the European Firearms Pass will no longer be recognised for EU visitors to the UK. Sponsors of visitors will not need to show a valid Pass.
What should I do?
Nobody knows yet whether the UK will leave the EU without a deal in October. If you intend to travel with your firearm, it is advisable to check the licensing requirements of the country that you are visiting. Different countries have varying lead times for applying for licences. If you want to travel with your firearm, you must make sure you have a proper licence.
Firearms legislation is complicated at the best of times. So, if you are concerned with any aspect of regulatory criminal law and Brexit then get in touch for advice on the latest position.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com and let us help. We can advise on all aspects of your case.Read More
The press has recently reported that children who were victims of serious sexual abuse have received paltry sums, £20 for example, as compensation from the courts.
So, what exactly is a criminal compensation order?
The court has a duty to consider making a compensation order in any case where personal injury, loss, or damage has resulted from the offence. If it does not make a compensation order, it must give its reasons.
The order requires that the offender pay a certain amount to the victim, usually within a year or two if paid in instalments.
The low figure of £20 was made public by Andrew Griffiths MP. He received the data in answer to a written question to the Ministry of Justice. His questions uncovered that of 6,861 people convicted of child sex offences only 26 were ordered to pay compensation.
It’s difficult to comment on these cases because we simply don’t have most of the facts, but we will try to answer general questions about criminal compensation orders.
Why was the compensation so low?
The court must take into account the means of the offender when making a compensation order.
This means that a compensation order will not ordinarily go hand in hand with a custodial sentence, especially a longer sentence, because the offender will not be able to earn and make payments.
That is one of the reasons that an order of £20 may have been made, and that so few orders were made in the first place, as serious sex offences are more likely to lead to a custodial sentence.
The fact that there is no monetary loss to a victim in cases like this is also relevant. Child sexual abuse is a serious and severe crime, but not always one where compensation from the offender is appropriate.
Can I get compensation from the Government?
Yes, in many cases you can get compensation from the Government. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is a publicly funded body that awards compensation to victims of violent, including sexual, crime. Parliament sets the awards.
In 2017-2018, the Authority paid out £150 million to victims of violent crime. There is a two-year time limit for making a claim, in most circumstances. That time limit does not begin until age eighteen.
To be eligible for a payment from the CICA, a person need only show that it is more likely than not that they were the victim of crime.
This is a lower standard than is applied at a criminal trial, so it is available in some cases where there is not enough evidence to proceed in a criminal court.
The CICA operates under complicated rules, and people are not always able to navigate them well. Solicitors can help with making a claim, but their fees will eat into the amount of compensation.
CICA payments can also be reduced or refused if you don’t co-operate with the CICA, or the police, or have a previous conviction, even where you are totally blameless for your injury.
Can I sue my abuser?
Yes, a claim for trespass to the person is also available in a civil court. This requires the same standard of proof as a claim to the CICA. If there has already been a criminal conviction, that will usually satisfy the requirement of proof.
In a civil court, however, the time limit for making a claim is longer. In most cases of personal injury, it is three years, but when that limit starts running can be different. It will not start in any event until a person turns eighteen.
Civil claims are brought by a person individually. If you chose to sue someone for a sexual assault, you would have to pay.
Costs are usually recoverable from the loser. That is not so in small claims court where the claim is for personal injury of £1,000 or less.
If you are able to recover costs when you win, it also means that if you lose you may have to pay to other person’s costs. Claims of this sort are rarely made unless likely to involve a substantial sum of money, and the other party definitely has the means to pay.
What if the offender is a child?
Child offenders are not exempt from the compensation order. Some of those payments uncovered by Griffiths were offences by a person under 18 and ranged from £50 to £150.
The court still has a duty to consider making one. One crucial consideration will be the means – how much can a child be expected to pay? It’s unlikely they will have a significant income to put towards any order.
Can a child’s parent be made to pay compensation?
In some cases, yes. If the offender is sixteen or over, the court may order the parents to pay any financial penalty, such as compensation or a fine.
Where the offender is under sixteen, the court must order the parents to pay the financial penalty. If the parents cannot be found, or it would be unreasonable, the court doesn’t have to order them to pay.
Why order compensation of £20?
Without the full facts, it’s difficult to say. There are many variables, but it does, on the face of it, seem an odd decision.
People could think that it’s more insulting to order £20 compensation than to make no order at all. It could easily leave the victim with a feeling that £20 is all their abuse is worth.
Equally, given the offender clearly had minimal means to pay, was an order worth making in the first place?
How much should someone be paid for being the victim of a sexual offence?
Amounts vary across offences, but there are some guideline figures to look at. The CICA official table gives £11,000 as the amount for a child victim of rape, the same circumstances as the case where a compensation order of only £20 was made.
The Sentencing Council gives starting points for criminal compensation orders. For the same offence, the suggested starting point is only £3,300.
Without all the facts, it’s difficult to say why the compensation, in this case, wasn’t closer to these figures. It may be that the offender was sent to prison and only had £20 in his property, it may be that it was a child or person for whom £20 was a lot of money, the compensation may have been for money taken or lost during the assault or it may even be a reporting error, we simply do not know.
How we can assist
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Recently, three men from Halifax were convicted after one of them was found to have run a company whilst disqualified. The other two were convicted of assisting him.
If you’re thinking of trying to evade a director’s ban, be aware that it can lead to a criminal conviction and even prison.
Why was he disqualified?
Andrew Brian had voluntarily accepted a disqualification in 2009 after his previous company had run up a significant tax debt.
How can you be disqualified?
The courts also have the power, in certain circumstances, to disqualify a person from acting as director of a company. The power comes from the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.
The Act empowers the Crown Court, the Magistrates’ Court, or the High Court to make an order that a person be disqualified from acting as a company director for a period of time. In the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum period is five years, in other courts, it is fifteen years.
The Crown Court, a criminal court, may make an order even where this condition is not met and has a very wide discretion whether to do so. The court can disqualify a person where they are convicted of an offence ‘in connection with the promotion, formation, management, liquidation or striking off of a company.’
Where an offence can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, a disqualification may be imposed if an offender has been the subject of three default orders or convictions in the preceding five years.
The High Court can only disqualify a person where it thinks they are unfit to act as a director, and usually this is done when the company is wound up by the court.
Being unfit includes allowing a company to trade when it can’t pay debts, not keeping correct accounts, or using company assets for personal benefit. Andrew Brian had used significant amounts of company money to pay his own mortgage.
People who are declared bankrupt are also automatically disqualified from acting as directors.
What does a disqualification order mean?
A disqualification order means that, without permission of the court, a person cannot be a director, act as a receiver of company property, or be concerned or take part in the promotion, formation or management of a company, or act as an insolvency practitioner.
Andrew Brian was not listed as a director of Met Euro Ltd, but it was found he exercised control over it and creditors dealt solely with him in breach of his ban on taking part in the management of a company.
His son Thomas Brian was the director when the company went insolvent after running up debts of £255,000. A significant amount of the benefit from the company had benefitted Andrew Brian personally, going towards his mortgage.
What happens if you run a company after being disqualified?
In any case where a person is disqualified, acting as a director, or in any other way prohibited by the order, is a criminal offence. It carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
In the case of Andrew Brian, he was disqualified for a further twelve years and handed a twelve-month sentence suspended for twelve months and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.
His son Thomas received a twelve-month community order for helping him to carry out the offence.
In other cases, though, more severe sentences have been imposed. In 2014, Colin Cowley-Hurlock received twenty months imprisonment for running up similar debts in respect of three companies.
It’s also possible that the court will confiscate any benefit you have gained.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 and let us help. We can advise on all aspects of your case.Read More
Why hasn’t Michael Gove been arrested?
A question on many people’s lips since the former Justice Secretary admitted to using cocaine several times earlier in his career.
So, could he face the legal consequences of this?
Cocaine is a Class A drug, the most serious category. Drug offences are governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and whilst buying a controlled drug in this scenario is not an offence, possession is. It carries up to seven years in prison.
Is Michael Gove’s confession enough?
Possibly. The Prosecution will usually have to prove that a substance is in fact a controlled drug, and the most convenient way to do that is through a forensic report.
In this case, though, the drugs are long gone and can’t be analysed. The prosecution would have to rely on his public confession.
A confession was relied on in R v Chatwood  1 All ER 467 where the Court of Appeal said that a confession could amount to evidence that, on the face of it, the defendant had been in possession where he was expressing an informed opinion. However, the confessions in that case were made to police officers when the defendants were being questioned about the offences.
Whether Michael Gove’s opinion could be described as ‘informed’ will be the key question and would likely depend on how often he used the drug. He would probably be invited to attend an interview under caution first of all, to see if he repeated his allegations.
His confession could be used as evidence, however, if he were to be charged with attempted possession under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.
The prosecution could accept that Gove did not actually possess cocaine but allege instead that he had tried to possess it. The maximum sentence is the same.
Has it been too long to charge Michael Gove with a drugs offence?
No. There is no general ‘Statute of Limitations’ in England and Wales. Offences only triable in the Magistrates’ Court usually have a limit of six months, but possession of a drug is not one of those.
He could, theoretically, still be charged.
Will Michael Gove be prosecuted?
The Crown Prosecution Service would make a decision as to whether a prosecution should proceed.
To do this, they apply the Full Code Test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This is the same for every offence.
The Full Code Test has two stages which need to be met. These are the evidential stage, and the public interest stage.
In short, there needs to be enough evidence for a realistic chance of conviction, and it must be in the public interest to bring a case. If a case fails either test, it will not be prosecuted.
The confession is potentially enough evidence for a case to be brought. A Crown Prosecutor would have to be satisfied that it, and any other evidence, is admissible and leads to a realistic prospect of conviction.
Any evidence from Owen Bennett, the City AM political journalist who outed Gove’s cocaine use in his unauthorised biography of the Environment Secretary, or Gove’s political advisors to whom he confessed would need to be carefully considered, and a prosecutor may have grave doubts as to its admissibility.
In the event there was enough evidence, the case would also have to pass the public interest stage. A case will usually pass this stage unless there are factors against the prosecution that outweigh those in favour.
This stage takes into account a lot of factors, including the seriousness of the offence, the circumstances, any harm caused, impact on any victims, and whether a prosecution is proportionate.
The likely penalty would be a small fine or community punishment at most.
Therefore, Gove could be prosecuted but it is unlikely in all of the circumstances. Reputationally and politically, this admission could exact a great cost.
How we can assist
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Prison is supposed to be a punishment. But it’s also designed to help people address their behaviour and stop them re-offending. When imprisonment leads to more offending, it isn’t working.
The specific problems faced by women have been highlighted recently by the Farmer Review for Women. Lord Farmer hopes to improve women’s experience within the criminal justice system with the aim of reducing re-offending.
But it isn’t just about prisoners. A previous study by Lord Farmer on male prisoners found 63% of male prisoners’ sons went on to offend themselves and adult children of imprisoned mothers are even more likely to be convicted.
The problems revolve mainly around the breakdown of family relationships, particularly as women are often primary carers, that flow from a spell in custody, whether on remand or in prison.
The Report found that women who receive family visits are 39% less likely to reoffend, and so the importance of alleviating these problems is obvious.
What are the problems?
Any custodial stay, whether the first night in the cells or five-year prison sentence, can have a devastating effect on several areas of a person’s life.
Relationships with all family members, particularly with children and partners, suffer badly when one member of that unit is taken away for an extended period.
This is made worse by the fact that women are held on average 63 miles from home, increasing the difficulty of prison visits.
Anxiety of mothers and primary carers in custody is increased due to separation from the children, especially where the mother is the sole carer. Children are the first priority in this situation, and the Report found that little progress can be made with the prisoner until this anxiety is dealt with.
Domestic violence also is recognised for its huge impact on women’s lives, tying in to relationships and possible causes of offending.
What can be done to help?
The Report recognises that the early intervention in a wide range of circumstances including mental health, relationship breakdown, substance misuse, education and debt can all help to prevent offending.
It makes a number of recommendations to strengthen female offender’s family and other relationships to prevent re-offending and reduce intergenerational crime.
Earlier intervention to address the vulnerabilities of some women which can lead to them coming into contact with the criminal justice system and diverting them from it. If women had ready access to services and good peer support networks, it could prevent offending and the repetition of the cycle by children.
A specific recommendation is to create a personal circumstances file for a woman so that information can be shared through trusted organisations such as the police and local authority, NHS and Victim Support.
A renewed focus on alternative accommodation is required, bail hostels are currently geared towards men and prohibit children living there or visiting them. These restrictions need to be reviewed by the government and women in hostels need to be referred to services to assist with parenting or relationship issues where appropriate.
Pre-sentence reports should be mandatory for all women (and male primary carers) if a custodial sentence is a possibility. The report would clarify the repercussions of a custodial sentence on dependants and put forward detail of mitigating factors such as domestic abuse.
Women sentenced to custody or remanded must be given the opportunity to make telephone contact with dependents and organise childcare before being put onto transport. Consideration should be given to primary care or other relationships before a woman is remanded as even a short remand can have devastating effect on families, tenancies and the ability to provide for family.
The development of custodial centres should be a long-term strategy, used for women whose crime is serious enough to merit a custodial sentence but who are low enough risk to retain care of their children.
Where a custodial term is inevitable there are many recommendations to enhance rather than break down family ties. Such recommendations as improvements to the Assisted Prison Visits scheme and space for private family visits.
Some of the most frequent issues raised by women prisoners were access to release on temporary licence (ROTL) and child resettlement licence (CRL).To address this ROTL could be used far more frequently and creatively to help women fulfil caring responsibilities and aid resettlement, CRL could be widened to include other family circumstances and not just rest on sole carer status.
To aid communication during sentences the operation of prisoner email schemes needs to be consistent and all female prisons to develop an email reply system so that children do not think they are being ignored if no reply is received. Virtual visits and in cell telephony should be utilised to supplement face to face visits.
The cost of the recommendations is balanced throughout, for example, by the savings from keeping women out of the prison system and the cost saved by children not being cared for by social services. There are certainly a number of interesting recommendations, but it remains to be seen whether they are put into place.
In the meantime, our advocates will ensure that a comprehensive picture is presented to any sentencing court.
How we can assist
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A District Judge sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last week authorised that a summons be issued against the prominent conservative member of parliament, Boris Johnson.
The allegations relate to alleged conduct during the Brexit referendum campaign and in particular the £350m per week for the NHS slogan that adorned the side of campaign buses.
Johnson has applied for a judicial review of the decision, but if that is unsuccessful he will have to appear in court to answer these charges and eventually face trial at the crown court.
The unusual aspect of this case is that this is a private prosecution crowdfunded by individuals who support the prosecution.
Is that unusual?
In England and Wales, the vast majority of prosecutions are undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service. Also, there are also a large number of other public bodies that regularly prosecute cases, generally of a specialist nature, before the courts, such as the Environment Agency, Serious Fraud Office, Local authorities, Civil Aviation Authority etc.
There are also very few well-known organisations that regularly privately prosecute cases, most notably the RSPCA in respect to allegations of animal cruelty.
But private individuals prosecuting cases are relatively rare.
Are private prosecutions always allowed?
The Supreme Court has reiterated quite recently that private citizens have a constitutional right to prosecute alleged crimes before the courts.
Some companies and individuals’ resort to private prosecution when they feel that the State has failed to act.
There are many safeguards to prevent vexatious prosecutions, such as:
- Scrutiny before a summons is issued
- Abuse of Process remedies
- The ability of the Crown Prosecution Service to take over a private prosecution
- A new proposed code for private prosecutors drafted by specialist firms who conduct this type of work
- Risk of adverse costs orders if the prosecution is unwarranted
Despite these safeguards, there are still some concerns, and we are particularly alert when a private prosecutor is involved to ensure defendant’s rights, particularly concerning disclosure and fair prosecution practice, are protected. We will not hesitate to seek full costs recovery on behalf of a client if the prosecution ought not to have been brought in the first place.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 and let us help, we deal with all manner of criminal offences on a daily basis and have the expertise to get you the best result possible.Read More
Few people would disagree with the suggestion that sentencing law in England and Wales is a complete mess. The provisions that govern how a defendant is to be sentenced are both complex and disparate. They are also found across a significant number of statutes.
Why does this matter?
Research has shown that thousands of sentencing errors are made each year, with many going completely undetected. Sometimes the mistakes make little difference in practice, but often the failure leads to unlawful sentences being imposed.
The complexity of the statutory provisions is only one consideration. We must also take note of a large body of case law. Again, we see many errors, most notably concerning protective orders where conditions imposed are often draconian and unnecessary.
Sentencing errors can lead to a failure to protect victims, unlawful or inappropriate sentences for defendants, and very costly appeal proceedings that are often necessary to correct the mistakes. Ironically the Court of Appeal often makes mistakes itself.
So, what is being proposed?
The Law Commission has proposed a ‘Sentencing Code’; this will be a single Act of Parliament that will place all sentencing provisions in one place.
To achieve this, a two-stage process will take place:
- Minor amendments to existing statutes will be made to ‘tidy up’ the statute book.
- Immediately afterwards the provisions will be consolidated into one Act of Parliament (‘the sweep’).
This clean sweep of law will then lead to a single consolidated statutory provision that can be further amended in the future.
It is important to note that this procedure is a consolidating procedure, so apart from minor changes to legislation, there is no material change to existing law. There will be no increases to existing sentences.
Will this make a difference?
Given the effect of this is merely to move sentencing law into one single statute, it is a reasonable question to ask whether this will make a difference.
The Law Commission carried out extensive testing of the proposals, and it was demonstrated that having a single reference point for sentencing leads to fewer errors. Errors will continue to be made, for all manner of reasons, but we should see a massive reduction.
When will these changes happen?
The first piece of legislation was laid in the House of Lords last week, and the provisions could be law in a matter of months. Much will depend on the legislative timetable and the uncertainty of the political situation at the present time.
When the relevant legislation is enacted, there will need to be a period of training for lawyers and judges before the new statute takes effect, so we are looking at mid-2020 in all likelihood.
What happens until then?
Until that time, we will continue to be alert on your behalf. Our lawyers take great care to ensure lawful and proportionate sentences are passed and will not hesitate to take corrective action where that is required. We prefer to work hard to avoid mistakes in the first place, and all our advocates are highly trained in the complexities of sentencing law. Our ethos is a ‘get it right first-time’ one.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 and let us help. We deal with all manner of criminal offences on a daily basis, from the initial investigation through to Court. We have the expertise to get you the best result possible.Read More
Mental Health is a complicated business. Conditions are not easy to diagnose, doctors can disagree on which disorder a person is suffering from, or even if they have a mental health condition at all.
Those with mental disorders might have specific needs in court on top of those of the typical defendant. That’s if they’re mentally well enough to stand trial at all, or if the CPS deems it is in the public interest to charge them.
Our initial approach is to seek diversion away from the court process wherever possible. A proactive approach with the police and Crown Prosecution Service can often avoid prosecution and more speedily access any necessary medical help that an accused person needs.
How do Courts approach Defendants with Mental Health Problems?
Sentencing defendants who appear to have mental health problems is a very difficult exercise. As a result, The Sentencing Council recently published a new draft guideline. This sets out a general approach to sentencing defendants who have mental health problems.
This guideline is now open for consultation. The idea is that it will make sentencing easier and more consistent amongst those who suffer from mental illness.
It will apply only to some mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorders, and dementia.
Although the guideline is still at consultation stage there is much that we can already utilise to assist those we defend.
What Sentences are Available?
Assuming a person is not well enough to stand trial, “unfit to plead”, a hearing goes ahead to determine whether they did the act; but this is not an ordinary trial with a “guilty” or “not guilty” outcome.
If they have done the act, or are found guilty in the usual way, there are several mental health-specific sentencing options available to the Judge under the Mental Health Act 1983.
A Judge must be satisfied, on the evidence of two doctors, that this is the appropriate order, and that treatment is available.
The order is initially for six months but can be renewed for a further six and then annually. The treating doctor, hospital manager, or First-Tier Tribunal (Mental Health) decides when a person can be discharged from hospital.
This is a type of order that attaches to a Hospital Order. At least one doctor must give live evidence. It can only be made if it is necessary to protect the public.
They restrict how a person can be discharged for a certain period, and they can be made indefinitely.
Only the Secretary of State, in most cases, can discharge someone under a Restriction Order. There is still a limited right of review in the First-Tier Tribunal (Mental Health).
Hospital and Limitation Directions
Otherwise known as “Hybrid Orders” these are a conventional prison sentence, with a direction that the time should be served in hospital rather than prison. These can only be made where a person is over 21.
If a person is discharged before the end of the prison term, they are transferred back to prison.
If they complete the “sentence”, they remain in hospital on the terms of a regular Hospital Order.
Several other factors weigh into whether any of these orders can or should be made.
A recent example of the use of a hybrid order can be found in the case of Samantha Ford. You can read more about that case here.
Can Someone Still be Sent to Prison?
Yes. The Judge is not obliged to make any of these orders just because a defendant suffers from mental health problems. Therefore, he/she can pass an ordinary prison or another sentence.
In the case of insanity or unfitness to plead, the Judge must use a mental health sentence or give an absolute discharge.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com and let us help. We can advise on a plea, defences and potential sentences in a wide range of circumstances. At all stages we can access specialist medical advice to ensure the appropriate outcome.Read More
This perennial question was back in the news following a ministry of justice announcement that further steps would be taken to root out dishonest prison officers and others working in custodial institutions.
A new counter-corruption unit will be tasked with ‘proactively pursuing those suspected of corrupt activity in prison and probation services across England and Wales.’
The unit comprises 29 specialist staff split into a national team and 5 regional teams. Within these teams are expert intelligence analysts who will examine threats to the organisation.
Corruption can range from a member of staff having a relationship with a prisoner, to bringing in drugs and contraband for individual prisoners or organised crime groups. The unit complements prison security teams that can already search staff, including with metal detectors and baggage scanners.
The new Counter Corruption Unit has 4 aims to combat the threat:
- protect against corruption by building an open and resilient organisation;
- prevent people from engaging in corruption, strengthening professional integrity;
- pursue and punish those involved in corruption;
- prepare prisons to minimise the impact of corruption where it does occur.
How widespread is the problem?
The numbers of staff found taking contraband into prisons in England and Wales has risen by 57% in the past six years, according to ministry of justice figures obtained through a freedom of information request. 341 staff members were either dismissed, excluded, convicted or cautioned by police. In 2017, there were 71 cases of staff smuggling compared with 45 in 2012.
Ben Crewe, deputy director of Cambridge University’s Prisons Research Centre, said staff cuts and a more significant proportion of inexperienced officers meant that “those in post are more vulnerable to corruption”.
This is terrible news for prisoners looking to leave prison with a clean slate – if the temptation is offered from within the prison estate the chances of breaking free from a cycle of criminality is severely diminished.
The new heightened security measures will also act as a deterrent to prisoners who break the rules while serving a sentence as the chances of capture may significantly increase.
The alarming scale of prison officer corruption also leads many to question the value that can be placed on prison officer testimony during court cases and prison adjudications. The actions of a few can impact on the entire staff.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 73881658 and let us help, we deal with all manner criminal offences on a daily basis and have the expertise to get you the best result possible.Read More