Forensic evidence has dominated some of the news agenda this week, with outrage over the interrogation of complainant’s phones in sexual offences and other cases.
What is happening?
Predictably, there have been suggestions that the entire contents of a complainant’s phone will simply be handed over to defendants, and that they can then be questioned about anything and everything they have ever done. This ignores the rules that exist to make sure that only relevant material is disclosed, and prevent unnecessary and inappropriate questioning in court.
In reality of course, if a police officer is to investigate a criminal offence fairly, the interrogation of phones, computers and other devices may well be necessary. This is despite the potential for intrusion into a person’s privacy.
It is our job as criminal defence lawyers to ensure that the police do their job. This includes following all proper lines of enquiry, and ensuring that all evidence that ought to be disclosed to us is revealed.
Miscarriages of justice
If you look at the significant miscarriage of justice cases over the last 50 years, the most critical failing appears to be a lack of proper disclosure of evidence. In some cases, the evidence is neglected, in others actually destroyed or deliberately suppressed. There have been a number of high-profile cases in recent months where evidence on a complainant’s phone painted a completely different picture to their evidence, and quite rightly resulted in acquittals.
Forensic science providers
The second big story this week was a report from the Lords Science and Technology Committee examining the work of forensic science providers in the criminal justice system. Here are some of the findings:
“The instability of the forensic science market is a serious risk to the criminal justice system.”
“A free society is dependent on the rule of law which in turn relies on equality of access to justice. The evidence we received points to failings in the use of forensic science in the criminal justice system and these can be attributed to an absence of high-level leadership, a lack of funding and an insufficient level of research and development. Throughout this inquiry, we heard about the decline in forensic science in England and Wales, especially since the abolition of the Forensic Science Service.”
“Cuts to legal aid have affected the ability of defendants to access forensic expertise. We recommend that the Legal Aid Agency liaise with the market-regulation arm within the expanded role of the Forensic Science Regulator to set new pricing schemes, properly funded by the Ministry of Justice, for forensic testing and expert advice for defendants.”
Regrettably, none of these findings causes us the least bit of surprise. We are acutely aware of the deficiencies in the current system. As defence lawyers, we work proactively to ensure that all work is carried out swiftly and to the required standard. Only by being fully aware of the weaknesses in the system can we ensure that our clients’ cases are appropriately presented.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com and let us help. We have the necessary skills and experience to assist you in respect to any criminal investigation or prosecution.Read More
You may have heard about ‘texts’ or a ‘brown envelope to the Judge’, some of the names for the old system by which someone could get a reduced sentence.
If you helped the police a ‘text’ may be handed to the sentencing judge explaining that you had assisted and a reduction in sentence may have followed. It was a murky world, clouded in some secrecy and one that few people properly understood.
A formal statutory system has now been put in place to regulate reduction in sentence for a defendant who aids the authorities, although the ‘text’ regime is still around.
The aim of the new regime is to govern assistance provided and the benefits that might flow as a result.
The old principles (the text) remain in use as it has always been the case that anyone convicted of a crime will receive credit against sentence for assistance rendered to the police or authorities.
Requirements under the new regime
The key features of the statutory scheme are:
- The offender must admit the full extent of his own criminality before the statutory framework can begin to apply, and he must agree to participate in a formalised process which has its own immediate purposes intended to avoid some of the problems which the earlier processes could create.
- Provided the offender admits the full extent of his criminality the process is not confined to offenders who provide assistance in relation to crimes in which they participated, or were accessories, or with which they are linked.
- This is largely a new process in which a post-sentence review of the sentence passed in the Crown Court can be reviewed in a judicial process on a reference back to the court by the prosecutor. That does not prevent there being such an analysis during a Crown Court sentencing decision.
- The decision whether a reduction in sentence should follow a post-sentence agreement is vested in the judge sitting in the Crown Court. The court is able to take into account the specific post-sentence situation. That is quite different from the former practice.
- If in the end the offender fails to comply with his agreement, that does not itself constitute a crime but he is liable to be brought back to the court and deprived of the reduction of sentence which has been allowed or would have been allowed if he had complied with the agreement in full.
New versus old
Following the new regime, rather than the old text regime, may result in a greater discount in sentence. There is no guarantee, however, that providing information will result in a reduction in sentence. It would very much depend on the nature of the information, how it can be used, and whether action can be taken by the police as a result (particularly action that might result in others being prosecuted).
It is important to note that as the formal regime requires full admissions of any criminality on your part, this may result in further charges being brought against you or further offences being taken into consideration on sentence. There is a careful decision to be made here.
How will I know if it has been taken into account?
The law says that if you are given a reduction in your sentence you have to be told that you have been given a lesser sentence and you must also be told what the greater sentence would have been. You will then know exactly how much of a reduction you were given.
How we can help
The decision is not an easy one, nor is the process, because of the potential consequences, which may include having to attend court as a witness, or receiving a longer initial sentence.
It is vital, therefore, that you obtain expert advice before speaking to the police. If this is something that you wish to discuss, please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More
In a major announcement, the government has signalled a busy year ahead with legislative changes affecting the criminal law. Following on from the recent announcement about the sentencing of domestic abuse offences, the government has announced further reforms.
There will be a new definition of domestic abuse making clear that it applies to all relationships and victims and encompasses economic abuse and controlling behaviour.
The new statutory definition of domestic abuse (subject to consultation) is:
Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:
Controlling behaviour: Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour: Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
New Protective Order
The Government proposes to create a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN), which could be made by the police, and a Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO), which could be made by the courts in a wide range of circumstances.
These measures would bring together the strongest elements from existing protective orders used in domestic abuse cases, creating a single, flexible pathway for victims, police and other practitioners.
While the existing domestic violence protection notice and order will be replaced by the new DAPN and DAPO regime, other existing orders, such as restraining orders, non-molestation orders and occupation orders, will continue to exist as these provide protection in situations other than domestic abuse.
The new order could be made by a court following a freestanding application, including by the victim and certain parties on the victim’s behalf (for example a family member or support service), and could also be made by a court during any ongoing proceedings, including on conviction or acquittal in any criminal proceedings.
The police would also have the power to apply for the new order, including after they had made a Domestic Abuse Protection Notice. In practice, this would mean that Domestic Abuse Protection Orders could be made in family, civil and criminal courts.
The new order would also be more flexible in terms of the conditions that could be attached to it, which could include both prohibitions (for example requirements not to contact the victim, including online, not to come within a certain distance of the victim, and not to drink alcohol or take drugs) and positive requirements. These positive requirements could include attendance at perpetrator programmes, alcohol and drug treatment programmes and parenting programmes. Electronic monitoring (for example location or alcohol monitoring) and notification requirements (for example the requirement for certain perpetrators to provide the police with personal information such as their address and details of relationship and family circumstances) could also be used as conditions attached to the new order.
There would be flexibility as to the length of time that the new order could be in place: it could be for a period to be specified by the court or until the court made further order, in contrast to the current maximum duration for the existing domestic violence protection order of 28 days.
It would be a criminal offence to breach a Domestic Abuse Protection Order.
How we can assist
We are experienced in defending all manner of domestic abuse accusations. Very often domestic incidents spiral out of control all too easily, and the first account made to a police officer may not reflect the full and detailed background, nor adequately explore the other side of the story. We take nothing at face value, preferring instead to step back and build our own accurate picture of the real prosecution and defence case.
In our experience, the protective order regime is often not applied correctly, and you can be assured that any orders sought will be no more onerous than properly prescribed by law, and subject to the most intense scrutiny.
To discuss any aspect of your case please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.comRead More
On 31st January 2018, regulations bring into force sections of The Criminal Finances Act 2017 dealing with unexplained wealth orders (UWOs), along with various other related provisions. This is the latest in what can often be seen to be a draconian set of powers aimed at interrupting criminal activity by the back door. However, as with other financial legislation, there is a risk that ordinary law-abiding people can find themselves subject to an order.
What are the unexplained wealth orders?
The purpose of this new order is to allow for certain people who obtain property which would ordinarily be beyond their obvious means, to be required to prove that it was acquired lawfully. This is in effect a reverse burden of proof.
Law enforcement agencies often have reasonable grounds to suspect that identified assets of such persons are the proceeds of serious crime. However, they are often unable to freeze or recover the assets under existing provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act due to an inability to obtain evidence (often due to the inability to rely on full cooperation from other jurisdictions to obtain evidence).
The authorities which may apply for an unexplained wealth order are:
– The National Crime Agency.
– HM Revenue and Customs.
– The Financial Conduct Authority.
– The Director of the Serious Fraud Office.
– The Director of Public Prosecutions.
What to do?
If you are subjected to an order of this kind, you must provide a statement which does the following:
– Sets out the nature and extent of your interest in the property.
– Explains how you obtained the property, particularly how it was paid for.
– Provides details of any settlement if the property is held by trustees.
– Sets out any other information about the property specified in the order.
In addition to a statement, the order may require you to supply documents connected to the property.
Before it can make an order, the High Court must be satisfied that the following criteria are met:
– There is reasonable cause to believe that the person in question holds the property and that it is worth over £50,000.
– There are reasonable grounds for suspecting that this person’s known income (from lawful sources) would not be enough to obtain the property.
– The person in question is a politically exposed person (see definition below) or there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that they are or have been involved in a serious crime or someone connected to this person is or has been so involved.
A politically exposed person (PEP) is someone who is or has been entrusted with prominent public functions by an international organisation, a State other than the UK or another EEA State, a family member of such a person, a close associate or someone connected to them in another way.
Make sure you provide all the information required
It is a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly make a statement that is false or misleading in response to an unexplained wealth order. Doing so can result in two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. This offence can be tried in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court.
Failing to provide the information, in full or part, may prejudice any civil forfeiture proceedings.
In some cases, a UWO will be accompanied by an interim freezing order. This prohibits the respondent to the UWO and any other person with an interest in the property from in any way dealing with the property.
Where the property is thought to be in a country outside the UK, the Secretary of State may forward a request for assistance to the government of the receiving county. This can be a request to prevent anyone in that country from dealing with the relevant property and provide assistance in managing it as required.
We Can Assist
John Howey, Senior Solicitor
Over recent weeks, there have been a number of high profile rape cases involving disclosure, or more accurately non-disclosure, of information obtained by the police during their investigations. In a number of these cases, the evidence has come to light before the trial has concluded, leading to the acquittal of the defendants. In at least one case, an innocent man served a lengthy period in custody, and had already been released, before the evidence came to light and his conviction was quashed.
It may be tempting to think that these are isolated incidents, and limited to sexual offences, but they are not. Even with the current media frenzy over this issue, there are cases going on around the country where exactly the same is happening, day-in, day-out. One such example is a case that we dealt with earlier this month.
Our client has asked that we do not disclose his name, so we will call him D. We will call the girl involved C.
In July 2015, D was 16. C was 15. They had been boyfriend and girlfriend for 3 weeks when C went to D’s flat one evening after school. D’s mum and dad were at home. They went to his bedroom and had sex for the first time. C left shortly afterwards and went home.
She was upset with what had happened. They spent several hours on the phone to each other that night and the following morning. She also spoke with other friends on the phone. The next morning, she confided in her foster mum that she had had sex with D and that she had not wanted it to happen. C went to school and complained that she had been raped. The police were called. During the course of the morning another pupil, a friend of C’s showed one of the teachers a message that D had apparently sent the previous evening. The teacher took a photo of it. The message, in isolation, could have been seen as an admission.
D was arrested 36 hours after the incident. His phone was seized. He was interviewed by the police and accepted having sex with C, but said that she had consented. He was bailed pending further enquiries.
Despite the young age of the parties, no progress was made for some time. In February 2016 D was interviewed again, about a handwritten note found in the rubbish bin at C’s house. This note could be described as a sexual ‘to-do’ list. C denied she had written any of it except the title, and suggested D had written it. D denied ever having seen the piece of paper, or having written it. He agreed to provide some handwriting for analysis.
D was eventually charged in May last year, 22 months after the incident took place, by which time he had turned 18, and fell to be tried as an adult.
When the prosecution papers were eventually served, only C’s second interview was served, dealing with the piece of paper.
This was the first failure of disclosure; we had to chase the CPS for the main interview, containing details of the allegation of rape. We were also not provided with a proper transcript of D’s second police interview.
The communications between D and C were clearly relevant to the case. The Officer in charge of the investigation (OIC) in an unusual move provided a statement in which she stated that she had examined the mobile phones of both C and D, and provided details of an exchange of text messages that she said had passed between them on the day in question. We were also provided with an Excel spreadsheet, described as the download of C’s phone.
Even a cursory examination of this document showed that the phone number that the OIC had attributed to D was not his and that the messages in question were not sent by him or to him. Despite having both phones in her possession, the OIC had provided a statement that was wholly inaccurate and very misleading.
The schedule of unused prepared by the OIC (documents not relied upon by the Crown, but relevant to the investigation) listed just two items; the CRIS (police report) and D’s custody record. One of the two pages of the CRIS that were disclosed included a comment from an officer describing C as ‘not the compelling and honest witness that she first appeared’. A CRIS relating to a previous allegation of sexual assault made by the complainant that was not proceeded with, was also disclosed.
In the usual way, a defence statement was served, requesting a number of items which in our view were plainly disclosable, in particular.
– We asked for service of the phone downloads of the phones belonging to C and D. We were told by the CPS that the D’s phone download ‘has been requested and will be reviewed once it is available’. By this point, 27 months had passed since the offence and the CPS were still not in possession of the download. This means this important evidence had not been reviewed by the CPS when they made the decision to charge a young man with rape.
– The CPS had indicated at an early hearing that handwriting analysis was being done on the list found at C’s house. We asked for the outcome of this. We were told ‘the ‘list’ was not suitable for handwriting analysis and was therefore not completed’.
– The CPS had previously disclosed the existence of medical notes, GP notes, Counselling notes and Social Services records. In response to our request for access to these documents we were told ‘these were considered as part of initial disclosure and relevant entries were disclosed’
The case then came back to Court for a pre-trial review. Amongst the matters raised was the absence of the defendant’s mobile phone download. The OIC was at Court, and she claimed that the disc had ‘caught fire’ during the copying process; the inference was that the phone evidence was no longer available. The prosecution continued to maintain their stance that the other items were not disclosable, so we listed the case for a S8 disclosure application.
When the S8 application came to be heard, it was apparent that neither prosecuting counsel or the CPS had seen, let alone reviewed the social services file. The judge on that occasion ruled that the trial judge would need to consider the application at the outset of the trial.
The trial was listed for January 2nd 2018. On the morning of the trial, Prosecution Counsel took the view that the material had been reviewed (albeit not by him), and there was nothing further to disclose. Fortunately, the trial judge took a different view, and made it clear that it was the prosecutor’s job to review the material and decide what did and what didn’t meet the test for disclosure. Time was allowed for Prosecution counsel to review the social services and school records of C. The school records had to be retrieved from the school because the OIC did not have them. Amongst other information revealed in the days after the trial had actually started, we learnt.
We had already instructed our own handwriting expert to analyse the handwritten note. There were no issues regarding the quality of the sample and she was able to conclude that it was very unlikely that D wrote the sexual ‘to do’ list.
At the trial the CRIS was finally disclosed. It revealed that C’s mum had found the paper in the bin at home, and that as far back as March 2016, the reason given for being unable to do the comparison was because the school had none of D’s work available. Enquiries were apparently being made with C’s school for her books, but C’s mum had said it was ‘clearly’ C’s writing. It was clear that the reason provided by the OIC for their being no analysis was simply untrue.
In her evidence, C continued to maintain that she had not written the document. This raised serious issues regarding her credibility.
C’s phone download
On day 2 of the trial, the OIC provided a statement saying that the download from C’s phone had been provided from the lab that did the work as an Excel spreadsheet, this lab had gone into administration and the original material was no longer available. However, when pushed by D’s barrister, she eventually disclosed that she had a disc, albeit it was “corrupted”. Prosecution and defence counsel took and reviewed the disc which had the full original phone down load for both D’s and C’s phone on it. No explanation was ever forthcoming from the OIC as to why she had lied about the availability of the phone download.
Other failures of disclosure
D’s mobile download
This wasn’t provided until 22nd December 2017. It ran to over 1600 pages. Despite C claiming that their brief relationship had been unpleasant and that she had never been to D’s house, the download revealed daily lengthy conversations taking place between the two parties, and numerous loving text messages being sent. The contents of the messages also suggested that C had been to D’s house on a number of occasions.
There was no record of the message that he had apparently sent on the evening, apologising. There was no record of anything preceding that, or afterwards, that might have put it into context. The records did however show that he had spoken to the person the message was sent to immediately beforehand, which would provide some context for it. That person had declined to provide a statement, and despite speaking to her on a number of occasions, the OIC agreed in evidence that she never thought to ask to look at the witnesses phone to see the context of the relevant and damaging message.
Social Services records
Social Services records eventually disclosed that;
Her mother could not leave her at home alone because she was stealing from her and could not be trusted
The situation at home was so bad that police had been called twice to allegations of assault, once by C and once by her mum. Her mum had asked social services to remove her.
C had told medical professionals just four months before the allegation was made that ‘I lie a lot’, that she had fallen out with her best friend, was struggling at school and stressed about exams. She also describes herself as being impulsive and having difficulty managing her emotions.
As well as other matters referred to above, this disclosed that at the time of the offence C was having difficulty at her foster home and wanted to go back to her mum.
The verdict and some considerations
Fortunately for our client, the jury found him not guilty. However, what was not a particularly complex case had taken over 2 ½ years to be concluded during which a young man had to effectively put his life on hold. The evidential position in this case was very different at the end of the trial to the start of the trial. Had the evidence that was finally disclosed been made known to the CPS pre-charge, then there is a realistic chance that this defendant may never have been charged. Had the CPS properly reviewed the evidence at an earlier stage, they may well have chosen to discontinue the case.
There has been absolutely no publicity about this case, and D wishes it to remain that way. However, what is clear is that the cases reported in the media over recent weeks are not isolated cases, but a reflection on the current problems within the Criminal Justice System.
John Howey, Senior Solicitor
We talk a lot in this Country about the benefits of a jury trial, how leaving the decision in the hands of 12 people chosen at random, is the fairest way of securing justice, but how does a jury decide?
There is a lot that we do not know
Ironically, the process of how a jury reaches its decision is unknown as laws prevent us examining jury decisions and questioning them on their findings.
There are lots of academic studies, but in reality, they shed little light on the process.
What we do know however is the legal process that guides them in their decision making and despite the lack of ‘hard proof.’ most lawyers actively support trial by jury.
The internet age
The power of Google and new networking spaces such as Facebook and Twitter can present challenges to a jury trial if jurors seek information from these sources. There is a good reason why certain information is withheld from a jury (for example previous convictions), and going behind explicit instructions not to discuss evidence with anyone other than a fellow juror when the jury is assembled, or seeking information from external sources, undermines jury trial.
For this reason, jurors will be given clear warnings throughout the trial process.
We start with 12
We always start with 12; no criminal jury trial can commence with fewer jurors. Unlike in America, there is no selection process. Neither the prosecution nor the defence can object to a particular juror.
For lots of reasons, however, a trial does not always finish with 12. Jurors may become sick and be unable to return, or in rare cases, they may be removed from a jury due to some misconduct during the trial. As long as the number of jurors does not fall below 9, a verdict can be reached.
A unanimous verdict
At all times, the Judge will be seeking a unanimous verdict from the jury, that is a verdict upon which all the jurors are agreed, so either guilty or not guilty.
In the early stages of deliberation, a Judge is prevented by law from accepting a majority verdict, but the time may come when a majority decision is permissible. The timing of that will depend very much on the facts of the particular case.
When a majority verdict becomes permissible, the jury will be brought back into court and advised accordingly. However, even at that stage, they will be asked to still arrive at a unanimous verdict if that is possible. If it is not possible, then a majority verdict will be acceptable.
On occasion, it will become apparent to the Judge that the jury cannot reach a verdict, even a majority one. The Judge will often know this as the jury will write a note to explain the situation. The contents of that note will usually not be shared with the advocates, and this is often because ‘it contains numbers’, i.e. how many jurors are voting one way or the other. Such notes remain confidential in all trials.
When a deadlock occurs a ‘give and take’ direction will be given, calling upon all jurors to use their collective wisdom to reach a decision.
If the jury reaches a unanimous verdict the issue is settled, but if not, and the time is appropriate for a majority verdict, a majority may be acceptable.
Whether a majority verdict is acceptable depends on the balance of votes, which in turn depends on how many jurors remain.
The combinations are:
Where there are 12 jurors: 11 – 1 or 10 – 2
Where there are 11 jurors: 10 -1
Where there are 10 jurors: 9 – 1
(where the jury falls to 9 jurors, only a unanimous verdict is acceptable).
If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant is free to leave court (assuming that there are no other matters remaining), if guilty, the judge will go on to consider sentencing.
Back to deadlock
If despite further deliberation it becomes clear that the jury is deadlocked, the jury will be discharged, and the trial will be over.
In these circumstances, the prosecution may either proceed with a new trial or abandon the trial (for example where it is clear at that stage that the evidence is weak).
How we can assist
We realise that the trial process can be difficult for both our clients and their families. We work hard at all stages to explain what is going on and what will happen next.
It is your case and you ought not to be reduced to a mere bystander as the legal process occurs around you.
As experienced trial lawyers, we do not lose sight of the person behind the proceedings.
If you would like advice about a criminal case, please contact us on 020 7388 1658, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Read More
Why should I have a solicitor at the police station?
Why wouldn’t you? For a start, it’s free. To everybody, no matter how much or how little they earn. That should probably be a good enough reason in itself, but many people still choose not to have a solicitor.
What happens in the police station goes a long way to deciding the outcome of the case
If you end up in court many months later, the Judge and jury, or magistrates, will know what you said or didn’t say in your interview and will pay close attention to it. If you do the right thing in your interview, you might not even get to court. You might be given a caution or your case might be dealt with in another way that means you don’t have to go to court. You might not even be charged.
It doesn’t make you look guilty
If you were ill you would go to a doctor. If your car breaks down you go to a garage. You get help from someone who knows that they are doing and is there to help you.
You won’t have to wait hours for a solicitor; at least not for one of our solicitors
When you are arrested there is usually a lot of work for the police to do before you are interviewed. It is that work that takes time, not waiting for a solicitor. If you say you want a solicitor as soon as you get to the police station, we will be contacted by the police and can arrange to attend when the police are ready to deal with you. If you are attending by appointment (often called an interview by appointment or caution +3), we will meet you there.
Just because you feel you haven’t done anything wrong, doesn’t mean you don’t need a solicitor
In fact, it makes you need one even more because if you say or do the wrong thing, you might end up getting charged with something you didn’t do.
If you are in a cell in the police station, there is no such thing as ‘not very serious’
Calling us to come and represent you is not ‘bothering us’. It is what solicitors are there for.
You can call us during office hours on 020 7388 1658 or 24 hours a day on 07939958767. Or email email@example.com
John Howey, Senior SolicitorRead More
Yesterday’s news included the all too familiar reports of a young man being sentenced for a knife murder. Whilst the victim is named and pictured, the reports state that the defendant ‘cannot be named for legal reasons’, without setting out what those legal reasons are. It seems that an application was made in court to name the defendant, but this was refused.
What are these legal reasons?
The general principle is that proceedings should be held in public, the evidence should be heard in public and the media should be allowed to report the proceedings. There are however, a number of exceptions to that principle. There have been recent cases of evidence being heard behind closed doors for reasons of national security; Victims of sexual offences are given life-long anonymity, unless they are later subject to criminal proceedings in relation to the alleged offence (for example Jemma Beale, who was convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice for making false allegations); Pre-trial rulings relating to the admissibility of evidence or points of law, an unsuccessful application to dismiss at the end of the prosecution case, anything that might identify a child or young person involved in youth court proceedings (with limited exceptions) are all subject to automatic reporting restrictions.
When the defendant is a minor
In relation to under 18s in the Crown Court, S45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 which came into force in April 2015, allows the criminal court to prevent the publication of anything that would identify that young person as a defendant, until that person reaches 18. The court must have regard to the defendant’s welfare and be satisfied that the welfare of the young person outweighs the public interest in open justice. The court can dispense with the restriction at the end of the case if ‘their effect is to impose a substantial and unreasonable restriction on the reporting of the proceedings, and it is in the public interest to remove or relax that restriction’. Once the young person reaches the age of 18, the restrictions cease to apply.
In the case reported yesterday, the Judge refused to allow the defendant to be named, because ‘nothing is added of public import beyond what is already known.’ The facts of the case, and the defendants previous convictions are now a matter of public record, so it is difficult to see how the public not knowing his name is likely to amount to an unreasonable restriction on the reporting of the case.
We can help
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch with. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.Read More
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 email@example.com.
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.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch with. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.