Unusual trial with two chairs
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.
Duncan Roberts, Solicitor
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.