• sliderimage

Monthly Archives: November 2017

Nottingham crime solicitor Nick Walsh represented a client appearing before Nottingham Magistrates’ Court charged with permitting her premises to be used for the cultivation of cannabis.

No legal representation in police interview

She had not chosen to seek free and independent legal advice in her interview with the police.  She had made admissions to the offence and had told the police that she had been promised payment by those growing the cannabis.

At the time of the offence, Nick’s client was 19 years old and had never been in trouble with the police or the courts.

Cultivation of cannabis valued at £15 000

cultivation of cannabisThe prosecution valued the cannabis as having a resale value in small deals of £15 000.  The sentencing guidelines relevant to this offence of permitting her premises to be used for the cultivation of cannabis suggested that the starting point for the court when considering sentence was a prison sentence of 12 months.  Although our client could expect a reduction for the fact that she had not been in trouble before and because of her early admissions the court would still be considering custody.

Substantial personal mitigation

Nick spent the time needed to discover that his client had substantial personal mitigation.  She had been put under pressure to allow an ex partner to grow cannabis in the loft.  She believed that there were only five plants.  When she found out the true scale of the operation she became very frightened.  She had considered telling her dad.  However, she had been threatened that if she did both she and her child would be in danger.

She was also told that if the drugs were lost as a result of her actions then she would incur a drug debt to the value of the drugs.   Once the police had seized the drugs our client left her home and was homeless.  Despite this, she had gone on to complete her college course and found a job.

Powerful and persuasive advocacy

Through Nick’s persuasive advocacy, the court felt able to depart significantly from the sentencing guideline.  Instead of a prison sentence, or a suspended sentence order or community order, the court imposed a conditional discharge for two years.  This means that unless she commits a further offence during that period she will not be punished for allowing her premises to be used for the cultivation of cannabis.

Instruct a Nottingham criminal defence solicitor

cultivation of cannabis
Nottingham criminal defence solicitor Nick Walsh

If you know that you are to be interviewed by the police, either by appointment or following arrest, always make sure that you ask for a VHS Fletchers criminal lawyer to represent you.  Our advice is independent of the police and always free of charge.  You can read more about the benefits of having legal advice here.

Legal aid is available for your representation before both the Magistrates’ and Crown Court.  We will advise you on whether you will be entitled and if not investigate other ways of funding your case.

Contact us on 0115 9599550 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for police station advice.  Contact us during office hours for an appointment to see one of our criminal defence lawyers.

Alternatively, use the contact form below.



Monthly Archives: November 2017

Nottingham criminal defence solicitor Nick Walsh recently represented a client who was in her sixties and of good character.  She was charged with an assault by beating.  The alleged victim was her neighbour, a male in his twenties.  Cross allegations were made.

Neighbour dispute with a history of complaints

The background to the allegation was a history of complaints being made to the police by both parties.  On this occasion it was alleged by the neighbour that he had been walking past our client’s address.  As he did so she had shouted abuse from her window.  She called him over to her window.  When he approached and asked what she wanted it was said that she punched him in the face causing injury.

Free and independent legal advice in police interview

Nick’s client sought our free and independent advice in police  interview.  Having taken that advice she chose to answer questions.  cross allegationsShe admitted hitting her neighbour.  Our client maintained, however, that this was because he had approached her, both drunk and abusive, and she thought that he was going to hit her.

She then went on to tell the police about an incident that had taken place the following week.  His behaviour had been similar, but fortunately another neighbour had intervened to protect her.

Despite these denials, her age and lack of convictions, the police chose to charge our client.  As is often the case the police failed to investigate the allegations that our client made about the complainant.

Nick’s client appeared at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.  She entered a not guilty plea and the case was adjourned for trial.  In the meantime Nick traced the neighbour who had assisted during the second incident.

Cross allegations investigated with our help

As a result Nick advised his client to make a further  complaint to the police.  He helped her in making contact with the police and reminded them of their duty to investigate her complaint.  As a result the police were finally persuaded to interview the neighbour in relation to the second incident.  Bearing in mind this allegation was supported by an independent witness, the complainant was charged and became a defendant in these separate proceedings.

Successful written advocacy

cross allegationsPrior to trial Nick was able to make representations to the Crown Prosecution Service.  He argued that the second incident was very important.  It left the credibility of the complainant in ruins.  The prosecution accepted that he had behaved as described in the second incident.  Nick’s client’s defence was that he had behaved the same way a week before.  As a result, he suggested that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.

The prosecution accepted this argument and discontinued the prosecution of our client.

Instruct a Nottingham Criminal Defence Solicitor

cross allegations
Nottingham criminal defence solicitor Nick Walsh

If you face charges before the court you will want to instruct an expert defence solicitor who is alive to the possibilities of written advocacy as well as the usual advocacy involving speaking in court.

Although this was a case where there may well have been a successful outcome at trial, we know that the sooner a case can be resolved in a client’s favour, the better for them.  As a result, rather than wait for the trial date, Nick ensured that the prosecution had no alternative but to discontinue the case once the cross allegations were made.

You can contact our Nottingham office on 0115 9599550 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for emergency free and independent advice and representation in the police station.  Alternatively, contact us during office hours to make an appointment to see on of our solicitors.

There is also a contact form that you can use below.



Monthly Archives: November 2017

Over recent years there has been a vast increase in the number of second hand mobile phones being sold online through such sites as eBay or Gumtree. Such purchases may not be without risk as a client found when charged with making indecent images!

Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor David Gittins recently represented a client who had bought such a phone.  He had been making indecent imagesarrested and charged with possessing indecent images on his second hand mobile phone.  David’s client was adamant that he knew nothing about the images.  He maintained he was not aware that they were in his phone.

The year long investigation was followed by proceedings before Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  At trial David successfully argued that there was no case to answer.  As a result the charges were dismissed.

Free and independent advice in police interview

David’s client had been arrested in the summer of 2016 for unrelated matters.  His mobile phone was seized by the Police and making indecent imagesexamined. The Police found a small number of indecent images on the phone.  Understandably they wanted to interview our client about this.

He sought free and independent legal advice from VHS Fletchers and was represented by David during two separate sets of interviews. Our client denied the offence saying he knew nothing about the images.  He was unable to comment about how they got to be in his phone, nor could he help with when they got there.

‘Making indecent images’

As a result the our client could do little else but deny the allegation.  The police and prosecution were not happy with these denials so he was charged to Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  The charge was making indecent images between two dates in 2016.

Making indecent images does not necessarily involve taking a photograph.  Downloading an image and making a new digital file is sufficient for a person to be guilty of an offence.  The offence is likely to be treated seriously by the courts and therefore a prison sentence is often imposed.  Although the ‘maker’ of the image is unlikely to have met the child, it is serious because there is a child victim at the end of the chain of ‘makers’ who copy the image.

The Trial

David met with his client on several occasions to take instructions and give advice before trial.  David’s analysis of the technical evidence showed that the prosecution could not show when the images arrived on the phone.   In order to prove the offence the prosecution would have to show that our client was responsible for making indecent images.

The prosecutor could not show that the images were placed on the phone while it was owned by David’s client.  Additionally, there was no evidence that the images had been opened and viewed since our client had owned the phone.

making indecent imagesAt no point during the prosecution was evidence called to challenge our client’s account that the phone was bought second hand.  The prosecution simply sought to rely on a need by our client to explain the images.  Our client, however, had the benefit of the burden and standard of proof and did not have to prove anything.

After the prosecution case had finished David considered the evidence that the court had heard.  Because of this he decided to make an application of no case to answer.  This can lead to a case being stopped before the defence case.  It is possible in cases where there is no likelihood of a court finding a defendant guilty.

The Magistrates’ in this case agreed with David’s argument and the case against his client was dismissed.

His client was understandably delighted with this result.  He had never been in trouble with the police before so kept his good name.  He will hopefully be able to put the fourteen months that he had serious proceedings hanging over his head behind him.

Free representation with Magistrates’ Court legal aid

Legal aid is available for advice and representation before the Magistrates’ Court. It is dependent upon our clients satisfying the legal aid agency of the merits of their cases and that they qualify on their means.  If it is granted then our advice and representation will be free of charge.

Contact a Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor

Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor David Gittins

Whatever the allegation that you face, you will want to instruct an expert criminal defence solicitor who will analyse the evidence in your case and prepare it accordingly.  In cases such as this, it is important that any gaps in the evidence are identified and exploited to obtain the best result for you.

Please call us on out office number 01246 283000.  Alternatively you can use the contact form below.


Monthly Archives: November 2017

Chesterfield Crime Solicitor Kevin Tomlinson had to use all of his experience and persuasive advocacy to ensure that his client did not receive a prison sentence after his breach of a suspended sentence order.

breach of a suspended sentence orderKevin’s client was charged with nine offences.  Five of these were committed whilst he was subject to a suspended sentence order.  The law is such that if an offence is committed during the lifetime of a suspended sentence a court must activate the suspended sentence.   The only opportunity a person will have to avoid this is where it is successfully argued that it would be unjust to do so.

It was perhaps the case that in the circumstances that Kevin’s client found himself in, custody would seem inevitable.  In the event, Kevin  managed to achieve for his client what at first seemed impossible.

Allegations in breach of a suspended sentence order

Kevin’s client had been arrested in relation to a number of thefts from shops.  Perhaps unsurprisingly Kevin’s client was a drug user.  The offences were committed over a period of time, but he was interviewed about them by the police in a single interview.

In interview, Kevin’s client accepted each offence.  Because of his record the police had kept him for court on a Saturday morning.  Kevin represented him when he pleaded guilty to all of the offences.

The court had insufficient information to allow our client to be sentenced at a Saturday court.  As a result the case was adjourned until later in the week for the sentencing hearing.  Unfortunately, our client was remanded into prison to await sentence.

The sentencing hearing

At the sentencing hearing, Kevin set about securing information to put before the court in a bid to convince them that it would be unjust to send his client to prison for breach of a suspended sentence and the new offences.

breach of a suspended sentence order
Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court

Kevin took all the information that he would need to provide the court with detailed personal mitigation.  He took the time not to rush through this important part of the process, resisting pressure from the court for the case to be called on.

After taking these instructions, Kevin’s next port of call was the probation service.  The probation staff confirmed that our client was progressing well on his suspended sentence order in terms of trying to tackle his drug use.

As a result, Kevin had enough helpful information to allow him to argue that his client should not receive an immediate prison sentence but should be given a further chance.  This was a credible argument even though there was a breach of a suspended sentence order.

Prison sentence avoided

Kevin’s client was due to be sentenced before the resident District Judge at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  Following the prosecution opening and some information from the probation service, Kevin then addressed the Judge.

He argued at length on behalf of his client.  Kevin relied upon the reasons behind the offending, some personal mitigation, the good progress under the order and the short period spend in prison before sentence.  In conclusion he asked the Judge to decide that it would be unjust to impose the sentence for breach of a suspended sentence order.

After listening to this mitigation the District Judge agreed with Kevin.  He decided to impose a sentence which allowed our to retain his freedom.  Kevin’s client was understandably delighted with the outcome and relieved to not face a custodial sentence.

Free legal aid funding in the Magistrates’ Court

Our client had the benefit of legal aid. for these hearings in the Magistrates’ Court.   This means that our advice and representation of him was free of charge to him.

Instruct a Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor

breach of a suspended sentence order
Chesterfield Crime Solicitor Kevin Tomlinson

If you find yourself being investigated by the police or facing court proceedings then please contact us immediately.  Our office number 0246 283000 is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure that you receive emergency free and independent legal advice if you are being interviewed by the police.

Advice and assistance in police interview will always be free of charge to you.  If you case proceeds to either the Magistrates’ or Crown Court then we will give you the best advice as to whether you are entitled to legal aid or alternative ways of funding your case.

Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.



Monthly Archives: November 2017

Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders

Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) are commonly issued by police when attending incidents of alleged domestic violence.

Invariably, whatever the rights and wrongs of a situation, and frequently it is quite impossible for this to be correctly judged, it is the male who are the recipient of the Domestic Violence Protection Notices even where there are cross allegations.

The effect of Domestic Violence Protections Notices is to force the removal of recipients from the named property.  This is for an initial period of 48 hours.  This will then be followed by an application to the local Magistrates’ Court for a Domestic Violence Protections Order.  This order can result in a person’s removal from the premises for a further 28 days.

The rationale behind this process is to give the supposed victim of domestic violence the ‘breathing space’ they might need to seek assistance.

Can You Challenge a Notice?

Domestic Violence Protection Notices are issued in a relatively informal way.  Because of this, there is no realistic way to challenge them before they take effect.  As a result, any later successful challenge will only result in a mostly pyrrhic victory.

You are able, however, to challenge the application for the Domestic Violence Protection Order.  We will be able to assist you in that process.

The legal framework for Domestic Violence Protection Orders

The legal framework for these orders was recently considered by the High Court in the case of Kerr v Chief Constable of Surrey Police [2017] EWHC 2936 (Admin).

domestic violence protection noticesThe facts in this case are typical of many of the cases that we see before the courts.  The supposed beneficiary did not actively support the making of the order.  She was Mr Kerr’s partner of eight years.

The High Court upheld the legislative scheme in its entirety, observing that:

‘…within the experience of a Magistrates’ Court, that victims of domestic violence can be equivocal in their views. There are many reasons why at any given point in time they may express some reluctance to seek to exclude the partner. As [Counsel] correctly observes, that is precisely the danger that this legislation addresses by allowing a short-term emergency order to be made for the protection of a victim of domestic violence, even in circumstances where the victim is not seeking such an order.’

Is Kerr wrongly decided?

There is no case law cited in the judgement so as a result it is open to argument whether the High Court considered the recent decision of Herrington [2017] 2 Cr App R (S) 327.  In that case, where when considering whether to make a restraining order, the Court of Appeal observed:

domestic violence protection notices‘‘This is not a jurisdiction which can be used to prevent an adult from deciding who she wants to live with.  Although any person considering this case would consider that [HJ] is at serious risk of violence from the appellant, she has the right to live with him if she chooses.

It is to be hoped that she is genuinely aware of the risk she is running in doing that, but ultimately she is an adult and free to take those decisions for herself.  The law does not presently permit the criminal court to act to protect victims of domestic violence against the consequences of decisions of this kind which they freely make.

Because of our level of concern for her safety, we caused the police to contact her very recently before this case was heard so that her wishes could be ascertained.  She told them unambiguously that she wants this order revoked.’

How Can We Assist?

When new judgements come along, they are often presented as offering the complete answer to a legal problem.  In our experience, they seldom do.  Consideration  has to be had to earlier decisions, particularly ones that had not considered in any new case.

Because of this, where appropriate, we will be more than happy to challenge such cases.  We can advance alternative arguments where there is a legal basis to do so.

If you are facing the prospect of a Domestic Violence Protection Order following service of a Domestic Violence Protection Notice please contact one of our expert criminal law solicitors.

You can find your nearest office here.

domestic violence protection notices and orders

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.






Monthly Archives: November 2017

Chesterfield Motoring Solicitor Kevin Tomlinson was recently instructed in a case where his client was at real risk of a driving disqualification. Kevin made a successful exceptional hardship argument on his behalf so a driving ban was avoided.

What is an Exceptional hardship argument?

exceptional hardship argument chesterfield solicitorAll drivers will know that when they reach 12 penalty points they are liable for a minimum six month driving ban under the totting up procedure.

A driver can, however, avoid this disqualification if it can be shown that exceptional hardship would result from a disqualification.  If successful, a driver will be able to keep their license even though they have reached 12 penalty points.

The concept of “exceptional hardship” is not exhaustively defined by the law. It does, however, have to be more than an inconvenience caused as a natural result of a driving ban.

Issues that could amount to exceptional hardship may include:

  • Loss of a job resulting in loss of accommodation
  • An inability to get to any work due to geographical and public transport restrictions
  • Loss of employment of third parties due to a businesses having to close

A driver will usually have to give evidence to the court on oath to support the exceptional hardship argument.

Travel to Norwich Magistrates’ Court

exceptional hardship argument chesterfield solicitor
Norwich Magistrates’ Court

Our client faced three separate sets of proceedings before three different courts.   It was important that Kevin ensure that all three cases were before a single court as his client wished to make an exceptional hardship argument to avoid disqualification.

This is because a successful argument cannot be put more than once in a three year period.  As a result, had the exceptional hardship argument succeeded in one set of proceedings, it could not have been argued in the other cases.

In any event, this client’s case was particularly complicated.  Kevin had to apply to set aside certain convictions and overturn a driving disqualification imposed in absence before all cases were finally listed before Norwich Magistrates’ Court.

Our client chose to instruct Kevin to travel to Norwich as he knew that he would put forward skillful legal argument on his behalf.

Our client left with 19 penalty points

exceptional hardship argument totting banDue to the nature of our client’s employment which took him all over the Country, he would have an argument to say that to disqualify him him cause exceptional hardship over and above that which will normally follow a driving ban.

Kevin advanced the exceptional hardship argument on behalf of his client.  Even though by now his client had 19 penalty points on his licence, this was the only way he could avoid a disqualification from driving.

Evidence on oath to support exceptional hardship argument


exceptional hardship argument evidence on oath

His client gave evidence to the court about the difficulties he would face if he lost his licence.  Perhaps significantly, he was also able to give evidence of the impact of losing his job on his partner and the risk of them losing their accommodation.

Fortunately for his client, Kevin made a successful exceptional hardship argument on his behalf.   The court then chose to exercise its discretion not to impose a driving disqualification. This meant that our client could continue driving.  There were, however, financial penalties and costs to pay as a result of these offences.

Kevin’s experience meant that he was unable to unpick the tangle of convictions to ensure that his client had an opportunity to avoid a driving ban.  His persuasive advocacy skills were then able to secure the result his client needed.

Representation by way of an affordable fixed fee

It is unlikely that legal aid will be available for a case like this.  Here, Kevin agreed a fixed fee with his client that included the expense of travel to Norwich.

In the event, this fee was a small price to pay in order that our client kept his driving license.

Contact a Chesterfield Motoring Law Solicitor

If you face a driving ban then you will require affordable advice and representation from an expert road traffic law solicitor.   Chesterfield road traffic law solicitor Kevin Tomlinson can be contacted at our Chesterfield office on 01246 283000.

Alternatively, there may be one of our other offices that is more convenient to you.  You can find the details of these offices here.

You can also use the contact form below.


Monthly Archives: November 2017

With Christmas fast approaching the yearly anti-drink driving campaigns will soon be splashed across TV, Radio and Social Media.  You can find more information about that here, but we simply repeat the advice relating to drink drive:

  • the easiest way to avoid problems is not to take any alcohol before you drive
  • be very careful the next morning and consider public transport if you have been drinking the night before.

drink drive legal aid solicitor ChesterfieldWe know, despite people being aware of the advice.  people still make mistakes.  In most cases this involves a momentary lapse in judgement from a person who has never been in trouble with the police before.  A conviction for drink driving can have a serious impact on an individual and have a very real effect on their life.

We will  try our best to minimise this impact where possible.  This might be by fighting the allegation at trial or putting forward effective mitigation on sentence.

Chesterfield Criminal Solicitor David Gittins is regularly before Chesterfield Magistrates Court representing his clients in such cases.  He  was recently instructed by a client who had been involved in an accident whilst drink driving.  As a result he faced a custodial sentence. Due to David’s assistance his client was able to avoid a prison sentence.

The Allegation

legal aid drink drive solicitor chesterfieldDavid’s client had been charged with drink driving following a road traffic incident.  She had driven into the rear of a vehicle before driving off.  She was followed home by a member of the public who had realised she was drunk.  As a result the police were called.

David’s client had very little recollection of the incident.  In police interview she accepted the evidence and because of this made admissions in interview.

She was found to have been just below three times the legal limit to drive.  Being aware of the position she had placed herself in, she chose to instruct David before here first court appearance.  As a result, David was able to give early advice and prepare the case in time for the hearing.  Part of that advice was to remind his client that there would be credit for an early guilty plea.  This is a reduction in the final sentence imposed.

Our client was a mother holding down two jobs to provide for her family.  As a result, she was understandably upset about the risk of a prison sentence.

The Sentence

drink drive solicitor Chesterfield legal aidFollowing his client’s guilty plea to drink driving, David mitigated on her behalf.  He was able to focus on the positive elements of his client’s character and future.  Although an immediate prison sentence was a possibility, David argued that these positive aspects of mitigation meant that she could retain her liberty.

David’s client was received a Suspended Sentence Order for this drink drive offence because of this mitigation.  This meant that provided she adhered to a curfew and undertook unpaid work in the community she would not be sent to prison.  She also received the mandatory disqualification from driving.

Free legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court for this drink drive case

legal aid solicitor for drink drive caseDue to the serious nature of this case and the real risk of prison and therefore loss of livelihood, free Magistrates’ Court legal aid was available.   for the Defendant meaning all of David’s representation was free of charge.

Instruct a Chesterfield Motoring Law expert

Whether you face a police investigation for a road traffic offence or have court proceedings pending you will wish to instruct an expert motoring law solicitor.  Please contact David at our Chesterfield office on 01246 283000.

legal aid solicitor for drink drive case

Alternatively, you can contact a solicitor at one of out other five offices across the East Midlands or use the contact form below.


Monthly Archives: November 2017

The forensic Testing Scandal – Is My Conviction Safe?

New details have emerged about forensic testing deficiencies at two of the country’s leading laboratories. The police are currently investigating the circumstances.  As a result of this investigation a number of people have been arrested.  People will be asking themselves ‘Is my conviction safe?’

is my conviction safeRandox Testing Services (RTS) and Trimega Laboratories handle samples for some of the most high-profile criminal and family law cases.  As a result the accuracy of the tests are of paramount importance to people facing criminal prosecution for offences ranging from drink driving to murder.

Home Office Minister Nick Hurd told parliament:

‘Most drug tests from RTS between 2013 and 2017 are being treated as potentially unreliable. RTS was mainly commissioned by individual police forces when investigating criminal offences.’

It is believed that the results from as many as 10,000 tests could be under review.

Is Your Conviction Safe?

If a conviction in your case rested wholly or partially on the reliability of forensic tests, it is essential that you seek further legal advice immediately.

While the Crown Prosecution Service will be carrying out a review into criminal cases this will take a considerable period of time.  Some reports are mentioning a three year time frame.  Many will be is my conviction safe?questioning in any event whether the body that brought the prosecution in the first place is ideally placed to make decisions as to the safety or otherwise of a conviction.

Criticisms of the laboratories have previously been raised over the years, but it appears that the police and the prosecution continued to be content with the results produced.

Those who might be affected by an analysis by these laboratories will, therefore, wish to consider whether any further forensic testing ought to take place, and even whether or not there are grounds to appeal. All convictions involving these laboratories will need to be considered on a case by case basis.

Even if your cases did not involve the two laboratories currently under investigation, this scandal throws a spotlight on the hidden world of forensic testing and may call into doubt results from other forensic testing providers.

How we can assist with an unsafe conviction?

Regardless of whether VHS Fletchers handled your case initially our experienced team of criminal defence lawyers has the expertise to ensure the safety of your conviction is beyond question.

If you believe that inaccurate forensic testing may have led you to be wrongfully convicted (and that includes pleading guilty to an offence), please contact your nearest office to speak to one of our expert criminal lawyers.

is my conviction safe
Vhs Fletchers offices across the East Midlands

Alternatively you can use the contact form below to request a call back.  We can help answer your question ‘Is my conviction safe?’


Monthly Archives: November 2017

This was the response of VHS Fletchers to the consultation paper released by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) following the notification on 25 October 2017 of the closure of Newark custody suite with effect from 6 November 2017.  The suggestion was to merge the Newark duty solicitor scheme with the Mansfield scheme.

newark duty solicitor VHS FletchersAll Newark arrests from that date are taken to and processed at Mansfield Custody Suite. The residents of Newark had already lost one public resource, that being the ability of their police station to process prisoners. There was a very real risk that they would lose another – detainees receiving advice from solicitors local to Newark under the Newark duty solicitor scheme.

The consultation document invited responses to three alternative revisions to the Newark duty solicitor scheme and Mansfield scheme.  Only one of those appeared to put first the needs of those from Newark who are arrested.

After the consultation document was published there were two important indications from the police that impacted upon the proposals:

  • Cases that were identified as Newark cases would continue to be charged and either bailed or held to appear at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court rather than Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.
  • The police would continue to contact the Newark Duty Solicitor Scheme in cases which are identified as “Newark arrests” and would ensure that the Duty Solicitor Call Centre (“DSCC”) was informed in all cases where the detainee was arrested for an offence committed in Newark.
newark duty solicitor crime firm VHS Fletchers
Newark police station

It followed from these indications that Mansfield custody suite was able to and intended to identify cases that had historically been dealt with at Newark police station. As a result, they would be able to direct those who seek the advice of a duty solicitor to a firm local to Newark.

The proposed options for changes to the scheme could be summarised as follows:

  1. That the Newark Police Station Duty Scheme was merged with the Mansfield Police Station Duty Scheme with effect from 1 January 2018 with members of an extended Mansfield scheme covering both Mansfield and Newark police stations.
  2. That the Newark Police Station Scheme was retained as a separate scheme and Duty Solicitors on the Newark rota would be directed by the DSCC to attend at Mansfield police station.
  3. Newark Police Station Scheme retained as a separate scheme and firms post 1 January 2018 could elect to join either the Mansfield police station duty rota or standalone Newark scheme (if retained under option 2)

The LAA indicated that they preferred option 1. The reason given was that options 2 and 3 were reliant upon the police being able to identify to the DSCC “Newark cases”. A more cynical view might be that the LAA and DSCC would have one less scheme to administer under option 1, resulting in an inevitable reduction in administration costs.

Fortunately, since the consultation document was published, the police set out their intention to continue to identify Newark cases at the point of arrest and charge.

As a result, there appeared to be no requirement for option 1 to be adopted unless there were ulterior motives on behalf of the LAA.
VHS Fletchers supported Option 2 for the following reasons:

This firm’s investment in Newark

When new legal aid contracts were to be awarded this firm chose to apply for a contract for a new Newark office. The closure of Newark custody suite was not anticipated.

newark duty solicitor
Newark duty solicitor Ian Carter

The office is staffed with two crime solicitors local to Newark – Ian Carter and Barbara McDonnell. We have since recruited a further Newark based lawyer – Legal Executive Advocate Nikki Carlisle – signalling a clear indication to continue to develop our business there.

Of course, we are in business. The rationale behind the investment that we make in training and recruitment of duty solicitors is that they provide access to new work through the duty solicitor rotas. Option 3 supports those firms who, like us, have chosen to locate their offices in Newark in order to provide legal aid services to that particular community.

Newark deserves its own duty solicitor rota

Newark-on-Trent is the largest urban area within the Newark and Sherwood District. It has a population of just over 37 000 residents. Of the three firms in Newark that currently undertaking criminal Legal Aid work, only our firm has office both in Mansfield and Newark.

Should Option 1 have been adopted, Newark residents who are detained at Mansfield police station may very well be represented by a duty solicitor from a firm who only has an office in Mansfield. It is understandable that suspects will usually choose to have continuity of representation. This might be either whilst they remain on police bail, under investigation or following charge when the matter appears at court.

Prohibitive journey times

However, in seeking continuity, such clients would face a journey of 20 miles simply to see their solicitor to give instructions and take advice. By car that journey takes between 40 and 50 minutes. By public transport this time rises to 1 hour and 30 minutes for a single journey.

The same situation would of course have arisen in relation to residents of Mansfield who were represented by a duty solicitor who only had an office in Newark. It is true that many of those that require the services of criminal legal aid solicitors are vulnerable themselves and on a low income that would make such a journey very difficult.

It was our view that it was both unreasonable and unconscionable to expect those being investigated for criminal offences to have a return journey of three hours simply to see their solicitor. This stress and expense would be imposed on top of the emotional burden that the investigation of proceedings impose on any individual.

Local legal aid solicitors should be supported

Newark crime solicitor Barbara McDonnell
Newark duty solicitor Barbara McDonnell

Option 2 supports those criminal legal aid firms who have chosen to locate their offices in Newark. This is in order to provide legal aid services to that community. It would mean that the arrangements within Option 2 could commence immediately following the closure of the Newark Custody Suite. Newark based firms would not have to suffer the inevitable financial hardship of not having access to Duty Solicitor work for a period of two months.

Such a decision might be seen as supportive of a legal aid provider base that it is acknowledged is financially fragile.

Perverse consequences of merging two duty schemes

The perverse consequences of Option 1 would have been to permit automatic access to Newark residents requesting the duty solicitor to firms solely based in Mansfield. Access to such Mansfield residents would have been granted to firms solely based in Newark.

Whilst some firms may have seen there to be a financial advantage in having a place on a merged duty scheme following the closure of Newark custody suite, this would have been to ignore the needs of local Newark residents. Financial advantage should never be allowed to outweigh the impact on those we represent and assist who are often ill-equipped to represent themselves.

On this basis, Options 2 and 3 would have been unattractive and unacceptable to clients where the duty solicitor may or may not have been based geographically convenient to them.

An increase in LAA costs?

Newark Legal Executive Advocate Nikki Carlisle

The LAA will have to budget for increased travel claims from Newark firms to Mansfield custody suite following the closure of Newark custody suite. An additional consequence might have been that the LAA had to fund more instances of advice and assistance in the police station.

It seemed likely that clients, once they discovered where their duty solicitor was based, would want to transfer to a local firm. Where the duty solicitor had been instructed a second fee may be properly claimable by the second local firm nearer to a suspects home address.

Clients to choose for themselves

Following the closure of Newark custody suite, if clients wish to choose a geographically distant firm then that must be a matter for them. To have a geographically distant firm inflicted upon them was a separate matter to be avoided where possible. The risk of a reduction in access to justice was apparent to all who considered the issue. The problem would be avoided by the adoption of Option 2.

Outcome of the Legal Aid Agency Consultation into the Newark Duty Solicitor scheme

The majority view of those who responded to the consultation was that the Newark Police Station Scheme be retained as a separate scheme. This is to be adopted by the Legal Aid Agency.

Duty solicitors on the Newark duty solicitor scheme will continue to be directed by the Duty Solicitor Call Centre (DSCC) to attend Mansfield Police Station upon the identification of a Newark detainee.

The police have confirmed that they will send out a further instruction to all the staff at Mansfield to make sure that they correctly identify with the DSCC suspects who fall under the Newark scheme. Although errors may occur, the police will actively monitor the position.

As a result, the Legal Aid Agency will issue a Newark rota for the period from January to March 2018. This will be subject to additional monitoring and review in late January or early February 2018 to consider if any changes are needed from April 2018 for the following six month rota.

Instruct a Newark crime solicitor

Despite the closure of Newark custody suite, the best way to ensure that you instruct a solicitor local to you if you are a Newark resident is to make sure you ask for VHS Fletchers if you are arrested and detained by the police.

We offer free and independent legal advice on 01636 614013, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.

newark duty solicitor
VHS Fletchers Newark office

If you know the police want to speak to you, contact us and we will be able to make the necessary arrangements for you to be interviewed.

Should you face proceedings at either the Magistrates’ or Crown Court then we will see you at our Newark office to take your instructions and give you expert advice.

You can also contact us by using the form below.


Monthly Archives: November 2017

psychoactive substances act 2016‘Laughing gas’ is more properly known as Nitrous Oxide.  It was recently back in the news following a Court of Appeal ruling that the substance is controlled by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

The Act makes it an offence to possess psychoactive substances with intent to supply.  In a certain number of limited cases, just possession a psychoactive substance alone is also an offence.

The appeals came about because of some cases reported in August 2017.  In those case, Judges had ruled that laughing gas remained exempt from control under the Act.

The issue for the appeal was whether Nitrous Oxide was a ‘medicinal product’.  If it was, then the offence could not have been committed.

In the four cases before the Court of Appeal, two appellants had been convicted after trial.  The remaining two had pleaded guilty.

Following the hearing of the appeals the court ruled:

‘We are satisfied that in the circumstances of these cases the nitrous oxide in question could not be categorised as a medicinal product and therefore was not an exempted substance. In our judgment, the matter is clear on existing authority.’

So, is the matter settled?

The key words in the judgment are ‘…in the circumstances of these cases.’

psychoactive substances act 2016
The Court of Appeal

So, to answer this question you need to understand a little more about the purposes of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. The Act applies to substances by reference to their effects.  As a result there isn’t a list made up of substances and their individual chemical composition.  The law is drafted to only criminalise their supply for the purpose of recreational drugs.

The argument has been put that because Nitrous Oxide is undoubtedly used for medical purposes, it would fall squarely within the medicinal products exemption in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

The prosecution must prove an important ingredient of the offence.  This is that any defendant in question intended to supply the substance for consumption for its psychoactive effects rather than for medicinal purposes.

As a result, liability under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 does not depend solely on the chemical composition or the effect of the substance, but also on the intent of the person possessing it.

In one of the appeals, the court held:

‘…the purpose for which it was intended to supply the canisters was purely recreational with nothing whatsoever to do with health. This last feature coupled with the fact that the gas was intended to be used in circumstances which were not beneficial to health, indeed import some risk to health, was sufficient to take it outside the definition of medicinal product whatever label may have been on the boxes in which the canisters were originally packed.’

This case by case approach entails the possibility that different products with precisely the same chemical composition may fall within or outside the definition of medicinal product.  This will depend on the circumstances of the individual case before the court.

Seek expert criminal advice if you are investigated for offences under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

These cases illustrate how complex the criminal law can be.  Headlines in newspapers or online can be confusing, particularly when even the courts can come to different conclusions on the same set of facts.  In cases such as this there will be differences of scientific opinion.  It also takes some time for an appeal court to clarify the law.

In relation to Nitrous Oxide, it may be that further appeals will follow which may again alter the interpretation of the law.

If you are being investigated for any drug allegation then you will want expert advice from a criminal law specialist who is up to date with the current law.  Please contact your nearest office to discuss your case.

psychoactive substances act 2016
VHS Fletchers crime and regulatory solicitors offices across the East Midlands

Our independent advice and assistance in a police interview under caution will always be free of charge to you, whether you are under arrest or being interviewed voluntarily, whether you are in a police station or at your home address.

You can find a number of other reasons why you should seek our legal advice here.

You can also contact us using the form below.





© 2024 VHS Fletchers Solicitors | Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority Number 488216