Monthly Archives: December 2017
Liar, an important ITV drama from 2017, gripped the nation. Early in the series people were reaching conclusions as to whether Laura, played by the actress Joanne Froggatt (better known for her role as Anna Bates in Downton Abbey), was telling the truth when she accused surgeon Andrew of raping her.
For most of us, this was a highly watchable drama. We flip flopped between whom to believe. Our perceptions changed over time by the sophisticated script and plot devices.
It is no surprise that some people formed an opinion after only one or two episodes because recent research demonstrated that half of the jurors might reach a guilty verdict before even going to deliberate with other jurors.
We know that people are on occasion willing to change their minds, just as you might when the plot unfolds.
It is vital therefore in cases alleging a sexual offence that a strong case is advanced from the start, laying a solid foundation for a successful defence.
For our clients and their families, facing an accusation of rape or other sexual crime can be a horrendous experience. So, what is our role and how do we defend such cases?
Reactive and Proactive defence for a sexual offence
We always start with a reactive approach. The complainant states they were drunk, our client states they were in fact sober. We entered the bedroom uninvited says one person, we were invited in, says our client, and so on.
Viewers can build the start of a defence with this important work, but we do not have the benefit of the incident in question playing before us on a TV screen, with the truth revealed at the end.
Instead we have only the competing versions, and it might feel as if it is simply one word against another, and often it is unless you seek further evidence.
It is a proactive approach to case preparation which makes a difference. We always ensure that:
- All relevant witnesses are traced.
- Any CTTV evidence secured.
- Forensic evidence analysed.
- Background checks completed.
- Details of false allegations pursued.
and even, as alluded to already in Liar, any psychiatric issues are explored.
Some examples of recent cases that we have successfully concluded by Crown Court litigator Lisa Sawyer can be found here:
We instruct a combination of in-house advocates and independent barristers to ensure you receive the best representation.
We also understand the personal toll legal proceedings will take on you and your family, and our caseworkers such as Lisa offer a compassionate and reassuring voice at a time when the future may at times appear very dark.
The solicitors, Crown Court litigators and advocates VHS Fletchers Solicitors have decades of experience in defending cases of this type involving a sexual offence.
Before entrusting your case to anyone else come and meet us, get a feel for our work ethic, and ensure you are confident that you are receiving the best defence possible.
You only get one chance to get this right, so the alternative is unthinkable.
We offer private client services at affordable rates, and legal aid may well be available.
So, if you are arrested for, or charged with any offence, call your nearest office to arrange an appointment, or use the enquiry form below.
Monthly Archives: December 2017
Despite all of the warnings, and many reasons not to, some people end up enticed into the world of so-called ‘recreational drugs’.
There are a great many substances that might properly be categorised as ‘recreational drugs’. Popular substances include cannabis and cocaine. First use often occurs at a party. Normal inhibitions may have been diminished by alcohol or the sheer fun of the occasion. Despite the apparent short-term joys that might flow from the use of a drug, the harsh reality will be felt for some for a long time after that.
This is the darker side of drug use, as seen through the eyes of the criminal justice system. It is told through a series of case studies.
Sara’s drug driving conviction
‘Sara saw no harm in smoking a few joints of cannabis. If anything, she felt better than she had for a long time. She was never stupid enough to drink drive, but did not realise just how long cannabis would remain in her system.
But for the faulty brake light the police officer would not have pulled her over the next morning, would not have asked for a roadside drugs test, would not have arrested her and kept her in a cell for 5 hours and would not have charged her with drug driving and had her produced before a court.
But for her ignorance of the effect of drugs, she would not have been disqualified from driving for 18 months and would not have lost her job.’
Daniel’s caution for possession of ecstasy
‘If Daniel hadn’t been spotted by club security, nobody would have been any the wiser, but he was. The ejection from the club was not something that particularly bothered him, and receiving a police caution seemed like a slap on the wrist, of little consequence.
In the morning Daniel returned to his job, and normality resumed, until late Summer when taking the family to the United States for a well-earned summer holiday.
Little did he know that one simple caution for a drugs offence could have led to him being refused entry to the US and placed on the next flight home. Daniel hadn’t mentioned the nightclub incident to his family. Until now.’
Rachel’s caution for possession of cocaine
‘8 A* at GCSE, 3 A* at A Level, a first-class degree in medicine. Life was good for Rachel until she accepted a caution for possessing a tiny amount of cocaine. Rachel will never forget the arrest and police caution, not just because of how frightening and embarrassing the experience was, but because on each medical job application she completes, throughout her entire career, she will have to disclose it.’
How We Can Assist if you are arrested for recreational drugs
Regrettably, for us, stories like those of Sara, Daniel and Rachel are familiar.
If you are arrested for any offence please seek legal advice before being interviewed by the police. Minor drug offences are often dealt with by way of police caution, and it is tempting to try and get the process over with as quickly as possible.
In reality, however, despite what you may be told or think, asking for a solicitor not only costs nothing (as you qualify for legal aid) but does not delay your release from custody.
In many instances, it speeds up your release. It also means that we can advise on the best long-term options for you.
We all make mistakes, but often the biggest mistake is not taking legal advice.
Contact your nearest office for emergency legal advice
Our advice and representation in police interview if you are spoken to about recreational drugs will be free of charge. All of our office numbers are answered 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The advice will be free whether you are interviewed while under arrest or as a volunteer. You can find more about the benefit of legal advice generally here.
You can find your nearest office here or use the contact form below.
Monthly Archives: December 2017
‘The number of people arrested over terrorism-related offences in Britain has risen by 54% to 400 in one of the most intense periods for attacks in recent history. The Home Office said the increase in the year to September was due partly to the 64 arrests made after the attacks in London and Manchester, bringing the total to the highest number since records began in 2001.’
How do the high profile arrests end?
The initial arrests for a terrorism offence are often high profile. They attract national media. But what happens to those suspects when the TV camera crews have departed and the criminal justice system takes over?
The figures are highly revealing. Out of the 379 people arrested for a terrorism offence in the 12 months prior to June 2017 the following outcomes were recorded:
- 32 % (or 123 people) were charged with an offence
- 49.9% (or 189 suspects) were released without charge
- 11 faced alternative action such as cautions
- 54 had been released on bail with enquiries not finalised
- 2 were pending decision a decision on prosecution
Of the 123 charged who had been charged, 18 were charged with offences other than terrorism offences. In relation to some of these defendants, the proceedings were later dropped or resulted in not guilty verdicts.
What does this tell us about terrorism offences?
Although terrorism offences are a part of our general criminal law, you will still need to instruct a specialist with experience in this area of law to ensure that your case is properly advanced.
Criminal lawyers practising in this field require the highest levels of skill and knowledge to navigate not only complex legal principles, but also the political and other aspects of these incredibly sensitive cases.
Our lawyers at VHS Fletchers have experience in representing those facing such allegations in the police station and before the courts.
How we can assist on arrest or at court for a terrorism offence
You only get one opportunity to have specialist representation at a police station or court. If you are facing terrorism-related accusations then contact us immediately and find out how we can influence the outcome of your case.
We provide nationwide advice and representation from our offices across the East Midlands. Our independent advice will be free of charge to you in police interview. We will always investigate whether you can receive the benefit of legal aid for any court representation.
Alternatively you can use the contact form below.
Monthly Archives: December 2017
When the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders feels the need to write to a national newspaper to apologise for a prosecution failure in an individual case, something significant must have gone wrong. The failure related to Crown Court disclosure of evidential material.
So, what were the things that the prosecution and police got wrong in the case of Liam Allan?
Mr Allan was charged with multiple accusations of rape and sexual assault. This is the type of case that juries throughout the country grapple with on a daily basis. It would no doubt be a challenge for jury members in any circumstances.
Jury trial for serious sexual offences
First the jury would hear the complainant in alleging that she was a victim of serious sexual crime. The jury would then hear the position of the young man in question who had always stated that that it was all consensual.
As most sexual encounters happen in private, as lawyers we will often face cases where the case involves the word of one person against another. Can there be smoke without fire? Why would the allegation be made in the first place if untrue?
But what if the key to ‘solving’ the issue of whose account was correct was sitting in phone records that had already been obtained. All that was required was that people simply do their job. That was the situation in the case of Liam Allan.
After the alleged crime, the complainant sent a series of text messages to Mr Allan asking for more sex. The messages disclosed, in fact, that she wanted violent sex. She spoke about wanting to be raped. Even worse here, in a further round of texts, she made clear to a friend that no crime had been committed by Mr Allan.
This is the type of evidence which should hole a case below the water line, leading to the end of a prosecution. In this case it did, but only after two years. Mr Allan understandably described this period as a ‘living hell’.
Failure to disclose text messages
The sadness, in this case, is that it could have been avoided. This is because Mr Allan raised the issue of text messages in his police interview. His account was ignored. Instead, the officer in the case went on to also ignore clear guidelines on Crown Court disclosure. Although the police had the text messages he did not bring them to the attention of the prosecuting barrister.
It was only a very late intervention, three days into the trial, that uncovered what the police had known all along, that Mr Allan was innocent. So, in the end, all’s well that ends well. Commentators might argue that the system works. For Mr Allan, it will be a long time indeed before the scars of that period heal.
While we would wish to provide you with the assurance that Mr Allan’s case is a ‘one-off’, we cannot. The issue of disclosure has been a fundamental problem in the area of criminal justice for decades. This point has been illustrated by dozens of high profile miscarriages of justice.
It would appear likely that these cases must only be the tip of the iceberg. Every single day the liberty of people standing trial is put at risk due to failures within the disclosure process.
Ensure you receive proper Crown Court disclosure of evidence
Because we are acutely aware of these problems and the risks to your case of a failure of Crown Court disclosure, all of our staff work relentlessly to ensure that all relevant evidence is revealed by the police and the prosecution.
From first police disclosure, right through to trial applications, we do not rest until satisfied that cases of our clients are prepared to the very highest of standards.
Instruct an expert crown court litigator
We provide nationwide advice and representation from our six offices across the East Midlands. Please contact your most convenient office to make an appointment to discuss your case.
Alternatively you can use the contact form below.
Monthly Archives: December 2017
Jury Trial – How Your Fate is Decided
A lot is said in the country about the benefits of a jury trial as opposed to trial before the Magistrates’ Court. It is argued that leaving a decision as to guilt or innocence in the hands of twelve people chosen at random is the fairest way to securing justice. How does a jury decide your fate?
There is a lot that we do not know about a jury trial
Although there have been lots of academic studies, in reality these shed very little light on the process of the decision making.
We do know the legal process that guides them in their decision making. Despite the lack of ‘hard proof’ as to the effectiveness of a jury trial, most lawyers actively support trial by jury.
The internet age
The power of Google and social network services such as Facebook or Twitter can present challenges. Recent publicity has highlighted cases in which jurors have sought information about a case or a defendant from these sources.
There is a good reason why certain information is withheld from a jury. This might include, for example, previous convictions of a defendant. 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 the integrity of a jury trial.
For this reason, jurors will be given clear warnings throughout the trial process. The breaking of the rules can lead to a prison sentence for a juror.
A trial starts with twelve jurors
A jury trial will always start with twelve jurors. The trial can’t start with fewer jurors.
There are many reasons, however, leading to a trial not always finishing with twelve. Jurors may become sick and be unable to return. In some 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 nine then a lawful verdict can be reached.
The unanimous verdict
In the early stages of jury deliberation a Judge is prevented by law from accepting a majority verdict. There will, however, be a time when a majority decision is permissible. The timing of when that will be 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 by the judge and advised accordingly. Even at that stage, however, the jurors will be asked to continue to try and arrive at a unanimous verdict if that is possible. If this is not possible, then a majority verdict will be acceptable.
In some cases it will become apparent to the Judge that the jury cannot reach a verdict, even a majority one. The Judge will often find this out because the jury will write a note explaining the situation. The contents of that note will usually not be shared with the advocates. This is because it will often ‘contain numbers’, meaning how many jurors are voting one way or the other. Such notes remain confidential in all jury trials.
When a deadlock occurs the judge will provide them with a ‘give and take’ direction. This calls upon all of the jurors to use their collective wisdom to reach a decision.
The Decision reached
If the jury reaches a unanimous verdict then the issue is settled. 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. This will in turn depend on how many jurors remain deciding the trial.
The combinations are:
- Where there are 12 jurors: 11 – 1 or 10 – 2
- If there are 11 jurors: 10 -1
- When there are 10 jurors: 9 – 1
If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant is free to leave court assuming that there are no other matters remaining to be dealt with. When the verdict is guilty, the judge will move on to consider sentencing the defendant.
Back to deadlock?
In the cases where, despite further deliberation, it becomes clear that the jury is deadlocked then the jury will be discharged. The trial will be over.
In these circumstances, the prosecution may either proceed with a new trial or abandon the trial. This may be because the trial has exposed weaknesses in the prosecution evidence.
How we can assist in your case
We know that the trial process can be difficult, both for our clients and their families. We will work hard at all stages of that process to explain what stage has been reached, 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.
Because we are experienced trial lawyers, we do not lose sight of the person behind the proceedings.
Contact an expert lawyer for a jury trial
We offer Crown Court advocacy and litigation expertise from all of our six offices across the East Midlands. While we are most regularly preparing cases to be heard before Nottingham and Derby Crown Courts we provide nationwide coverage.
You can find your nearest office here. Alternatively you can use the contact form below.