Distressing case before Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court
A recent case involving activation of a suspended sentence nearly brought Chesterfield crime solicitor Denney Lau to tears. Despite having been qualified for 11 years and having represented any number of clients with many different circumstances before the court, this case was still able to cause distress.
Denney’ s client was appearing before the court in relation to breach of a suspended sentence order. The starting point for breaching such an order is that the suspended sentence term must be activated. It is possible to avoid this if the court can be satisfied that it would be unjust to do so in all of the circumstances. As a result, Denney’s client was very much at risk of a custodial sentence.
The breach information set out that although our client’s initial compliance had been good, after several months he had simply stopped attending the appointments. No explanation had been given. On the face of it, our client was guilty of a complete disregard of a court order and there was unlikely to be any argument to avoid a prison sentence.
However, upon further investigation, this view of the case could not be further from the truth.
Compelling personal circumstances to avoid activation of a suspended sentence
During private consultation Denney was able to learn the full circumstances of his client’s failure to keep to the terms of the order. His client had lost touch with the probation service following difficulties in his partner’s pregnancy.
During a routine scan, no heart beat had been detected. Attempts were made to induce the birth. Further complications arose and his partner had to undergo emergency surgery.
Although the baby was born, within two months our client was attending the funeral of his child. He struggled to cope with these life changing events and had made several attempts to take his own life.
He had sought medical help and mistakenly believed that all of the professionals involved with his family would have liaised with each other so that compliance under the probation order had been suspended. Unfortunately, the order does not work like that and it had continued.
Denney had to advise his client that despite his personal circumstances he was in breach of the suspended sentence order, Had he spoken with the probation service they may have been understanding of his circumstances, but he had not.
It appeared, however, that the information from the client provided compelling reasons for the court to permit the order to continue. The court agreed, having heard the mitigation, that it would be unjust to activate the suspended sentence.
The importance of instructing a criminal solicitor
This case illustrates the importance of instructing an expert criminal defence solicitor, whether you face activation of a suspended sentence or any other criminal offence.
Denney and his colleagues are used to hearing about people’s lives in great detail, whether that is by way of a police allegation or as part of a defence or mitigation. As a result, we are experts at gathering relevant information and will have heard very similar cases many times over the years. The horrific ordeal suffered by our client in this case still has the power to shock.
We were able to represent this client under the legal aid scheme. This means that our representation before the Magistrates’ Court was free of charge to him. This means that he was spared the ordeal of explaining deeply personal information to both the probation service and Magistrates.
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