In 1948, when George Orwell wrote his novel, “1984”, he had a vision of the world where Big Brother was watching everybody. The world now has cameras from Big Brother. There are numerous dash cams, doorbell cams, CCTV cameras, bicycle helmet cameras and everybody is walking around with a high-quality smart phone video camera in their pocket. So, we are all now potentially being recorded by a series of little brothers and little sisters.
It looked bleak for our client when he was recorded by his next-door neighbour’s camera muttering some nasty abuse. The neighbour sent the footage to the police and our client was interviewed under caution.
He arranged for our Public Order Act and pub quiz expert, Jim Buckley, to advise him at interview. Taking legal advice at the police station is the most important way a suspect can protect themself. Suspects who are unrepresented can cause themselves real difficulties with injudicious comments made in interview. Our client was advised to remain silent in his interview.
He was later prosecuted for intentionally causing distress to his neighbour by using abusive or insulting words to her camera.
However, at trial was argued on his behalf that it could not be proved that he knew that the camera was a genuine article and not a dummy. The police argued that there was a sign next to it saying that it was recording live footage, but we could argue that nobody installing a dummy camera would put up a sign saying “don’t worry burglars, this is only a dummy camera”!
Because it could not be proved that he knew the camera was real or that it had a microphone attached, or that anyone was listening to the device at the time, our client was acquitted.
If the police want to speak to you, always get a solicitor. If you are ever prosecuted, get a solicitor who will consider all the possible defences.
Chesterfield Motoring Solicitor David Gittins was recently instructed in a case where the Defendant was at real risk of a driving ban having collected 12 penalty points.
David’s client had received Notices of Intended Prosecutions from a court in Derbyshire as a result of speeding offences. If convicted, she would have been over the 12 penalty point limit for keeping her driving licence and a ban would normally follow. David knew that the client would have a strong argument to keep her licence as losing it would cause her an exceptional level of hardship.
The case began through the Single Justice Procedure (SJP) and David advised the client at an early stage as to her plea and the impact of doing so. David also advised her as to the possibility of arguing exceptional hardship in a bid to keep her driving despite the number of points of her licence.
David had conferences with his client to understand her personal and professional obligations which required a driving licence. David, using his own knowledge of the area, undertook detailed research and set about collating maps, bus times and even calling local taxi firms to get quotes to understand how much taxis would cost his client if she were to lose her licence. David also spoke to his client’s partner, sister and her business partners to obtain further information to put before the Court.
As all drivers know when you reach 12 penalty points the court will disqualify you from driving under the totting up procedure. However, if it can be shown that exceptional hardship will result from a disqualification, a driver is may be able to keep their licence even though they have passed the 12 point limit.
Exceptional Hardship is not defined in law and has to be considerably more than the inevitable inconvenience caused by a driving ban.
An argument for Exceptional Hardship could be based on issues that include:
• Loss of a job resulting in loss of accommodation for others such as children;
• An inability to get to any work due to geographical and public transport restrictions;
• Loss of other third persons employment due to businesses having to close;
• The requirement to take family members to urgent medical appointments when no other transport is available.
In this case, David argued exceptional hardship before Magistrates, with the Client giving evidence as to the difficulties she would face if she lost her licence. In addition, the extensive use of digital maps meant that David and his client could show the terrain she would have to cross to walk to a bus stop and the danger that would present to herself and road users given the rural locations.
12 Penalty Points and No Driving Ban
Thankfully David was successful in his representations and exceptional hardship was found. The Magistrates exercised their discretion not to impose a ban. This meant the Client could continue driving and was simply ordered to pay financial penalties for these offences.
David’s advocacy skills and ability to see the bigger picture when collecting evidence before making his argument enabled the client to keep her driving licence.
For this type of case, Legal Aid was not available but a fixed fee was agreed in advance of the work being undertaken and arguably a small price to pay in order to keep your driving licence.
Contact a Motoring Solicitor
If you require the advice and representation of an expert motoring solicitor then please contact David at our Chesterfield office on 01246 387999 or email@example.com
David can provide you with detailed and affordable advice as to whether you are able to challenge the prosecution evidence relating to your road traffic offence, or how you are likely to be sentenced following a guilty plea.
Category Archives: News
Chesterfield Motoring solicitor David Gittins recently represented a client appearing before Chesterfield Magistrates Court for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle. A detailed summary of what being drunk in charge means can be found here: Drunk in Charge – VHS Fletchers Solicitors
David’s client accepted that he was over the drink drive limit and was found in the driver’s seat of the vehicle but stated clearly that he had no intention to drive. As a result, David had to use his extensive knowledge to instruct an expert, speak to defence witnesses to convince the court that his client was Not Guilty of the offence.
The client was seen asleep by the police at around 9.30 on a Sunday morning sat in the driver’s seat of a car. The police stopped and could see that the engine was running. Upon speaking to David’s client, it was also noticeable that he was under the influence of alcohol.
The client was arrested as he was found to be over twice the drink drive limit.
The Police charged the client without interviewing him – believing their case was compelling and the court process began.
David took early instructions from his client and established that he had no intention of driving whilst still over the legal limit. In brief, he had driven to his brother’s house before heading into Chesterfield for drinks. He became separated from his brother and had no way of getting into the house he was parked outside. As a result, he had simply decided to sleep in the car with the engine on to keep him warm. He had then planned to be collected by his father and taken for a Sunday dinner as happened every week within the family. He would have then returned later in the day to collect his car.
David knew this account could amount to a defence if an expert confirmed that by the time he intended to drive he would be under the drink drive level. The client would then have to convince the court that was his intention.
Instructing An Expert
David, with the assistance of Trainee Solicitor Chloe Wright, immediately instructed an expert asking for analysis of when the client would be under the legal limit to drive. The expert was told at this stage the time David’s client intended to drive so that it could not be suggested the client later fitted his account around the expert’s findings.
In addition, David and Chloe spoke to both the client’s brother, whom he had been out with the night before, and his father about what happened every Sunday in their family. Statements were obtained and both witnesses agreed to attend court and provide live evidence to assist.
Prior to the trial commencing, the expert had confirmed that David’s client would have been under the drink drive limit by the time he had planned to drive. David was able to convince the prosecution to agree that evidence, meaning the expert witness did not have to attend Court. Therefore, the only issue for the Court was “did they believe the defendant was not going to drive before he said he would?”
At trial the Prosecution presented their evidence before David set about the defence case. The defendant, his brother and father all gave evidence. They were consistent and believable.
The Magistrates listened closely and found the Defendant NOT GUILTY. The Defendant was delighted and was able to keep his driving licence.
In some circumstances Legal Aid may not be eligible for cases such as this. However, in those case competitive Fixed Fees can be agreed for VHS Fletchers to provide legal representation. Click here for more information about our Private Road Traffic Fees: Motoring Offences Fixed Fees – VHS Fletchers Solicitors
Whether you are admitting an offence or intend to contest an allegation such as drink driving you will benefit from seeking expert advice and representation.
VHS Fletchers Solicitors have 5 offices across the Midlands, staffed with specialists in the field of criminal defence work. Whilst it will come as no surprise that these locations are situated close to local police stations and courts, the team at VHS Fletchers will happily travel much further to represent clients accused of criminal acts.
Within the last few months staff from the Chesterfield office at VHS Fletchers Solicitors have had many early mornings and late nights travelling the length and breadth of the country to provide our clients expert legal advice.
Those places recently visited by the staff at our Chesterfield office include:
• York Police Station
• York Magistrates Court
• Lincoln Police Station
• Lincoln Magistrates Court
• Scarborough Police Station
• Huddersfield Police Station
• Leeds Youth Court
• Sheffield Magistrates Court
• Highbury Corner Magistrates Court (London)
• Margate Magistrates Court (Kent)
All of our clients involved in these cases had links to the Chesterfield area and didn’t want a solicitor or legal advisor who they didn’t trust. As such they asked our Criminal Team to travel and provide expert legal advice which we gladly undertook for offences such as possession of a knife, conspiracy to supply drugs, driving whilst disqualified, breach of Restraining Order, Public Order offences and possession of counterfeit currency.
If you require the assistance of a firm of Solicitors who have expertise in Criminal Law, and who go that extra mile (or in this case hundreds of extra miles) please contact our Chesterfield Office on 01246 387999 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Category Archives: News
Controlling and coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship is an offence created under Section 76 Serious Crime Act 2015 which has a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. As this offence falls under the domestic abuse umbrella, the Code for Crown Prosecutions states “given the seriousness of Domestic Abuse offending, a prosecution will normally be required when the evidential requirements under the Code are met.”
Indeed, our client Mr B was charged with the offence of controlling and coercive behaviour for which he denied. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, Mr B was remanded into custody pending his trial at the Crown Court.
Chloe attended the prison to obtain meticulous detailed instruction from Mr B, including the whole history of the relationship, his detailed account of what happened and details of defence witnesses. Her attention to detail then drawn onto the fact that Mr B had been receiving mail from a relative which did not make sense. After further investigation it transpired that the complainant was the author of the letters, and the false name was used in order to bypass the prison checks.
Chloe then contacted the defence witness who provided her with screenshots of messages that confirmed the origin of the letter and that the complainant had also transferred money into Mr B’s prison account. Chloe obtained a defence witness statement confirming this.
Denney and Chloe then made strong representations to the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the credibility of the complainant and successfully persuaded the Crown Prosecution Service that, in light of this revelation, there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
As a result, the case was brought forward and the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence against Mr B and the Judge returned a Not Guilty verdict.
The law relating to Football Banning Orders changed in 2022. The test for making an order used to be that an order should be made when somebody is convicted of a football related offence if “satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at, or in connection with, any regulated football matches”.
That has changed so that now a court must make an order unless there are exceptional reasons for not doing so.
FBOs are very draconian. Most people are aware that if they get one, they are banned from going to watch their team. However, standard FBOs last for three years and they ban people from watching any league football matches. People are banned from travelling to the towns where their team are playing. Also, people have to surrender their passports whenever England are playing abroad.
It is important to bear in mind that an FBO can be imposed without anything violent having happened. There is a long list of charges when an FBO can be sought.
It is always important that anybody interviewed by the police gets legal advice. Legal advice at the police station is completely free of charge for everyone.
In our latest case, our client was interviewed as to inappropriate chanting at his local football ground. In interview he described his behaviour as indefensible. He was charged with disorderly behaviour.
Despite this, our football law and pub quiz expert, Jim Buckley, defended him and secured an acquittal.
To be guilty of an offence of disorderly conduct it must be proved that the words used were within the hearing of a person likely to be harassed, alarmed or distressed.
Because the only witness was a steward with 23 years’ experience, it was demonstrated that he was personally not affected by the chanting at all. The Court refused an argument that they could infer that other people there would have been affected. As such our client was acquitted and can return to watching his favourite team.
The moral of the story is – be careful what you chant at the football, never be interviewed without legal advice, but even if you are, you may still win your case if you get the right solicitor.
Back in the old days, football grounds were places where anything went, and those who strove for better words often ended using four letter words. But now people watching football have to be more careful.
Things looked bad for a lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter on 11th January when he was arrested at the City Ground. Not only were Wolves a goal down in the Quarter Finals, but our client found himself behind bars.
When Morgan Gibbs-White went down and claimed a penalty, our client was accused of shouting “get up” followed by a homophobic slur. Despite Morgan Gibbs-White being a fair distance away, two policemen claimed to have heard the shout and our client was arrested for disorderly conduct.
VHS Fletchers were able to help. Helen Lees, was despatched to advise at the police station, and despite it being 2 a.m. our client gave a full explanation of what he actually shouted.
He was charged with disorderly conduct and the CPS prosecutor wanted a three year Football Banning Order which would not only prohibit him from watching any League Football for three years, but would have caused inconvenience whenever the England Team played abroad, as he would have had to surrender his passport in advance.
Fortunately, our football law expert, Jim Buckley, was able to secure an acquittal at trial. In cross-examination, the arresting officer accepted that in amongst a crowd of 28,000 people at a distance of 12 metres away he could not rule out having misheard the alleged abusive word.
The moral is not to shout anything that could be misinterpreted as abuse when at a football match. Also, always get a solicitor at the police station if you are arrested; and you should instruct VHS Fletchers to help you at Court with any football-related charges.
This month, our Nottingham taxi licence solicitor Denney Lau successfully assisted Mr S in obtaining his taxi licence at a Nottingham council.
Mr S had his taxi licence revoked by the council 2 years ago and his application to another council was refused last year. At both previous committee hearings Mr S was unrepresented – highlighted how a taxi licence solicitor can assist with the chances of success.
Mr S had been a taxi driver for 15 years before having a brief confrontation with a Community Protection Officer for Taxi Enforcement. Although no criminal investigation or criminal conviction resulted from this incident, having viewed the body worn footage, the original committee revoked Mr S’s licence on the basis that his behaviour meant that he was no longer a fit and proper person (Sections 51, 55, and 59 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (Part II).
Mr S then reapplied a year later but failed to disclose the previous revocation, resulting in the Council again deciding he was not a fit and proper person on the basis that he did not act with honesty and integrity throughout the application process.
Mr S sought assistance from our taxi licence solicitor, Denney Lau. Mr S was advised of the law and the documents that were needed to provide to the committee. Denney then produced a defence bundle and represented Mr S at the committee meeting in front of 13 councillors.
In the capacity of a taxi licence solicitor, Denney used his in depth of knowledge in taxi licence law and made strong and persuasive representations which resulted in the council granting the application.
Mr S was delighted with the result and that his livelihood can now resume once more.
Whilst taxi licencing matters are not covered under the Legal Aid Scheme our competitive rates allow us to provide a comprehensive service on your behalf.
As a firm we have had to react to changing circumstances over the last last few years. This has resulted in us investing time and resources in an increased number of trainee solicitors.
Legal aid in crisis?
Once again the Government has ignored advice as to the financial difficulties legal aid firms face. This advice included the necessity for an immediate and significant rise in fees to permit the sector to remain viable.
Instead, the Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, has imposed a real terms cut in fees against a background of fee levels that have been, at best, frozen since the 1990s.
In response to this combination of factors we have chosen to increase our investment in trainee solicitors specialising in criminal defence. We know that the work will always be interesting and hope that those who apply will remain committed to what can be a difficult and challenging job but ultimately a rewarding one.
As a result we currently employ six trainees across our offices.
We ensure that they obtain their police accreditation so that they are able to provide advice and representation to those being interviewed by the police, under the supervision of solicitor and Higher Court Advocate Shannon English. This ensures a consistency of approach to their training and allows them the pleasure of taking part in our out of hours’ rota. Advice is provided to those in police custody 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Thereafter they learn the skills they need through hands on experience preparing cases that are due before the Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court and the Court of Appeal.
Our trainee solicitors will undertake the courses required for qualification, but will choose the options that are bested suited to a career in criminal defence including courses preparing them for securing their Higher Rights of Audience.
At the end of training period there is invariably posts available across our offices as an assistant solicitor, representing clients at the police station and before the Magistrates’ Court with the opportunity for career development to become a Solicitor Advocate representing those facing allegations before the Crown Court.
Meet our trainee solicitors
Kinga Nowak joined VHS Fletchers in June 2021, having initially completed a law degree in her native Poland before moving to the UK. She took an access course in criminal law before completing her Law Degree at the University of Lincoln. Following that Kinga completed her Legal Practice Course and Masters in Law at Nottingham Trent University.
Kinga will qualify in June 2023.
Declan Smith joined VHS Fletchers in July 2021, initially as a Paralegal at our Chesterfield Office before commencing his training contract.
He graduated from the University of Derby in 2020 with an undergraduate degree in law, before continuing his studies completing the Legal Practice Course in the spring of 2021 with the aim of qualifying as a solicitor.
Declan is to qualify as a solicitor in August 2023.
Danielle Lunn joined VHS Fletchers in July 2022 as a Trainee Solicitor at our Nottingham office.
Her undergraduate legal studies were completed at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2020, graduating with a first-class honours Law degree. She then went on to complete the Legal Practice Course and Master’s in Law at Nottingham Trent University achieving a distinction.
Danielle will complete her training in January 2024.
Chloe Wright joined VHS Fletchers in January 2022 as a Trainee Solicitor at our Chesterfield office.
Having graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in the summer of 2020 with an undergraduate degree in Law., Chloe then continued her studies at Leeds Beckett University, completing the Legal Practice Course in the spring of 2021 before completing a masters degree the following summer.
Chloe will qualify in January 2024.
Patrick Fisher, known to many as Paddy, joined VHS Fletchers in July 2022 as a Trainee Solicitor in our Derby office.
He completed his undergraduate degree in Law at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2021 with a 2:1 classification.
Following this, he went on to study for his Legal Practice Course and Master’s continuing with his studies at Nottingham Law School.
Paddy is due to qualify in July 2024.
Kirsty Gregson joined VHS Fletchers in January 2023 as a Trainee Solicitor at our Nottingham office.
Kirsty completed her law studies at the University of Leicester in 2021, graduating with first-class honours. Kirsty then completed her Legal Practice Course and Masters in Nottingham at the University of Law.
Kirsty will qualify as a solicitor in July 2024.
We will shortly be recruiting for at least one trainee post based at our Nottingham office and due to start in July 2023. We will advertise the post as usual on Crimeline, and our LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Please keep an eye on those if you are likely to be interested.
Category Archives: News
The use of intermediaries during criminal trials is becoming increasingly commonplace. An intermediary may be used to assist any witness, including a defendant, give evidence.
The functions of an intermediary
“Intermediaries are communication specialists (not supporters or expert witnesses) whose role is to facilitate communication between the witness and the court, including the advocates. Intermediaries are independent of the parties and owe their duty to the court.”
Directing the Jury
At the trial, before the witness or defendant gives evidence, the judge should explain to the jury the following:
The need for an intermediary: e.g. by identifying the problems arising from the age or other difficulties of the defendant or witness.
The purpose of an intermediary: which is to assist in communication, among other things by helping advocates to ask questions in a way the defendant or witness can understand and/or assisting the defendant or witness to communicate his/her answers to the jury.
The intermediary is independent of the parties, is present only to assist communication and is not a witness and so is not permitted to give evidence.
The use of the intermediary must not affect the jury’s assessment of the evidence of the defendant or witness and is no reflection on the defendant or witness.
If the defendant elects to give evidence, it may be appropriate at this point to give more detail of any difficulties the defendant has, if those difficulties may affect the perception of the jury of the defendant’s evidence.
Assisting a Defendant
The current provisions concerning intermediaries are very much stacked in favour of assistance for prosecution witnesses, but case law makes it very clear that defendants are entitled to equal treatment.
Recent case law (e.g. Dean Thomas  EWCA Crim 117) has placed further hurdles in the way of defendants seeking assistance, but we will always ensure that the legal rights of those we represent are fully protected. Appropriate applications for an intermediary will be made where necessary.
Giving evidence is daunting for most people, but particularly so for defendants facing the considerable pressure of being accused of an offence that they deny.
You can be assured that we will always act to enable you to present the best evidence possible.
Advocates and litigators experienced in dealing with intermediaries and vulnerable witnesses
This involved learning the particular skill of planning questioning suitable to the characteristics of a witness or defendant, taking into account intermediary reports and suggestions. It is potentially a difficult task to elicit correct facts from vulnerable witnesses where the ability to question is limited.
Our advocates will regularly use the Advocates’ Gateway Toolkit that provides assistance in identifying when a witness or defendant may be vulnerable, as well as helping in the formulation of questions for those who may have, for example, autism or a learning difficulty, or be vulnerable due to their youth.
Our litigators are experienced in identifying clients or their witnesses who may be vulnerable and benefit from the assistance of an intermediary.
Ask for our specialist advice
We provide nationwide advice and representation in criminal matters from our offices across the East Midlands. You can find your nearest office here have offices across the East Midlands and will happily travel across the country to provide representation for all football related offences.
Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.