Tag Archives: adjournment

The end of the ‘simple adjournment’?

simple adjournmentIn criminal practice and procedure, you might think that the humble adjournment is a relatively simple and straightforward matter, but you would be wrong.

A little like buses, they are never available when you want one.  However, when you don’t want a case delayed the court always appears happy to work against you.

In reality, the humble adjournment is now a complex process, and only a mastery of the relevant principles will ensure the best outcome for your case.

The wise advocate is armed with a detailed chronology and will be ready to deploy this information without notice on an unsuspecting opponent. All relevant facts will have been gathered and a detailed submission will ensure the best prospects of success.

On occasion, it will be down to a client to assist. If for example, you cannot attend court due to illness or another unexpected matter arising, your solicitors will ensure that you are aware of the detailed information that needs to be provided.

The case law in relation to adjournments is well known, or at least ought to be. In Crown Prosecution Service v Picton, the High Court detailed the factors that a court ought to focus on:

  • A decision whether to adjourn is a decision within the discretion of the trial court. An appellate court will interfere only if very clear grounds for doing so are shown.
  • Magistrates should pay great attention to the need for expedition in the prosecution of criminal proceedings; delays are scandalous; they bring the law into disrepute; summary justice should be speedy justice; an application for an adjournment should be rigorously scrutinised.
  • Where an adjournment is sought by the prosecution, magistrates must consider both the interest of the defendant in getting the matter dealt with, and the interest of the public that criminal charges should be adjudicated upon, and the guilty convicted as well as the innocent acquitted. With a more serious charge the public interest that there be a trial will carry greater weight.
  • Where an adjournment is sought by the accused, the magistrates must consider whether, if it is not granted, he will be able fully to present his defence and, if he will not be able to do so, the degree to which his ability to do so is compromised.
  • In considering the competing interests of the parties the magistrates should examine the likely consequences of the proposed adjournment, in particular its likely length, and the need to decide the facts while recollections are fresh.
  • The reason that the adjournment is required should be examined and, if it arises through the fault of the party asking for the adjournment, that is a factor against granting the adjournment, carrying weight in accordance with the gravity of the fault. If that party was not at fault, that may favour an adjournment. Likewise, if the party opposing the adjournment has been at fault, that will favour an adjournment.
  • The magistrates should take appropriate account of the history of the case, and whether there have been earlier adjournments and at whose request and why.
  • Lastly, of course the factors to be considered cannot be comprehensively stated but depend upon the particular circumstances of each case, and they will often overlap. The court’s duty is to do justice between the parties in the circumstances as they have arisen.

What could possibly go wrong with a simple adjournment?

In a recent case of Pari-Jones v Crown Prosecution Service the following facts emerged:

‘On the morning of the trial, the legal adviser to the Magistrates’ Court received two emails from the defence solicitor, which were written in Welsh and were translated and presented to the court. The first email was sent at 9.23am. The solicitor stated that he was acting for the defendant and that she was a lady approaching 80 years old. It was the first listing for trial, and the criminal damage related to a neighbour dispute.

The magistrates were told that the defendant was very concerned regarding the weather, because it was freezing around her house and the road, and she had no electricity. She was living by herself with no close family. The solicitor further wrote that he was stuck in his home, which was in Pwllheli, and that it was freezing hard. He said he was a distance away from the main road, which had been gritted, and although he could leave his house, he was not feeling comfortable in venturing out.’

Almost unbelievably the court refused the defence adjournment and the defendant was convicted in her absence. The magistrates’ admitted to having considered no case law at all!

The full judgement in this case can be found here.

So, what seems to be an unanswerable request for a simple adjournment, in the wrong hands, can go terribly wrong. That is why we train all of our advocates to never take an application for granted and ensure the best advocacy is always deployed on your behalf.

How we can assist

We have a team of highly trained and dedicated solicitors. Unfortunately you’ll see from the facts of the case set out above that the Magistrates don’t always do what to the bystander should be obvious.

If you face court proceedings we can make a real difference to the outcome of your criminal case.  Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

 You can find your nearest office here.

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Adjournment refused, not guilty verdict follows

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Nottingham Magistrates’ Court

Nottingham crime solicitor Lauren Fisher recently represented a client at a Magistrates’ Court trial.  The case was an emotive one because it was alleged that he had assaulted his young son by dragging him from one room to another.

Police attended at the address later in the day following a report by the  mother that Lauren’s client was preventing her from leaving the address.  This informs police that she saw our client drag the child by his feet earlier in the day.  The child confirmed this at the time and there was a visible injury.

Young witness support defence account

The child provided a video statement.  Although the child was originally a witness for the prosecution, a review of the video evidence showed that the account given was inconsistent with that of the adult witness.

This final account supported what Lauren’s client said about the incident – the child had been playing with a knife so our client intervened, took the knife and dragged the child away by the hand.  As a result there was no unlawful assault.

Lauren took the unusual step of serving this interview on the prosecution so that she could invite the Crown to agree the evidence.  As an alternative a hearsay application was served because nobody with care of the child was prepared to allow the child to come to court.  Lauren shared the view that the child should not need to be present at court.

Prosecution failure to comply with duty of disclosure

The day before the trial the prosecution had the case listed for a Case Management Hearing.  The Crown had failed to comply with its duty of disclosure.  Agreement is sought to adjourn the trial in the absence of Magistrates but Lauren did not agree.  Her client did not wish further delay in the case so the case was adjourned to the trial date.

On the morning of the trial the prosecution still do not have the information it needed so a further application to adjourn is made.  Lauren insisted that the prosecution present a proper chronology of how the Crown had dealt with disclosure.

When the Crown presented the chronology it was clear that the reviewing lawyer had requested information that undermined the credibility of the remaining witness.  The lawyer had made the request time and again but it had been ignored by the police.

Eventually the police confirmed that there was such information but still did not pass it to the prosecution but it was not available for the trial.

Prosecution adjournment opposed

The prosecution adjournment was sought on the basis of the public interest in a charge of this nature being heard properly.  Lauren opposed the adjournment on the following grounds:

  • there was the likelihood from the outset that the witness was not telling the truth
  • the child involved confirmed there had been no offence committed
  • the proceedings were causing problems for her client before the family court
  • summary justice should mean speedy justice so the prosecution and police should not be allowed to ignore the rules

A not guilty verdict was recorded

The District Judge considered the representations and refused the adjournment request.  As a result the prosecution were not in a position to proceed and offered no evidence.  A not guilty verdict was entered.

Instruct a criminal law specialist

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Nottingham crime solicitor Lauren Fisher

Whether you face police investigation, Magistrates’ Court trial or Crown Court proceedings you will want to instruct a specialist in criminal law who will spend their time trying to secure the best result for you.

If you wish to instruct Nottingham criminal defence solicitor Lauren Fisher then you can telephone her on 0115 9599550 or contact her using the form below.