Tag Archives: criminal

Penalties for breaches of environmental law

Although some breaches of environmental law amount to criminal offences, not all do.

There are a wide range of potential penalties that are quite different to those usually faced for standard criminal offences. Even where a criminal offence has been committed, court action and all that it entails can very often be avoided.

It is therefore vital that you take legal advice at the outset of any Environment Agency investigation, as we are best placed to ensure you exit with the least possible penalty in the event that you have committed any wrong.

Prosecution is said to be a last resort, and any enforcement action has to be proportionate and appropriate. This article is intended as a guide to the penalties that are available.

breaches of environmental law

Criminal and offence specific responses to breaches of environmental law

A Warning – this will set out the offence believed to have been committed, the corrective action expected to be taken within a set time and what will happen if action is not taken.

A Formal caution – can be imposed where a prosecution could be commenced, the offender admits the offence and consents to be cautioned.

Prosecution fixed penalty –  can be imposed for certain offences.  If it is not paid a prosecution can follow.

Prosecution – the Agency must be sure there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and it is in the public interest to prosecute.

Civil sanctions

When the Agency decides to impose a civil sanction (except a stop notice) they will:

  • serve a notice of intent
  • provide an opportunity to make written representations within 28 days
  • consider any representations
  • make a final decision and notify you with concise reasons for the decision.

 A Compliance notice – this requires the offender to come back into compliance and can also apply where advice has been given but not followed.

A Restoration notice –  a formal notice requiring the offender to put right any damage caused by an offence. Steps to take will be set out in the notice to rectify the situation within a set time.

A Fixed monetary penalty – can be issued where advice has been given and not followed or for minor offences.

Variable monetary penalty – issued for more serious offences where it is not in the public interest to prosecute. This penalty may also be issued in conjunction with a compliance or restoration notice.

Stop notice – requiring an activity to be stopped immediately, it will set out action to be taken and will remain in force until the action is taken.

Enforcement undertaking – a voluntary offer by the offender to put right the effects of the offending behaviour. If accepted the offer becomes a binding agreement. If the offender complies then a prosecution cannot be taken.

How we can help with breaches of environmental law

breaches of environmental law
Nottingham crime and regulatory solicitor Martin Hadley

Not all penalties are available for all breaches or offences, and representations can be made to the Environment Agency about the most suitable penalty. We can assist you with those representations.

Please contact crime and regulatory solicitor Martin Hadley on 0115 9599550  at our Nottingham officer or use the contact form below.


Training on the role of the criminal defence solicitor in Derby

On Friday 6 October Derby criminal law solicitor Nick Wright gave a presentation to the Magistrates’ Association at Derby Magistrates’ Court.

Derby magistrates' court training
Derby crime solicitors Andy Cash (l) and Nick Wright (r)

This was at the invitation of Barbara Richardson, Chair of the Bench, and Chris Walker who is in charge of training.  Nick was joined by fellow local solicitor Andy Cash.  Andy gave his presentation about client issues relating to legal aid and other funding.

Nick relied upon his years of experience to give an insight into the role of the defence solicitor at the police station and at court.  He also helped the Magistrates understand the work that goes into the preparation of a case before it is presented in court.  He also brought Magistrates up to date with the current situation in relation to he potential for further criminal legal aid cuts.

The event was well attended by fifty or so local Justices of the Peace from East Midlands courts.  Feedback suggested that the presentation was much appreciated.  Over the two and a half hours Nick and Andy were able to answer many questions and hopefully provide a better understanding of defence work.

We are pleased to be able to continue a long tradition of providing such training to the Magistrates when asked.  Nottingham partners Nick Walsh and Andrew Wesley have both helped with similar events in Nottingham over the years.

Contact a criminal law specialist

It may make sense for you to instruct a criminal solicitor who trains the very Magistrates who will be making a decision about your case.  If you have court proceedings before Derby Magistrates’ Court then please do not hesitate to call Nick on 01332 546818 or use the contact form below.


Criminal Finances Act 2017 – What You Need to Know

Change Ahead

The main provisions of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 came into force on 30th September 2017, and there are some important effects that any business ought to know.

New Provisions

criminal finances act 2017While tax evasion is already an offence, currently there is no obligation on a company to take steps to stop another person engaging in such illegal activity. With a few exceptions, if you do not personally participate, you can stand idly by while another person offends. These provisions bring this situation to an end so far as certain aspects of taxation are concerned.


criminal finances act 2017 legal advice

The Act will render any business (which includes partnerships) liable to prosecution if a ‘tax offence’ is committed by an employee or other person performing services for the company. This will include agents of the business.

To be guilty, the following must apply:

  • There has been a criminal evasion of tax (whether that resulted in prosecution or not).
  • An ‘Associated Person’ facilitated the commission of that offence (i.e. a person linked to your business).
  • A failure by the firm to prevent that facilitation taking place.
    The final requirement imposes a strict liability element. Those running the business need not know that anything unlawful was taking place.

The definition of ‘Associated Person’ is broad. It means: ‘…an employee, a person acting in the capacity of an agent, or any other person who performs services for or on behalf of your company who is acting in the capacity of a person performing such services’.

The provisions apply in relation to both UK and foreign offences.

Do you have a Defence?

The good news is ‘Yes’.

But only if you can prove:

(a) That you had in place such prevention procedures as it was reasonable in all the circumstances to expect you to have in place; or

(b) It was not reasonable in all the circumstances to expect you to have any prevention procedures in place.

Therefore, your business needs to have reasonable safeguards in place to be able to try and prevent tax evasion.

What is the Penalty?

Your company could face an unlimited fine.

At the moment, although there aren’t any sentencing guidelines, we can reasonably anticipate these to be very large. In some cases these will be measured in the tens of thousands of pounds and above.

Additionally, you would also need to try and measure the reputational and other damage (such as loss of future contracts) that might follow.

That Doesn’t Sound Good, What Can I Do To Protect My Company?

Your business will need to commit to policies and processes designed to prevent your employees and others committing tax facilitation offences. There is no ‘one size fits all’ policy toolkit that you can purchase off the shelf.

To devise such procedures, you will need to:

  • Carry out a risk assessment.
  • Decide on what is a proportionate response to that risk.
  • Ensure top-level commitment within the organisation to implementing any policy/procedure.
  • Maintain due diligence.
  • Communicate the policy/procedures and train all employees/agents who carry out work on your behalf.
  • Monitor and review the policies and procedures to ensure continued effectiveness.

We Will Certainly Put This On Our ‘To Do’ List

While HMRC doesn’t expect you to have everything in place on 30th September 2017, it does have some ‘day one’ requirements, with HMRC stating in its guidance that:

‘[We expect] there to be rapid implementation, focusing on the major risks and priorities, with a clear timeframe and implementation plan on entry into force.’

Need help?

Laws relating to business can be challenging at the best of times, but when they could also land your company before the courts and facing crippling fines, it is best to act in advance and do all you reasonably can to put protections in place.

The provisions of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 are only summarised above; it will hardly surprise you to know that they are in fact much more complex, so you should take care to understand in detail your actual obligations.

Read more about our business defence services here.

Contact us for advice

criminal finances act 2017
Nottingham solicitor Martin Hadley

Should you wish to discuss any aspects of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 or wish specific advice then please contact partner Martin Hadley at our Nottingham office on 0115 9599550 or email him here.

Nottingham criminal legal aid solicitor secures conditional discharge for assault

nottingham criminal legal aid solicitor VHS Fletchers
Nottingham crime solicitor Stacey Mighty

Derby criminal legal aid solicitor Stacey Mighty recently represented a client charged with an assault in a domestic setting.

It is sometimes the case that a person will make a complaint but then think better of it and not make a formal statement to the police.  In these circumstances it is perhaps more important that free legal advice is sought from a solicitor on the police station.

Witness changes mind about complaint

In this case the police had received a 999 call from our client’s girlfriend stating that she had been assaulted.  He had grabbed at her and scratched her face.

It appears that she simply wanted Stacey’s client taking away from the scene as once he had been arrested and taken to the police station she declined to make a statement.  The scratches had, however, been witnessed by the police.

No solicitor in interview

Our client was spoken to without a solicitor present in the police interview.  As a result he did not have the benefit of the free independent advice and assistance that a criminal legal aid solicitor could have provided.

He made admissions to the offence which meant that the prosecution did not need a statement from his partner in order to proceed with the case.  His position was aggravated by the fact that he had previous convictions for violence.

Early guilty plea

nottingham criminal legal aid solicitor
Nottingham Magistrates’ Court

Stacey advised him to enter an early guilty plea to the charge.  She was able to persuade the Magistrates that the assault was minor in nature and did not lead to serious injury.  As a result, the court felt able to impose a conditional discharge in the circumstances of this case.

Our client was no doubt fortunate that when the matter came to court he chose to take advantage of the advice and representation that is available under the Magistrates’ Court legal aid scheme.  Stacey presented the case in a way that allowed the Magistrates’ to take a lenient view.

Instruct a criminal legal aid solicitor

nottingham criminal legal aid solicitor VHS FletchersWhether you face a police investigation or proceedings before the Magistrates’ or Crown Court you will want to instruct an expert to help you prepare and present your case.

Under our criminal legal aid contract our advice and representation at the police station will always be free of charge to you.

You can read a number of reasons to have our free and independent advice in police interview here.

If you are financially eligible the Legal Help scheme will allow us to undertake early preparation during the investigation stage, such as seeing witnesses or securing other evidence on your behalf.

The Magistrates’ Court legal aid scheme is means and merits tested.  If you are granted legal aid then our services will be free.

Legal aid will always be granted for Crown Court cases subject to means.  Dependent upon your circumstances, there may be a contribution from your income or capital.  If you are found not guilty of the charges then the money will be returned to you and your representation will have been free.

Please call Stacey at our Derby office on 01332 546818.  Alternatively use the contact form below if you wish to discuss your case.






Not guilty verdict for client with benefit of free criminal legal aid

Mansfield criminal legal aid solicitor Tim Haines secured a not guilty verdict before the Magistrates’ court.  In doing so he preserved her good character.

mansfield criminal legal aid solicitor
Mansfield Magistrates’ Court

Tim’s client faced a very emotive charge.  She had been a care assistance and faced an allegation of pushing a vulnerable person in her care who suffered from dementia.

The allegation was made by three purported eye-witnesses.  Although all three maintained that they had seen the incident each witness gave very different account about what had happened.  Tim used his expert cross-examination to make all of these inconsistencies obvious to the Magistrates hearing the trial.

Tim’s client maintained that she had been a victim of a ‘witch-hunt’ owing to a clash of personalities at her place of employment.  This argument was supported by the manner of her dismissal which appeared unfair.

Our client was of good character.  Tim called character evidence in support of this.  His client had fully answered questions in police interview and gave an account consistent with those answers.

In closing, Tim was able to contrast the inconsistencies between the prosecution witnesses with the consistent account of his client.  He made sure that the Magistrates’ properly directed themselves as to the relevance of his client’s good character.

The Magistrates’ found his client not guilty, taking into account all of the evidence that was heard, making specific reference to our client’s consistent version of events as opposed to the prosecution’s differing accounts.

The advice, preparation and representation that this client received, both in the police station and in court, was free of charge to her.

Contact a Mansfield criminal legal aid solicitor

If you face a criminal allegation you will want to instruct an expert criminal solicitor to represent you.  Where possible, you will also want the benefit of free legal aid.

Advice and representation will always be free of charge from VHS Fletchers where you are being spoken to by the police under caution.  This is true whether you are under arrest or speaking to the police voluntarily, and whether you are at the police station or another place such as your home.

If you face court proceedings we will always ensure that we have fully investigated your entitlement to criminal legal aid.  In the Magistrates’ Court this means that your representation will be free of charge.  In the Crown Court it might be free or there may be a financial contribution.

criminal legal aid mansfield
Mansfield criminal legal aid solicitor Tim Haines

Please telephone Tim on 01623 675816 if you know that the police wish to speak to you or you face court proceedings.  We provide 24 hour emergency advice and representation.  Alternatively you can use the form below.



Early Guilty Plea Leads to Suspended Sentence Order

Derby crime solicitor John Young represented a client before Derby Magistrates’ Court.  His client had placed himself in a very serious situation because he committed a number of assaults at a working men’s club.  This case demonstrates the benefit of an early guilty plea in an appropriate case.  John was able to build his mitigation on these pleas to persuade the court that an immediate prison sentence could be avoided.

The allegations

John’s client had been charged with allegations of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and three common assaults.  These offences involved four members of the same family, including two vulnerable victims.

The incident developed following an argument between our client’s wife and others in the club.  There was some pushing and shoving from both sides of the argument, coupled with some threats.  This initial incident appeared to blow over.

Unfortunately, the incident flared up again.  No doubt due to the drink consumed, John’s client repeatedly punched the first victim. and then assaulted the others.  He was restrained while the police are called.  Fortunately, the injuries were relatively minor, but there were other families and young children present who were upset.

Sentencing Guidelines

early guilty plea derby crime solicitor vhs fletchersThe offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm can be heard before the Crown Court.  This might have been a case that the Magistrates decided ought to be sentenced there because a number of aggravating features were present:

  • offences in a public place
  • our client was in drink
  • children were present and affected
  • injury was caused
  • two of the victims were vulnerable
  • it was a sustained and repeated attack
  • arguably an intention to cause more serious injury than resulted

As a result, the case could easily have been categorised within the most serious category of offending with a starting point of 18 months in prison if John’s client had sought a trial.

Early Guilty Plea

John’s client faced a choice as to whether he ought to plead guilty or not.  He felt aggrieved about how the incident had started.  John took the time, however, to take him through the evidence and explain why he was guilty of the offences.  Further, John explained to him the benefits of an early guilty plea.  This is in terms of both credit (a reduction in sentence) and because it arguably shows remorse for offending.

It is always more difficult to persuade a court to be lenient where a client has been found guilty after a trial.

Mitigation leads to suspended sentence order

Although the offence was serious because of the early guilty plea the court was able to say that the remorse expressed was genuine.  The court took account of John’s client’s good work record and settled relationship.  He was also the sole breadwinner supporting his wife and child.

In recent times he had had problems with both his health and debt.  He had a limited record of convictions and had not appeared before the courts since 2009.

As a result of John’s careful mitigation, his client received a short sentence of eighteen weeks suspended for two years.  This was combined with a substantial number of hours of unpaid work and compensation.  The case was kept before the Magistrates’ Court.

Contact a Derby criminal law solicitor

early guilty plea derby criminal defence lawyer
Derby crime solicitor John Young

Whether you face a police investigation or proceedings before the Magistrates’ or Crown Court you will want to instruct a criminal defence lawyer that gives you appropriate advice.  This will help you secure the best outcome for you, whether that is due to an early guilty plea or by having a trial.

If you want to instruct John Young then please telephone him on 01332 546818 or use the form below.  Alternatively, you can find your nearest office here.



Successful Police Station Accreditation for Elliott Moulster

Ilkeston crime solicitor Elliott Moulster
Trainee solicitor Elliott Moulster

We are pleased to announce that our trainee solicitor Elliott Moulster has successfully completed his Police Station Accreditation.

This means that he is now able to represent clients at the police station who have requested the duty solicitor.  He has also proved himself able to represent our own clients or duty clients who face the most serious of allegations that if charged could only be heard at the Crown Court.

Police station accreditation

As would be expected, the process for securing such a qualification is onerous.  Although Elliott was exempted from the written examination as he has completed the Legal Practice Course, he still have to undertake the preparation of a portfolio of his work for assessment and take part in the Critical Incidents Test.

Two part portfolio

The Portfolio is in two parts.  For the first part he had to work with experienced Duty Solicitor Lauren Manuel.  He attended the police station with her and observed two cases where she provided the advice.  Elliott then attended on two further occasions and was observed providing the advice himself.

The second part of the portfolio involved Elliott attending the police station himself, assessing the evidence and providing the advice himself.  He then had the opportunity of speaking with Lauren about the issues that arose and the decisions that he made.

The written portfolio is then assessed by an independent organisation to ensure that Elliott has demonstrated the necessary understanding of the complex law and evidential issues that can arise at the police station.  Only when he has proved that can he pass the accreditation.

Critical incidents test

The Critical Incidents Test is the second part of the assessment.  The purpose of this test was to assess your Elliott’s effectiveness in the police station.  It simulates police station situations so Elliott had to listen to audio recordings of extracts from typical police station situations.  He then had to record appropriate responses to these conversation.

The purpose of this test was to assess:

  • the appropriateness of his responses
  • his oral communication skills, and
  • his assertiveness

As a result, if Elliott should represent you at the police station then you can be sure that you are in safe hands.  His abilities have been independently tested before he meets you!

Contact a solicitor or police station representative

nottingham crime solicitor police station accreditationWe offer 24 hour representation at police interviews nationwide.  If you are a suspect in a criminal investigation such representation will always be free of charge to you under the legal aid scheme where you are interviewed by the police, whether this is as a volunteer or under arrest, whether in the police station or at another location such as your home.

Please contact your local office if you know you are to be interviewed, or make sure the police contact us if you are under arrest.  Any of our office numbers will allow you to speak to a lawyer 24 hours a day all year round.

Chesterfield criminal solicitor Gavin Haigh – Specialist in Protest Law

protest law derbyshire
Chesterfield criminal solicitor Gavin Haigh

Although previously linked with VHS Fletchers as a consultant, we are pleased to announce that Chesterfield crime solicitor and protest law specialist Gavin Haigh is now an employed member of our criminal team.

Gavin prides himself on his meticulous attention to detail.  His robust defence of clients on all matters makes him a formidable advocate and police station representative. Gavin is not shy to raise objections when required and forcefully protect his client’s rights at all times.

Specialist in Protest Law

Gavin has been a qualified solicitor and Duty Solicitor for 12 years and during that period he has has found a particular interest and specialism in the criminal law as it affects protests and marches.

This can involve advice on:

  • the policing of university protests
  • the policing of political protests
  • advising on general animal welfare issues
  • providing advice relating to environmental protests including recent advice relating to anti-fracking protests

Gavin has represented clients interviewed or charged as a result of their alleged activities including anti-fur demonstrations and hunt monitoring. This is an area of law where solicitors are instructed as a result of word of mouth and the trust that is built on previous client representation.  As a result the continued instruction of Gavin is a ringing endorsement of his abilities.

Unique flexible appointments for our clients

Although Gavin will be based in our Chesterfield office, his flexible working arrangements will bring additional benefits to our Derbyshire clients.  Gavin is happy to offer appointments with clients and their witnesses outside normal office hours and outside the office setting.

This flexibility recognises that it is not always possible for people to easily make time away from work commitments to travel to see a solicitor during normal office hours.  This service, along with his willingness to arrange appointments around our clients’ availability (such as in the evening or weekend) will further demonstrate our commitment to put our clients first.  These are arrangement are, of course, in addition to our commitment to provide 24 hour emergency advice and representation.

It may be of significance to existing or potential clients that we are not aware of any other firm of criminal solicitors in Chesterfield offering a similar service.

Attention to detail and robust defence

Gavin prides himself on his meticulous attention to detail.  His robust defence of clients on all matters makes him a formidable advocate and police station representative. Gavin is not shy to raise objections when required and forcefully protect his client’s rights at all times.

Contact Chesterfield Criminal Solicitor Gavin Haigh

If you face a police investigation or court proceedings for any offence and particularly allegations arising out of public protests protest law issues, then you can contact Chesterfield at our Chesterfield office on 01246 283000.  Alternatively you can use the form below to email your enquiry to us.


Drugs into prison – sentencing at Sheffield Crown Court

drugs into prison sentencing
Derby criminal solicitor advocate William Bennett

Derby criminal solicitor advocate William Bennett recently represented a client appearing before Sheffield Crown Court who had taken drugs into prison.

The substantial and powerful mitigation that William was able to put forward permitted the judge to depart from what would have usually been substantial sentence of immediate imprisonment.


Drugs into Prison

William’s client had taken both cannabis and anabolic steroids into a prison.  He intended to supply a serving prisoner.  The drugs were for onward supply in the prison.

At the time of the offence, our client had been a heroin addict.  As a result he had placed himself in a position where he was vulnerable to pressure from his dealer.  This was why he had committed the offence in the first place.

Powerful mitigation from client’s decision to change

William’s client had used the delay between initial arrest and sentence to good effect.  He had managed to become drug free and secure employment.  His guilty plea in this case was further evidence of a commitment to change.  He had been undertaking weekly drug tests for a six month period.  He received favourable reports from his work and was a doting father to his son.  A letter provided by his former partner was able to confirm this.

The Learned Judge was unable to suspend sentence because of strong guidance from the Court of Appeal as to the need for deterrent sentences in such cases.  He did, however, reduce the sentence dramatically from what was expected.  William’s client received a sentence of only ten weeks, meaning that he was likely to be released having served a little over three weeks in prison.

‘All that could be said’

The case is a good example of an experienced Judge being able to show leniency in a case where an experienced solicitor advocate has said “all that could be said”  for a realistic defendant.  In this case, our client, while recognising that custody was inevitable, had demonstrated that he was committed to rehabilitation and his family.

Contact a Criminal Defence Lawyer

We provide advice and representation at the police station, Magistrates’ and Crown Courts across the country.  We have six offices based in the East Midlands.  If you face police investigation or criminal proceedings then you can find your local office here.

If you wish to contact William Bennett then please telephone him on 01332 546818 or email him here.


Public Nuisance – or Not?


Nottingham crime solicitor Lauren Fisher recently dealt with an unusual case of before Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.  Her client was charged with an offence of public nuisance.

Allegation of Public Nuisance

public nuisance nottingham crime solicitor
Nottingham Magistrates’ Court

Lauren’s client was an elderly gentleman who was said to have been visiting shops with his trousers open, thus exposing himself.  The police and prosecution had apparently been in no hurry to bring the matter to court.  The offence dated back to the summer of 2015, and proceedings were not commenced by summons until the following June.

Our client presented as vulnerable.  He suffered from both mental illness and learning disabilities.  Representations were made on several occasions that it was not in the public interest for the prosecution to continue, but they fell on deaf ears.

This failure to heed these representations was all the more unfortunate when Lauren prepared the case for trial following service of all of the evidence.  Detailed legal research led to a concern that the evidence even taken at its highest could not prove the case.

Lauren’s client was said to have gone into two shops, one after the other. The Crown relied on this to show it was not an “accident”.  He was said to have been told to ‘put it away’ in one shop before going into the second shop still exposed.

Delay Causes Prosecution Problems

It was at this stage, however, that the delay created by the police in investigating the matter created problems for the prosecution.  The witness in the first show was unable to give the date the incident occurred, or even the day of the week.  At most she could say that it had happened in August.

The police had failed to hold any form of identification procedure, so witnesses were not given the opportunity to say whether Lauren’s client was the man seen with his trousers undone.

The lack of evidence to show that our client had been warned of his conduct immediately before a visit to a second shop significantly undermined the a suggestion that his behaviour was deliberate.  The fact that there were only two shop workers in the second shop was arguably insufficient to show a ‘public’ nuisance.

Renewed Representations

Unfortunately the health of Lauren’s client deteriorated over the course of the proceedings.  This led to the need for a psychiatric report to be obtained.  As an alternative to that considerable expense to the public purse, Lauren renewed the representations to the prosecution, combining factors relating to the health of her client with the likelihood of a successful outcome due to lack of evidence.  These representations were supplemented by service of a skeleton argument.

Successful Legal Argument

The matter was listed for a case management hearing and the legal argument was dealt with during that hearing as a preliminary point. The District Judge ruled that the prosecution would be unable to establish that it was Lauren’s client in the first shop on the same day, and that the behaviour gave established, as a matter of law, a public nuisance.

The prosecution offered no evidence and the charge against Lauren’s client was dismissed.

Contact Lauren Fisher

Cases alleging public nuisance may be rare, but Nottingham criminal solicitor advocate Lauren Fisher will show the same level of care whatever the allegation that you face.

If you are due to be interviewed by the police or face court proceedings then please telephone Lauren on 0115 9599550 or email her here.