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New regime for licence conditions from November 2017

Released, But Not Free

For many offenders a prison sentence is a grim reality.  It is a punishment that must be served.  It will impact not only on the single individual but in many cases on their family as well.

licence conditions legal advice
Prison law specialist Irene Tolley

As a result, when the day of release comes it will be a significant moment.  The door on the punishment has closed.  It is an opportunity to draw a line under the past and move on.  For many offenders, however, the release from custody comes with conditions.  These are in the guise of license conditions that must be abided by.  There is the threat of a return to prison if not obeyed in full.

The government has announced changes to the release license regime that come into effect on 13th November 2017.  Prison law specialist Irene Tolley outlines the changes below.

New Licence Conditions Category

In the future, Release licenses will be able to restrict ‘specified conduct or specified acts’.

The government intends that conditions are to be put in place for particular offenders that will:

• Prohibit gambling
• prevent the drinking of alcohol
• ban the use of some social media websites

In planning for an offender’s release, a supervising officer will create a release plan.  This will include the consideration of whether additional licence conditions are appropriate. These conditions are then submitted to the Governor of the releasing prison.  They will review their application on behalf of the Secretary of State. Only once the Governor confirms the conditions do they become legally enforceable.

Why Prohibit Alcohol Consumption?

licence conditions legal adviceThis is what the government has to say about this:

“The consumption of alcohol is a known factor in recidivism for some offenders. In 2004, the Prison Reform Trust published a paper which estimated that 63% of male offenders and 39% of female offenders within the England and Wales prison estate admitted to hazardous drinking before being imprisoned. At the same time, the estimated cost of alcohol-related crime and public disorder was £7.3 billion per year. A condition to require an offender not to consume alcohol would set an expectation for an offender on licence and compliance with that condition would be subject to recall.”

Can I challenge my Licence Conditions?

To be lawful, any licence condition, whether standard or additional, has to be necessary and proportionate to manage the offender’s risk of reoffending and risk of harm. It is always open to an offender to challenge the imposition of a licence condition by way of an application for judicial review.  This would be where the offender considers that the condition is not necessary or proportionate to manage the risks of his case.

How We Can Help

licence conditions legal advice solicitor
Derby crime and prison law solicitor Rosamunde Benn

We can assist with any sentencing related query.  Please contact either Irene at our Nottingham office on 0115 9599550 or Derby crime and prison law solicitor Rosamunde Benn at Derby on 01332 546818.

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.

Contact - Prison Law




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.


Risks of Newton Hearing avoided for client

newton hearing derby magistrates court
Derby crime solicitor Stacey Mighty

Nottingham crime solicitor Stacey Mighty recently avoided a Newton Hearing for her client before the Magistrates’ Court.  A Newton Hearing is a trial of the factual issues in a case.

This allows the court to decide how to sentence a person once they have entered a guilty plea.  They arise where there is a difference between the prosecution and defence version of events that would make a difference to sentence.

An unsuccessful Newton Hearing from a defendant’s point of view can have unfortunate consequences.  Not only will they be sentenced on facts that are more serious, the defendant will also lose credit for having argued an unsuccessful point.

Different accounts in assault allegation

Stacey’s client faced an allegation of assault.  While he accepted that he had committed an assault, he maintained that he had shoved the victim rather than punched them.

The victim of the assault was no longer cooperating with the prosecution, but there remained an independent witness who maintained that they had seen a punch rather than a push.  The prosecution argued that this difference in account would in turn make a difference to how our client was sentenced.

Newton hearing avoided

Stacey argued, however, that the version of events were not dissimilar and the issue of whether there was a punch or a push would make no real difference to sentence.  The Magistrates agreed and as a result Stacey’s client obtained the following benefits:

  • he was sentenced on the basis of a push rather than a punch, and
  • he kept all of the credit provided by his guilty plea

As a result, Stacey mitigated and persuaded the Magistrates’ that the case was not serious enough for a community penalty.  Instead her client was fined and ordered to pay compensation.

Contact Nottingham crime solicitor Stacey Mighty

newton hearing nottingham crime solicitorWhether you face a police investigation or court proceedings then you will want to instruct a solicitor with expertise in the criminal law such as Stacey.

Please call her on 0115 9599550 or use the enquiry form below.


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.






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.



Prison Avoided For Repeated Restraining Order Breach

derby criminal defence lawyer mitigates restraining order
Derby crime solicitor John Young

Derby crime solicitor John Young recently acted for a client who faced what appeared to be an inevitable prison sentence.  His client had an appalling history for breaching his restraining order.  A first order had been made in 2010 but this had been breached five times.

Although that order was revoked in 2012, a  second Restraining Order was imposed in 2014.  That order had already been breached 10 times with the most recent sentence for breach being three weeks prior to this sentencing.

New breaches of a restraining order

John’s client was originally charged with two allegations of breaching the restraining order.  On the second occasion he had been arrested at his ex-partner’s address so was clearly guilty of the offence.  However John was able to negotiate with the prosecution that it wasn’t in the public interest to proceed with both charges.  As a result, his client only pleaded guilty to the single offence.

All of the circumstances would suggest that a prison sentence was inevitable in this case:

  • offence committed during a period of supervision
  • offence placed him in breach of a community order
  • he had an extremely poor record for identical offending

The sentencing guidelines suggested that not only should the case be dealt with by a prison sentence, but that the client should have been committed to Derby Crown Court for sentence.  A sentence of six months in prison was represented by the prosecution as being insufficient because of these guidelines.

Suspended sentence rather than immediate custody

Instead, John used all of his experience and persuasive advocacy to ensure that his client received a further chance to turn his offending around while in the community.   It is hoped he can avoid further breaches of his restraining order.

Continuity of Representation

John’s client was assisted by the fact that we are able to provide continuity of representation in most cases.  He had dealt with his client for the previous court appearance so knew all of his background and the history of previous orders.  As a result, all of this worked to his client’s advantage.

John’s client was both surprised and pleased to receive a suspended sentence rather than an immediate prison sentence of some length.

Contact a Derby Criminal Defence Solicitor

We offer 24 hour emergency advice and representation for those being investigated for criminal offences or detained for court at weekends.  Police station advice and representation will always be free of charge to you, as will any interview with the police under caution, whether you are arrested or a volunteer, at the police station or at your home address.

The locations and contact details for your nearest office can be found here.

John Young can be contacted on 01332 546818 or if you want to email him then please use the form below.

Derby Youth Court mitigation results in Rehabilitation Order

derby youth court sentencing nick wright solicitor
Derby crime solicitor Nick Wright

Experienced Derby criminal solicitor Nick Wright recently dealt with a difficult sentencing hearing at Derby Youth Court.

His client was due for sentence for two robberies, four burglaries and going equipped to steal.  This catalogue of offences would have been so serious alone that the court would have been considering a custodial sentence.

The position was further aggravated.  The latter offences were committed while the youth was on bail for the robberies.  They had also been committed whilst in breach of bail conditions.  He was also subject to a community order for another robbery.

Sentence of detention inevitable?

Although the likelihood was that his client would receive a sentence of detention, Nick had spent some time with his client and knew that he was vulnerable himself.  Nick identified that this was a case where his client would benefit from a report from a psychologist.  Nick spent a great deal of time with the his client’s parents and social worker.  He had ongoing contact with the Youth Offending Team.

Derby Youth Court imposes rehabilitation order

The sentencing hearing took two and a half hours to conclude.  In the end, Nick’s powerful and persuasive mitigation meant that the Magistrates decided not to impose detention.  Instead a Youth Rehabilitation Order was made.  This is intended to be a far more constructive sentence to assist a young man to try and put offending behind him.

Some clients intend to admit an allegation.  Custody may seem inevitable.  These clients will still benefit from instructing an experienced solicitor.  The solicitor will be able to identify the steps that can usefully be taken to try and secure the best outcome possible on the facts of a client’s case.

Contact a Derby Criminal Solicitor

If you are being investigated by the police or face court proceedings then please contact Derby criminal defence lawyer Nick Wright on 01332 546818 or email him here.  If you face proceedings elsewhere then you can find your local office here.

Racially Aggravated Assault – not guilty verdict after two day trial

racially aggravated assault trial solicitor Nick Wright
Derby criminal defence solicitor Nick Wright

Derby criminal solicitor Nick Wright recently dealt with a client before Derby Magistrates’ Court.  She faced an allegation of racially aggravated assault. Following a two day trial she was found not guilty.

Nick initially dealt with his client as duty solicitor.  Having met him, he applied for legal aid and she chose to continue to instruct him at trial.

A strong prosecution case

The prosecution case was apparently strong .  Four prosecution witnesses were called, each of them maintaining that Nick’s client was guilty of the offence.

All of the witnesses said that Nick’s client grabbed the complainant’s clothing, punched him and made reference to his nationality.  A claim was made that he’d been bullying our client’s daughter.

Racially aggravated assault allegation fabricated

Our client claimed that the allegation of assault was made up. The complainant had been bullying the son, and this allegation was part of that.  No racist language was used.

Fortunately, Nick was able to call his client’s teenage son and another person present to back up this account.  Owing to the son’s age, Nick successfully applied for Special Measures so that he could give evidence from behind a screen.

Although she provided helpful information, the other witness was reluctant to attend.  As it was crucial that all relevant and helpful evidence be before the court, Nick applied for a witness summons that compelled the witness to attend court.

Such active preparation by your criminal defence lawyer is crucial if you wish your best case to be before the Magistrates.

Contact a Derby Criminal Solicitor

If you are being investigated by the police or face court proceedings then please contact Derby criminal defence lawyer Nick Wright on 01332 546818 or email him here.  If you face proceedings elsewhere then you can find your local office here.

Postal Requisition out of Time

derby criminal solicitor Nick Wright
Derby criminal defence solicitor Nick Wright

Derby crime solicitor Nick Wright recently represented a client who had been subject to a ‘postal requisition’ bringing him before Derby Magistrates’ Court for an allegation of Disorderly Conduct.

The system of postal requisition has replaced the old summons in order to commence court proceedings.  Strict time limits apply to many cases.

Case commenced by postal requisition

The allegation was one that perhaps ought to have been given priority by the police.  It involved an allegation from a local Member of Parliament who maintained that a vehicle had been driven past her while she was attending to her bins.  The driver, as the vehicle went by, was said to have shouted ‘I hope you die’, swearing and using additional abusive language.

postal requisition court summons Derby crime solicitor
Derby Magistrates’ Court

The complainant had the presence of mind to take the registration number of the vehicle as well as its description, and was able to describe the driver.

The police believed that the incident arose due to the MP’s political beliefs.

Admitted Presence

On arrest, Nick’s client admitted that he was the driver of the vehicle, accepted that he had been shouting, but denied that he was shouting at the MP.  He denied knowing she was on the road, and stated that the shouting was during an argument and the circumstances meant that he was not guilty of the offence.

Always read the small print

There was not an opportunity for the matter to be argued at trial.  As the charge could only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court it was subject to a 6 month time limit to start proceedings.  In fact, proceedings were authorised nearly a month after this time limit expired.  As a result, once Nick identified this as an issue and spoke with the prosecutor, the prosecution had no alternative but to withdraw the charge.

Contact a Derby Criminal Defence Solicitor

If you are being investigated by the police or face court proceedings then you will need a solicitor to take the time to examine all of the evidence, including whether a postal requisition has been properly issued in time.

Nick Wright can be contacted by telephone on 01332 546818 or by email here.  Details of our Derby Office can be found here.

Local Criminal Legal Aid Advice

VHS Fletchers Nottingham

We hold criminal legal aid contracts that allow us to continue representing our existing and new clients under the legal aid scheme from our offices in Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, Mansfield and Newark.

Our Newark Office

Our office in Newark demonstrates our commitment to providing advice and representation to local communities who in other ways have been let down by the justice system.

criminal legal aid Newark
VHS Fletchers Newark
derby criminal legal aid
VHS Fletchers Derby office

Newark no longer has a police station where suspects can be interviewed and the Magistrates’ Court closed several years ago.  Those appearing in court now have to travel over 20 miles to Nottingham Magistrates’ Court, while those arrested are taken to Mansfield police station, a similar distance.

Local Offices Serving Local Communities

VHS Fletchers has made the decision that we will be able to provide criminal advice and representation in the police station, Magistrates’ and Crown Courts while being based in the heart of the communities that we serve.

We will hopefully contribute to reducing the stress and anxiety that investigations and proceedings can bring by making it easy and affordable for our clients to visit their legal representatives in a local office.

This approach should also allow for our clients to receive continuity in terms of the advisers and solicitors they meet, which we know clients value.

Details of the lawyers that you will meet at each office can be found here.

chesterfield criminal legal aid
VHS Fletchers Chesterfield office

Contact Us to Discuss Criminal Legal Aid

If you face police investigation then advice and assistance at the police station will always be free under criminal legal aid.  Magistrates’ criminal legal aid is both means and merits tested, and means tested for the Crown Court.

You can read more about the different legal aid schemes here.

We can give you further advice at your local office.

Details of our offices can be found here.

east midlands criminal legal aid

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.