Since the change in the rules relating to police bail a postal requisition has, in many cases, replaced a formal police charge in bringing a defendant to court.
What is a postal requisition?
A postal requisition is a summons to court, telling a defendant what they have been charged with. It will also contain the date and time that you must attend a particular Magistrates’ Court.
They will be used in cases where the police do not seek bail conditions. They will be appropriate where there is no language or communication problems and there is a known fixed address for the defendant.
When will I receive one?
Although a postal requisition will be used in motoring offences in a similar way that a summons would have been issued, they are also used for a wide range of criminal offences including the most serious.
As a result, if you have been interviewed by the police as either a volunteer or while under arrest and been released under investigation the first thing you hear about the outcome of the investigation might be the postal requisition.
Unfortunately, the timing of the requisition will be hard to predict. It could be received within weeks of a police interview, or months afterwards.
What happens if I don’t attend court?
If you fail to attend court in answer to the postal requisition then it is likely that a warrant without bail will be issued for your immediate arrest. This means that the police will arrest and detain you at a police station in order to bring you before the next available sitting Magistrates’ Court. This could be on a Saturday or Bank Holiday and you could spend many hours in custody.
Bearing in mind the possible delay in sending the requisition it is extremely important that you check your post regularly and keep the police informed of any change of address to avoid an unnecessary arrest.
If we have provided you with free and independent legal advice in your police interview then we will make regular contact with the police to ensure that you know what is happening with the investigation. We will be able to keep the police informed on your behalf of any changes of address. We will also be able to tell you when the investigation has been concluded and if you are likely to have to go to court.
Even if we have not advised you in interview, please feel free to contact us afterwards. We will be able to advise you on the likelihood of further interviews, and provide the same service to you as we would to those who we represented in interview.
What should I do if I receive a postal requisition?
Hopefully you will have already taken advantage of our free and independent legal advice at the police station so in those circumstances simply contact the lawyer at this firm who dealt with your case.
We will be able to provide you with advice as to the availability of criminal legal aid or discuss private funding with you. We will also be able to make a request for the papers in your case prior to the first hearing and begin to take instructions and advise you as to plea.
This will ensure that you have representation at this all important first hearing and will have investigated any defence that you might wish to put forward.
Local newspapers will often publicise cases that have been before local Magistrates’ Courts. It will often seem that the sentences handed out in some cases are entirely disproportionate to the offences that vulnerable defendants have been convicted of. This may be due to circumstances that we are unaware of, or because of a particularly harsh sentencing bench, or because the defendants appeared unrepresented before the court.
Such severe sentences are not inevitable. At a recent Saturday morning court, Nottingham partner and crime solicitor Nick Walsh was able to secure constructive disposals for two of his vulnerable clients.
Serial shop lifter receives conditional discharge
Nick’s first client was charged with five shop thefts with a total value of £760. The evidence was strong and he had made admissions with the benefit of our free and independent legal advice in police interview.
He had a long history of offending and had been to prison four times in the last two years. He had only been released from custody shortly before the new offending.
Due to his vulnerabilities he was very volatile when Nick spoke to him. He was a long standing client of Nottingham crime solicitor Graham Heathcote and initially only wanted Graham to represent him. At one stage he intended to go into court unrepresented if Graham could not deal with his case.
Nick’s manner is such that he was able to calm him down and take instructions about the miserable circumstances that he had endured since release from prison. He had remained homeless, and as a result of sleeping rough had suffered abuse and assaults.
Despite the number of offences and his record of convictions Nick was able to persuade the Magistrates to deal with him by way of a conditional discharge.
Vulnerable drug user sentenced to community order
The second of Nick’s vulnerable clients on that morning was a female charged with several thefts, possession of heroin and breach of her post release supervision.
She had received two custodial sentences for thefts within the nine months prior to this offending. Before that she had the benefit of other community orders that involved Drug Rehabilitation Requirements. All of these interventions had failed.
Fortunately Nick was able to speak with the duty probation officer. As a result of that discussion, Nick was able to mitigate and persuade the Magistrates that his client ought to be given a further opportunity to comply with a community order. A further Drug Rehabilitation Requirement was imposed without the need for a pre-sentence report from the probation service.
Choose the right solicitor for your case
As we have a contract with the government to permit us to provide expert legal advice and representation under the legal aid scheme. This means that our advice in the police station will always be free of charge to you in the police station.
Our clients will turn their mind to what punishment they might receive if they plead guilty to, or are convicted of, a criminal offence. In most cases the thought is whether it might be a prison sentence, a community penalty, or a hefty fine and perhaps not a directors disqualification.
While the substantive penalty is, of course, important, on occasion there are other things more serious to consider. In previous articles, we have looked at issues such as confiscation, and in this article, we consider a company directors disqualification.
What do business people need to consider?
The Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 provides that a court may make a disqualification order where a person is convicted of an offence which is concerned with the mismanagement of a company.
There are a wide number of scenarios catered for under the Act. As a result the actual circumstances must be considered with care. In certain situations, offences committed abroad will also qualify, as set out in section 5A of the Act.
What conduct is relevant?
Both the internal and external management of the company are relevant to section 2(1) of the 1986 Act (Corbin (1984) 6 Cr App R (S) 17). A director’s general conduct in running the affairs of the business is also relevant (Georgiou (1988) 10 Cr App R (S) 137).
The court has extensive discretion in relation to most offences:
‘This is a completely general and unfettered power given by Parliament to courts on the occasion when a person is convicted of an indictable offence of that type. Parliament has decided not to give the sentencing court any guidance as to the way in which it ought to exercise its powers of disqualification in the very many and varied circumstances in which it may come to exercise those powers” (Young (1990) 12 Cr App R (S) 262).
What is a ‘disqualification order’?
The effect of the order is to prevent a person being involved in the future affairs of [any] company:
he shall not be a director of a company, act as receiver of a company’s property or in any way, whether directly or indirectly, be concerned or take part in the promotion, formation or management of a company unless (in each case) he has the leave of the court, and
he shall not act as an insolvency practitioner.
How long does the order last?
An order made by a Magistrates’ Court can be for no longer than five years. An order made by the Crown Court must be no longer than fifteen years, although in relation to some offences there is a shorter time frame specified.
The Court of Appeal has on occasion supported the making of lengthy orders, for example, one lasting eight years in R v Singh-Mann and Others  EWCA Crim 717.
Will a guilty plea make any difference as to the length of the order?
A guilty plea will not act to reduce the disqualification period. This is because the discount for an early plea does not apply to ancillary orders (Clayton  EWCA Crim 49,  All ER (D) 71 (Jan)).
It is, however, inappropriate to order disqualification where the offender is conditionally discharged (Young (1990) 12 Cr App R (S) 262).
It may be inappropriate for a court to order compensation to be paid by a director who, by virtue of the making of this type of order, will be deprived of the ability to earn a living (Holmes (1992) 13 Cr App R (S) 29).
What happens if I breach the order?
Imprisonment of up to 2 years may be imposed if an order relating to a directors disqualification is breached.
How we can assist in a directors disqualification case
We are experts in all aspects of criminal law. As a result we are well placed to advise you if the above provisions relating to a directors disqualification might be invoked in your case. If you have any concerns or simply to discuss any aspect of your case, then please contact your nearest office here.
A new domestic abuse sentencing guideline was published on 22 February 2018, giving courts up to date guidance that emphasises the seriousness of offending involving domestic violence or other forms of abuse in a domestic setting.
What is domestic abuse?
There is no specific crime of domestic abuse. It can be a feature of many offences including assault, sexual offences or harassment. The new domestic abuse sentencing guideline aims to ensure that the seriousness of these offences is properly taken into account when such offences are being sentenced. The intention is that sufficient thought is also given to the need to address the offender’s behaviour and prevent re-offending.
Are there an existing domestic abuse sentencing guideline?
The new guideline replaces a domestic violence guideline which was published in 2006. A great deal has changed since then in terms of societal attitudes, expert thinking and terminology.
It was felt, therefore, that guidance for courts was therefore in need of revision to bring it up to date. ‘Domestic abuse’ is now the term used, rather than ‘domestic violence’. This reflects that offences can involve psychological, sexual, financial or emotional abuse as well as physical violence.
When is the new guideline in force?
The domestic abuse sentencing guideline will apply to all offenders aged 16 and older sentenced on or after 24 May 2018.
How does this guideline change things?
The guideline identifies the principles relevant to the sentencing of cases involving domestic abuse, outlines how the seriousness of offences should be assessed and highlights other factors that should be taken into account.
It brings a distinct change in emphasis in relation to seriousness.
The previous sentencing guideline stated that offences committed in a domestic context should be seen as no less serious than those in a non-domestic context, whereas the new guideline emphasises that the fact an offence took place in a domestic context makes it more serious.
This is because domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident, it is likely to become increasingly frequent and more serious the longer it continues and may result in death. It can also lead to lasting trauma for victims and their children.
For the first time, the guideline also includes a reference to abuse which is perpetrated through use of technology, such as email or text, social networking sites or tracking devices fitted to a victim’s car. These are increasingly common methods by which domestic abuse can occur.
The guidelines recognise that these offences can affect people of all backgrounds and the guideline is also clear that abuse can occur between family members as well as between intimate partners.
Will anything else change?
Yes. In particular, there is now additional guidance on restraining orders, along with new guidance on Victim Personal Statements.
In relation to restraining orders, the guideline now includes additional guidance to assist the court with a renewed focus on keeping the victim safe, particularly for those who continue or resume their relationship with the offender.
The guideline further reminds courts to take any Victim Personal Statement into account. Where there is no such statement, this is not an indication of any lack of harm to the victim.
Sentencing Council member Jill Gramann said:
“Domestic abuse comes in many forms such as harassment, assault and sex offences. The increasing use of technology in offending has meant that it has also evolved in its scope and impact. The new guideline will ensure that courts have the information they need to deal with the great range of offending and help prevent further abuse occurring.”
What factors will a court take into account on sentence?
The following list of non-exhaustive aggravating and mitigating factors are of particular relevance to offences committed in a domestic context and should be considered alongside offence specific factors.
Abuse of trust and abuse of power
Victim is particularly vulnerable. Although all victims of domestic abuse are potentially vulnerable due to the nature of the abuse, but some victims of domestic abuse may be more vulnerable than others, and not all vulnerabilities are immediately apparent)
Steps taken to prevent the victim reporting an incident
Steps taken to prevent the victim obtaining assistance
Victim forced to leave home, or steps have to be taken to exclude the offender from the home to ensure the victim’s safety
Impact on children as children can be adversely impacted by both direct and indirect exposure to domestic abuse
Using contact arrangements with a child to instigate an offence
A proven history of violence or threats by the offender in a domestic context
A history of disobedience to court orders such as, but not limited to, Domestic Violence Protection Orders, non-molestation orders and restraining orders
Positive good character – as a general principle of sentencing, a court will take account of an offender’s positive good character. However, it is recognised that one of the factors that can allow domestic abuse to continue unnoticed for lengthy periods is the ability of the perpetrator to have a public and a private face. In respect of offences committed within a domestic context, an offender’s good character in relation to conduct outside these offences should generally be of no relevance where there is a proven pattern of behaviour
Evidence of genuine recognition of the need for change, and evidence of obtaining help or treatment to effect that change
Will those convicted get a longer sentence?
A spokesperson for the Sentencing Council commented:
‘Overall, it is likely that there will be an increase in sentence severity as a result of the introduction of the guideline, however, the guideline emphasises the need to consider the most appropriate sentence to prevent further re-offending and protect victims, which may be a community order.’
How we can help
Many people feel that sentencing is increasingly a mechanistic process, with a danger that the new domestic abuse sentencing guideline will be rigidly stuck to, and the individual considerations of defendants either ignored or played down.
However, case law over the last few years emphasises that courts should be cautious to ensure that this does not happen. All of our advocates are experienced in presenting the best mitigation possible to courts, ensuring the best possible outcome.
Contact a specialist in defending domestic abuse cases
The new domestic abuse sentencing guideline mean that it may be easier in the future for courts to justify a custodial sentence. As a result, you will want to contact us as soon as the police make contact with you.
Your nearest office can be found here. We provide a nationwide service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All advice and assistance in police interview will be free of charge to you. Legal aid is available for many cases before the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts.
Our client had been convicted after trial before the Magistrates of resisting a police officer in the execution of their duty. Although she had only received a fine, this in combination with the prosecution costs meant that she had a substantial bill to pay at the conclusion of her case.
She was aggrieved with the outcome of the Magistrates’ Court trial. She maintained that she was neither violent towards officers or attempted to resist arrest. At the conclusion of the incident she had a broken arm.
The prosecution case
Police officers had attended an address to locate an offender. Upon finding our client they discovered that she was subject to a warrant from the Magistrates’ Court for her immediate arrest in relation to road traffic offences. Our client had already made arrangements with another police officer to surrender to that warrant.
When the police entered the property she was asleep in bed. She had been drinking, and accepted that she was tired an annoyed by what was an unnecessary arrest bearing in mind her earlier conversation with the police.
The police maintained that she became abusive and then aggressive when the police attempted to arrest her. It was alleged that she attempted to bite a female officer and then tried to resist arrest. The police maintained that during their struggle to arrest her she had fallen off the bed and broken her arm.
Fault was said to lie with our client rather than the officers.
The reason for the Crown Court appeal
Our client’s version of events was very different. She maintained that she had been handcuffed to one wrist while still on the bed. A male officer had then taken old of the handcuffs while she was on t the bed. He twisted her arm behind her back and pulled her off the bed with force.
As a result she fell to the floor breaking her arm. The injury was extremely serious. Her arm was broken in three places. She had to have an operation and metal plates were placed in her arm. At the time of her appeal she still had no feelings in her upper arm. Nerve damage had resulted and she remained on morphine and other medication.
Our client’s automatic right to appeal the conviction from the Magistrates’ Court to the Crown Court provided us with an opportunity to review whether additional evidence ought to be before the Crown Court on appeal.
At Jon’s suggestion, Sarah obtained a medical expert who prepared a report after liaison with our client’s treating consultant. The report confirmed that the injury could not have been caused by a fall or slip off the bed. There would have had to have been a twisting of her arm, consistent with her account, to cause the injury. This increased the likelihood of her success with her Crown Court appeal.
Prosecution abandoned its opposition to the appeal
The report was served upon the Crown Prosecution Service who sensibly indicated that they would no longer be contesting the appeal. The matter was listed before the Crown Court and the Magistrates’ Court conviction was overturned.
Contact us about your Crown Court Appeal
While there are always risks in pursuing a Crown Court appeal of a Magistrates’ Court conviction in terms of sentence and costs you will always want to seek our advice quickly.
The time limit for submitting any appeal is very short. Legal Aid might be available, as it was in this case.
Our solicitors are often instructed in cases involving allegations of domestic violence. The complainants in some of these cases do not support the prosecution. This lack of support was indicated at a very early stage. None of the witnesses made statements when the police were investigating the allegations. The prosecution try to rely on hearsay res gestae evidence.
As a result, the prosecution has sought to rely entirely on hearsay evidence. In particular, the res gestae exception as preserved by Section 11(4) Criminal Justice Act 2003 has been relied upon.
The test for admitting res gestae evidence
Evidence amounts to res gestae when “the statement was made by a person so emotionally overpowered by an event that the possibility of concoction or distortion can be disregarded”.
This principle has been developed in subsequent case law. As a result the following points have been established which the court should consider in deciding whether to allow a Prosecution application to admit the evidence:
Ultimately, the Court has to determine whether the possibility of concoction or distortion can be disregarded;
The court will need to look at the particular circumstances in which the relevant statement has been made.
It must be satisfied that that the event was so unusual, startling or dramatic that it was the predominant thought of the witness.
Their statement was an instinctive reaction so there was no real opportunity for reasoned reflection.
The statement must be closely associated with the relevant event. The court must be sure that the event was still operating to effect the mind of the witness when the statement was made.
Does the case have particularly features which relate directly to the possibility of concoction or distortion. This might include evidence of fabrication. The court must be satisfied that there was no such possibility of concoction or distortion.
Any issues such as mistakes in the account given are not matters relevant to admissibility of the evidence but factors the court will consider in deciding what weight to give to such evidence.
There is clear case law that the prosecution should not make an application to admit res gestae to circumvent other statutory hearsay provisions.
What evidential matters will the court look at?
The issue of the timing of the statement will be key to any application. These will include:
when the victim called the police
how soon after the incident the victim gave the account said to be res gestae
These are not the only factors that the Court should consider however. The Court will also need to look at:
whether there is any supporting evidence for example visible injuries
the victim’s demeanour when first witnesses attend
their subsequent words and behaviour
is there an accurate transcription of recorded evidence such as 999 calls, police bodycam footage or CCTV evidence
where the victim has made more than one statement, the accuracy and consistency of those statements will need careful consideration
if there has been more than one telephone call or electronic communication have been made by the same person?
Ultimately each case has to be considered on its own facts.
Should the prosecution give notice of an application?
The Criminal Procedure Rules do not require the prosecution to give notice of an application to admit hearsay evidence under the res gestae principles. Any notice given very much depends on the prosecutor dealing with the particular case. Where an application is made in advance and refused the case will end at that stage unless there is other admissible evidence to secure a conviction.
Even where a court admits res gestae evidence it must still evaluate that evidence in the usual way. The prosecution must still proved its case to the required standard.
Exclusion of hearsay evidence under section 78 PACE 1984
A defendant has an opportunity to apply to exclude evidence of res gestae. If a court has admitted the evidence, application can be made under Section 78 of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The court has a discretion to exclude evidence which would otherwise be admissible.
For example, there may be cases where the prosecution have failed to take sufficient steps to ensure a witness’s attendance at court. The prosecution might have purported to tender the prosecution to the defence. This means that the defendant would be at liberty to call the witness.
Circumstances like these might permit a persuasive argument that the defendant has been denied an opportunity to test the evidence through cross examination of the witness.
An application to admit hearsay evidence should be an application of last resort. In many cases the prosecution will attempt such an application when a witness might be available to give evidence as to the facts.
In the case of R v Andrews it was stated that a court should “strongly deprecate any attempt in criminal prosecutions to use the doctrine [of res gestae]as a device to avoid calling, when he is available, the maker of the statement”.
Contact a specialist criminal defence solicitor
On behalf of a defendant, a solicitor must make sure that the prosecution does not use a res gestae application to place otherwise inadmissible hearsay evidence before the court. Solicitors must ensure that the statutory and procedural safeguards are used to ensure a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
A defendant will wish to instruct a solicitor who is alive to all of the issues relating to this evidence and prepared for an argument at short notice against the admissibility of re gestae.
Chesterfield Crime Solicitor Kevin Tomlinson was recently instructed in an unusual case of dangerous driving. His client was alleged to have a driven a tractor dangerously. If convicted, Kevin’s client stood to lose not only his good name but also his licence for a minimum of twelve months.
The allegation of dangerous driving
Kevin’s client, aged 17, had been assisting on a family farm. He drove a tractor on a public highway moving bales of hay. He was driving along a narrow country lane when another vehicle approached from the other direction. A collision occurred causing minor damage to the car. The tractor tipped over onto its side, coming to rest on a dry stone wall.
The police were called to the scene because of the accident. Kevin’s client was eventually summonsed to court for dangerous driving.
Our client denied the offence stating that he had not been driving at speed as alleged. In fact, this was simply an accident due to the nature of the road. The hedges were overgrown so the view of both drivers was restricted. Kevin advised his client that a not guilty plea ought to be entered and the case was adjourned for trial in the Magistrates’ Court.
Expert witness instructed
In order to prepare for the trial Kevin visited the location of the accident. As a result he instructed an expert to visit the scene in order to give his opinion as to the manner of driving. This would be based upon the road layout and how the vehicles ended up after the accident. Following this detailed recreation of the scene the expert felt the standard of driving was not dangerous. He agreed with our client’s view of the incident.
This report allowed Kevin to make detailed submissions to the Crown Prosecution Service. He invited them to reconsider the case against his client. This was because the evidence did not support a charge of dangerous driving.
Although Kevin had to chase the prosecution for an answer, eventually a decision was made that there was a more suitable charge. This was the little known offence of being in control of a vehicle whilst being unable to see the entire road ahead.
This was a suitable charge because the hydraulic front loader attachment used to transport the hay bales, when in the correct position for use on the road, created a blind spot. This problem was aggravated by the driving conditions on this particular road.
The new offence was a far less serious allegation than dangerous driving. It carried a financial penalty and penalty points . Kevin’s client pleaded guilty on a very limited basis that had been agreed by the prosecution. It was accepted by the court.
Absolute discharge ordered
At the sentencing hearing Kevin addressed the Magistrates about the case including personal mitigation of his client. Upon hearing all of this information the court imposed an Absolute Discharge. This meant that the court considered that no punishment was needed. The court also ordered that no Prosecution costs were to be paid.
The Court had to impose 3 penalty points for the offence which was the minimum that could be imposed. For obvious reasons Kevin’s client was delighted with both the outcome and the fact that the case was finally over.
Kevin’s persuasive advocacy skills and tenacious attitude in securing all relevant evidence to assist his client’s case meant an exceptional outcome for his Client. It is clear that he explored every line of enquiry to ensure a result that favoured his client.
Criminal legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court
Our client satisfied both the merits and means test for legal aid which means that the advice and representation provided by Kevin was free of charge to him. The legal aid also paid the costs of instructing the expert witness in the case.
We will always provide you with full advice as to how best to fund your case, including the availability of legal aid.
Contact a Chesterfield Motoring Solicitor
If you require the advice and representation of an expert motoring solicitor then please contact Kevin at our Chesterfield office on 01246 283000 or email him here. Details of our Chesterfield Office can be found here.
Kevin 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.
Nottingham crime solicitor Lauren Fisher pursued an exceptional hardship application for her client to ensure that he had the benefit of legal aid. She then ensured that his trial was prepared properly with the Crown, once again, failing to secure the evidence that would provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
The circumstances of the offence
Lauren’s client was charged with and allegation of common assault. A member of the public had reported the assault. When the police attended at the scene they found the alleged victim who named Lauren’s client as being responsible for an unlawful assault. He was named and arrested nearby.
In interview, Lauren’s client maintained that he could not remember anything about the night. Unsurprisingly he was charged to court.
A few days later, his partner made a further statement to the police. She stated that she had been drunk when she made her original statement. The incident had also been two-sided and she had not been assaulted. Due to the fact she was no longer a helpful witness to the prosecution she was tendered to the defence. This means that Lauren could call her as a witness if she wanted.
Lack of identification evidence
The prosecution had not noticed that without this witness there was no evidence identifying Lauren’s client as the man involved in the incident. This was the case because the eye witness had not been present when our client was arrested. As a result of the original statement by our client’s partner there had not been identification procedures.
Once Lauren had identified this she properly put the court and prosecution on notice that identification would be a trial issue. Had she not put the prosecution on notice it was likely that the prosecution would be granted an adjournment to seek the necessary evidence.
Failure to hold a VIPER procedure
Despite being warned of the problem with the evidence the prosecution and police failed to pursue the VIPER identification evidence. Lauren’s client confirmed that he would consent to the procedure late in the case. As a result his details were passed to the officer to make the necessary arrangements.
Despite this, by the trial no attempts had been made to make the arrangements for a video identification parade. As a result the prosecution took a realistic approach and offered no evidence.
Magistrates’ Court Criminal Legal Aid Exceptional Hardship
Criminal legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court is subject to both a merits and means test. Firstly, the Legal Aid Agency has to be sure that there are features of the case that mean that legal aid should be granted. The defendant is also subject to a means test. There is no contribution, so if the defendant earns over a certain level after deductions then legal aid is not available.
It is possible, however, to make an application to the Legal Aid Agency to ask that legal aid is granted on the basis of exceptional hardship. This procedure involves the defendant’s solicitor setting out the likely fees to represent them at court and then asking the Agency to say that the expense would be more that they could afford.
In this case, Lauren spent the time with her client assessing that such an application would be worthwhile. Because of this he was able to have the benefit of free advice and representation at the Magistrates’ Court trial.
Contact a criminal law solicitor in Nottingham
Whether you face a police investigation or proceedings before the Magistrates’ or Crown Court you will want to instruct a specialist criminal defence lawyer. We will provide you with advice and representation that you can afford.
Please remember that advice and representation in police interview is always free of charge under the legal aid scheme. This is always true whether you are interviewed while under arrest or as a volunteer, at the police station or another place such as your home.
We will always provide advice as to whether an exceptional hardship application is likely to succeed and advise on the process.
Nottingham criminal solicitor Alex Chapman recently demonstrated that VHS Fletchers are prepared to travel under free legal aid in Magistrates’ Court cases. This is because we want to ensure you receive continuity of legal representation in your case.
Alex recently travelled to Bromley Magistrates’ Court to represent a client from Nottingham because he was charged with three allegations of assault. One of them was racially aggravated.
Our client had never appeared before a court before and was understandably concerned about the outcome of his case. Despite his character, there was a real risk that he would receive a custodial sentence, particularly due to one of the charges being racially aggravated.
Alex’s client had been in London because he had to resolve an issue with his passport. He had, however, missed his coach home and had unwisely had a drink to pass the time. Our client ended up in an argument with his partner and then an altercation with shop staff and a member of the public.
He was extremely apologetic for his actions so had not disputed the alleged conduct . Our client knew that he had lost his good character and that this could have a major impact on his future but he was realistic in his expectation of a prison sentence.
Alex saw that his client was particularly concerned that he receive continuity of representation. It is perhaps always important that a client has the benefit of the same lawyer throughout the lifetime of his case. Although he was legally aided, Alex was able to commit to travelling to Bromley.
In the event the case was able to be concluded at a single hearing because we had full instructions. Guilty pleas were entered and then Alex offered mitigation on his client’s behalf. A brief probation assessment was carried out so his client was sentenced. Rather than a custodial sentence he received a community order.
Availability of Free Legal Aid for Criminal Cases
We will always assess whether you are entitled to free legal aid for Magistrates’ Court hearings. In this case the funding allowed us to provide free representation to our client some distance away.
Contact one of our criminal defence solicitors
We have several offices across the East Midlands, however we can provide nationwide advice and representation in police stations and at the Magistrates’ and Crown Court. Find your nearest office here or use the contact form below in order to instruct us.
Nottingham crime and regulatory solicitor Martin Hadley represented provided advice and representation to a client in police interview, then continued with his case before Nottingham Magistrates’ Court. The decision relating to a ‘no comment’ interview made in the police station influenced the Crown Prosecution Service decision to drop the case before trial.
Arrest for Criminal Damage
Martin’s client was Initially arrested for a criminal damage. Prior to police interview the interviewing office was unable to provide Martin with a great deal of evidence upon which to take instructions and advise his client as to whether he ought to answer questions in interview or not.
‘No Comment’ response to questions
Owing to this lack of evidence, Martin advised his client to respond ‘no comment’ to police questions in interview. His client accepted that advice. He was then placed on police bail to return to the police station. On returning to the police station there was no further police interview. Martin’s client was simply charged with the offence which investigations had revealed was now one of high damage.
Martin represented his client at the first court appearance. He was presented with only a summary of the case. There were no detailed police statements. His client pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned to trial.
Poor quality CCTV
Despite chasing the CPS, the evidence that the prosecution intended to rely upon, including CCTV of the incident. The footage was of a poor quality, and the remaining evidence was contradictory.
On attending court for the trial, Martin was able to speak with the prosecutor to check that he shared Martin’s view about the state of the evidence. The prosecutor was in agreement that he would be unable to prove the case and offered no evidence. Martin’s client was found not guilty.
Advice led to not guilty verdict
Had Martin’s client not had the benefit of his advice at both the police station and court it was likely that he would have provided the police and prosecution with information or evidence that would have strengthened the case against him and may have left him with a conviction, a punishment from the court and compensation and costs to pay.
This case demonstrates that a specialist criminal defence solicitor from VHS Fletchers can make a difference to the outcome of your case. This is particularly true when we are instructed at the beginning of your case when you have your first police interview.