Nottingham criminal legal aid solicitor Martin Hadley was instructed in a case alleging assault upon two staff members at a local hospital. Eventually the prosecution was persuaded that it was not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution. It was no doubt a shame that this sensible review did not take place sooner, bearing in mind the vulnerabilities of his client.
Police interview at home without a solicitor
Martin’s client had been interviewed by the police regarding these assaults. The interview was undertaken at the client’s home address and without the benefit of legal advice. Although such an interview technique might create the impression that the police are not taking the matter particularly seriously, the evidence gathered through interview carries just as much weight if gained at a police station in a formal interview.
Second legal aid solicitor instructed
This firm was first instructed by our client after another firm of solicitors had failed to secure free criminal legal aid for her. This resulted in an earlier trial being adjourned because the steps necessary in her defence had not been taken.
Martin took the time to speak with our client’s carer. He obtained instructions as to our client’s income and this allowed an application for legal aid. This was granted without difficulties. Unfortunately, owing to her health difficulties our client was unable to provide us with clear instructions regarding the criminal charges.
Eventually Martin received the papers relating to her case from the former solicitors. He read the papers and discovered that the allegations involved assaults on two nurses at the hospital. For understandable reasons, where a person is convicted, the courts will always take such matters seriously.
Argument that our client was acting lawfully
The nurses would give evidence that a doctor from the Mental Health Unit had asked for the client to be detained so that staff at the relevant ward could undertake a full mental health assessment. The nurses who were dealing with our client at the time did not have training on how to deal with patients with mental health difficulties.
Our client decided to leave the hospital. The staff attempted to restrain her and at that time she was said to have assaulted the nurses.
Upon a review of the file Martin decided to approach the case from two angles to try and secure the best result for his client. Firstly, he pointed out to the prosecution in correspondence that there was currently no evidence that the nurses had a power to detain his client under the Mental Health Act. Without such authority then it could be argued that his client was free to leave the hospital. This meant that any attempts to detain her would have amounted to unlawful force and so our client would be entitled to resist. This would mean that the alleged assaults were not unlawful.
Despite various requests by the prosecution, the hospital was never to release a copy of the order or the relevant notes relating to the incident. Delays in the trial being heard because of this.
How could it be in the public interest to proceed?
The issue of lawful authority being pursued so Martin’s second aim was to try and persuade the CPS to discontinue the proceedings. He argued that it would not be “in the interests of justice” to continue with the proceedings because of the circumstances.
The client was clearly suffering from an illness that required treatment at the time of the allegations. She had no recollection of the incident due to what was believed to have been a psychotic attack. This contention was backed up by the fact that the client was subsequently detained under the Mental Health Act following the incident.
Martin made lengthy representations to the prosecution because of these health issues. The health problems were continuing, and a further period of detention had followed under the Mental Health Act. Specific guidance from the prosecution and the National Health Service suggested individuals should not be prosecuted because of their illness.
Late decision by prosecution means that case dropped on day of trial
Despite this clear guidance and irrefutable medical evidence the prosecution would not make a final decision as to withdrawing the case. Fortunately, the prosecution discontinued the case on the day of the trial, although numerous attempts had been made to secure that outcome prior to the trial date.
Criminal Legal Aid in the Magistrates’ Court
We know how important it is to secure affordable representation if you face proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court. There is both a merits test and a means test but we will help you complete the forms. This is so that you have the best chance of passing both.
Even if an initial decision is made that you have too much income, we will provide you with advice about pursuing an exceptional hardship application to try and ensure that you receive free legal aid. This is because as a legal aid solicitor we specialise in this type of advice.
Instruct a Nottingham criminal legal aid solicitor
If you wish to instruct legal aid solicitor Martin Hadley then please telephone him on 0115 9599550. Alternatively, you can contact him using the form below.
One of our other offices might be more convenient to you. You can find out where they are here.