Tag Archives: police

Mobile phone data and prosecutions

We are all aware that we live in a surveillance society. CCTV cameras can record our movements around large towns and cities, and many homes now have them installed for protection.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras take a snapshot of car number plates and can not only monitor average speed for road traffic enforcement purposes, but also track the movement of a vehicle over hundreds of miles in most instances.

mobile phone dataFinally, most people are aware that the location where a mobile telephone call was made can be pinpointed to within a few hundred metres.

But who knew that an App, installed on all Apple phones, and similar Apps on Android devices, could hold the key to a murder case?  One defendant in Germany, Hussein Khavari, found this out to his cost when he faced trial for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student.

While investigators were able to piece together part of the defendant’s movements, his location at critical times was unknown.  It was at this point investigators turned their attention to his phone which had been seized as evidence upon arrest.

Police examination of mobile phone data

The defendant had refused to provide the police with the PIN to unlock the phone.  Despite this, specialists were able to hack into the phone and examine the mobile phone data.

mobile phone dataThe data from the Health App was examined.  It could be seen that at certain moments the data demonstrated a significant increase in physical activity.  This mobile phone data correlated with important parts of the prosecution case within the timeline, namely dragging a body down a river embankment and then climbing back up.

This evidence was used to dispute the defendant’s account of the killing which he stated was by accident, had happened at a different location, and was not premeditated.

The use of such seemingly private mobile phone data is proving controversial.  This is particularly true where there is a friction between the right to privacy and the legitimate investigation of crimes.

Difficulties for investigators

Strong encryption technology is also reported to be making life very difficult for investigators.  Home Secretaries has spoken many times of the need for new legislation.

This story also reminds us that encryption may only as good as the password behind it.  A 4-digit code to protect a phone or other device can be cracked within minutes by a data specialist.  A ten-digit random code would probably only be cracked after many years of trying, if at all.

In the UK police can, in some circumstances, request that a suspect hand over their PIN and passwords.  Failure to do so can lead to prosecution for a criminal offence under section 53 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 200.  This offence carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

mobile phone data

Contact a criminal law specialist

The issue of privacy and its place in criminal justice is a new and evolving topic, as is the requirement to hand over PINs and passwords.

Before choosing to reveal your data secrets or making a decison to refuse it will be critical that you seek specialist independent advice as soon as possible,

You are likely to be asked to make this decision in police interview.  Our advice will be free of charge to you in those circumstances so make sure you take advantage of it.

You can find your nearest office here.

mobile phone data

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.


Offences taken into consideration (‘TICs’)

What are offences taken into consideration or ‘TICs’?

These are offences taken into consideration at the time of sentencing.  These ‘TICs’ are not offences that are charged.

When will a person be asked about them?

 Where someone has pleaded guilty to an offence or offences, or is expected to do so, or are due to be sentenced after trial, a person can admit other matters so that they can be offences taken into consideration at that sentencing hearing.

As well as a person volunteering offences, the police may also approach them to ask if they want to accept any TICs.  It is crucial that free and independent legal advice is obtained at this stage as there are consequences and risks to having offences taken into consideration on sentence.

What happens if I want to admit TICs?

 You will be spoken to under caution.  If you do admit other offences and the police and prosecution agree, a schedule of the offences will offences taken into considerationbe prepared and placed before the court.

It is then for the court to decide whether or not to take them into account when you are sentenced.

The positive side of such a process is that the court will consider the fact that you have assisted the police and shown a genuine desire to “wipe the slate clean”.  This will support any suggestion of genuine remorse for any offending.  More can be found about such mitigation here.

Additionally, the police will no longer be searching for the person responsible for these offences so there will be no risk of future arrests and sentence.

Offences taken into consideration will make a difference to your sentence.  Any sentence will be longer as a result of the TICs,  Any increase, however, may not be as much as if you were sentenced separately for those offences.

The negative consequences of TICs

On the negative side, the acceptance of offences taken into consideration may result in a greatly increased sentence.  They will be treated as an aggravating feature of your offending.  This will be especially true if there is a large number of TICs.

The total sentence imposed has to reflect all of the offending behaviour.

A defendant can also be ordered to pay compensation in relation to TICs.

offences taken into considerationFinally, it may be that the offences might never have been linked to any suspect.  As a result, a defendant may be admitting more than could ever be proved.  As a result there will be a trade off between peace of mind as against looking over your shoulder wondering whether your past will catch up with you.

Wiping the slate clean

If you wish to wipe the slate clean it is important to ensure that all outstanding offences are admitted, otherwise you may not receive any discount if a future prosecution is brought.

In the recent case of Murray [2018] EWCA Crim 1252 the court observed (citing an earlier case of McLean [2017] EWCA Crim 170):

“It seems to us however that this appellant must have made a conscious choice not to disclose the July 2014 matter in the hope that it would go undetected. In those circumstances he cannot now claim to be sentenced as if both matters should have been dealt with together in January 2015. To permit that to happen at this stage would be unjust to the public interest in giving the appellant an undeserved, uncovenanted bonus. This case therefore is a salutary illustration of the benefits which can accrue to offenders from making voluntary admissions of additional offending and the risks that they run if they choose not to do so.”

What sort of offences can be TIC’d?

 Similar offending is likely to be accepted as a TIC. An offence is unlikely to be accepted as a TIC if –

  • it is an admission to an offence more serious than the one you have pleaded guilty to;
  • it is an offence that would attract disqualification or penalty points on conviction;
  • if it is an offence committed in breach of an earlier sentence;
  • where it is an offence completely dissimilar to the one charged; or
  • where it is a specified offence when the charged offence is not.

If further offences are admitted will they definitely be offences taken into consideration?

 Not necessarily.

Admissions in the circumstances above may lead to further criminal charges being brought against a defendant.  This is why it is important to seek free and independent legal advice.

How can we help in these circumstances?

Any advice as to whether to accept TICs or not is likely to be dependent on both your personal circumstances and the offences involved.

If we are already representing you then we will be able to take your instructions and provide you with advice on the likely effect of admitting further offences to be taken into consideration.

Where we do not currently act for you and you want our expert advice then please contact your nearest office.  Our independent legal advice in police interview will always be free of charge to you under the criminal legal aid scheme.


Defending a charge of Threats to Kill

How many times have you said something like ‘I’m going to kill you’?  Most of the time this will simply be something said in the heat of the moment rather than genuine threats to kill.

threats to killIf, however, you make such a threat and intend that another would fear it would be carried out then you will be committing an offence of making threats to kill.

The offence is under section 16 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Even though the legislation is very old it is still a commonly used charge. The key part of the offence is that a person intend another to fear that the threat would be carried out.

Is there a defence to threats to kill?

 If you make the threat in self-defence or in the prevention of crime you may have a defence of lawful excuse.  Whether any threat made was reasonable in the circumstances will be a matter for the magistrates or jury.

Equally, a comment made in temper or jest, with no intent to make anyone fear it would be carried out, would not be an offence.

Evidence of previous history between the parties is admissible as tending to prove that the defendant intended his words to be taken seriously (Williams (C.I.), 84 Cr.App.R. 299, CA.)

What if the threats to kill are made to someone else?

 You do not have to make the threat directly to the person, it may be through a third party.

For example, a man in prison made threats to a prison officer that he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend, he was convicted and received five years imprisonment. The threats were taken especially seriously as he had a previous conviction for the manslaughter of his wife.

What sentence can I expect?

The offence can encompass a wide range of offending so in sentencing the court will look at a variety of factors.  These can include the following examples:

  • was there a weapon?
  • was it a threat in the heat of the moment?
  • the impact on the victim
  • repeated threats or a single calculated threat?

An example is a case involving threats to kill made to an arresting officer.  The offender knew detail about the officer’s home life which threats to killadded weight to the threats.  As a result he was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.

When a weapon is present when threats are being made the offence is much more serious.  An offender who threatened his former partner with a sword received five years imprisonment.

Sentences imposed can range from a community order for an offence that constitutes one threat made in the heat of the moment, through to imprisonment up to a maximum of 10 years for repeated threats or the presence of a weapon.

How can we help defend in a case of threats to kill?

 As you can see, making threats to kill is a serious allegations and the law relating to defences can be complex.

As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early advice legal advice can be found here.

If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.  Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

We have offices across the East Midlands.  You can find your most convenient office here.   Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.


New machines target drink drivers with roadside breath tests

The government has announced its intention to use new breathalysers to administer roadside breath tests.  This move could see a further 6,000 convictions per year for those who drink and drive.

roadside breath tests

Roadside breath tests followed by evidential tests

At the moment, breath test procedures are in two stages.  Those who test positive during roadside breath tests will be arrested and taken to a police station.   This is for a further test to be administered.  The second test is known as the ‘evidential test’.  It is the result of this test that forms the basis of any prosecution decision.

The gap in time between the first positive roadside breath tests and the ones administered at the police station may be significant enough to ensure that a person blows a negative reading.   This would be due to falling alcohol levels over time.  In some cases, however, the reverse can also happen.

Although the law permits ‘back calculations’ to be undertaken,  the evidence base is such that they are seldom used by the prosecution in this scenario.  As a result it has been argued that some drink drivers go free.

roadside breath tests

The legislation providing a procedure for definitive evidential roadside breath tests is already in place.  In June 2018 the government has announced a competition aimed at device manufacturers, with the aim of ensuring that suitable devices are approved and in use for roadside breath tests by 2020.

Around 460 000 breath tests are conducted each year.  Approximately 59 000 people providing a positive reading.

Approximately 6 000 people provide a positive reading at the roadside but are later found to be under the limit when tested at the police station.  This change will see those people prosecuted.

In many instances these will be people who have ‘gambled’ on a quick lunchtime drink or have not allowed quite enough time to sober up from the night before.

roadside breath tests

The changes will also reduce the scope for so-called ‘loophole defences’.  These have been made popular due to the complexities of the police station procedure. It is expected that decades of case law will become redundant once the new devices are being used.

Experience does, however, tell us that legal challenges will continue to be developed even when other avenues of law are closed to suspects and defendants.

The penalties for drink driving are severe.  There are minimum periods of disqualification.  These can be combined with high financial penalties and punishing insurance premiums for many years to come.  Prison sentences will be imposed in the most extreme cases.  As a result, many offenders face the loss of employment.

How can we assist?

Our motoring solicitors are experts in all aspects of drink and drug driving law. This is one of the most complex areas of criminal law.  Early advice should be sought to ensure that you achieve the best outcome in your case.

In some recent cases we have successfully argued a medical defence to failing to provide a specimen, argued special reasons to avoid a disqualification from driving   and conducted  a trial securing a not guilty verdict for our client facing drug driving charges.

In some case, such as this one, our clients accept that they are guilty but wish to mitigate the usual effect of a conviction, such as a disqualification.

We have expert road traffic lawyers at our six offices across the East Midlands.  Find your nearest office here.  Alternatively you can use the contact form below.



Derby and District Law Society secures meeting for Chesterfield crime solicitors

chesterfield crime solicitorsOn 4 May 2018, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Gillott and Rosemary Spilsbury, Business and Performance Manager with the Derbyshire Criminal Justice Board, met with a group of Chesterfield crime solicitors who represent clients appearing before North Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court.

The meeting was informal in nature, arranged through Derby crime solicitor Nick Wright as the Derby and District Law Society chesterfield crime solicitorrepresentative for criminal matters.  The outcome has been shared with Legal Aid account managers and the Chair of the Derbyshire bench.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss any issues Chesterfield crime solicitors had with the processing of suspects and defendants by Derbyshire constabulary.  Some of the issues were also relevant to HMCTS and the CPS so the details were to be forwarded on.

Present were our Chesterfield crime solicitors David Gittins, Ben Strelley and Denney Lau, as well as other local practitioners.

The following matters were discussed:

Police Investigations

Police no longer appeared to be investigating both sides of a complaint during the investigation stage.  It was seldom, if ever, that they would speak with named defence witnesses.

Those interviewing suspects appeared to have a pre-conceived idea of what would be put in interview.  The series of questions were not departed from or amended dependent upon answers given by the suspect.  As a result, issues were not properly developed or interviews went on far longer than was necessary.

The need to investigate the issues raised by a suspect where relevant has been raised with the local body responsible for police training.

Bail and suspects released under investigation

The fact that bail could continue to be used did not appear to be properly considered by officers.

Instead, the overwhelming majority of suspects were simply being released under investigation (RUI).  Thereafter, there was no obvious suggestion that an investigation was being actively pursued.

Under the old bail system, Chesterfield crime solicitors at least had the opportunity to exercise some oversight in a case.  Representations could be made when suspects returned to the police station on bail, and bail milestones were set by which time there was a reasonable expectation that things might have progressed.

The police are to be encouraged to respond to emails from the defence explaining what is happening so that clients can be kept informed of progress.  The defence may be able to assist if, for example, it is discovered that a client has been subject to a postal requisition but has moved address.  The defence may be able to help save scarce police resources by making contact with a suspect if a further interview is required or with a defendant to make sure court dates are kept.

Superintendent Lewis will be contacting all police staff to ensure they are aware of the importance of updating suspects and their legal representatives.

Voluntary interviews

The number of voluntary interviews is increasing.  Unfortunately police stations lack the facilities to cope.  Voluntary interviews are not meant to take place in the cell blocks and several interview rooms are out of use.

The voluntary interview process and facilities are being reviewed. In the short term voluntary interviews will continue to take place in the cell block but longer term alternative rooms will be identified in police buildings across the force area.

Chesterfield Custody Suite

The facilities at Chesterfield custody suite are particularly poor.  Although the rooms in the cell block are also poor, they are still better than many of the rooms provided for voluntary interviews at many sites.  Although there has been some repairs and decorations at Chesterfield custody, other options may need to be considered in the long term.

Disclosure of evidence in particular cases

On practitioner cited a specific case where the alleged offender himself is vulnerable with a history of suicide attempts.  Phone records, and particularly text messages, were relevant to the case.  The case summary referred to 7,000 text messages that the police had retrieved.

The defence had requested this relevant material at the beginning of the case.  Three months later the defence was provided with a disc that could not be read without particular software and a password.  The defence had neither the software or the password.

Chesterfield crime solicitors are to be provided with the different types of format in which such information will be provided in future and where the software and other information can be obtained.

Disclosure of CCTV footage to Chesterfield crime solicitors

chesterfield crime solicitorsCCTV is not being provided to Chesterfield crime solicitors for the first hearing at the Magistrates’ Court.  It does not matter whether the case is anticipated to be a guilty or not guilty case.

There is an additional difficulty again in relation to the different formats in which it is supplied.  Some formats do not work on defence systems and again there are problems with the footage being password protected.

Again, we are to be provided with details of different formats used for different purposes and the software needed to access the CCTV footage.

Anticipated Plea

Unfortunately the police often anticipate the plea incorrectly.  This is a particular problem where a defendant has exercised their right to silence and there has been a ‘no comment’ interview.

If a case is wrongly identified as a ‘guilty’ plea then there will be no statements, exhibits or CCTV.  This generates a delay at court while this evidence is provided.  It will also mean that it is unlikely that issues raised by a suspect in interview will have been investigated.

A Criminal Justice review underway to establish how certain assumptions are made on plea, and how to improve the assessment of plea.

Respect for suspects and defendants

A plea was made that officers not refer to alleged offenders as ‘perps’ in the early summary of the case.  Rosemary has kindly fed this issue back to those responsible for training local officers and it is to be included in a Message Of  The Day to officers.

Buxton police station

There has been discussion as to whether the custody suite is to close and prisoners be processed elsewhere.  Unfortunately there is no answer, so a request was made that there is proper consultation with local defence solicitors, including Chesterfield crime solicitors, if change is to be considered.

Temporary closure of custody suites

When police close a custody suite temporarily the police have been asked that the duty solicitor covering that station be notified.  As a result of the meeting, the Chief Inspector has a request to Custody staff for this to be done.

Best evidence

chesterfield crime solicitorsIt was noted that the police are filming information from the phones of witnesses or complainants rather than seizing the device upon which the messages , photographs or footage is recorded on.

This provides a problem with disclosure.  Neither the prosecution or defence are able to access the full thread of messages or the original footage so allow the full context to be shown.

Disclosure issues have been recognised nationally by both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service and there is to be increased training for both agencies. The College of Policing is producing a national training package for officers.

Reporting poor practice

The Chesterfield crime solicitors present at the meeting observed that it would be useful for defence solicitors to be able to give feedback in relation to specific issues.

If there are examples of poor work that do not need an immediate response then Rosemary passed out her email address and encouraged direct contact in order that the issues can be resolved.


Those present were of the view that the meeting was useful.  It was also an indicator that there could be a constructive working relationship between the police and defence practitioners in order that all parties, including suspects or defendants, will benefit from change over the long term.

It is hoped that further such meetings will be arranged for the future.

Can I challenge a search warrant?

From an era before a search warrant, in Entick v Carrington (1765), a case concerning the entry to and searching of premises, the court ruled:

“…if this is law it would be found in our books, but no such law ever existed in this country; our law holds the property of every man so sacred, that no man can set his foot upon his neighbour’s close without his leave.”

search warrantEntick v Carrington is probably the earliest case law concerning the law of search and seizure.  It is a legal power since described as a ‘nuclear option’ in the court’s arsenal in the case of R (Mercury Tax Group) v HMRC [2008] EWHC 2721.  But, of course, it is certainly not the last word.  Over the last few years, there has been a substantial body of developing case law designed to ensure that this most potent state intrusion into the lives of individuals and business is exercised lawfully and proportionately.

Why does it matter?

First and foremost, core constitutional principles are at stake.

These include the power of the state to enter private property.  Very often this is done during a dawn raid and with other family members present.  As a result the powers should not be used lightly, particularly during what is normally the very early stages of a criminal investigation.

Because of this, the case of R (Mills) v Sussex Police and Southwark Crown Court [2014] EWHC 2523 (Admin) held that warrants should only be sought as a “last resort and should not be employed where other less draconian powers can achieve the relevant objective”.

The taking of documents, files, computer servers and systems can have a profound reputational impact on businesses when staff see what is happening.  They and clients lose confidence in the business. The inability to carry out ‘business as normal’ can put the survival of any business at risk and can place an unbearable burden on the individuals involved.

Can I challenge a search warrant?

The powers of search and seizure under a search warrant are spread out over a great many legislative provisions.  The key message is to take our legal advice as soon as you are aware that anything might happen or has already happened.

What is clear is that warrants are very often granted on an erroneous basis.  The applications show scant regard for the legal principles involved in the issue of the search warrant.

Drawing a warrant too widely is a frequent issue as is demonstrated in the case of R (F, J and K) v Blackfriars Crown Court and Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2014] EWHC 1541 (Admin).

search warrantWhile warrants are issued via a judicial process, the Judge will only be able to rely on what is disclosed by the investigator in private.

Police officers are duty bound to provide the court with full and frank disclosure, highlighting any material which is potentially adverse to the application. This includes a duty not to mislead the judge in any material way. The judge must then apply a rigorous critical analysis to the application so that they can be satisfied that the evidence provided justifies the grant of the warrant and give reasons for their decision.

In Redknapp v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2008] EWHC 1177 (Admin) the court ruled:

“The obtaining of a search warrant is never to be treated as a formality. It authorises the invasion of a person’s home. All the material necessary to justify the grant of a warrant should be contained in the information provided on the form. If the magistrate or Judge in the case of an application under s.9, does require any further information in order to satisfy himself that the warrant is justified, a note should be made of the additional information so that there is a proper record of the full basis upon which the warrant has been granted.”

There are various avenues of legal redress available, including judicial review. Early intervention may result in the return of documents and property, and in some instances, a claim for damages might be possible.

How we can assist

Please contact us if you know that your premises are about to be searched or have been.  Keep any paperwork that you are given.  We will be able to give you expert legal advice on the legality of the search including the issue of the search warrant.

You can find your most convenient office here.

Alternatively please use the contact form below.


Police trained to hide helpful evidence within sensitive material schedules

Following on from the revelations about failures in disclosure identified last year, on 3 April The Times published further information about the scale of the failure by the police and sensitive materialprosecution to disclose evidence vital to fair trials.  It is claimed that the failure to disclose such key evidence is both routine and deliberate, including hiding evidence within sensitive material schedules.

These reports are against a background of interest in the criminal justice scheme, including a BBC Survey, the publishing of a Charter for Justice and a campaign to send every sitting MP a copy of the recently published book by the Secret Barrister about the crisis in the criminal justice system.

A dossier has been produced that draws on the reports of a number focus groups held with the police, prosecutors and judges.  The file also includes the results of a survey of prosecutors.  It was obtained by the charitable organisation The Centre for Criminal Appeals.

Helpful evidence hidden on sensitive material schedules

The research has identified a commonly held view that the defence is not entitled to see evidence that might undermine the case sensitive material scheduleagainst an accused.  Tactics are adopted by the police to stop it being handed over.  At least one force trains its officers to hide such material in a ‘sensitive material’ schedule which means the defence are unlikely to discover that is exists and disclosure may well be avoided.

One comment from a police focus group was ‘If you don’t want the defence to see it, then [evidence] goes on the MG6D’, this list of ‘sensitive material’.

A prosecutor is quoted as saying that ‘In even quite serious cases, officers have admitted to deliberately withholding sensitive material from us and they frequently approach us only a week before trial.  Officers are reluctant to investigate a defence or take statements that might assist the defence or undermine our case”.

Material should only appear on a sensitive material schedule where the disclosure office believes its disclosure ‘would give rise to a real
risk of serious prejudice to an important public interest.’  The reason for that belief should also be stated, and the officer must sign off on the schedule.

It is envisaged that such sensitive material will not just be that which helps the defendant. Instead, examples are:

  • material relating to national security;
  • material received from the intelligence and security agencies;
  • material relating to intelligence from foreign sources which reveals sensitive intelligence gathering methods;
  • material relating to the identity or activities of informants, or undercover police officers, or witnesses, or other persons supplying information to the police who may be in danger if their identities are revealed;

As a result it is unlikely to include evidence that simply points to the innocence of a defendant.

Prosecution also at fault in disclosure decisions

However fault is also identified on the part of prosecutors.  Sometimes this is due to the volume of cases, in combination with a lack of time to do the job properly, poor quality police investigations and the pursuit of ‘wrong’ priorities.

It remains to be seen whether the new Director of Public Prosecutions who will replace Alison Saunders when her contract expires in the autumn will have the resources to effect any meaningful change.

Instruct VHS Fletchers to ensure adequate disclosure

A judge within one of the focus groups observed, ‘There seems to be an idea that the defence is not entitled to see things but where the defence press matters, this yields results.’

As a result, until the culture changes and more resource is made available, to a great extent an accused will be dependent upon their sensitive material scheduleslawyer identifying whether material is likely to exist and make an appropriate application for disclosure.

Our team of experienced Crown Court litigators and advocates will ensure that disclosure in any particular case is meaningful, rather than, as one prosecutor put it, ‘more of an administrative exercise‘.

You can read about two recent cases where our requests for disclosure made a difference here and here.

Find your nearest office here or use the contact form below.


Police fingerprint checking of suspects by phone app

police fingerprint checkingThe government has recently announced that West Yorkshire Police has signed up to a new identity checking service.  This represents a further roll out of police fingerprint checking by portable scanner and phone app.

The new service is already being used in a select number of force areas.  A further twenty areas will be going live before the end of this year.  This form of police fingerprint checking will remove the need for suspects to be taken to a police station to check identity.

It is anticipated that this will reap benefits for front line officers and suspects alike.  Previous research found that the average time for an identity check was sixty seven minutes.  As a result the police will be freed up the to continue with other duties.  From a citizens point of view, the number needless detentions should be drastically reduced.

Support for Police fingerprint checking in the street

Police leaders have commented:

“Early examples of the new system in action include a firearms unit, who detained a driver after a short pursuit and were able to identify him as a disqualified driver, despite him giving false details. He was issued with a summons for three offences and his vehicle seized. The armed response unit returned to patrol within ten minutes, and without the mobile fingerprint scanner this could have resulted in the unit being out of action for four hours taking the individual to a custody suite.”

How does the service work?

police fingerprint checkingThe new service works by connecting a small fingerprint scanner to a mobile phone App. Within seconds of taking a print the suspect’s identity can be checked across the two main police databases, allowing police after that to deal more appropriately with the suspect.

While this technology has been available for a few years, reduced pricing has now made it affordable enough for a national rollout. Scanners that previously cost around £3,000 can now be purchased for under £300.

Concerns about consultation and implementation

Liberty, the leading human rights organisation has been less enthusiastic, commenting that:

“This scheme is part of a pattern of the police using radical privacy-invading technology without proper public consultation or meaningful parliamentary oversight. Much like the facial recognition technology that is increasingly being deployed by police forces, it is being presented to us after the event and with little fanfare and is being made available to more and more officers across the country. In this case, we learned about it via a sneaky gov.uk post early on a Saturday morning.”

There are important protections for suspects that are to be found in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. If you have any concerns about the use of these powers, please contact us to discuss further.

Where fingerprint identification is being used to provide evidence in support of a prosecution, we will always take particular care to ensure that the law has been complied with.

 How We Can Help

If you are a person facing a criminal investigation or proceedings, contact us immediately. Our solicitors are well versed in this and all other aspects of the criminal law and will work to ensure your best defence.

Your nearest office can be found here.

police fingerprint checking solicitor

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.


Duty solicitor consultation response following the closure of Newark Custody Suite

Closure of Newark Custody Suite

Response to Consultation

This is the response of VHS Fletchers to the consultation paper released by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) following the notification on 25 October 2017 of the closure of Newark custody suite with effect from 6 November 2017.

All Newark arrests from that date will be taken to and processed at Mansfield Custody Suite.  The residents of Newark have already lost one public resource, that being the ability of the police station to process prisoners.  There is a very real risk that they will lose another – detainees receiving advice from solicitors local to Newark.

The consultation document invites responses to three alternative revisions to the Newark and Mansfield Police Station Duty Solicitor Schemes. Only one of those appears to put the needs of those from Newark who are arrested first.

Since the consultation document was published there have been two important indications from the police which impact upon the proposals:

  • Cases that are identified as Newark cases will continue to be charged and either bailed or held to appear at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court rather than Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.
  • The police will continue to contact the Newark Duty Solicitor Scheme in cases which are identified as “Newark arrests” and will ensure that the Duty Solicitor Call Centre (“DSCC”) is informed in all cases where the detainee was arrested for an offence committed in Newark.

It follows from these indications that Mansfield custody suite is able to and intends to identify cases that have historically been dealt with at Newark police station.  As a result, they should be able to direct those who seek the advice of a duty solicitor to a firm local to Newark.

The proposed options for changes to the scheme can be summarised as follows:

  1. That the Newark Police Station Duty Scheme is merged with the Mansfield Police Station Duty Scheme with effect from 1 January 2018 with members of an extended Mansfield scheme covering both Mansfield and Newark police stations.
  2. That the Newark Police Station Scheme is retained as a separate scheme and Duty Solicitors on the Newark rota will be directed by the DSCC to attend at Mansfield police station.
  3. Newark Police Station Scheme retained as a separate scheme and firms post 1 January 2018 can elect to join either the Mansfield police station duty rota or standalone Newark scheme (if retained under option 2)

The LAA have helpfully indicated that they prefer option 1. The reason given is that options 2 and 3 are reliant upon the police being able to identify to the DSCC “Newark cases”.  A more cynical view might be that the LAA and DSCC would have one less scheme to administer under option 1, resulting in an inevitable reduction in administration costs.

Fortunately, since the consultation document was published, the police have set out their intention to continue to identify Newark cases at the point of arrest and charge.

As a result, there appears to be no requirement for option 1 to be adopted unless there are ulterior motives on behalf of the LAA.

VHS Fletchers supports Option 2 for the following reasons:

This firm’s investment in Newark

closure of newark custody suite
Newark crime solicitor Ian Carter

When new legal aid contracts were to be awarded this firm chose to apply for a contract for a new Newark office.  The closure of Newark custody suite was not anticipated.  The office is staffed with two crime solicitors local to Newark – Ian Carter and Barbara McDonnell.  We have since recruited a further Newark based lawyer – Legal Executive Advocate Nikki Carlisle – signalling a clear indication to continue to develop our business there.

Of course, we are in business.  The rationale behind the investment that we make in training and recruitment of duty solicitors is that they provide access to new work through the duty solicitor rotas. Option 3 supports those firms who, like us, have chosen to locate their offices in Newark in order to provide legal aid services to that particular community.

Newark deserves its own duty solicitor rota

closure of newark custody suite
Newark legal executive advocate Nikki Carlisle

Newark-on-Trent is the largest urban area within the Newark and Sherwood District.  It has a population of just over 37 000 residents. Of the three firms in Newark that currently undertaking criminal Legal Aid work, only our firm has office both in Mansfield and Newark.

Should Option 1 be adopted, Newark residents who are detained at Mansfield police station may very well be represented by a duty solicitor from a firm who only has an office in Mansfield.  It is understandable that suspects will usually choose to have continuity of representation.  This might be either whilst they remain on police bail, under investigation or following charge when the matter appears at court.

Prohibitive journey times

However, in seeking continuity, such clients would face a journey of 20 miles simply to see their solicitor to give instructions and take advice. By car that journey takes between 40 and 50 minutes.  By public transport this time rises to 1 hour and 30 minutes for a single journey.

The same situation will of course arise in relation to residents of Mansfield who are represented by a duty solicitor who only has an office in Newark.  It is true that many of those that require the services of criminal legal aid solicitors are vulnerable themselves and on a low income that would make such a journey very difficult.

It is our view that it is both unreasonable and unconscionable to expect those being investigated for criminal offences to have a return journey of three hours simply to see their solicitor.  This stress and expense would be imposed on top of the emotional burden that the investigation of proceedings impose on any individual.

Local legal aid solicitors should be supported

closure of newark custody suite
Newark crime solicitor Barbara McDonnell

Option 2 supports those criminal legal aid firms who have chosen to locate their offices in Newark.  This is in order to provide legal aid services to that community. It would mean that the arrangements within Option 2 could commence immediately following the closure of the Newark Custody Suite.  Newark based firms would not have to suffer the inevitable financial hardship of not having access to Duty Solicitor work for a period of two months.

Such a decision would be seen as supportive of a legal aid provider base that it is acknowledged is financially fragile.

Perverse consequences of merging two duty schemes

The perverse consequences of Option 1 would be to permit automatic access to Newark residents requesting the duty solicitor  to firms solely based in Mansfield.  Access to such Mansfield residents would be granted to firms solely based in Newark.

Whilst some firms may see there is a financial advantage in having a place on a merged duty scheme following the closure of Newark custody suite, this would be to ignore the needs of local Newark residents.   Financial advantage should never be allowed to outweigh the impact on those we represent and assist who are often ill-equipped to represent themselves.

On this basis, Options 2 and 3 would be unattractive and unacceptable to clients where the duty solicitor may or may not be based geographically convenient to them.

An increase in LAA costs?

The LAA will have to budget for increased travel claims from Newark firms to Mansfield custody suite following the closure of Newark custody suite.  An additional consequence is likely to be that the LAA has to fund more instances of advice and assistance in the police station.  It seems likely that clients, once they discover where their duty solicitor is based, will want to transfer to a local firm.  Where the duty solicitor has been instructed a second fee may be properly claimable by the second local firm nearer to a suspects home address

Clients to choose for themselves

Following the closure of Newark custody suite, if clients wish to choose a geographically distant firm then that must be a matter for them. To have a geographically distant firm inflicted upon them is a separate matter that should be avoided where possible.  The risk of a reduction in access to justice must be apparent to all who consider the issue.  The problem would be avoided by the adoption of Option 2.

Instruct a Newark crime solicitor

closure of newark custody suite
VHS Fletchers criminal solicitors – Newark office

Despite the closure of Newark custody suite, the best way to ensure that you instruct a solicitor local to you if you are a Newark resident is to make sure you ask for VHS Fletchers if you are arrested and detained by the police.  We offer free and independent legal advice on 01636 614013, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.

If you know the police want to speak to you, contact us and we will be able to make the necessary arrangements for you to be interviewed.

Should you face proceedings at either the Magistrates’ or Crown Court then we will see you at our Newark office to take your instructions and give you expert advice.

Please use the contact form below if you wish to email your enquiry.



Students and noise nuisance – what are the consequences?

A worrying increase in the reports of noise nuisance from students
BBC News for Nottingham has today reports of ‘atrocious parties’ held by university students which have caused record numbers of complaints from local residents about noise nuisance. You can read the story here.

There is always likely to be issue arising when an area has a high number of students living in private rented accommodation within a residential area.

Very few students deliberately set out to annoy their neighbours. Problems with noise nuisance seem likely to result from a combination of alcohol and a genuine lack of thought.

Complaints to the police and the council are on the rise. If you are a student and live in a residential area then you are always likely to be at risk of a complaint if you or your household make excessive noise after 11pm.

What are the consequences of a complaint against you for excessive noise?

The position may depend on whether or not you are in a university owned accommodation or not.

student halls of residence noise nuisanceMost universities publish codes of conduct that students must sign up to when enrolling. Whilst every university code will differ in some way they tend to follow the same format. There is likely to be a provision permitting a student to be disciplined for excessive noise in university owned accommodation.

The discipline procedure for excessive noise nuisance is likely to involve a report to a designated university officer. The officer will have the power to issue you with a reprimand or a fine.

Repeated and persistent breaches or other serious offences can result in you being removed from your university accommodation. You could also be reported to the university senate disciplinary committee. This would lead to a disciplinary hearing. A wide range of penalties are available for serious, persistent offences. Ultimately this can include exclusion from the university.

Private student accommodation

student private rented noise nuisanceEven if you live off campus in private student accommodation then you could still find yourself at the sharp end of the university disciplinary regulations. Many universities stipulate within their code of conduct that behaviour off campus that damages the reputation of the university is considered an offence under the disciplinary regulations.

For example, the University of Nottingham is quoted in the BBC news article as saying that students would be disciplined if their behaviour ‘compromised the safety of others’.

Statutory Nuisance

Additionally, it is not only the university that can instigate proceedings against a student for excessive noise. Local Councils have the power to look into complaints about noise that could be categorised as a statutory noise nuisance.

For the noise to be a ‘statutory nuisance’, it must do one of the following:

  • Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • Injure health or be likely to injure health

Councils must serve an abatement noise on persons who cause a statutory nuisance. This means that whoever is responsible must stop the noise. If they do not then they can be issued with a fixed penalty notice giving them the opportunity to pay a fine of £110 within 14 days in order to avoid prosecution.

If you do not pay the notice or fail to pay it within the 14 days then you can be prosecuted. This means that you will be given a court date, and if guilty you could be fined up to £1000 and order to pay the costs of the prosecution.

Civil Injunctions for noise nuisance

Both a council and the police have the power to apply for a civil injunction in the county court against those that create excessive noise that is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance. Breach of the injunction can lead to a prison sentence.

Contact a specialist to discuss any aspect of noise nuisance

student noise nuisance university discipline
Education law specialist Clare Roberts

If you are a student and you have a concern about a complaint raised against you then please contact education law solicitor Clare Roberts on 0115 9599550.

Clare, and other members of our team, have experience in advising and representing students who face both university disciplinary matters or allegations that have been reported to the police.

You can read about our full range of services for students in higher education here.

Alternatively you can use the contact form below to seek confidential specialist advice.