Tag Archives: vulnerable

Sentence of vulnerable clients at Saturday morning court

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.

Nottingham Magistrates’ Court

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

vulnerable clientsThe 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.

Our client had been kept for court as the police refused bail, believing that she would fail to attend court or commit further offences if bailed.

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.

There are many advantages to seeking advice in the police station and you can read about those here.

Many of our vulnerable clients will be also be entitled to legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court.   Nearly all will be eligible for legal aid to ensure representation for cases before the Crown Court.

You can read more about these types of legal aid here.

In the cases at the police station or the courts set out above, all of our clients had the benefit of free legal advice.

Our solicitors regularly deal with the most vulnerable clients within our community.

An example from our Chesterfield office can be found here.

You can read a second case study, this time from our Nottingham office here.

Contact us

You can find details of your nearest office here.

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.


Representing vulnerable defendants – what we do

chesterfield criminal defence solicitor Ben Strelley
Chesterfield crime solicitor Ben Strelley

While many will agree that the Criminal Justice System is not necessarily the most appropriate place to deal with those suffering from mental health difficulties.  Unfortunately, there is, sadly, a regular overlap between the two.  As a result we need to have particular skills to represent vulnerable defendants.

This means that the staff across our offices have experience of dealing with those who are vulnerable defendants, and are experienced in gaining our clients’ trust to be able to assist them throughout the court process.

During his years as a criminal defence solicitor, Chesterfield crime solicitor Ben Strelley has represented many vulnerable individuals before the court.  His manner means that he has the ability to engage with clients whatever their difficulties to gain their trust.

Here is a recent example of his representation in a case that required sensitive handling.

Assault allegations against a vulnerable client

Ben’s client was an inpatient at the Hartington Mental Health Unit in Chesterfield.  She faced two accusations of common assault.  The complainants were two of the nurses caring for her.  She faced a separate charge of causing damage at Derby hospital prior to her arrival at the unit.

Our client had no recollection of any of the incidents.  She did, of course, accept that in these circumstances the staff had no reason to lie.  In circumstances where a client had no such vulnerabilities then the case would normally involve straightforward advice to plead guilty.  The evidence was strong and there was no defence to advance.

In the circumstances of this case, however, it was important for Ben to make further enquiries as to his client’s mental health at the time of the incident.  It may be that this could afford a defence, or significant mitigation, or allow him to make representations that the prosecution is not in the public interest.

Ben investigated this aspect of the case with the prosecution.  He was then provided with a medical report from a relevant doctor who confirmed that she did have the necessary capacity at the time of the assault allegations.  The report was silent about her health at the time of the criminal damage matter.

As a result, Ben advised his client to plead guilty to the assaults.  He was able to negotiate with the prosecution to drop the criminal damage charge.  Bearing in mind the other pleas that prosecution was no longer in the public interest.

vulnerable defendants

Sentence following guilty pleas

Normally an assault on a member of NHS staff while at work is likely to result in, a the very least, consideration of a prison sentence.  Ben was of the view that the unique circumstances of his client’s health were such that the court ought to be of significant importance upon sentence.

In the end the Magistrates agreed with Ben.  Rather than a prison sentence or community order his client received a small fine and was ordered to pay some compensation.

Ben’s client was delighted at this outcome because it meant that she would be able to continue with her treatment in the community with the aim of overcoming her acute mental health difficulties.

Instruct a criminal solicitor specialising in vulnerable defendants

Case such as this demonstrates the importance of instructing a solicitor who has compassion, patience and communication skills to achieve the best outcome for vulnerable defendants.

In this case, Ben had to gain the trust of his client, speak to the prosecution about the strength of the evidence, and then persuade Magistrates to depart from the usual sentencing guideline for cases such as this.

You may wish to consider other reasons why you might want to instruct VHS Fletchers over other firms of solicitors.

If you or a family member or friend are in the position of being spoken to by the police as a result of an alleged incident involving medical staff then you can contact your nearest office here.

vulnerable defendants
VHS Fletchers East Midlands offices

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