ALL ALONE IN THE END ZONE

Written by admin
March 12th, 2019

Do you remember when the probation service would prepare a court report and would provide tribunal with all they needed to know about a client’s history and social position as well as their suitability for particular sorts of sentences? The report would review not only their present circumstances, but also their previous involvement with the probation service and some of the biographical experiences which had brought the clients to their present position.

Under the Offender Rehabilitation Act it is becoming increasingly the case that the probation service will look at a client’s suitability for particular disposals, but they only deal with the aspects of their current circumstances that make one or other disposal more suitable.

This means of course that it is down to the Defence advocate to fill in the back story and help the court put a client in their true social context. It is all very well saying that someone is addicted to Class A drugs, but explaining to the court how that happened and how they have managed to achieve abstinence from time to time might help a court with clues about motivation and susceptibility.

A client with no role models or supportive family members will obviously have very different needs in terms of possible support mechanisms from someone who has struck out on their own account, but having failed, has a safe harbour to which to return.

How distressing is it then to see Defence advocates mitigate without providing any of this social and historical material? Those Defence advocates who look little beyond the guidelines and barely even seem to take on board the content of the pre-sentence report are doing nothing more than selling their clients down the river and demonstrating their own lack of commitment and hard work.

Undoubtedly, there are advocates who have an eye on one thing, and that is the early submission of a bill. The advocate winds up at the end of the case and the client, and to some extent the court, may feel that there is a lot of ground still to cover.

This problem is particularly apparent where clients are being sentenced by way of the video link system. A recent Nottingham case saw a sentence of five years plus imposed on a client who had spent fifteen minutes with his advocate who mitigated for about 3 ½ minutes.

It is vital that you choose the sort of representation that will provide the court with a short movie of your life rather than just some blurred snapshots. If your solicitor isn’t asking you about things that you think are important and things that you think they should know, it is either time to sit down and make them listen or alternatively make sure that you and the people that you care about choose a different representative.

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