Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category


GOOD MORNING MA’AM

Written by admin
April 7th, 2019

The Johnson Partnership are delighted to confirm the appointment of Emma Coverley as a Deputy District Judge in the Civil Division.

Emma joined us in 2001 as a clerk in the Magistrates’ Court Department. Since then she has qualified as a solicitor, worked in our Mansfield office, qualified as a Higher Rights Advocate and gone on to enjoy many notable victories in the Crown Courts of the East Midlands and South Yorkshire as well as in the Court of Appeal.

Emma has never wanted to stand still. Developing the firm’s Higher Rights Advocacy Department was an indication that she was somebody wanting to break new ground in a positive and sustainable way.

Her application to become a Deputy District Judge is an indication that she is someone who will always look for the next horizon and try to push herself further and further in terms of her knowledge of the law and practice.

We all wish you well Emma and hope that you enjoy as much success as our only other appointment to the Bench: District Judge Gerald Chalk who has judged the people of Cumbria with a gentle, fair and even hand for the past fifteen years.

A SECOND EVENSONG FOR THE CHURCH!

Written by admin
April 5th, 2019

Yet again, we are sorry to have to announce the departure of Dan Church. Dan was one of our keenest and most successful young Higher Rights Advocates, who for the last two years has delivered a super service to our clients in Derby and beyond.

It would be wrong to think that Dan only worked in Derbyshire. During his most recent stint with us Dan has had some superb results, including a hard-fought victory after more than two months in Liverpool Crown Court.

In 2016 Dan left to have a short spell at the Bar with Bank House Chambers. We were delighted to have him return to us as the start of 2017, but regrettably the New Year has brought new challenges for Dan who will now be ensconced with the Crown Prosecution Service in the East Midlands.

Dan, we wish you well and want you to know that there is always an open door and a ready desk for you if you decide that our needs are more deserving than those of Her Majesty.

NONE SO TOUGH AS A BROUGH

Written by admin
April 2nd, 2019

Little could give us greater pleasure that to welcome Helen Brough as a brand new solicitor with The Johnson Partnership.  This much anticipated qualification comes about eighteen years after we welcomed Helen as a brand new clerk.

Having gained considerable skills for many years, Helen decided that the time was right to push things to the next level.  Equipped with a history degree, Helen had to undertake courses part time whilst continuing to shoulder a particularly heavy caseload.

There is no saying when any individual will feel that their time has come to blossom.  For Helen that time is now and we are all delighted to be around to see it. 

The experience, skill and understanding that Helen has gathered over the last couple of decades mean that she will be one of the best placed and best qualified new solicitors ever to work for The Johnson Partnership. 

Helen, we are honoured to have you.

PHASED WITHDRAWAL

Written by admin
March 25th, 2019

Within the area of the country covered by The Johnson Partnership offices we have noticed an interesting if worrying phenomenon.

In the town of Buxton there used to be a thriving Magistrates’ Court and a custody suite which covered the entirety of the northwest of Derbyshire from Matlock to Glossop and from Hartington over to Baslow. This is a huge area of land and a good number of people in its radius.

In the second round of cuts, the Magistrates’ Court, which has long since served this thriving market town was closed. Work was transferred to Chesterfield stage by stage. Initially custody cases were transferred to Chesterfield and then there was a total closure leading to all matters being heard in a court over thirty miles away, with no train link between the two and a somewhat ponderous bus service.

The next step was for the custody suite to be downgraded. Increasingly, prisoners who were likely to be in custody for more than six hours, were being dealt with at Chesterfield rather than Buxton. Inevitably, it soon became a police station where a vast majority of interviewees were those attending on a voluntary basis.

The Duty Solicitor Scheme for Buxton has slowly been wound down. Solicitors have to choose their slots on either the Chesterfield or Stockport rotas.

We now therefore have a town with no court, no meaningful custody suite, no Duty Solicitor Scheme, and very very few solicitors serving that entire region.

FUNNY HOW ONE LITTLE WORD CAN LEAD TO A SENTENCE!

Written by admin
March 18th, 2019

Yet again today I had the unfortunate experience of sitting in a Crown Court watching a client, who obviously thought that he had done a good deal, and discovering that the deal in question had unexpected consequences.

Without naming the individual or even the court, the story involves a man charged with assault, damage and theft. The offences were alleged in a domestic context and it seemed clear that until today they had been vehemently denied.

Those representing the individual had blatantly negotiated on his behalf with the Crown Prosecution Service that they would discontinue an assault and a theft if he pleaded to a criminal damage. The client, having received only who knows what advice, plainly decided that the deal on offer was good and would bring matters to a swift conclusion.

Unfortunately, nobody seemed to have reminded the defendant that it wasn’t just a question of him saying the word “guilty” and walking away. When he pleaded “guilty” there was inevitably going to have to be some sort of consequence.

In this particular case, the damage amounted to some many hundreds of pounds and involved items of a sentimental nature. The court decided that the defendant ought in fact to receive a custodial sentence, albeit that that sentence could be suspended. The suspended sentence was to be accompanied by some unpaid work and a short curfew. The suspended term, the unpaid work, and the curfew, all plainly came as some sort of surprise to the man in the dock, who it seemed believed that he would be thanked for his trouble and given his taxi fare home having done the decent thing and allowed the case to be brought to an end.

I was left to reflect just how many defendants, when reaching a compromise with the Crown Prosecution Service, actually forget that they will then still have to be sentenced in some way for the matters that they are actually admitting. Equally, I wonder how many solicitors or learned counsel take the trouble to remind their clients of the effect that their guilty pleas may have on them in the future. It is not just a question of them having a criminal record rather than not, but also that criminal record may affect employment prospects, credit ratings, an ability to travel to certain countries, and their standing with social services and adoption agencies, to mention just a few.

Make sure that if you are doing any sort of deals your lawyers take the trouble to explain to you in the detail that our lawyers would about the consequences of any “deals” that you may choose to enter into.

CLOSENESS IS TOO COSY FOR COMFORT

Written by admin
March 15th, 2019

The arrival of a new super custody suite for South Humberside throws up all the usual questions for the Defence solicitors in the area. Traditionally, Defence solicitors in South Humberside are based either in Scunthorpe or Grimsby. Strictly speaking, the new custody suite is not in the centre of either of these two population centres.

Obviously, there is the possibility for new offices to be opened close to the new custody suite, but as ever, this begs the question of whether an office close to a police station really does bring the expected return.

How many people leave the police station and decide the first place that they want to go rather than home, the pub, their drug dealer or McDonald’s is actually their solicitor. How many people arrive at the police station under their own steam only to think at the last minute “Oh that’s what I forgot! A solicitor!” Those arriving in custody having been transported by the police tend to arrive at the rear of police stations and do not pass the open arms of the Defence solicitors whose offices have been invitingly opened nearby. Even those who are driven to the front of the station are unlikely to take in the subtleties of the names of particular firms.

Inevitably then, it seems likely that The Johnson Partnership will not be opening a new office near to South Humberside’s new custody centre.

In recent times, a small rank of well-established Defence firms have opened in the proximity of Derby’s St Mary’s Wharf custody suite. One of our competitors, when relocating within Chesterfield city centre, decided that an office, cheek by jowel with the town’s police station, was a good investment. Within our area, only the wise folk of Sheffield seem to have decided that relocating to the unlovely, unprepossessing, inconvenient and unwelcoming area of the new Shepcote Lane custody suite would be a poor idea.

Discussions with clients show that they tend to be suspicious of many Defence solicitors who are seen as part of the establishment. The Duty Solicitor Scheme has, from time to time, fallen into disrepute, because clients have believed that duty solicitors were “police solicitors”. To do anything to bolster this idea of cosiness seems to be, if not commercial suicide, certainly a serious commercial illness which might result in some haemorrhaging of clients.

Whether it be Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, Mansfield, Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Grimsby or Lincoln, The Johnson Partnership are pleased to assert our independence, whether it be from police officers, prisons, the Youth Offending Team, the probation service, Judges, prosecutors, or whosoever else may be part of our system.

WOMEN IN CRIMINAL LAW

Written by admin
March 14th, 2019

On Thursday, 7th February 2019 The Johnson Partnership applied to be the principle sponsors for the East Midlands launch of Women in Criminal Law. Speakers at the meeting held at Jury’s Inn included Mrs Justice Carr, Mary Prior, Queens Counsel, and Janine Smith, Chief Crown Prosecutor.

The evening included an inclusive gathering from women from the very top of the legal profession right through to those just out of law school.

More meetings are planned in the forthcoming months both in the East and West Midlands and the number of those in attendance was particularly encouraging.

A number of staff reflected on one particularly unexpected incident. A senior member of the group and speaker at the event strolled over to a group of young women all of whom were from The Johnson Partnership. She asked them where they were from and then went on to query whether they were all paralegals. Bearing in mind the group included trainees, Partners, and assistant solicitors they were left to reflect that a patronising approach to the young is plainly not gender-specific. Oh well, there’s always one!

We continue to wish the Women in Criminal Law group well and will be happy to offer support of all kinds whether it be from Partners, solicitors, trainees or indeed paralegals!

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.

What a Production

Written by admin
January 13th, 2019

Increasingly throughout 2018 a new problem has begun to manifest itself in prisons throughout the land: prisoners are said to be “refusing” to attend.  Whether it is visits at the prison, video link conferences, video links to court, or productions to court as defendants or witnesses, time and again we are being told that the individual has “refused”. 

A number of courts have attempted to establish a protocol, whereby a form has to be completed by the officer visiting the prisoner to try to secure their attendance.  An uncooperative prisoner is unlikely to sign such a form, and so inevitably the form is being completed by officers who may have a skewed perception of what the prisoner is saying, or may have their own reasons for suggesting that the prisoner is being uncooperative. 

If a prisoner can be signed off as “refusing” then there is no need to move them within the prison or from the prison and life becomes concomitantly easier.  Regrettably, however, neither lawyers nor courts can truly have confidence in such a system.  Many clients, seen on a later occasion, will simply say that nobody ever came to get them.  It is not uncommon to be talking to a prisoner on the phone at half past eleven, who is looking forward to an afternoon visit, only to be told that they have “refused” that visit.  May things can happen between 11:30am and 2:00pm, but equally many things may not!

It is hard to know how to rectify the problem, but to enable it to be assessed, it might help if, whenever a client tells their solicitor that they have not in fact been called for, when officers have suggested that they have refused to attend, a widely shared comment to that effect should be added to the digital case system for all to see. 

The Curse of the Curfew

Written by admin
January 10th, 2019

Many clients, charged with serious offences, who only secure bail by agreeing to a curfew, will find that they are far less happy at that period of home detention if charges are reduced.

A robber, who suddenly becomes a handler, may find real frustration in remaining on a curfew whilst a pre-sentence report is being prepared. Somebody who starts off facing a Section 18, only to have that charge reduced to an ABH, will often feel aggrieved if they are still prevented from going out at the weekend for a post-work jar or two.

Where a client has been subject to a curfew, it is vitally important to impress on the sentencing bench not only how long that curfew has been in place but also the various effects that it has had on a defendant. Whether the curfew has prevented them doing overtime, stopped them visiting friends, stopped them participating in regular pursuits such as sport or even cinema-going, it is important that the court understands the effect that the curfew has had. Where one member of a family has had to put on another family member to walk the dog or pop out to the late night store, it may be important for the court to know how that has affected the relationship between them. In some cases, relationships will have been put under pressure or even broken down because of the close proximity in which two individuals have been kept.

Only if a court truly knows the effect of a curfew can it take it into account when assessing the sort of sentence that is now fair in all the circumstances of the case.

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