It recently came to our attention that a recent defendant had been contacted by the DVLA and advised that they had recently been convicted of a drink-driving offence with a high reading and would therefore be required to have a medical assessment before their licence was to be returned.

The reality of the situation seems to be that the client had actually been convicted of failing to provide a blood sample for analysis, when suspected of being unfit as a result of the consumption of controlled drugs.

The defendant had a choice to make as to whether or not he was to contact Swansea to correct the misunderstanding.

Strangely, the defendant decided he was going to do nothing at all. He felt on balance he would prefer to have a drink-drive conviction on his record, rather than a conviction relating to drug-driving. His reasoning was that drugs were far more frowned upon than drink and his chances of being able to travel internationally were likely to be less restricted with a conviction that related to drink rather than drugs.

It was pointed out that a medical report might take some time and cost a substantial amount of money, leading to the driver being out of pocket and potentially without his licence for a longer period. Nevertheless, he decided not to contact the DVLA on the basis that he believed that in the long run he would be better with the erroneous matter recorded against him, rather than the drug-related offence.

Interesting to see the stigma that still attaches to the use of controlled drugs as compared to a serious incidence of driving with excess alcohol.

Few can truly doubt the integrity of Crown Court Listing Departments throughout the country. Certainly, Crown Courts in Nottingham, Sheffield, Derby, Lincoln, and Grimsby all bear the hallmarks of hardworking teams of people with a good understanding trying to do their best for everyone.

Nevertheless, the fact that listing is a problem is something that cannot be doubted. This week, on one day, the firm had six trials, all removed from the list at less than 48 hours’ notice. There was undoubtedly good reason for this. The courts in which the cases were due to be heard were busy indeed throughout the rest of the week. With one exception, all of the cases went off to new trial dates in August.

In spite of howls of derision from the profession, the MOJ have stoically refused to do anything about the problem. There is scope to agree to further judge sitting days! There is scope to designate empty Magistrates’ Court facilities as temporary Crown Courts. Sadly, both of the above require extra funding.

It is not just that extra funding hits the MOJ’s current budget. In reality, there is a twofold gain for the Ministry. By not spending money on judges and extra courtrooms, they avoid unintended and unexpected expense. By ensuring that cases are adjourned for a period of four to five months equally ensure that the bills to be submitted by advocates and litigators for those matters fall into the next financial year. Indeed, there is also the third potential benefit of complainants or defendants losing the will to fight, or cases being side-tracked by new charges or new proceedings, which can lead to extra savings as trials fail to take place at all.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that delay and adjournments are the sole brothers and sisters of a financially hamstrung Ministry of Justice.

Two or three times a year the Crown Courts on each circuit close for a judicial training day. Judges from that circuit will gather together in order to be updated on everything from new developments in the law to changes in sentencing practice.

In reality, this means that almost no work is dealt with in the Crown Court on the days in question. Huge numbers of counsel, solicitors, and clerks find themselves with unexpected time on their hands.

Unfortunately, for the CPS, expert witnesses, police officers, and prison staff this bonus time tends to result in a deluge of phone calls and emails. Solicitors and clerks have the chance to chase up old enquiries that have not been answered, make new requests, book visits for weeks in advance, and raise issues on fully or partially written reports.

In short, many involved in the Crown Court process have come to regard training days as something they have to gear up for with a sense of dread, rather than, as was once the case, regarding them as a day for rest and reflection with feet on the desk.

Isn’t it strange how some journeys are just “too much”. Geographically it may be exactly the same length as innumerable, comparable journeys, but one way or another they never work.

This particular predicament has been highlighted by us being offered the services of not one but two Leicester based solicitors who are looking to jump ship and move firm. Both solicitors are high quality candidates at different points in successful careers. With a Nottingham or Derby base, there could be no doubt that we would be delighted to avail ourselves of their services. Sadly, however, bitter experience shows that a life spent travelling between Leicester and Nottingham or Leicester and Derby tends to be a short one and not a particularly merry one.

Servicing police stations in Leicester never seems to be a problem. To reach into Leicester to attend a police station or at the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court has never been a difficulty. Reaching out from Leicester to do a job based in Derby or Nottingham is something that has just never worked. Derby to Nottingham: yes! Nottingham to Derby: Yes! Nottingham to Lincoln (a longer journey): Yes! But Leicester to Nottingham or Leicester to Derby: just “No”.

The idea of people being posted and goods or services being requisitioned immediately brings back memories of old World War II movies on black and white Sunday afternoons.

In their wisdom, the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service decided some little time ago to replace the time served summons with a new postal requisition. The postal requisition requires somebody to attend court at a particular time on a particular date and is posted to the last known address of the would-be recipient.

With voluntary interviews away from custody suites becoming more and more common, and with defendants being called to attend at court long after they have been allegedly released under investigation, the postal requisition is now in its heyday.

Having somebody back at the police station in order to charge them and give them a new date face to face, on which they were required to attend at court, obviously had a level of direct drive certainty about it. The postal requisition has introduced endless vagaries and uncertainties into a previously quick and efficient process.

Perhaps the weirdest and wackiest use of the postal requisition is to commence proceedings against someone who is still known to be a serving prisoner. A document is posted to the individual at the prison, but it is rarely sent out along with an order calling on the prison to produce that person to court. The prisoner sits in his cell, the court wants to know where they are, and the connective tissue of the production order has never been put in place.

Now that the West Yorkshire Police are rolling out trial mobile fingerprint scanners, perhaps the day of the mobile custody suite, with all the certainty and clarity that that entails, may not be far hence and the days of the postal requisition may yet be numbered.

Over the years the firm has tried all sorts of different forms of advertising: radio adverts with jingles and catchphrases, Facebook posts aplenty, banner adverts on the TV listing page of Bank Holiday papers, Twitter posts, scoreboard flashes, pitch side hoardings, informative business cards, even a show jumping fence in a one day event, but at the end of it all nothing works better than good old-fashioned word of mouth.

After Yellow Pages have consumed tens of thousands of our finest pounds, Google and Words continue to empty our coppers month by month, and endless doctors’ waiting rooms have been papered with our brochures, there is still no substitute for a satisfied client telling all and sundry about the great service they have received.

Perhaps the absolute ideal is a fixed hoarding, associated with a particular club or group, among whose members there are enthusiastic supporters of the firm. The signboard offers a regular talking point and there are plenty of unpaid voices there to speak to it.

In recent times it has become apparent that many cases are either failing or being brought to court late as a result of difficulties and deficiencies within the Crown Prosecution Service.

This week, the Today programme was told that over 900 cases have failed in the course of last year because of lack of disclosure. Repeatedly, courts see charges being laid that do not match the facts leaving cases apparently under or over prosecuted. Time and again the Crown Prosecution Service rely on the courts to sort out the difficulties.

It has recently become apparent that a substantial budgetary increase has been afforded to the Crown Prosecution Service to enable them to recruit staff nationwide. Promises of rising pay scales and advantageous pensions are being dangled to lure lawyers on board.

The reality is of course is that most lawyers who are in a position to join the Crown Prosecution Service will either come from the independent bar or the defence community. By offering newly revamped salary packages, the Crown Prosecution Service inevitably put a strain on the defence community by drawing in-house some experienced defenders who are looking for a life without on-call commitments and day to day contact with some particularly difficult clients.

These defence services have struggled to recruit, fighting a losing battle against employers in the civil, commercial, private client, and even family areas, where instant fees can be significantly greater than those available to the average defence firm.

Whilst skewing the marketplace and slanting the playing field in the way that they are doing, the MOJ simply bring more stresses and problems to a different part of the criminal justice process. An equal distribution of funds between the Crown Prosecution Service and the defence community would obviously seem the more appropriate way of ensuring that the entire sector is well staffed. Instead of this, the MOJ have sought to impose a further legal aid cut on the very firms keeping the system afloat.

The only good news is that retention amongst Crown Prosecution Service staff, including those who have joined in the last three to six months, is poor. The lack of job satisfaction, the factory mentality, the lack of thanks and appreciation and the poor morale etc, within the Crown Prosecution Service have seen a number of new joiners leave forthwith, with some of them asking to return to their former posts.

We are delighted to welcome Sarah Brown to our Sheffield office. A skilled advocate in both the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court, Sarah has kindly agreed to augment our Sheffield office two days each week, whilst continuing to teach law and practice at Sheffield College.

The combination of practical fee-earning work and the understanding that comes with the need to impart knowledge to others, will benefit both the firm and Sarah’s students alike.

We are looking forward to the benefits that are bound to come from bringing somebody on board who has a wealth of experience and an independent and critical eye. Inevitably, benefits will not just flow to students and to members of staff, there is bound to be a real dividend for our growing Sheffield client base.

As of late February this year legal aid will again be available for prisoners facing certain types of adjudications and applications from which it had previously been withdrawn.

Life sentence prisoners and IPP prisoners facing pre-tariff review hearings will again be entitled to fully prepared representation at oral hearings. These are essential in assisting prisoners in working towards release and ensuring, for example, that they are moved to open conditions at the earliest opportunity. There is much to be considered, reports and other evidence to be obtained and representations not only to be put forward but argued most strenuously.

Legal aid will also be available to prisoners held in Category A conditions, who have the chance of re-categorisation. The extreme restriction on liberty involved in being a Cat A prisoner is now understood to be something that ought to be capable of challenge with the benefit of assistance in preparation and representation at any relevant hearings.

Finally, legal aid will also be available to those wishing to challenge detention in a closed supervision centre. These “prisons within prisons” are often used to house prisoners convicted of terrorist offences. The conditions within CSC’s and the general circumstances of the regime are thought now to be ones which should be capable of challenge with the benefit of a fully prepared representation.

The thought of any these categories of prisoners being dealt with without representation is startling abhorrent. It has to be good news that all of those, in these particular circumstances, can now be dealt with in a fair, just, and acceptable way. We are delighted to say that our Prison Law Department now has seven keen members, all are fully committed to embracing the challenges that the new legal aid regulations will inevitably bring.

Do not hesitate to contact us at any time on (0115) 941 9141 and ask either for Digby Johnson or the Prison Law Team.

For the second time in less than two years Dan Church returns to the East Midlands after a long stint on the West Coast.

In 2016 Dan was successful in securing an acquittal for a young lady charged with conspiracy to supply several kilos of controlled drugs. The case lasted for about six weeks and saw Dan make the acquaintance of a number of local hoteliers during his extended stay.

Between October 2017 and January 2018 Dan returned to his former stamping ground, this time as Junior, to the ever excellent Adrian Langdale from 7 Bedford Row.

With a considerable mountain of evidence to climb, many sceptics felt that the Langdale/Church team would come second. In fact, the two advocates, ably supported by arch litigator Rebecca Da Silva, returned home with first prize: an acquittal and considerable praise from the Trial Judge.

After an earlier six weeks and a more recent stay of twelve weeks, our only fear is that next time he heads to Liverpool we will not see Dan for six months.

Fantastic work by all concerned in the face of apparently overwhelming odds.

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