Posts Tagged ‘ criminal defence solicitor ’


DEATH BY ONE AND A HALF THOUSAND CUTS

Written by admin
August 17th, 2019

The latest stealthy slice to be taken out of the criminal justice system comes in the form of a reduction of Crown Court hearing days.

We all know that to run a Crown Court is expensive.  We all know that to close a Crown Court will save money.  Unfortunately, closing a Crown Court means that cases are not heard, which has very little cost in financial terms but often huge costs in terms of the effect on defendants, complainants and witnesses, their emotions and their general wellbeing. It also means of course that neither Counsel nor solicitors are in a position to submit a bill, because a hearing has been postponed and the case has not been finished.  In some courts this means that the case will have to be put off for another eight or nine months, awaiting a trial slot. This inevitably means that the expense of prosecuting the case and defending it is moved skilfully into another tax year.

How many Crown Court hearing days do you think have been cut from the next Crown Court year?  Perhaps you think 1,000, or maybe 2,000, maybe as many as 5,000 – but surely not as that would obviously be unjust.  Perhaps you think 7,500 or even 10,000, but yet again, surely both of those figures are utterly unbelievable.  If you were to think 15,000, in short, you would be right.  Yes, 15,000 Crown Court hearing days have been cut from the next judicial year.

That’s 15,000 days when cases could be concluded, when witnesses could be put out of their misery, when complainants could get closure, when defendants could move on with their lives, be it in custody or as free people.  That’s 15,000 days when rehabilitation might have started or punishment might have been meted out.  Thanks to the Ministry of Justice and arguably the Treasury, all of these things have to be put on hold, whilst money is lavished on health, police, the armed forces, and who knows what else.

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.

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.

STUMBLING CPS GIVEN A LEG UP BY MOJ

Written by Sian Hall
February 16th, 2018

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.

A TALE OF TWO RACHELS!

Written by Sian Hall
January 30th, 2018

Clients contacting our Scunthorpe or Grimsby offices may well now face a new question: Would you like to speak to Rachel Hunter or Rachel Poma?”

Having long had the pleasure of the company of the experience, warm, caring, and ultimately capable Rachel Hunter, we now have a second Rachel in town.

In January we were fortunate enough to secure the services of Rachel Poma, nee Pullin. Rachel has previously worked on a qualified and non-qualified basis with at least two local firms, but we are delighted to say that she has agreed to join The Johnson Partnership, dividing her time between the Scunthorpe and Grimsby offices.

Rachel is an enthusiastic duty solicitor, with great ideas and a lovely court presence. We look forward to Rachel getting to know both us and our clients, as well as introducing us to many of her old friends and contacts. We count ourselves incredibly lucky to have secured Rachel’s services, in an area where there are relatively few enthusiastic, young and hardworking advocates.

JOHNSON’S BAR SCHOOL

Written by Will Bolam
May 19th, 2017

We have had time to reflect recently on how important bars have been to The Johnson Partnership. Our original business planning took place in several licensed bars. As the years have gone by we have spent increasing amounts of time in coffee bars. Much of our workplace endeavour is designed to move people from one side of some bars to the other.

Nevertheless, we never thought that we would become heavily involved in helping a stream of young people get their first foothold at the Bar as pupil barristers.

In times gone by, Vicky Sheppard-Jones moved from our Crown Court Department to become a successful pupil and tenant at Carmelite Chambers in London. In more recent times, James Olphert successfully found pupillage with the Crown Prosecution Service having worked with us for a relatively short period of time.

Helen Towers has worked with us both as an employee and a freelance police station advisor, and we are delighted to say that she is to start pupillage at Dere Street Chambers later this year.

The highly regarded Rebecca Coleman worked with us at The Johnson Partnership for about 2 ½ years, assisting in the Crown Court Department and advising in police stations. Rebecca is now a successful second six pupil at No 1 High Pavement Chambers in Nottingham.

We have received the brilliant news that Anthony Pettengell, a former valued member of the firm’s Business Defence and Fraud Department, has succeeded in his search for pupillage and is to join Fountain Chambers in Middlesbrough.

Our most recent success story centres around Rebecca Da Silva, who after a little over seven months with The Johnson Partnership has secured pupillage at Citadel Chambers in Birmingham, starting April 2018.

By offering day to day contact with members of the Bar, as well as solicitor HCAs, we have tried to ensure that all our would-be pupils are in the strongest possible position when it comes to making applications to Chambers. Opportunities for advocacy before judges in chambers and tribunals ensure that staff do not lose the skills that they have developed while mooting and during the BPTC. Familiarity with Crown Court documentation also means that at interview our staff are able to talk on an intensely practical level to the interviewing panels.

All in all, whilst it may not assist in our staff retention statistics, we are delighted to have been able to help some marvellous young talent along the way.

DMJ

PRISON LAW PRACTICE TO BE PROUD OF

Written by Will Bolam
May 4th, 2017

In days when many firms rely on the services of freelance clerks we have made a conscious decision to keep our Prison Law work in-house.

Many firms now run their Prison Law Departments on the backs of freelance Prison Law advisors working mainly from home. Traditionally, the split is 70% of any fee to the clerk and 30% to the firm. Inevitably however, this can lead to difficulties.

Knowing when and where to ring your advisor, ensuring messages reach the right person at the right time, guaranteeing good secretarial and admin back-up and ensuring that quality checks carried out are on a regular basis are all areas of concern where clerks or solicitors are working independently.

By keeping all our work in-house we can guarantee a central point of contact, which will generally find prisoners speaking to the person who knows most about the case. We can guarantee that even long and complex documents are produced with speed and accuracy.

A cooperative working team means that people are always available to cover one another’s cases, without there being concerns about whether fees are going to have to be split and shared.

Perhaps most important of all, file reviews, to check the quality of work, can be carried out on a regular face to face basis. These file reviews are crucial, not only do they let the supervisor have a sense of the quality of the fee-earner’s work, they also give some insight into the depth of knowledge and understanding that any fee-earner has. If something is found to be not quite right, it is important that it is not just reviewed but it is actually chased up and rectified with speed.

It goes without saying that by having everybody in-house we can ensure these processes run smoothly, efficiently, and to the benefit of all.

Whilst sometimes we might have to use an agent for very long distance work, it continues to be our determination to provide a home-based, home-grown team to look after the needs of some of the most vulnerable.

DMJ

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