Posts Tagged ‘ Criminal Defence Solicitors ’


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.

AWARD FOR FRAUDS

Written by admin
August 20th, 2018

In recent years more and more firms of solicitors are claiming to have been awarded batches of excellence of tokens of recognition for the work they do for the people they employ.  Some of these are entirely proper and are well recognised Kitemarks such as the SQM (Specialist Quality Mark) or the Lexcel Accreditation.  Some awards are slightly less transparent!  The “East Midlands Best Advocate”, the “North East Best Practice Manager”, the “Most Go Ahead Medium Sized Firm in the Manchester Area” might all lead to a sceptically raised eyebrow.

The true worth, and may we say voracity of some of the claims made on a number of websites are a matter for a certain amount of speculation.

Who decided?  Who applied?  What is “The North East”?  When was the decision made?  How often is the competition run?  How rigorously monitored is the award process?  Is it all really a load of hogwash or claptrap?  How stupid do we think the public really are?

At The Johnson Partnership we reckon we prefer rewards to awards!  We reckon the best reward that we can have day in day out is a satisfied client and we hope you will agree that’s worth a bucket load of multi-coloured rosettes.

ADVERTISING PUFF!

Written by admin
August 15th, 2018

The relaxation of restrictions on solicitors’ advertising has led to a world of change.  There will be those who regard it as unseemly and demeaning, to see solicitors claim to be “The best”, “The Cheapest”, “The Fastest”, etc., etc.

In recent times solicitors have claimed to be “The Most Caring”, “Friendly and Discreet” and, although you might think it would go without saying, “Professional”.

At The Johnson Partnership we have spent a lot of time wondering exactly what we ought to be claiming for ourselves.  Perhaps we should emphasise that we are “Any time, any place, anywhere”, like a good Martini.  Perhaps we should claim to “Put the freshness back” into law, although that might make us sound like a 1980’s Shake & Vac advert.  You could imagine there being a great deal of hilarity among the marketing partners.

On balance, and all things considered, what we reckon we would like to be as a firm of solicitors, is what British Airways used to claim they were as an airline which is of course “The World’s Favourite”.  When all is said and done, it is hard to disprove!

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.

THE GHOST TRAIN BECOMES THE LOVE TRAIN

Written by Sian Hall
November 23rd, 2017

As another date for submission of CDS12 form disappears over the horizon we are left reflecting on how different it is now to recruit new duty solicitors.  In short, all the criteria has changed.

Under the new 2017 Contract it is no longer sufficient to have somebody who will turn up to perform the obligatory amount of court and police station appearances while primarily working as freelance on their own account or even, who knows, as Tesco shelf stacker.

The new way is to bring somebody in for two or three days a week to ensure that they have their 14 hours carefully logged and stashed away for checking.

The October submission date saw us involve ourselves in lengthy interviews with a number of people, who we all hoped would be suitable recruits.

The new system brings with it closer scrutiny and a real consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of a duty solicitor candidate.  On this occasion it would be fair and honest to say that we had interviewed and made offers to three people who decided not to join us, but stay where they were.  Equally, we interviewed another three people at considerable length, to whom we decided not to make an offer.  The time invested in the recruitment process was quite significant particularly when this entails ticking fee-earning Partners away from their day to day labours.

We are delighted to say, however, that we have been successful in recruiting two wholly new duty solicitors as well as the lovely Helen Nicholson who will be returning to the fold.  All in all, the process has been an interesting and very enlightening one on a great many levels.

FLEXIBLE COURT PILOT IS PARLIAMENTARY REFLEX

Written by Sian Hall
August 28th, 2017

All of our staff who regularly work around the Sheffield Magistrates’ Court seem likely to be caught up in the government’s new flexible court pilot starting in September.

 

The proposals will see the Sheffield Magistrates’ Court opening for business at 08:00am and sitting until 6:30pm.

 

There has been a lot of focus on the effect this will have on the personal lives of court clerks, ushers, prosecutors, Defence solicitors, and those appearing before the court as witnesses or defendants.

 

Many firms fear that there will be difficulties in staffing courts at unusual times because of the contracts of employment enjoyed by well-respected, trusted, and time-served employees.

 

In a recent offer of employment we have been pleased to confirm to a new member of staff that their start time can be put back to enable a small child to be delivered to school. These sorts of arrangements that are borne out of practicality and common decency are now likely to result in the onus for covering out of hours courts falling on partners or potentially self-employed contractors.

 

In other firms we have heard that open conflict is breaking out between solicitors who are and who are not able to vary their working days to cover the court pilot.

 

All of these changes stem from nothing more than a desire by the Ministry of Justice to be seen to be keeping the use of their buildings and the systems within them under constant review. Nowhere, outside of the Ministry, has there ever been any pressure from anyone at all for the piloted changes to be introduced.  If the pilot is to come, it may be short-lived and ill-fated.

TO HOLD OR TO FOLD

Written by Will Bolam
May 11th, 2017

Yet again this week an earnest young man, who claimed to have sent me a letter over a month ago, rang to try to sell me his company’s telephone services. The service in question was the provision of hold music accompanied by softly spoken promotional and reassuring words about the firm.

Over the years we have done many things to entertain our clients whilst they are holding for the member of staff of their choice. Originally we had a CD player linked to the system which played the most up to date number of the NOW Various Artists Collections.

After a while, each member of staff was allocated a seven day period, during which they were able to play the music of their choice.

Eventually interest in the process waned to the extent that we discovered we were still playing Elton John’s Step into Christmas in the third week of March.

In recent times an intermittent beep or just simple silence had been our chosen default position.

In deciding whether to avail ourselves of the new service offer, considerations had to be given to what our competitors are up to. In recent weeks, I have been told while on hold at one firm “We were founded in 1765” while another claimed boldly to have been “Solicitors since 2011”. I have been told about “Professionalism”, “Caring supportive staff”, “Committed team members”, “a broad range of services”, etc, etc, etc.

The sad truth of course is that I wanted to hear none of this. What I wanted was to speak to the person that I was ringing.

Perhaps the most exasperating aspect of the whole “hold information” scenario, is when it starts to loop round and you are told for the third or fourth time about the date of foundation of the firm or the “client-friendly offices”.

You will not be surprised to hear that on balance I thought it might be a better idea to spend some money training and encouraging our front office staff to deal with calls in a “friendly and efficient” manner, rather than paying someone in a studio to state what clients would either think was blindingly obvious or a pack of lies.

When it comes to “hanging on the telephone” we are firmly of the opinion that “silence is golden”.

DMJ

LINKED-IN IN LINCOLN

Written by Will Bolam
May 2nd, 2017

Well, it’s happened! The Lincoln office is finally open for business. Phone lines installed. Desks erected. Filing cabinets primed and ready for action.

It is hard to express just how exciting it is to start a new office from scratch. The last time that The Johnson Partnership opened an office that wasn’t linked to an existing practice was July 1st 1990 when we first opened as a firm.

Taking us back to those early days of counting up how many police station cases we have dealt with and court appearances we have attended by week. Horrible disappointments of case-less days and the wild excitement of having to bring in more people to cope with the sudden influx are almost too much to bear.

The unbridled enthusiasm of Vicki Clayton and her team is a joy to behold. There can be no group of legal professionals who are as desperately dedicated to providing a class client service as The Johnson Partnership Lincoln squad.

The desire to make something work both from scratch is undoubtedly one of the most powerful drivers in any service industry.

With help available from the Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Mansfield, and Nottingham offices the Lincoln team know there is a massive reservoir of help at hand as well as a big crowd waiting to cheer their success.

01522 306189 IS A MAGIC NUMBER

Written by Will Bolam
January 26th, 2017

When setting up a new office it’s easy to forget just how many building blocks have to be put in place. It’s also easy to forget how long the lead-in times are for some of those building blocks even to be fashioned.

Our Lincoln office, soon to be buzzing with defence solicitors, clerks & secretaries has until recently been somewhat quiet on the telephone front.

Many thanks to our friends at RHM Telecom, we are delighted to say that we have been able to short circuit a rather tedious BT process and we are now happy to announce our Lincoln office number is 01522 306189.

The prospect of having to wait six weeks for somebody to activate a line that’s already in existence was unattractive to say the very least. In reality, we have now been able to furnish our new number to the LAA along with our applications for Duty Solicitors for the Lincoln City Duty Solicitor Scheme.

Many thanks to RHM and best of luck to Vicki Clayton, our partner in charge!

YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR LAST RESULT!

Written by Will Bolam
January 23rd, 2017

YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR LAST RESULT

At The Johnson Partnership we have always fought shy of publicising particular results. Not only can it look immodest, but there’s always the risk that a client may be identified, a juror embarrassed or some sort of inappropriate comparison made. Whether it’s GBH in Grimsby, scuffling in Scunthorpe, liquoring in Lincoln, bestiality in Barnsley, drunkenness in Doncaster, shoplifting in Sheffield, child-molesting in Chesterfield, manslaughter in Mansfield, death by dangerous in Derby or night-time burglaries in Nottingham, there will always be somebody who can make more outlandish claims about the outcome.

Bearing all of the above in mind, we would just like to say that the start of 2017 has seen some truly exceptional results. Two week trials have collapsed with formal not guilty verdicts on the second day. Impossible looking Section 18 trials have resulted in fantastic acquittals and a case, rescued from a firm and Counsel who seemed to have comprehensively fallen out with their client, has resulted in a famous victory.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Elwick, Mr Church, Mr Stables, Mr Eckersley and Mr Langdale of Counsel for their efforts on behalf of our clients, as well as acknowledging the sterling work of the firm wide in-house advocacy team.

There are occasions when you have to stop and look at those around you and just feel very humble.

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