Posts Tagged ‘ Criminal defence ’


SUCKED OFF BY CPS

Written by admin
September 8th, 2019

At a time when it is increasingly hard to persuade newly qualified solicitors to work in the criminal courts and offer their services as duty solicitors on a 24 hour rota basis.  At a time when experienced expert criminal solicitors are refusing to work on the 24 hour duty solicitor rota because they have done it for the last 15, 20, 25 or 30 years and cannot face it anymore. A new wound is opened up in the side of the Defence community.

Over the last three years there has been a steady flow of Defence solicitors to the Crown Prosecution Service.  The CPS offer a working life devoid of out of hours commitments.  There is no need to work in the decrepit and hostile environment of the police stations.  You will not meet with mentally unwell, drug addicted, or angry and antagonistic clients on a day to day basis.  Finally, you will benefit from all of the civil service benefits negotiated over a lengthy period of time by a skilled and experienced set of union negotiators.

21 years on from the last increase in legal aid rates, wages and conditions at the CPS seem increasingly attractive to the employees and Partners of criminal firms.

If Boris Johnson’s increase in policemen on the ground is to be accompanied by an increase in prosecutors to deal with the new prosecutions and arrests that must surely follow, we can expect more and more people to be sucked away from real or potential jobs within the Defence community.  Let’s face it, there are few enough people who want to work in crime overall.  If the Crown are to recruit more from this limited pool, the effect on Defence firms and duty solicitor rotas is likely to be catastrophic.

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.

BAT CLASS WITH EMMA COVERLEY

Written by Sian Hall
November 25th, 2017

A number of our Partners and colleagues have links to local higher learning institutions.

November 2017 has however seen former full time lecturer Emma Coverley make a guest appearance at Nottingham Trent University.

Emma, who previously taught law at Doncaster College, long before it was absorbed into the academic groves of the University of Huddersfield, was asked to assist with the Nottingham Trent Psychology Masters Course.

An enthusiastic group of twenty students were able to pick Emma’s brains pretty shy of a couple of hours on the practical implications of laws and regulations governing the detention and sentencing of mentally disordered clients.

With a vast body of material at her disposal, Emma was more than a match for the information-hungry post grads. Their experience was said to be truly enjoyable, but there is to be no permanent move back to the blackboard.

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.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PRISON DEATHS?

Written by Sian Hall
November 10th, 2017

On the day where Nottingham Prison announces that five inmates have died during the course of the last three months and when the governor of Liverpool jail has been removed forthwith, the question of prison conditions and particularly deaths in prison is a live one.

 

Recently, Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform, called for the Probation Service and CCRCs to be involved in reviews whenever a prisoner who has been known to either of the branches of the probation service prior to their admission to prison, takes their life.

 

Many advocates shrink from saying to the Court that they believe the client is in imminent danger if admitted to custody. Many regard it as bad fall and rather cheap; others believe it is wrong to be seen to be holding a gun to the head of the Court.

 

All of our advocates have been trained to bring sensitive and delicate information to the attention of the court in an appropriate and reasoned fashion. Everyone is taught how to bring mitigation together in a way that should, if at all possible, avoid a vulnerable client ever being sent into custody.

 

Where a Court takes a decision to remand or sentence to custody our advocates are trained to ensure that the right information is passed as quickly as possible to the relevant authorities within the prison to ensure that the prison staff can give timely and appropriate care. Sadly, all we can ever do is provide this information, there can be no say in what those in charge will do with it.  By keeping a record of those to whom we have spoken and the information that has been provided to them, we aim to be in a position to ensure that any reviewing body is able to have a real and proper understanding of what was known by whom at what time.

 

 

JIMMY BECK GOES UNDERGROUND

Written by Sian Hall
November 2nd, 2017

On 4th October 2017 an exclusive basement party in a renowned Nottingham restaurant was held to celebrate the 70th birthday of James Harrison Beck.

 

With Judges, QC’s, leading and junior counsel, solicitors, trainees, and clerks from within the firm and beyond, the guest list truly sparkled.

 

When Jimmy founded The Johnson Partnership’s Higher Rights team in April 2002 he was one of the very few members of the Bar to work in-house with a firm of Defence solicitors. Since that time he has suggested and helped us grow a substantial and successful White Collar Department as well as one of the most highly regarded teams of in-house advocates in the country.

 

All of this of course follows on a glittering career at the Independent Bar as well as huge success elsewhere within the Metropolitan area.

 

It was lovely to be able to spend an evening with Jimmy, Val, and so many close friends who were prepared to step out and party even though it was officially a school night!

 

Happy Birthday Jim! As you would say, “Whatever would we do without you!”

BRUMMIE BENN GOES BALLISTIC…

Written by Sian Hall
October 17th, 2017

It is with great pleasure to introduce our newest Trainee Solicitor, Benn Robinson.

Benn first started to study law at Nottingham Trent University at the age of 18. He completed the first two years of his sandwich course before spending the third year with another local firm. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to complete his course at that time but undeterred he joined the Call Centre and became accredited as a Police Station Representative. In 2012 he moved into our Crown Court Department and has been a firm favourite there ever since. He re-started his degree course in 2014 on a part time basis and has balanced that with working full time and being on call.

We were so proud when he successfully completed the course this summer and he is now studying for the LPC part time alongside his Training Contract which started at the beginning of the month. Unbelievably, he still manages to find time to enjoy golf and football and is currently bracing himself for the arrival of his first child next year.


Watch this space ladies and gentlemen as those dulcet Brummie tones will be heard in a court near you in the not too distant future!

HALF A YEAR, HALF A YEAR, HALF A YEAR ONWARD!

Written by Sian Hall
September 6th, 2017

As a number of the Partners at The Johnson Partnership approach the second half of their careers the issue of sabbaticals has raised its head.

 

A lengthy period of unpaid leave which allows the beneficiary to completely unwind and reconsider their position in the world is something that many value really highly. A sabbatical provides the opportunity to reset and start off in a new direction or simply reboot and go back to an existing post with new approaches, new thoughts, and new enthusiasm.

 

No specified period has been chosen, on the basis that each person availing themselves of the opportunity will have their own ideas about what they would like to do and how much time they would like to take off. Three months, four months, and even six months sabbaticals are actively being considered.

 

Interestingly, it is those who are towards the middle of their careers, rather than approaching the end who seem most keen to step back and consider what the next 20 or 25 years hold for them.

 

Any sabbatical inevitably puts extra demands on colleagues and assistants alike, but it also gives younger staff the chance to come forward and prove their worth and try out new ideas and ways of working.

 

All in all, the sabbatical seems an entirely sound way of moving forward. Within the firm we are truly fortunate to have sufficient supervisors already qualified to be able to allow for a seamless transition.

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.

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