Posts Tagged ‘ criminal legal aid ’


PRISON LAW PRICING

Written by admin
September 1st, 2018

As of February of this year some new areas of Prison Law work are again covered by legal aid.  Regrettably, there are still a great many problems that prisoners experience for which legal aid is simply not available.

Prisoners are a particularly vulnerable group.  The pressures that they feel are acute and can lead to depression, mental health problems and, in the worst cases, extra punishment.

Prisoners and their families are often keen to do everything they can to improve their own, or a loved one’s situation.  This means of course that they may be prepared to dig deep into cash reserves, or even borrow to pay for help from solicitors.

There can be no doubting that the number of solicitors exploit this vulnerability.  Some solicitors prey on the notion that good work must cost a lot and therefore clients will only think that a job has been done properly if they are paying through the nose for it.  Some solicitors will suggest they only have one or two clients in a particular prison and therefore will have to make special journeys to see people which will mean that they have to charge clients more.  Some solicitors will suggest that they have to charge a particularly inflated hourly rate to cover the overheads involved in Prison Law work.

At The Johnson Partnership we don’t believe in exploiting any sort of client.  Vulnerable clients, detained in custody for long periods of time, are not there to be exploited.  To ensure that clients and their families know exactly where they stand we aim, wherever possible, to offer a fixed rate for each particular area of Prison Law work.  This means that everybody knows where they stand from the start.  A client, or a client’s friend or family member, can make a hard-nosed decision as to whether or not they want to have a particular piece of work done.

In rare cases, where it is just impossible to know how much work will be involved in looking after a particular prisoner, we not only provide a hourly rate but also regular costs updates.  If the goalposts look as though they are going to move, we ask for our client’s permission, before proceeding to the next stage of the job, rather than just assuming they want to continue paying, paying, paying.

If you feel that you have been exploited, misled, or ripped off by someone claiming to look after either your interests or those of a loved one, try The Johnson Partnership’s transparent pricing system and let us know how well it has worked for you.

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.

INCREASE IN THE SCOPE OF LEGAL AID “SURELY SOME MISTAKE”

Written by Sian Hall
February 10th, 2018

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.

CHARGING CHANGES IN DONCASTER

Written by Sian Hall
December 1st, 2017

It has become noticeable over the last four weeks that the police in Doncaster have greatly reduced the number of people being charged to court from their main custody suites.

The inevitable consequence of this is that the overnight remand courts have been much quieter, as indeed have the courts dealing with people appearing on charge rather than by way of summons or postal requisition.

Many think that the poor throughput of cases doesn’t reflect the experience of many Doncaster residents, who are firmly of the opinion that crime has been on the rise in recent months. This breakdown between the common experience of Doncaster people and the local police practice is obviously causing some concern.

We want to emphasise that anybody receiving a summons or postal requisition is just as likely to be as entitled to legal aid assistance as they ever were. Anyone receiving a letter through the post calling them to attend at the Magistrates’ Court should not hesitate to give us a call to benefit from our usual office of free initial advice and a meaningful consultation to point the recipient in the right direction.

Do not hesitate to call our Doncaster office at any time on (01302) 360606 for a friendly, helpful service.

VULNERABLE WITNESSES! TRAINED AND TESTED

Written by Sian Hall
November 17th, 2017

The Johnson Partnership’s HCA (Higher Court Advocate)  team must be one of the first in the country to have all received their vulnerable witness training.

 

The extensive course, which requires preparation and submission of written material seven days before the court is held, a full participatory workshop, and follow-up viewing is designed to equip advocates to deal with vulnerable witnesses in a humane, efficient, and just way.

 

The preparation of carefully crafted written questions, to be submitted to the court at a Ground Rules Hearing, is for many still a relatively new skill.

 

With the roll out of Section 28 cross-examination of witnesses in the New Year, it is highly likely that only advocates who have received the vulnerable witness training are going to be able to deal with cases of this sort.

 

HCA’s from The Johnson Partnership’s Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby Higher Rights advocate teams have all been fully trained to conduct cases involving vulnerable witnesses in the most appropriate way from day one.

TIM TURN’S A PAGE

Written by Sian Hall
November 14th, 2017

Perhaps the hardest working Magistrates’ Court advocate in The Johnson Partnership is proving that 50 is the new 30. Tim Williamson, who has been with us since our rescue of the old Northern Briefs practice in November 2013, turned 50 at the start of October.

 

Tim’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Doncaster courts and clients means he is the go to guy whenever a new advocate is looking for some important background on a local lass or lad.

 

Tim’s work rate remains absolutely astounding, in spite of him moving into his sixth decade. In and out of office hours Tim is a force to be reckoned with and we wish him many happy returns and best wishes for many years to come.

TROUBLE FOR TREACHOROUS TACHOGRAPHS

Written by Sian Hall
November 4th, 2017

In recent months, the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court at Nottingham have been particularly heavily populated with Eastern European lorry drivers whose vehicles have been fitted with tachograph override systems.

 

The systems are capable of preventing a tachograph record from showing several hours of journey time each day.

 

The Trowell and Beeston Testing Centres have recently detected substantial numbers of wagons from Eastern Europe, whose drivers have been operating these devices.

 

Whilst the authorities always seek to prosecute the companies who own the vehicles, it is inevitably the drivers who are in the front line.

 

With Polish and Romanian speakers within our fee-earning team, we have been particularly well placed to look after drivers who found themselves before a court for the first time in their lives. Inevitably, we have had to come to terms with the various systems that are employed to override the tachograph.  Not all prosecutions result in guilty pleas and not all of the assertions made by the prosecuting authorities stand close examination.

 

If you know of somebody who finds themselves before the court for this sort of offence please do not hesitate to give us a call, whether the case is in the East Midlands or further afield. Our experienced staff will always be happy to help and are prepared to travel.

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!”

MANDATORY MADNESS

Written by Sian Hall
October 29th, 2017

As the Government chases new headlines for planning to impose mandatory six month terms of imprisonment for those carrying acid in a public place, for the second time we have to reflect on the real worth of this kind of sentence.

 

Mandatory sentencing is often not what it seems. Three years for a third strike burglar often means three years less 20% for those who admit the offences in early stage and can mean a lot less if there are special circumstances relating to there more to the offence.  The same is true for third strike Class A drug dealers.  Those found carrying knives in public for the second time should face a mandatory sentence of six months, but in reality this is a sentence that can be reduced to meet the justice of the case, depending on the circumstances of the offence or the client.   Presumably, acid carriers are likely to find themselves in the same position as their knife-wielding brethren.

 

Does the mandatory sentence then serve any real purpose? Are there any mandatory sentences that are not regularly devalued?   The argument must of course run that it is hard for governments to send out a message to members of the public who are likely to offend.  The announcement of six months in a prison for anybody committing a certain offence is an easy message that may well get across to more than most.  Of course,  the mandatory term also provides a thinking point for sentencing courts who might otherwise find themselves in a sea of inconsistency.  Nevertheless, the same sort of thinking point has been established for many offences by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, whose guidelines can be varied dependant on the social and legal landscape, without recourse to legislation.

 

It is worth reflecting that over the years the only two sentences that have remained largely unadulterated are life imprisonment for murderers and the mandatory driving ban for drink drivers. Odd bookends for a growing shelf of non-discretionary sentencing decisions.

PRISON LAW FOR ALL

Written by Sian Hall
October 20th, 2017

After months of consideration, The Johnson Partnership now have a freshly printed leaflet containing advice and guidance for newly incarcerated prisoners.

 

Any Johnson Partnership client who finds themselves remanded into custody on a new charge, or sentenced to a term of custody, will immediately be provided with the Prison Law Guide.

 

Lovingly crafted by Euan Edwards and Devon Broome, the new leaflet sets out to answer questions that would trouble many prisoners facing an adjudication, or a review of many sorts. Our objective is to ensure that all clients know who to ask and where to find them within the firm if they have any questions that require an answer, whether or not the particular issuecomes within the scope of the current legal aid regime.

 

Many congratulations to Euan and Devon for their hard work!

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