Posts Tagged ‘ Crown Court ’


NO MORE AA AT JP’S

Written by admin
August 30th, 2019

For some the letters AA will always conjure up memories of motorbiking repairmen who would salute whenever they saw a car with the Automobile Association badge.  For others AA will conjure up the mysterious world of the recovering alcoholic.  For those of us who have worked at or with the staff from The Johnson Partnership’s Barnsley office, AA will forever be Amanda Armitage.

Amanda Armitage first worked with our colleague Eric Bray over twenty years ago.  Eric took her under his wing and helped her to become one of the most respected Crown Court litigators in South Yorkshire.

Colleagues, Counsel, clients and friends have all spoken of Amanda’s sharp-eyed insight and down to earth practical skill.  No-one saw more clearly, no-one understood better.

We are sad to say that Amanda has decided to step away from the law to spend time with her family.  Our loss is their gain, but we could never begrudge the unquestionable delight of spending more time in the company of one of our favourite folk.

We wish you good luck in all that you do Amanda and hope you won’t forget us.

EAST IS EAST

Written by admin
August 22nd, 2019

As courts close and custody suites are mothballed, so firms of solicitors have to commit to one existing custody centre or another.

This has never been more starkly demonstrated than in the case of the lovely market town of Buxton.

For many years Buxton had a Magistrates’ Court which serviced the whole of the High Peak. As other courts closed in Matlock, Bakewell, Glossop and beyond, so the Buxton workload had grown.

The latest round of cuts saw the Magistrates’ Court close and its work be transferred either to Chesterfield or to Stockport.

In recent times, the custody suite has gone the same way, save for volunteers attending to be interviewed or arrests who will be dealt with in less than six hours.

Inevitably, this has forced local firms to make a decision about their futures. Firms have to look either east to Chesterfield or west to Stockport, committing particular individuals to a particular duty solicitor scheme which services a specific police station and a specific court.

Not surprisingly, a number have decided to look after clients who are going to be appearing before the magistrates of Stockport and the Crown Court in Manchester.

We are pleased to say that at The Johnson Partnership we are going to be committing ourselves wholeheartedly to service those North Derbyshire clients who will be appearing before the magistrates of Chesterfield and the Crown Court in Derby.

We believe it is important to be able to service the needs of clients at all levels and at all times. By having specialist police station advisors, Magistrates’ Court advocates and Crown Court litigators and advocates available in numbers, we believe we can provide a super service to our North Derbyshire clients, rather than spreading ourselves too thinly across the courts of North Derbyshire and South Manchester.

It goes without saying we will be happy to look after individual clients on a one-off basis, even arranging for transport, where funds are limited and clients will struggle to make it on their own. For the most part, however, our dedication is to our day to day Chesterfield clientele.

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.

THE RISE AND RISE OF THE DEFERRED SENTENCE

Written by admin
May 27th, 2019

Some years ago both Magistrates’ and Crown Court judges were actively dissuaded from deferring sentence. A sentence that was deferred was thought to be a sentence that was taking a price as much of the court’s time as was really necessary. There was a sense that deferring was an indication of weakness or an inability to make a decision.

Happily, in recent times the deferred sentence has seen a considerable resurgence. A deferred sentence gives the courts an opportunity to see what a particular client is made of. By setting goals that the defendant can work towards over a three, four, five, or six month period, a court is able to get the true measure of an individual’s determination or present trajectory.

Sometimes the court will require that a client simply stays out of trouble, on other occasions they will look for appointments to be kept, negative drugs tests to be provided, employment to be found or opportunities to be taken up.

At the point when sentenced is passed, the court will have a very clear sense of whether a particular defendant is somebody with whom the court can work or whom the court can trust with a non-custodial sentencing option.

The return of the deferred sentence is an indication that courts are looking to reach the right decision, rather than just getting the case off their books at the earliest opportunity. There is nothing wrong with those who prefer to defer!

QUEENS COUNSEL – AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

Written by admin
May 16th, 2019

“How is it that my boss can defend him on a drink-driving when I can’t get one to defend me on an attempt murder?” If you think that question is daft or extreme, unrealistic or some sort of misrepresentation, you are just simply misinformed or wrong.

We all know that, on balance, and whether we like it or not, those barristers who have achieved the rank of Her Majesty’s Counsel are generally speaking the best of the bunch. The process for appointment is transparent, robust, and designed to ensure that only candidates of true quality are put forward for appointment.

Every year significant numbers of applications are received, only for a relatively small number of candidates to be appointed.

Why is it then that the addition of two letters after the name of a successful barrister means that they will suddenly become beyond the reach of almost every individual appearing before a criminal court?

There was once a time, and in Northern Ireland that time is still now, when Queens Counsel would appear to represent a significant raft of people charged with serious offences. Rapes, armed robberies in the course of which firearms were discharged, gang-related Section 18 woundings, manslaughters, attempt murders, serious frauds, as well as cases that were likely to attract significant public attention, were all ones in which Queens Counsel might be expected to appear.

Now, despite a lifetime of paying taxes both indirect and direct, as well as massive National Insurance contributions, most people charged with the above list of offences will simply be told that their application for Queens Counsel has been rejected.

We live in times when someone accused of the rape and attempted murder of a stranger will routinely be told that their application for the barrister of their choice has been refused, even though they are likely to receive a substantial a life sentence. Young people, including those under 18, facing allegations of attempt murder or manslaughter are left knowing that when it comes to securing Queens Counsel, the best they can probably do is dream.

Even where the current regulations seem to allow for a certificate for Queens Counsel to be granted, many judges before whom the applications are placed will routinely refuse them on the basis that this makes them look strong, or fiscally aware, or perhaps just the sort of person who ought to be promoted to the High Court Bench.

What with restrictive regulations and over-zealous judges the sighting of Queens Counsel in many Crown Courts will be as noteworthy as hearing the first cuckoo of sprint.

NOTTINGHAM VIA ROTHERHAM AND SHEFFIELD

Written by admin
May 13th, 2019

The Johnson Partnership are delighted to announce the appointment of Annette Thomas to our Higher Courts Advocate Team.

Having started her legal career with Nottingham with Messrs Bhatia Best Annette has gained considerable experience with firms in Chesterfield, Rotherham and Sheffield. We are delighted to say that she has agreed to join us at The Johnson Partnership, being principally based at our Nottingham office.

Living in the Chesterfield area, Annette is perfectly positioned to help with cases in the Crown Courts at Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield, Lincoln, and even, at a push, Hull and Grimsby. We are delighted to have been joined by an experienced advocate with skill, judgement and insight in abundance. Annette’s calm and considered approach puts colleagues and clients at ease, knowing that they are dealing with a consummate professional.

GOOD MORNING MA’AM

Written by admin
April 7th, 2019

The Johnson Partnership are delighted to confirm the appointment of Emma Coverley as a Deputy District Judge in the Civil Division.

Emma joined us in 2001 as a clerk in the Magistrates’ Court Department. Since then she has qualified as a solicitor, worked in our Mansfield office, qualified as a Higher Rights Advocate and gone on to enjoy many notable victories in the Crown Courts of the East Midlands and South Yorkshire as well as in the Court of Appeal.

Emma has never wanted to stand still. Developing the firm’s Higher Rights Advocacy Department was an indication that she was somebody wanting to break new ground in a positive and sustainable way.

Her application to become a Deputy District Judge is an indication that she is someone who will always look for the next horizon and try to push herself further and further in terms of her knowledge of the law and practice.

We all wish you well Emma and hope that you enjoy as much success as our only other appointment to the Bench: District Judge Gerald Chalk who has judged the people of Cumbria with a gentle, fair and even hand for the past fifteen years.

A SECOND EVENSONG FOR THE CHURCH!

Written by admin
April 5th, 2019

Yet again, we are sorry to have to announce the departure of Dan Church. Dan was one of our keenest and most successful young Higher Rights Advocates, who for the last two years has delivered a super service to our clients in Derby and beyond.

It would be wrong to think that Dan only worked in Derbyshire. During his most recent stint with us Dan has had some superb results, including a hard-fought victory after more than two months in Liverpool Crown Court.

In 2016 Dan left to have a short spell at the Bar with Bank House Chambers. We were delighted to have him return to us as the start of 2017, but regrettably the New Year has brought new challenges for Dan who will now be ensconced with the Crown Prosecution Service in the East Midlands.

Dan, we wish you well and want you to know that there is always an open door and a ready desk for you if you decide that our needs are more deserving than those of Her Majesty.

MOTORING! HOW SMART IS YOUR LEGAL CHAUFFEUR?

Written by admin
March 21st, 2019

How many times do you hear lawyers refer to cases “Only motoring” or “Some motoring rubbish”? This shows the lack of regard that many practising in the Crown and Magistrates’ Courts have for cases that arise out of road traffic legislation. Only when it is themselves, a close friend, or a family member, do they suddenly realise the devastating effect that some extra points or a six month ban can actually have. Then, and sadly, only then, is it time for some lawyers to put on their thinking caps and start to look for those famous “loopholes”.

At The Johnson Partnership I am pleased to say that all our lawyers are well-versed in all aspects of road traffic law. This is easy to claim, but it is something on which we are happy to be put to the test.

Not only are there the complexities that arise when the Prosecution fail to prove the necessary elements of a particular offence, but there are also questions that surround a court not imposing any points on someone’s licence because they found “special reasons not to endorse”. On a separate level, the whole issue of being allowed to continue driving with twelve points because the court have found the loss of a licence will cause “exceptional hardship” is an area of the law that is far too easily taken for granted and actually needs to have some serious thought and preparation applied on behalf of those who want to make this claim.

Matters can get even more complicated when a driver has two potential claims for “exceptional hardship” in two separate courts at the same time, but can only advance the same mitigation once in any three year period.

Move aside of course the question of what is and isn’t worth taking to the Crown Court on appeal.

Do not assume that every lawyer must be a road traffic expert, simply because it is the sort of area of law where very few people go to prison. In some respects, the opposite is true, because there isn’t the potential clang of the prison gates to focus the lawyer’s mind.

If you have road traffic or motoring issues that are going to see you appearing before a court anywhere in England or Wales you are most welcome to get in touch with The Johnson Partnership either by phone or by email to get proper assistance with what is when all is said and done a proper problem.

FUNNY HOW ONE LITTLE WORD CAN LEAD TO A SENTENCE!

Written by admin
March 18th, 2019

Yet again today I had the unfortunate experience of sitting in a Crown Court watching a client, who obviously thought that he had done a good deal, and discovering that the deal in question had unexpected consequences.

Without naming the individual or even the court, the story involves a man charged with assault, damage and theft. The offences were alleged in a domestic context and it seemed clear that until today they had been vehemently denied.

Those representing the individual had blatantly negotiated on his behalf with the Crown Prosecution Service that they would discontinue an assault and a theft if he pleaded to a criminal damage. The client, having received only who knows what advice, plainly decided that the deal on offer was good and would bring matters to a swift conclusion.

Unfortunately, nobody seemed to have reminded the defendant that it wasn’t just a question of him saying the word “guilty” and walking away. When he pleaded “guilty” there was inevitably going to have to be some sort of consequence.

In this particular case, the damage amounted to some many hundreds of pounds and involved items of a sentimental nature. The court decided that the defendant ought in fact to receive a custodial sentence, albeit that that sentence could be suspended. The suspended sentence was to be accompanied by some unpaid work and a short curfew. The suspended term, the unpaid work, and the curfew, all plainly came as some sort of surprise to the man in the dock, who it seemed believed that he would be thanked for his trouble and given his taxi fare home having done the decent thing and allowed the case to be brought to an end.

I was left to reflect just how many defendants, when reaching a compromise with the Crown Prosecution Service, actually forget that they will then still have to be sentenced in some way for the matters that they are actually admitting. Equally, I wonder how many solicitors or learned counsel take the trouble to remind their clients of the effect that their guilty pleas may have on them in the future. It is not just a question of them having a criminal record rather than not, but also that criminal record may affect employment prospects, credit ratings, an ability to travel to certain countries, and their standing with social services and adoption agencies, to mention just a few.

Make sure that if you are doing any sort of deals your lawyers take the trouble to explain to you in the detail that our lawyers would about the consequences of any “deals” that you may choose to enter into.

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