Posts Tagged ‘ custody ’


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.

POSTAL REQUISITIONS FROM HELL

Written by Sian Hall
February 25th, 2018

The idea of people being posted and goods or services being requisitioned immediately brings back memories of old World War II movies on black and white Sunday afternoons.

In their wisdom, the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service decided some little time ago to replace the time served summons with a new postal requisition. The postal requisition requires somebody to attend court at a particular time on a particular date and is posted to the last known address of the would-be recipient.

With voluntary interviews away from custody suites becoming more and more common, and with defendants being called to attend at court long after they have been allegedly released under investigation, the postal requisition is now in its heyday.

Having somebody back at the police station in order to charge them and give them a new date face to face, on which they were required to attend at court, obviously had a level of direct drive certainty about it. The postal requisition has introduced endless vagaries and uncertainties into a previously quick and efficient process.

Perhaps the weirdest and wackiest use of the postal requisition is to commence proceedings against someone who is still known to be a serving prisoner. A document is posted to the individual at the prison, but it is rarely sent out along with an order calling on the prison to produce that person to court. The prisoner sits in his cell, the court wants to know where they are, and the connective tissue of the production order has never been put in place.

Now that the West Yorkshire Police are rolling out trial mobile fingerprint scanners, perhaps the day of the mobile custody suite, with all the certainty and clarity that that entails, may not be far hence and the days of the postal requisition may yet be numbered.

VOICE INDENTIFICATION PARADES

Written by Sian Hall
December 9th, 2017

Digby Johnson is currently helping with a Nottingham Trent University research project into the law of evidence and the identification of the human voice.

In many cases a witness or victim will be called upon to describe a voice they overheard in the course of the commission of an offence or, perhaps someone talking about the planning of or the recent execution of such an offence. At the moment there are very few yardsticks to help measure that voice in a reasoned and logical way.

Since 2003 there has been provision for voice identification parades to take place, although as yet few, if any, have been successfully presented to a court in evidential form.

The current Trent project aims to develop questionnaires to assist witnesses in describing a voice. Further developments may include the provision of voice samples to witnesses to enable them to come up with the audible equivalent of an identikit picture.

Who knows, eventually, clips from previously taped interviews may be sampled into a databank similar to the current identification parade database to enable comparative samples to be put together to test whether a witness or victim is actually able to pick out the voice of someone in custody or a particular suspect.

YES, BUT WHAT ABOUT SKEGNESS?

Written by Sian Hall
December 7th, 2017

As well as the major courts and police stations served by each office, there is inevitably a penumbra of places that each office will serve. The Nottingham office will serve Grantham, Loughborough, Leicester, and many points south. The Derby office will serve Burton, Cannock, Tamworth and the like. Staff from Chesterfield will be seen at the Buxton custody suite or attending voluntary interviews in Bakewell or Matlock. The Sheffield office can cover Rotherham almost as easily as it can Sheffield. The Barnsley office reaches out to Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Wakefield and all of the other West Yorkshire towns including the super custody suite at Normanton Top. The Doncaster office covers Goole, Thorne, York, and beyond. Our Scunthorpe and Grimsby offices will jointly look after cases in Goole, Hull, Bridlington, etc. The Lincoln office will happily pull in work in Gainsborough, Sleaford, Boston, and so on. The Mansfield office regularly services work in Newark, Retford, Worksop, and Sutton in Ashfield. All offices then have their own immediate courts and police stations and many more besides.

The question however is which office will service Skegness? Every summer clients stream out to the east coast for sun, sea, sand, and soggy chips. Every weekend in spring and autumn there are dance raves and party events as well as the Butlins weekenders to attract the hordes. Throughout the year there are people visiting friends and relatives who have retired to the coast or simply stepped that way in order to “get away” from who knows what. The custody suite at Skegness is a regular reporter to the DSCC.

Whatever the day of the week, whatever the month of the year, whatever the time of day, the questions always arises Who is going to go to Skegness?”  The Lincoln office remains a laborious hour away. The staff at the Scunthorpe office claim that it would take them at least an hour and a half to get there. The Grimsby solicitors, perhaps geographically closest, swear blind that the roads are so bad that they cannot get there in under two hours. So then, the question perpetuates. Yet for 27 years, one way or another, in spite of its apparent unfeasibility, The Johnson Partnership have been looking after clients in Skegness, be they in the court or the police station, whatever the season and whatever the time.

Inevitably, our hearts go out to those members of staff who have completed their tasks in Skegness in the wee small hours. For them, there isn’t even the solace of a stick of last year’s rock or a soggy slab of cod.

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.

 

 

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE! ADVOCACY OF A DIFFERENT KIND

Written by Sian Hall
October 23rd, 2017

As our prisons reach bursting point, the pressure on the Courts and the Police to look for alternative but fair disposals for potential prisoners is huge.

 

Throughout the past twenty years a series of restorative justice schemes have been operated by local police forces up and down the country. The enthusiasm with which restorative justice has been embraced has very much depended on the personality of the individual driving the initiative in each area.

 

The poor take-up on conditional cautioning was a great national setback. The inability of the authorities to be able to confirm whether the requirements for a conditional caution had been fulfilled undermined the whole process.

 

Nevertheless, the pressure to avoid court is real and present. As a firm, The Johnson Partnership have been training and encouraging our Police Station Advisors to look for alternative disposals when the evidence against the client is strong.

 

For years it has been open to the Police to caution clients who are admitting to an offence but who have very little, if any, previous involvement in the system. Restorative justice offers a whole new vista of possibilities.  For years our Police Station Advisors have been able to suggest that cases could be resolved by compensation being paid or by a letter of apology being written however Police Officers are increasingly looking for new alternatives.  In recent weeks, ideas such as writing a letter of apology to all the patrons of a particular pub; spending two days collecting and stacking supermarket trolleys and paying for taxis to and from local shops whilst a mobility scooter was being fixed, have all been thought to be appropriate restorative justice disposals.

 

Appropriate, practical, inventive, and appealing ideas presented in a timely way to an overburdened Custody Sergeant can be ways of securing a swift and satisfactory resolution for a client, who might otherwise have wended their way through a tortuous court system.

 

 

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!

FROM BOYS TO MEN

Written by Will Bolam
October 28th, 2016

2016 has seen a dramatic change in the makeup of the East Midlands prison estate. Glen Parva Young Offenders Institution, which has held under 21 year old detainees for well over 30 years, has now become a mixed youth and adult facility.

For years, young East Midlands miscreants have had to listen to their older relatives telling them about the time they spent at the nearby barracks during their own younger days. Tigers Road and Saffron Road have been come synonymous with high walls and strict regimes.

The arrival of older prisoners at Glen Parva has meant that there has been a significant sea change in the character of the custodial facility.

A former governor of Glen Parva was heard to declare that “Young offenders are nothing more than animals”. This comment was made after a month of particularly exuberant behaviour by warring factions from different local cities.

The calming influence of more experienced time served detainees is said to have introduced an area of relative tranquillity to the leafy back waters of South Wigston.

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