Posts Tagged ‘ prisons ’


CLOSENESS IS TOO COSY FOR COMFORT

Written by admin
March 15th, 2019

The arrival of a new super custody suite for South Humberside throws up all the usual questions for the Defence solicitors in the area. Traditionally, Defence solicitors in South Humberside are based either in Scunthorpe or Grimsby. Strictly speaking, the new custody suite is not in the centre of either of these two population centres.

Obviously, there is the possibility for new offices to be opened close to the new custody suite, but as ever, this begs the question of whether an office close to a police station really does bring the expected return.

How many people leave the police station and decide the first place that they want to go rather than home, the pub, their drug dealer or McDonald’s is actually their solicitor. How many people arrive at the police station under their own steam only to think at the last minute “Oh that’s what I forgot! A solicitor!” Those arriving in custody having been transported by the police tend to arrive at the rear of police stations and do not pass the open arms of the Defence solicitors whose offices have been invitingly opened nearby. Even those who are driven to the front of the station are unlikely to take in the subtleties of the names of particular firms.

Inevitably then, it seems likely that The Johnson Partnership will not be opening a new office near to South Humberside’s new custody centre.

In recent times, a small rank of well-established Defence firms have opened in the proximity of Derby’s St Mary’s Wharf custody suite. One of our competitors, when relocating within Chesterfield city centre, decided that an office, cheek by jowel with the town’s police station, was a good investment. Within our area, only the wise folk of Sheffield seem to have decided that relocating to the unlovely, unprepossessing, inconvenient and unwelcoming area of the new Shepcote Lane custody suite would be a poor idea.

Discussions with clients show that they tend to be suspicious of many Defence solicitors who are seen as part of the establishment. The Duty Solicitor Scheme has, from time to time, fallen into disrepute, because clients have believed that duty solicitors were “police solicitors”. To do anything to bolster this idea of cosiness seems to be, if not commercial suicide, certainly a serious commercial illness which might result in some haemorrhaging of clients.

Whether it be Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, Mansfield, Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Grimsby or Lincoln, The Johnson Partnership are pleased to assert our independence, whether it be from police officers, prisons, the Youth Offending Team, the probation service, Judges, prosecutors, or whosoever else may be part of our system.

What a Production

Written by admin
January 13th, 2019

Increasingly throughout 2018 a new problem has begun to manifest itself in prisons throughout the land: prisoners are said to be “refusing” to attend.  Whether it is visits at the prison, video link conferences, video links to court, or productions to court as defendants or witnesses, time and again we are being told that the individual has “refused”. 

A number of courts have attempted to establish a protocol, whereby a form has to be completed by the officer visiting the prisoner to try to secure their attendance.  An uncooperative prisoner is unlikely to sign such a form, and so inevitably the form is being completed by officers who may have a skewed perception of what the prisoner is saying, or may have their own reasons for suggesting that the prisoner is being uncooperative. 

If a prisoner can be signed off as “refusing” then there is no need to move them within the prison or from the prison and life becomes concomitantly easier.  Regrettably, however, neither lawyers nor courts can truly have confidence in such a system.  Many clients, seen on a later occasion, will simply say that nobody ever came to get them.  It is not uncommon to be talking to a prisoner on the phone at half past eleven, who is looking forward to an afternoon visit, only to be told that they have “refused” that visit.  May things can happen between 11:30am and 2:00pm, but equally many things may not!

It is hard to know how to rectify the problem, but to enable it to be assessed, it might help if, whenever a client tells their solicitor that they have not in fact been called for, when officers have suggested that they have refused to attend, a widely shared comment to that effect should be added to the digital case system for all to see. 

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.

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.

NOTHING MEEK ABOUT THE NEW FORCE IN CHESTERFIELD

Written by Sian Hall
February 1st, 2018

On 15th January 2018, after almost ten years with the firm, Karl Meakin stepped out on his own account in the Magistrates’ Court.  An experienced prison lawyer, Karl is now strengthening the team of Chesterfield advocates comprised of Bob Sowter, Kirsty Sargent, and the inestimable John Wilford.

Karl will also be continuing to carrying on preparation and advocacy work for the Prison Law Team throughout the country.

The Chesterfield advocates are ably backed up by Richard Pell, Lucy Hooper, Yasmin James-Birch, and Lynda Gilbert.

With John’s added qualities as a regulatory specialist, the team has not only depth but considerable breadth.

Bob Sowter brings with him not only massive expertise in terms of adult and youth crime, but also a history of work carried out on behalf of the road haulage sector, which has ably equipped him to deal with a broader than average range of road traffic and vehicle related issues.

The remarkable Kirsty Sargent is the beating heart of the team, an excellent advocate and a superb organiser and administrator.

Karl could hardly be joining a finer group of lawyers who should ease him to greatness at an early stage.

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.

 

 

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