Posts Tagged ‘ defendants ’


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.

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. 

A Stranger Danger

Written by admin
December 21st, 2018

Crown Courts will regularly have to consider whether a client is “dangerous”. In essence, the issue is whether they are somebody who has committed an offence of a particular gravity, either now or in the past, or an offence that has attracted a particular sort of sentence. Faced with their current charge, the court has to consider whether they impose a real threat of particularly unpleasant sorts of harm to individuals in the future.

In general, when found dangerous, defendants have to serve two thirds, rather than half of the sentence set down by the court and they can only be released with the consent of the Parole Board. Many people also face an extended period of licence supervision to ensure that they are closely monitored by the National Offender Management Service.

It ought to be remembered, however, that there are certain offenders who can be found to be “dangerous” but who can still be released at the halfway period without the involvement of the Parole Board, and who needn’t be subject to the extended licence provisions. The finding of “dangerousness” is entered on the defendant’s record, but no other step is taken. This flags up their position to a subsequent sentencing court, dealing with either a new offence or a breach, but ensures their return to the community at the earliest and most appropriate time.

As times goes by, it seems apparent that fewer and fewer sentencing tribunals are aware of this power, or have it at the forefront of their minds when passing sentence. This may be something that many defence advocates needed to consider bringing to attention of a court that may be passing a very significant sentence on a client who deserves better.

Lock ups and Lock outs

Written by admin
November 19th, 2018

In a desperate attempt to save Her Majesty’s government a few extra ill-gotten pounds, the MOJ are now consulting on closing the remand courts in Doncaster, Barnsley, Beverly and Grimsby. The only remand courts in South Yorkshire and to the whole of Humberside, would be in Sheffield and Hull.

On the face of it, the considerable expense involved in refurbishments at Barnsley and Doncaster and the installation of video links at all three courts now seems to be for nothing.

The travel to be imposed on families and friends, who want to be present for vital first hearings, subsequent bail applications and hugely important sentencings are a cost that will now have to be met by the poorest members of society rather than the government through the justice system.

If there is anything that can be done to avoid the alienation and injustice that these sorts of closures bring we, at The Johnson Partnership, want to help to do it. We have long felt that it is time that the justice system operated for the benefit of those defendants, the complainants and witnesses who find themselves unwittingly involved in it, rather than its administrators and overlords.

 

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