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Showing posts from December, 2010

Delayed justice is no justice

I have just read this story on the BBC website.

I don't practice immigration law and have never studied it at any level, I also know nothing about the original case that led to Amy Houston's death.  But the case does show the difficult decisions faced by judges every day as much as it shows the inadequacies of the current system.

First, the judges.  They were, in effect, being asked to chose whether to throw a criminal out of the country and thus deprive his children of their father or allow him to stay and cause hurt to Mr Houston.  It's not a decision that I would have liked to have taken.

Turning to the system.  Could the system have avoided placing Mr Houston and Ibrahim's wife and young children in this position?  Well, yes it could have done easily by hearing this case in a timely fashion in 2003 while Ibrahim was still serving his four-month sentence.  Given that the authorities were seeking his removal from the UK, I wonder whether at that time they would have …

If you believe it then do it

This is one of the reasons that I am currently feeling so anti-politician.

I don't agree or disagree with Bob Ainsworth's current opinion on drugs but I do get annoyed that the report seems to suggest that he came to his current view while in office but then waited several years before saying anything about it.

Politicians: if you believe in something then a) tell us; and b) do what you believe in rather than ignoring issues because you know that the press will give you a bad write up.

Time and place

I've just come across a file that has got me thinking about how decisions get made.  It's not a case with which I've had any involvement aside from reading the file just now.

The case is a (not uncommon around here) allegation of rape where the complainant says that she was raped about 8-years-ago by somebody she knows.  There have been no other incidents either before or since according to disclosure given by the police to the solicitor who attended for interview at the police station.  She provided the police with the suspect's home and work address as well as his name.

There will not be any forensic evidence available in this case due to its age, although if I were the police I'd want to search his home and possibly have a look at his computer since people do store the most incriminating things on there in the mistaken belief that they are safe.  This would lead me to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to knock on his door around 5-6am, arrest him and s…

wiki-armed forces

I have to congratulate HM Armed Forces for seeing an opportunity to raise recruitment and jumping on it.

I just googled a single word "wikileaks" and it returned a single sponsored result advertising:

Join the Special ForcesLearn how you can be a part of UK's Elite Special Forces squadsHMForces.co.uk/SpecialForces

I'm not sure if the Special Forces support or oppose wikileaks from this ad, but I love the plan.  Maybe I'll pay for searches on wikileaks for my work homepage.

Down with Mandela

In Parliament Square there is a staute of Nelson Mandela, he of South African anti-apartheid fame.  I heard him speak once, but unfortunately to do so I had to listen to some sanctimonous arsehole called Tony Bliar (misspelling deliberate), but that's another story.

I understand that students are unhappy about the rise of tuition fees but I couldn't really understand why somebody thought it necessary to dawb Mr Mandela's statue with the pink paint that I saw on it this morning as I rode to court.  Nor, if they simply wanted to protest was it necessary to write "fuck police" in big letters on Winston Churchill's statue.

A few days ago I saw students protesting outside Parliament about the reduction in funding for school sports.  They were well organised, very vocal, got themselves on the tele but managed to avoid closing the whole of central London and trashing the place.

so I punched him

Something reminded me of a case I dealt with a number of years ago.

It started as a fairly bog standard shoplifting that occurred around Christmas time.  During the first incident, the offender took a bottle of whiskey and some beers from a Tesco.  The store guard tried to stop him and from that point things got bizarre.  The offender pulled a gun and threatened to kill the guard.  Unsurprisingly, the guard stepped back and let the man go.

The next day at the same time the same man went into the same Tesco and stole the same items.  He was seen by the same security guard who called for help from staff and the police.  As the man left the store again the security guard - still alone - bravely told him to stop.  Again the offender pulled a gun and pointed it to the guard's head.  I've always remembered the next words in the guard's statement to the police.  He said, "I was terrified.  I didn't know what to do, so I punched him in the face."  The thief/gunman pr…

Personal responsibility

I'm a firm believer that people should take responsibility for their actions and I like to think I abide by that principle myself, but whether I do or not is probably best judged by others.

As I see it one of the biggest problems the Criminal Justice System faced is the population taking responsibility for itself.  If somebody won't take responsibility for their acts then I do not see how they can be rehabilitated.  One of the things that always shocks me is just how little responsibility people will take.  I remember sitting in the cells at Snaresbrook with a defendant accused of downloading lots of child pornography.  He accepted that he downloaded it, he said "out of curiosity" because when he had previously been convicted of the same offence he hadn't actually seen the pictures so he wanted to know what that kind of thing looked like. 

One thing I have to do is to act in the client's best interests; sometimes that means telling them the brutal truth and I…

Hints and tips 2

I'm good at what I do... well I think so even if nobody else does.  But, I'm not a miracle worker.  If you find yourself arrested and remanded into custody and then I show up and persuade the Crown Court to release you on conditional bail: make sure you obey your conditions, especially when the judge has told you just a few days earlier that "if you break your bail conditions you are very likely to be returned to prison".

If you don't obey then expect to spend up to the next year in prison awaiting your trial.  It really is that simple.

Legal Aid silliness

Just following up on my last post where I mentioned how complex legal aid is; I have just billed a trial.  One of the solicitors in the office conducted the litigation while I acted as advocate - the barrister if you like.  The trial lasted for three days.  Neither of us are paid anything for the first two days of the trial, this is included in the basic fee.  However, for day 3 I was paid a pretty reasonable £451 for attending, conducting a trial, questioning witnesses, making a speech to the jury etc etc.  However, the litigator received an extra payment of £771.17 for that day (I know as I'm preparing his bill for him).  For that extra payment he did not attend court, although I think I spoke to him on the telephone. 



Because of the way the system works you have to claim everything.  If you don't then when your files are audited there will be a discrepancy between your claim and the 'correct' fee, this will count against you and you will lose your status as a Catego…

Legal aid overpaid

I came across this story in the Gazette this morning, which is about solicitors funded by legal aid being overpaid by £77 million pounds.  In fact, the solicitors were over paid £44m with the remainder going to claimants who had been granted legal aid without submitting evidence of income, so they may or may not be eligible.  That's a lot of money, but if we consider that the legal aid budget is approximately £2.1bn then the £77m is roughly 3.667% of the total spend - at this point I should come clean and admit that maths are not my strong point so if I've got that wrong then please do correct me.

More important than the figure, in my opinion, is that suggestion from Bill Callaghan of the Legal Services Commission that some solicitors are over or mis-claiming.  Now this can be taken two ways.  First, accidental over and under-claiming happens by accident because the system is so very complicated - in a previous post I talked a little about the billing in the magistrates courts…