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Showing posts from October, 2011

Legal aid rules offer modern equivalent of Schrodinger's cat

Sometimes you have to really think about a blog post, other times kind colleagues in other firms helpfully do it for you.  Today, I am shamelessly copying the words of Andrew Port who is a partner at Dexter & Port Solicitors in Reading.  The text below is from his letter to the Law Society Gazette that was published in the 27th October 2011 edition; both he and the Law Society have kindly given permission for me to reproduce the letter here.

"Now that there is no payment under legal aid for magistrates' court work which is committed to the Crown Court, I find myself in a practical equivalent of the paradox described by Schrodinger and his dead or alive moggy.I have a representation order for a youth charged with two robberies.  The details of the allegation are such that representations have been made to the prosecution that alternatives of assault and handling would be more appropriate.  The court clerk has already made her view clear that, if the charge remains as robber…

Bent coppers - when is too far?

Claims are flying about that undercover police officers were arrested, prosecuted and convicted while using their cover names in court.

This is serious because if true then the police officer would have not only committed a criminal offence, in one case it is suggested he was convicted of assaulting another police officer, but more importantly if that undercover officer gave evidence he would have taken an oath to tell the truth.  The first question his advocate would have asked him would have been along the lines, "would you please give your full name to the court?"  If he answers with his false name then he is lying to a court and thus committing a further offence of perjury.

I have seen reports that say senior officers authorised undercover officers to stand trial under false names.  If so then those officers are likely to be guilty of a conspiracy to commit perjury or pervert the course of justice.

Some police officers have been known to charge suspects with attempting t…

Riot appeals

In the immediate wake of the riots in August, there was a lot of nonsense talked in robing rooms up and down the country about how OTT the sentences were.  I had a discussion with one barrister who felt that the rioters should have been dealt with like shoplifters and sentenced on the basis of their actions, e.g. stealing a packet of cigarettes, with the courts ignoring the context in which the offences occurred.

Now that a bit of time has passed and the Court of Appeal is starting to uphold the sentences I have to ask whether anybody is really surprised at the sentences that were handed out?

Trafficking kids for crime

I saw on the TV last night that Panorama will be presenting a show about how children are trafficked across Europe to beg and steal.

It's nice that the TV and authorities have finally picked up on this problem, indeed the Crown Prosecution Service now has a whole team dedicated to trafficking and a policy about it too.

Trafficking has it's sexy side - by which I mean a side that gets reported regularly, probably because it involves sex, which gives the newspapers the chance to titillate their weird readers and set the tongues of everybody else tutting at the inhumanity of johnny foreigner and/or the vile indifference of men who pay for sex.

What rarely gets reported is the flood of kids who are brought to the UK (and indeed every other European country) so that they can beg and steal.  This isn't reported presumably because then the press would have to side with the feral youth whose crimes they like to gleefully report.  These kids in my experience are usually between 11 …

Citizenship tests

I fear I may have to leave the UK and settle elsewhere as I have just failed the citizenship test on the Guardian website.  Although, I would like to point out that the question about whether you can attend hospital without a GP's letter for a non-emergency is wrong on at least two levels.  First, my GP has never given me a letter to take to the hospital; and secondly, I know that my local hospital runs walk-in sexual health clinics that do not require a referral.  I believe they also operate some post-natal clinics on a similar basis.

The questions weren't what I expected and I did have to guess at a few of them... did anybody manage to pass without cheating or getting lucky?

Search terms

It's always interesting to see how readers have come across this blog.  One chap has found me using the words "piss brif".  I'm not sure what he was looking for (maybe a lawyer to defend a gross indecency charge?) but I hope he found something worth reading.

New driving offences proposed

I understand that the Government are considering introducing a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, which I suppose means I'm going to have to update the firm's website (again).

As a fellow motorcyclist, I have sympathy for Darren Braund who was injured when a driver pulled in front of his motorbike causing him to collide with her car but looking at the description of the offence and the sentence I have my doubts whether this new offence would have made a difference for Mr Braund as it looks like the car driver was convicted of careless driving rather than dangerous driving, in which case the new offence wouldn't apply to her.

Dangerous driving is defined as driving that falls far below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver; and it must be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

Whereas careless driving occurs when the way somebody drive falls below the minimum accept…

Tesco Law

I just caught the end of BBC Breakfasts discussion on the new Legal Services Act 2007, which changes the way solicitors firms are owned.

This probably sounds like one of the least exciting topics in history, but it is important to everybody.

Currently certain activities can only be carried out by qualified solicitors and for good reason.  In my own main practice area, criminal law, many people have this idea that what criminal lawyers do is very easy.  In fact, a lot of other lawyers think it's easy and will happily dabble in criminal law, often to the detriment of their clients.  In one case in which I acted, a co-defendant's commercial solicitor got involved in a cash forfeiture application.  On one course I attended that solicitor's actions were described as "stupid" and "ill-considered".  The solicitor didn't understand what he was doing and caused a loss of tens of thousands of pounds to his client.  My client avoided that unnecessary loss.  If…