Category Archives: Criminal offences

“How can you act for someone who is guilty?”

The most common questions our lawyers get asked by the public, sometimes on a daily basis, are:

  • “What if you believe your client has done it but he wants you to fight it for him?”
  • “How can you act for someone who is guilty?”
  • “What if, because of you, he gets off?”
  • “How can you sleep at night knowing he’s guilty but you successfully defended him?”

In Your Defence Ltd are nationwide criminal defence solicitors, and its chairman, Andrew Parker, has dealt with cases for many decades and answers as follows:

We have an obligation to put forward our client’s case to the best of our abilities. We “act on instructions,” meaning that our client tells us about his case and what he wants us to do on his behalf. But we must always act in an ethical and professional manner.

We are authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (as shown on our website) and subject to a strict code of ethics. There are rules as to how we represent a suspect or defendant.

We can never knowingly lie to the court, such as when our client tells us that he was present at the scene of the crime at the time in question, but wants us to put forward a false alibi saying he was at the White House meeting the president in the oval office. In this example we would be professionally embarrassed and have to withdraw from representing our client, citing “for professional reasons.” We would officially come “off the record.”

Now, if we believe our client is guilty based on the facts of the case, we would give him robust advice based on our vast experience and ability. That is one of the reasons clients seek our informed advice. If he still insists he’s innocent and wants us to continue defending, we can. We can only advise, it is for the client to decide.

There are rare occasions when defence lawyers can continue to act if the instruction is that they’re guilty, but they want us to put the prosecution to proof. This would be in a very limited way and with an arm figuratively tied behind one’s back. Given the more detailed digital case management requirements now in place where pleas and details are routinely exchanged pre-trial, in reality the client would seek other solicitors to defend him and start afresh.

So, because of our expertise the defendant is found not guilty by a jury or magistrate and we still believe he’s guilty? We maintain that the justice system is in essence an adversarial process and that the prosecution in a trial has to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. We are not the arbiters of the verdict. We are paid to represent, to advise and assist, to advance our client’s interests. As leading national defence solicitors, results and objectives obtained matter both professionally and personally.

Are you entitled to free legal representation in the UK?

We have all seen American legal dramas and shows where they make it clear that anyone facing charges is entitled to legal representation in the courtroom. Even if they cannot afford it themselves, they will find a lawyer helping them out pro bono (for free) and this allows them to try to fight whatever claim has been made against them fairly. Is it the same situation here in the UK? Let’s take a look.

Civil court

Lawyers in the UK can represent you in either the civil court or the criminal court so we shall look at both. While the UK does not have a pro bono system like the Americans do, there is a system of legal aid to help those who might not be able to afford lawyer’s fees.

When it comes to cases in the civil court, you can apply for legal aid if you can provide evidence that you cannot afford legal support by your own means. This means that you can seek help to pay some or all of your legal costs if you are unable to do so yourself. You will quite often have to provide evidence of your household income. If you are under the age of sixteen, you are automatically eligible for legal aid for representation in the courts.

Criminal court

Cases in the criminal court run a little differently. You are not entitled to free representation in the court but once again you are able to apply for legal aid to help you recuperate some of the costs of hiring a lawyer.

There are a number of different reasons why criminal legal aid might be applied to you. However, you are most likely to earn some sort of aid if you are likely to go to prison if convicted, you are likely to lose your job if convicted, or you are about to be charged with something which is likely to necessitate a trial with a jury. You are then likely left to find your own legal counsel; whether you are appearing at your local court or you require representation at Crown Court for a more serious offence.

Police custody

One of the exceptions to the rules listed above is if you find yourself in police custody. If you are questioned at a police station, you have the right to free legal advice from a lawyer regardless of your financial status. This can either be over the phone or in person. You also have the right to have a lawyer present in the room during your questioning. Know your rights when you are under arrest.

It is extremely important that you always know exactly when and where you are entitled to legal aid. Do not be afraid to reach out to organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau if you think that you need some extra help. The legal system can appear confusing to those who do not know its intricacies but you will be able to navigate with knowledge of a few simple matters such as this.

Will there be a rise in sexual assault and harassment compensation claims in 2018?

The past 12 months have been characterised in the legal world by a surge of new attention centering on the issue of sexual harassment, both in and out of the workplace, exposing it as a problem far wider spread than society initially believed it to be. The recent exposure of the rampant harassment culture in Hollywood has been responsible for bringing sexual harassment and assault to the forefront, leading to employers, organisations, groups and communities to review their current approaches to investigating such claims and taking necessary action. Here, the specialist team at LegalExpert.co.uk examine the changing perspectives on sexual harassment and assault, what this means for the legal industry and what steps are being taken to combat it.

The figures

Recent statistics have given some indication of just how common a problem sexual harassment is. It is not clear whether this apparent surge in sexual harassment claims is down to the actual rate of incident increasing, or just the number of people coming forward about their experiences, but they paint a troubling picture.

Statistics show that 57 per cent of women and 59 per cent of transgender people have been victims of sexual harassment, while 44 per cent of men report being subject to the same treatment. This means that the majority of the population has been affected by sexual harassment, and this information is only now coming to light.

Studies have also examined the lasting impact experienced by victims of sexual harassment, revealing some alarming facts. 44 per cent of people who reported being sexually harassed said they went on to suffer from depression as a result, while 41 per cent experienced feeling of social anxiety and one-third said their experiences of sexual harassment had made them suicidal. This gives some insight into the long-term reality faced by victims of sexual harassment, and the seriousness with which this issue must be addressed.

The backlash

A cultural movement of a magnitude rarely seen this decade set the ball rolling for the new wave of focus on sexual harassment. Tipped by the the exposure of allegations against movie moghul Harvey Weinstein by the New York Times late last year, the sexual harassment scandal has experienced a significant domino effect, and become a central focus in media and society. From the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements and Oprah Winfrey’s challenging speech at the Golden Globe Awards, this matter has gathered huge momentum, and seen many people coming forward to reveal themselves as victims of sexual harassment.

During her speech, Oprah Winfrey referred to Recy Taylor, a woman who had been raped and subsequently fought for justice during the time of Jim Crow. The way society was at that point meant that justice was never brought against the men who attached Recy Taylor and Oprah echoed the rising narrative that women had long feared speaking up due to the assumption that they would not be heard or believed. Oprah challenged this by saying four powerful words; ‘their time is up’ and it appears that this has resonated with many, leading to a transformation in the way this far-reaching issue is being advanced in 2018.

Figures published at the height of the #TimesUp movement suggest that as many as 81% of women have actually suffered from inappropriate behaviour by others. The issue of historical sexual abuse is also being brought out of the shadows. Official figures show that reports of historical sex abuse alleged to take place between the mid-1970s into the mid-1990s fell steadily over time, but these statistics are compiled from those victims who came forward, and the number of victims who have never revealed their abuse is unknown.

Societal impact

The issue of sexual harassment, and of many victims having suffered in silence for a long time, has struck a chord with society, and revolution is taking place. The exposure of accusations against high-profile figures has seen other people feel empowered to blow the whistle on their own aggressors, and to redefine the societal norms that have allowed sexual harassment to simmer below the surface for so long. One of the main focuses is towards employers reviewing the instance of sexual harassment in the workplace, and making improvements to company culture and policy to ensure that sexual harassment does not take place, and if it does, the victim has they support they deserve to ensure the matter is dealt with justly.

Legal impact

With awareness of sexual harassment at an all-time high, the public are experiencing a new wave of confidence in coming forward with allegations, safe in the knowledge that they will be listened to, supported and dealt with appropriately. It has already caused a huge surge in complaints of sexual harassment, and legal experts expect to see this continue. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reported a 21 per cent increase in calls in the space of a week following the breakout of the Hollywood scandal, while the final quarter of 2017 saw a 31.5 per cent increase in reports of sexual harassment compared to the same period in 2016.

Legal firms, particularly those specialising in sexual crimes, should be fully prepared to see an increase in the number of sexual harassment cases coming their way, if it hasn’t already happened.

Issues of sexual harassment, both recent and historical, are likely to become a defining characteristic of the modern legal field, and legal experts should be prepared to deal with an influx of new enquiries, as more victims become aware of how to claim compensation for sexual abuse, assault or harrassment. In spite of the terrible nature of such crimes, the increase in victims coming forward is a positive indicator of society becoming more supportive of those affected by sexual harassment, and it is the responsibility of the legal profession to sustain this momentum, and help victims to feel that they made the right decision, for themselves and for others, by reporting their abuse. The longevity and success of the societal movement towards stamping out sexual harassment relies heavily on the right approach being taken by legal professionals at this crucial time.

Breach of conditions of bail in the UK

Persons accused of different types of offences in the UK and kept in custody have the right to apply for bail. The term bail denotes the case where the offender can be released from custody for a particular amount of money and if the circumstances are suitable for granting the bail. But there are cases where breaches of conditions of bail might intervene. Our criminal defence solicitors in London can make a full analysis of your case and can represent you in the court of law when applying for bail.

Breaches in cases of pre-charge bail

If there are suspicions that the pre-charge bail in the UK has been breached, the police can keep the individual accused of criminal offences in custody. This time, the authorities need to establish the grounds and to determine if the suspect needs to be charged. It is good to know that unauthorized charges will not be taken into consideration and the suspect can be released with or without bail. The Bail Act 1976 also stipulates that the defendant will be subject to the terms applied right before the arrest for breach. One should know that if he is involved in such matters, where the conditions of bail have been breached, he should solicit help and guidance from an UK criminal lawyer.

Breaches in cases of post-charge bail

Post-charge bail means the police will not enforce certain conditions on an offender, like electronic monitoring or asking to be available for weekly reports. The method for trading with breach of police imposed bail conditions, that are in the position preceding the first hearing, corresponds with the technique for dealing with breaches of enforced court conditions.

What you need to know about the breach of conditions of bail

The police officers in the UK have full rights to arrest a person who is considered guilty of breaching the bail terms and conditions. The magistrates’ court can remand the defendant in custody if he/she broke the bail conditions and if in this situation the accused is considered to be a potential danger to the society. The police officer who made the arrest needs to make proof and to state the grounds he believes the offender broke the bail rules.

You can contact a criminal defence solicitor in London if you need assistance and legal advice related to bail in the UK.