To ask how defending Lawyers/Solicitors sleep at night.

(461 Posts)
lollilou Tue 09-Oct-12 10:43:43

When they are defending someone who is accused of a horrible crime and that they know are guilty yet have to come up with a defense to try to get a not guilty verdict? It must happen a lot, how could you live with yourself in that situation? What if the accused gets off then commits another crime?

MissAnnersley Tue 09-Oct-12 10:46:26

What happens if someone innocent is convicted of a crime they didn't commit?

SadPanda Tue 09-Oct-12 10:48:51

Probably like a baby, knowing they have done their best to uphold our principles of justice in circumstances others would be too weak to cope with.

SomersetONeil Tue 09-Oct-12 10:48:56

You can't know, though. Otherwise why try people in a court of law. Just send them down, if 'knowing' is just enough.

Innocent until proven guilty, 'n all that.

DesperatelySeekingPomBears Tue 09-Oct-12 10:49:24

But what if someone has been wrongly accused? Would you like all accused parties to go unrepresented?

Bear in mind that a lot of the time, criminal defence solicitors and barristers aren't attempting to get a not guilty, but to mitigate the sentence due to a whole host of reasons. What about those with disabilities that prevent them from comprehending what is happening?

Save your dislike for the people that commit crimes, not for the people that provide them with legal advice and representation.

It's their job, they must get used to it....Shoplifter...murdered.....they will try and find loopholes in the law I imagine if they know their client is guilty.

Of course, they probably represent lots of innocent parties too. Just because someone is accused of a horrid crime it doesnt mean they actually committed it.....everyone is entitled to a fair trial.

OddBoots Tue 09-Oct-12 10:49:36

I am not one but I think they sleep at night knowing it is a job that is essential to a fair legal system. We have to be sure that every conviction is undertaken with the firmest of process and that includes the right to professional representation. It would be so easy for the system to become extensively corrupt without these balances.

mcmooncup Tue 09-Oct-12 10:50:46

YA sort of NBU

I think people have the right to be defended. But the tactics, scaremongering, blatant lack of integrity among many a defence lawyer, just to win the case is DISGUSTING.

CajaDeLaMemoria Tue 09-Oct-12 10:51:50

If it's known that they committed the crime, they won't argue that they didn't. They'll just find all the detail, and present it to the jury. Medical illnesses, state of mind, the circumstances.

They make sure the court has all the information it needs to pass a valid, and legally correct, judgement.

It's an important role. I feel very sorry for those who have to go have conversations with people who have committed horrific crimes, who have to listen to their reasonings and rantings, and then have to go out and try and get "fair" justice for everyone.

But it is essential to our legal system, and therefore I hope they sleep well. They certainly have to cope with things most people couldn't.

SadPanda Tue 09-Oct-12 10:52:38

I think people have the right to be defended. But the tactics, scaremongering, blatant lack of integrity among many a defence lawyer, just to win the case is DISGUSTING.

Evidence to support your claim please.

Pootles2010 Tue 09-Oct-12 10:53:36

Totally agree with Caja. They're dealing with a shitty situation so that this person can be tried. Would you prefer we didn't have a legal system?

suburbandweller Tue 09-Oct-12 10:54:37

Things are rarely black and white OP so I'm afraid I am giving you my first ever biscuit. As a lawyer (not criminal) I find this question exceptionally irritating. Everyone has a right to a fair trial in the English justice system, guilty or not guilty. Defence lawyers don't go making up defences, they make sure that all the circumstances of the case are known, including mitigating factors. It isn't like American legal dramas you know.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 10:55:04

Everyone is entitled to a fair trial - but trials aren't fair they are totally weighted in favour of the defendant

I was at a child abuse trial - the victims school records were considered fair game, the defendant was suspended 7 times in a year, twice for violence towards children the same age as the victim was during the relevant period - his school records were not admissible.

There was lie, piled upon lie, piled upon lie - and who is there for the victim - no-one.

The prosecuting barrister isn't allowed to speak to the victim or the victims family.

They sleep at night - because they simply dont care, they get paid regardless.

Mrsjay Tue 09-Oct-12 10:55:58

because it is the law everybody is entitled to a defence innocent until proven , I am sure some lawyers can be affected with trials they don't have to like or approve of their clients

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 10:56:10

* Defence lawyers don't go making up defences*

That is simply not true.

Dahlen Tue 09-Oct-12 10:56:13

I'm not approaching this from the perspective of liking lawyers since IME many of them make a lot of money off the backs of people's misfortune <bitter> but honestly, if we start refusing proper legal representation when accused of crime, we make a mockery of our justice system.

Yes, the truth is that due to the way the criminal justice system works, most of those going to court are likely to be guilty, but there are always the innocents who aren't, or those who have mitigating circumstances that deserve to be taken into account. I'm sure that it's cases like these that make the all-too-regular occurrence of defending the indefensible worthwhile. Even the lawyers must get fed up of it some time, but as professionals they have a duty to themselves and the justice system to defend even their guilty clients to the best of their ability.

That's why we have courts instead of mob rule, which is A Good Thing.

IfImHonest Tue 09-Oct-12 10:57:25

I'm 'one of those people' who defend people who are accused of horrific crimes. And I sleep at night because:

(a) Everyone has the right to be represented. Everyone. I believe fundamentally in that principle and I'd die in a ditch over it. Imagine living in a country where people weren't given access to fair representation.

(b) People accused of awful crimes aren't always guilty. And funnily enough, in most cases (not all) I'd rather a guilty person went free than an innocent person went to prison. Miscarriages of justice ruin lives too.

(c) The justice system is actually pretty good in most cases. If someone has genuinely committed a crime, then no amount of 'clever lawyer tricks' is going to get them off in most cases.

(d) Plus, if you actually 'know' that someone is guilty, i.e. because they tell you that you are, but they ask you to come up with a defence, it is actually against my professional code of conduct to represent them at all. I'd have to bow out. So it is not possible for a lawyer to know someone is guilty and then represent them.

So that's how I sleep at night. And I sleep very well, thanks.

DesperatelySeekingPomBears Tue 09-Oct-12 10:58:08

Mustbetime, barristers don't tend to speak to those they represent on either side, not just prosecution. They rely on the information presented to them by solicitors. Barristers are a very different breed to solicitors.

IfImHonest Tue 09-Oct-12 10:58:39

But yes, I do get jaded sometimes. It's hard to represent people who are coming off drugs, are abusive etc. But all worth it for the times when you get someone innocent off.

Dahlen Tue 09-Oct-12 10:58:44

I think there is some truth in the suggestion that victims often have a more traumatic experience at trial than the accused, however. You only have to look at the way in which rape victims are treated to see that.

I don't see this as being the fault of the lawyers though. It's something that requires legislative change from a higher level in order for the lawyers to have stricter rules to follow about what is and isn't an acceptable line of questioning.

GooseyLoosey Tue 09-Oct-12 10:58:52

Almost all of the lawyer I know respect the justice system and believe that it works well and, in so far as is possible, provides a fair outcome.

Everyone is entitled to legal representation and there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The prosecution have to make their case about the defendant beyond reasonable doubt. The defence team point out doubts or possible defences.

How can you ever know someone is guilty (assuming lack of eye witnesses or confession)?

wandymum Tue 09-Oct-12 11:00:11

You have to look at it not that you are defending the guilty but that you are ensuring the integrity of our justice system by putting the prosecution to proof.

The defence's job is not too get the guilty off - it is the proesecution's job to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The defence is there to make sure that the trial is fair and that everything is taken into consideration.

If a lawyer actively knows his client is guilty (i.e. the client has told him) then he cannot bring evidence to try and prove innocence. But even then the defendant is still entitled to representation to highlight mitigating factors and to plead for a lighter sentence.

Also remember that as well as guilty people going free there are innocent people going to jail. The right to a defence is a key protection against this "… it is better one hundred guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer."

suburbandweller Tue 09-Oct-12 11:00:12

Well said IfImHonest

In my gut, I agree, but playing devil's advocate - some of these people will have mitigating circumstances that would change a crime from murder to manslaughter, for example. Some of these people will be innocent however strong the evidence seems otherwise - remember Colin Stagg? everyone deserves legal representation - remember the Jamie Bulger case where they arrest a teenager and people were outside the police station shouting "hang him"? He was innocent and later released. Should he not have had legal representation?

ReallyTired Tue 09-Oct-12 11:01:10

If there were no defence lawyers then it would be just a kangeroo trial.

The defendent has a right to legal advice as much as anyone.

Well said IfImHonest. Also barristers of course speak to their clients. And if their client confessed to the crime they are still entitled to have any extenuating circumstances put to a court to help the punishment fit the crime.

If a woman confessed to murdering her husband you might throw the book at her but be more lenient when you realise she was defending herself from domestic abuse.

GoSakuramachi Tue 09-Oct-12 11:03:21

has somebody been watching too much Law and Order?

LadyGnome Tue 09-Oct-12 11:03:29

What IfImHonest says

You can't stand up and argue someone is not guilty if they have already admitted to you that they have committed the crime.

Think about the alternative would Christopher Jefferies been lynched for the murder of Joanna Yeates whilst everyone ignored Vincent Tabak?

You have to assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty because sometimes they are innocent.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:03:43

desperately the defendant in the trial I am referring to - spent plenty of time he wasn't on the stand in conference with his barrister.

The barrister lied - and I mean lied - about things that were a black and white matter of police record (I will never until my dying day understand how that happened).

The trial was a farce where the victim and their while family were put on trial and the jury made a decision that makes no legal sense (mixture of verdicts).

I have only ever attended one trial - and the barrister did make up a defence - in fact they made up and presented 3 different defences depending on what got refuted by various witnesses.

Rape trials in this country are not fair at all.

tedmundo Tue 09-Oct-12 11:05:27

thank you ifimhonest .. I wanted to say all of that but did not have the correct words. Thank god we have a system where everyone is entitled to a fair trial.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:06:53

"… it is better one hundred guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer."

But what about the victims of the 100 guilty and how they suffer at the hands of the guilty party and again when they aren't believed

SadPanda Tue 09-Oct-12 11:07:45

The barrister lied - and I mean lied - about things that were a black and white matter of police record (I will never until my dying day understand how that happened).

I'm sorry, but I don't believe that. If a barrister delibrately lied to the court they'd be in serious poo.

amillionyears Tue 09-Oct-12 11:08:51

I understand all of the above.
But the op still has a point.
It must happen that a defending lawyer or whatever they are called, defend someone they are pretty sure is guilty,even though the accused has not actually said they are guilty.

My guess is that some still find that easy,and some find that hard.
My guess is that some still sleep easy at night,and some dont.

HappyJustToBe Tue 09-Oct-12 11:10:29

YABU. What IfImHonest said, especially (d).

That is from someone on the 'other side' in the court process. Of course there are awful defence solicitors who do anything to get their client aquitted but they are so few and far between. It is more usual to see a defence solicitor advising their client to plead guilty because of the wealth of evidence against them.

IfImHonest Tue 09-Oct-12 11:10:35

Thanks everyone grin

mustbetimetochange I'm really sorry to hear your experience. This sounds to me like a breach of professional ethics by the barrister involved. I hope that he/she was reported, and I can assure you that the Bar Standards Board (who regulate barristers) take this sort of thing exceptionally seriously. My duty is always to the court rather than the client (i.e. it is actually considered to be more important to be honest with the court than act in the best interests of your client).

And seriously think of it this way. Imagine your DH was suddenly picked up in the middle of the night by the police, the cameras were outside your door all day asking if he'd committed a terrible crime, when in fact all he'd done was be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or it was a case of mistaken identity. Wouldn't you like to know that he had a lawyer he could explain it all to? Or would you rather he was just tried and convicted because it 'looked bad for him'?

amillionyears Tue 09-Oct-12 11:11:37

I know someone who is at the start of their legal career, and seems to be shying away from that sort of legal work for the ops reason.

higgle Tue 09-Oct-12 11:11:44

Solicitors and Barristers do not "Come up with a defence to try and get a not guilty verdict" I practiced as a defence solicitor for 23 years and during that period dealt with many high profile cases including 4 murders.

Lawyers take instructions from their clients about their version of the events that have happened. Sometimes they say that they committed the offence; sometimes they are responsible for the actions but not the offence e.g. acted in self-defence and sometimes they have an explanation that amounts to a defence - for example an alibi. If the client tells their lawyer that they committed the offence but intend to put forward a false account to the court then the lawyer has to decline instructions and ask them to seek alternative representation.

On occasions a client will put forward a version of events that is frankly ridiculous or seems very unlikely to be acceptable to the court e.g. saying they bought stolen goods in all honesty but refusing to disclose the source. In these cases the legal team will ask the client to consider that their defence is not likely to succeed and suggest that they fully consider the reduction in penalty that an early guilty plea brings.

Out of my 4 murder cases - all of which attracted a lot of local ( and in one case national) publicity -two were found to be self-defence, in one case the accused was supposed to have murdered a baby but in fact scientific evidence proved that the death took place at a different time to that the prosecution witnesses alleged and he could not have been responsible ( murderer was most probably the mother's drug dealer). In the last case the client put forward a very implausible version of events and was convicted. We had a professional duty to put forward his defence but we are only human and felt that the result was just.

As I was a solicitor I dealt with many hundreds of cases during my career and there are instances of false accusations, misunderstandings and sadly incompetent or worse policing. Several of my clients who were found not guilty went on to make claims against the police and gain compensation. Some who were not charged or who were found guilty also made claims because of brutal treatment in custody.

It is a measure of a civilised society that no matter how abhorrent the charge if you are in trouble you will get fair minded representation and a lawyer who will listen and assist you through the complexities of the legal system without pre-judging you or treating you with a lack of respect.

DesperatelySeekingPomBears Tue 09-Oct-12 11:12:58

Barristers ate legally obliged to not deliberately mislead the jury. I don't believe that the barrister deliberately lied, I'm afraid. Also, there is nothing to stop the prosecutor from speaking to the victim, or the prosecution witnesses. It sounds as though you're allowing your own personal experience to cloud your view of a whole profession.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:16:56

The barrister lied - and I mean lied - about things that were a black and white matter of police record (I will never until my dying day understand how that happened).

I'm sorry, but I don't believe that. If a barrister delibrately lied to the court they'd be in serious poo.

The other option is that they were "mistaken" which I don't believe for a single second". There was a police report, in black and white (I know it was in the evidence records because I double checked the police logs from that particular night had been included in evidence.

It was suggested to the victim - by the defence lawyer, that the events (as recorded in the police log) that the victims mother (me), had in fact invented the whole scenario and lied to the victim.

So If as I understand it, the defence barrister sees every single thing the police have, how do you explain the above.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:20:15

"Also, there is nothing to stop the prosecutor from speaking to the victim, or the prosecution witnesses"

We were told categorically, by the police and the barrister herself - that she was not allowed to speak to us, it's also somewhere on the CPS website - I'll try and find it.

I wasn't a witness - but I spent 3 days put of a 5 day trial being called a liar over and over again - so of course it has clouded my view - there was nothing fair, from the victims point of view, about that trial.

And it is extremely upsetting to have been handed a verdict that makes no legal sense and having no recourse.

NorthWhittering Tue 09-Oct-12 11:25:35

Because the right to a fair trial is one of the most basic human rights.

CinnabarRed Tue 09-Oct-12 11:28:20

I have several friends who are criminal barristers.

They never, ever ask if the defendant is guilty.

If the defendant give them cause to believe he is guilty then they strongly recommend they plead guilty. On occasion my friends have declined to represent defendants who have told them explicitly that they are guilty and intend to enter a not guilty plea. More usually guilty defendants want to work with their lawyers to present mitigating facts appropriately.

All of my criminal barrister friends believe very strongly in the rule of law, and the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

Because otherwise it wouldn't be a fair trial. Ages ago (and by that, about fifteen years ago) I was defense lawyer on a national murder case, where a man was accused. He was sent death threats, his family were threatened, the news was all against him, everyone hated him- and he was innocent! And because he had a defense lawyer, he wasn't sent to life in prison, although he was forced to move countries because of the stigma. But I helped someone who was innocent. Because of the way people were going on at him, it's clear that without any legal representation, he'd have been convicted and sent to jail. I sleep at night because of moments like that.

geegee888 Tue 09-Oct-12 11:32:49

Probably because the alternative is living in a country without justice? Its a job that gots to be done, like many other jobs. Not everyone can spend all their time doing lovely fluffy bunny rabbit stuff. Thankfully there are people out there who want to do stuff like this.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:36:22

desperately what has clouded my view, along with my own personal experience, is the amount of reading and research I have done on victims of rape and sexual abuse and the low conviction/attrition rates.

It is well acknowledged amongst those who work with victims and their families - and in various government publications, that the system as it stands is letting victims down.

Reporting, prosecution and conviction rated are all too low and the system as it stands is weighted against victims.

Personally I would rather see an innocent person in prison rather than 100 guilty men walk free - because for each guilty person who walks free is at least 1 if not more victims, living in a different sort of prison.

It's very hard to have a belief in this system that consistently let's the most vulnerable in society down.

To quote one senior employe of HMPS when discussing our case "the prisons are mostly full of those who plead guilty" his view is that convictions of those who plead not guilty are few and far between.

amillionyears Tue 09-Oct-12 11:38:16

hmm,this thread has made me think. The legal people are right,as in someone has to do the job.

I'm sorry, have you never heard of innocent until proven guilty? biscuit

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:39:55

And I could retell a hundred stories like ours.

amillionyears Tue 09-Oct-12 11:40:16

Cnat say I agree with even 1 innocent person being in jail.

Would it be ok still if you were the one in a hundred mustbetimetochange?

How do you think your dcs would feel about that?

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:42:42

It would by me yes - if it meant 100 other guilty people were also not walking free - but thats because our family has been living in a different sort of prison - in a jail, prisoner in your own home - it's still prison for us while a rapist walks free.

And that is repeated over and over again.

higgle Tue 09-Oct-12 11:42:48

"The barrister lied - and I mean lied - about things that were a black and white matter of police record (I will never until my dying day understand how that happened)."

Barristers do not give evidence to the court, they call witnesses who give their version of events and summarise this at the end of the proceedings. Sometimes police records are not correct.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:45:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:46:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:49:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

KenLeeeeeee Tue 09-Oct-12 11:51:15

Everybody deserves a fair trial, and in order to ensure that wrongly accused people are not convicted on the basis of shaky evidence, there needs to be a robust defence system that examines every teeny tiny shred of evidence against a defendant. It follows that people who have committed whatever crime must be subjected to the same rigorous examination of all the evidence. We presume that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that proof must be iron-clad in order to protect the innocent from false accusations.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 11:52:01

And he didn't just say I was mistaken about a part of it - I made "the whole scenario up and I quote "so your mother lied to you then".

AngelaMerkel Tue 09-Oct-12 11:53:10

Maybe they think about the Birmingham six and Guildford 4 and don't go making stupid assumptions.

Maybe they also think that given that the people in charge make the laws, set the procedures up and collect the evidence that it is up to them to present things properly and truthfully.

The UK system is Adversarial, that means that Winning is more important than the truth. If we want the truth to be primary, then we would have tpo start again from scratch.

Spero Tue 09-Oct-12 11:54:41

Friend of mine defended a rapist once. The worst kind of evil predatory rapist. She said sitting with him to have a conference was a chilling, really unpleasant experience. I asked her how she could defend him.

Se said she wanted to give him the best defence possible so that when he was convicted, he would have no grounds for appeal.

And although in that case she was pretty clear in her own mind that he was guilty and he was convicted, no one has the right to decide a person's guilt before the evidence is heard and challenged in court. Otherwise, ask yourself what kind of society we would live in.

Jo Yeates landlord would have been locked up for 'looking creepy' for example.

I am glad to live in a country where if I am charged with a serious crime I will get a lawyer who will fight my case. Whether I am guilty or not.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 12:01:18

I shouldn't have been so detailed - I'll have to report that when I get back from nursery run.

eurowitch Tue 09-Oct-12 12:09:22

"My child relayed the events of that night to the court and the barrister told him that it hadn't happened, that I was a liar and I had lied to my own son.

How is that anyone other than the barrister lying to the court."

As another poster said, the barrister cannot give evidence to the court. What he or she can do (and should do) is test the evidence of the witnesses. It sounds to me like this is what was happening here. He was testing your child's evidence. It might not have been pleasant to see, but I don't think many people would want a justice system in which someone can be convicted on the basis of evidence made up by someone else. So the barristers quite properly test it, to try to find holes and lies. If the evidence "passes the test" and stands up to scrutiny, then that will help to convict the accused.

suburbandweller Tue 09-Oct-12 12:09:33

mustbetimetochange it sounds as though you had an awful experience, and I sympathise. It's very difficult for anyone to comment on your situation without knowing all the facts. From what you have posted though, the barrister's questioning of your son sounds like standard cross-examination technique (putting different suggestions to the witness to try to discredit the accuracy of the evidence given). That's very different from lying to the court. It can be a very distressing experience for a witness but is an important part of any trial to ensure that the truth is drawn out.

DeWe Tue 09-Oct-12 12:10:46

The discussing is making me think about "To Kill a Mockingbird". In that Atticus is asked, threatened, and mocked for defending his client. I think the line "how can you defend people like that?" or similar is thrown at him.

His defendant was accused of rape.

However the situation was that people had made up their mind that he was guilty, simply because he was black, and the accuser was white. He clearly (from the book) hadn't done it, but people still were disgusted that Atticus would defend him.

That is why both sides need representation. People can make up their minds from newspapers/what people look like/what's previously happened and think it is clear cut that one must be guilty. If those people were not given representation then there would be no need for not-disputable evidence to be found, so the police would see no need to find it, because they would be condemmed as soon as seen, rightly or wrongly.

Not sure I've made my point very clear. Good thing I'm not a lawyer wink

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 12:24:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 12:27:18

I guess thats all a long winded way of saying - I believe in fair trials - but they have to be fair from both sides and they aren't.

There is no doubt amongst the CJS and also victim support that the system is failing rape and abuse victims - what no-one has the ans to is how to fix it.

As a rule most parts of the system work - but our case is not unique.

amillionyears Tue 09-Oct-12 12:29:37

mustbetime,you may want to start your own thread.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 12:40:27

What I should do is not get triggered by threads like this.

I am not going to let this - all barristers are fine upstanding honest people - and the system works just fine as it is view stand. I'm sure most are, some aren't just like everything else

Especially when that is not born out by conviction rates or govt publications.

lollilou Tue 09-Oct-12 12:55:59

mustbetimetochange I'm so sorry to hear of your experience and that this thread has upset you that was not my intention so my deepest apologies to you.
I have no hatred for anyone in the legal profession I just thought it would be an interesting subject to discuss.

StrawberryMojito Tue 09-Oct-12 13:10:24

The only defence solicitor I knew personally rather than professionally did hate his role in the Criminal Justice System, swapped sides and became a Police Officer.

I absolutely believe in a fair legal system and defence barristers/solicitors are obviously necessary to uphold this and the vast majority do come across as decent people. However, I personally couldn't represent the interests of someone I thought was guilty, it would make me very unhappy in my work.

Pinkforever Tue 09-Oct-12 13:15:55

My dh is a defence solicitor and he sleeps very well at night knowing that he is helping to ensure that there is fair legal representation in this country. Honestly some people want to stop reading tabloids and start educating themselves.....

Fishwife1949 Tue 09-Oct-12 13:23:32

My fil sleeps very well in his very large home i imagine

Every one deserves a good defence or would op prefer korea style justice if your arrested then your guilty

Fishwife1949 Tue 09-Oct-12 13:25:26

As we know from hillsbrough the police can lie trough there teeth so i am glad although i did ask father in law what happens if the person confess to you

What the frig are you supposed to do then

You have to try to persuade them to plead guilty in court. If they refuse you are not allowed to defend them and have to stand down. You are not allowed to defend someone as innocent who has confessed their guilt to you.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 13:46:00

Dw OP - in order not to be triggered I'd have to live in a bubble - it's good that people discuss these things - the good and bad side

rollmeover Tue 09-Oct-12 13:55:04

As someone who was previously on the other side to defence solicitors, I have nothing but admiration for the vast majority of them. I think both sides in a criminal trial want the truth to come out and the evidence presented in the clearest and fairest light.

Remember just becuase someone tells their lawyer the killed someone they are not necesarily guilty of murder. It might be culpable homicide/manslaughter or they might have a defence of provocation or self defence or insanity. The lawyer is responsible for establishing the legal grounds for his/her clients position and advise accordingly. (though in this situation the lawyer wouldnt be allowed to pursue a line of defence that states the accused "didnt do it").

There were a couple of solicitors that I thought were idiots, but then there were a few on my side that were too.
I think lawyers get such an unfair bashing all the time because they cost money. If people had thought about what a doctor, surgeon, teacher or other highly trained professional might charge if they weren't getting the service for "free" they might have a better understanding. <<climbs off soapbox>>

JennaMoroney Tue 09-Oct-12 13:56:28

thEIR belief in the right to a fair trial, the belief that there's no better system, the belief that they're entitled to a nice fat salary! (joke)

higgle Tue 09-Oct-12 13:59:00

Those who do criminal defence work usually act out of a sense of vocation, it is paid far less than most other legal work.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 14:00:43

But you are allowed to defend someone you believe is guilty - as long as they haven't confessed

Because they must only care about the sum of money they'll recieve.

amillionyears Tue 09-Oct-12 14:02:51

Pinkforever,would you say that there are some defence lawyers who like defending those that they think are guilty of the crimes? Any at all?
And do defence lawyers have any choice in which cases they get to defend?

Bluegrass Tue 09-Oct-12 14:11:18

"Because they must only care about the sum of money they'll recieve."

Really? Seriously? You don't think it might be because they realise that under a civilised legal system a guilty person cannot be punished for their crime until they have been tried, and that trial requires someone to defend them, not halfheartedly but to a required level of professional competence.

Unless you want to live in a police state where people can be locked up on a whim you should thank defence lawyers for doing a difficult job that helps put criminals behind bars. I know I wouldn't want to do it (and I say that as a lawyer).

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 14:22:47

How? Well let's see:

a) because not everyone who is arrested is guilty. Which is why our justice systems based upon 'innocent until proven guilty' not 'no smoke without fire'.

b) because the vast majority of our work involves representing people with multiple and complex problems - social, mental, drug and alcohol related - and helping them through the system, and helping the system reach the appropriate decision as to how best to deal with them.

c) because we are officers of the court, with a duty to assist the court to deal with cases in the most appropriate and efficient way, and without us advising people that they should be pleading guilty, there would be many more wasted trials and many more witnesses dragged to court unnecessarily

d) because our justice system is complex and most people will need assistance to navigate it, and it is in everyone's interests that people are represented

e) because our justice system does not pre-judge people. It leaves that to the bench or jury. Everyone has the right to be represented and no individual has the right to decide who is worthy of justice, and to deny them access to it

f) because the vast majority of us are confident that we always give the appropriate advice and act in accordance with our duty to the court

Of course there are crap lawyers who don't care about any of this. But then again there are crap teachers, crap policemen and crap vets, but those professions tend not to get tarred with the same brush as their poor representatives.

Timetochange. - so sorry you had a bad experience, but even if that one barrister was genuinely crooked, that doesn't mean the whole profession is . And what you have described is basic cross examination. There was a time when x-examination tended to be put in terms of 'I suggest to you that [insert defence] happened.'. That came to be considered bad practice and now most judges prefer just a straightforward 'this what happened, isn't it?' approach. A defence lawyer has an absolute duty to 'put the case' of the defendant to each pros witness. That means telling the witness what the defendant says and giving them the chance to respond to every single bit of it. The defendant is not allowed to assert something unless the witness has been challenged on that point.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 14:25:41

Oh and fat legal aid salaries? Excuse me while I piss myself laughing. As a partner in a small London firm I couldn't afford to go back full time after second baby as childcare was more than my salary. I would earn more as a commercial legal secretary.

Jenny70 Tue 09-Oct-12 14:27:35

And if the "guilty" didn't receive any legal represenation (because we all know they did it, despite them saying they didn't) - who decides who does get a lawyer?

Does no-one deserve a defense against charges?
Some people?
Only ones with blue eyes?
Maybe no-one on benefits should get a lawyer, because they're already claiming "so much money" from the govt?

So saying "only the guilty ones" shouldn't be entitled to lawyers, due process, tricky defences, mitigating circumstances etc - means someone has to decide where to draw that line - which comes with many, many prejudices....

Safer and fairer to give all people fair representation - if the police didn't get a search warrant and evidence is dismissed, don't blame the lawyer, blame the police that overstepped the mark. If another suspect has not been questioned, or another person may have equally done the crime on the evidence to hand, then blame the prosecution for not proving their case.

Or better still, blame the people who are guilty of the crimes - not those that are representing them.

aziraphale Tue 09-Oct-12 14:45:30

mustbe - I'm very sorry to hear of your experience. I am curious as to whether the judge set out the legal tests to which the evidence had to be put - the "burden of proof" - because the lines of questioning can seem ridiculous or outrageous without understanding what the barrister is trying to do (e.g. to shake the belief in a witness' credibility to establish reasonable doubt) etc. Remember of course that the jury decides on whom it believes and the actions of the defence barrister are often designed to shake the credibility - not for the judge, for the families, the audience or the police, but the jury.

I would also mention that if we didn't have people to represent the guilty then by the same token we could not have people to represent the innocent. These people do an incredibly important job to the infrastructure and general fairness of British justice - often poorly rewarded (please don't ever think people go into crime defence for the money! Speak to a duty solicitor at a police station and they will give you a truer picture.) It takes a huge amount of objectiveness, impartiality and professionalism to do what they do. Not appreciating that would of course lead you to think that they were callous or inhuman. They, like emergency services workers or social workers, take unpalatable experiences home with them at night and have to live with them.

One more thing - the justice system in this country is often perceived as cruel - cross-examination of children, undignified forensic analyses and psychological profiling of non-offenders to name a few features. It's not the justice system's fault that this has to take place. We have the false accusers to thank for that.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 15:07:43

kungfu he didt put forward an alternative scenario - he put and out said I was a liar who had made up an entire scenario - he said that none of it happened and I was a liar.

It was in evidence in black and White that it did happen.

And I was not a witness - he spent 3 solid days accusing me of lying about all sorts of stuff, while I had no recourse.

The judge did refute this in summing up - his exact words were the jury "weren't to speculate on what someone who wasn't a witness may or may not have said" - that's 1 single sentence that did t mention me by name - as opposed to 3 days of "mrs x this, mrs x that, mrs x the other.

I was assured by the police that what happened wouldn't happen - that the case would not turn into a "slanging match" about me - that or wouldn't be allowed - (as a family we predicted it) and it exactly what happened - it was not a fair trial - because every single part of our lives was fair game for the defence - whereas nothing about the defendants was.

They attacked what people were wearing in the public gallery, who was in the public gallery and when.

I could go on and on and on.

I could mention up that one of the jurors was ASLEEP for the prosecution summing up.

But the poor conviction rates speak for themselves - everyone is entitled to a fair trial yes, but that should also include the victim, who has no legal representation through this process.

As i have said this is not just my experience but a tale that can be retold by countless victims of rape and sexual assault - which are at the moment almost unpunishable crimes in this country.

Are we really saying a conviction rate of 6% is good enough - that 94% of people reported to the police for crimes of this nature are innocent?

I understand the system we have - but it isn't working - and most people involved in it know it - which is why there have been so Manu reports and schemes and suggestions into how to improve it.

amicissimma Tue 09-Oct-12 15:08:37

There's a play starring Tom Conti, called Rough Justice touring at present. It gives some interesting food for thought on the subject.

This thread is interesting in the light of the furore surrounding Jimmy Saville at the moment. I notice that sometimes people who suggest that the evidence against him has not been objectively assessed are met with accusations that to say this equals accusing his (probably I should say alleged) victims of lying.

Woozley Tue 09-Oct-12 15:11:56

Because they are upholding the law of the land, that anyone is entitled to a proper defence.

mrsrosieb Tue 09-Oct-12 15:27:31

I used to date a defense barrister and asked him exactly the same question.

He dumped me then and there!

mayorquimby Tue 09-Oct-12 15:36:31

"But the tactics, scaremongering, blatant lack of integrity among many a defence lawyer, just to win the case is DISGUSTING. "

we don't win cases, the prosecution fail to discharge the requisite burden of proof.
It's not up to barristers to pass judgment on the innocence or guilt of anyone, if that's the system you want whereby whether or not someone is guilty is to be decided by individual barristers unilaterally then it's a worrying prospect.
For my part I sleep fine at night because we act in the interests of justice and our primary obligation is to the courts.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 15:39:35

The therapist we are says she hears the same stories, over and over again - someone unthread said it's not the courts job to find the truth - I agree and I have heard that from a barrister friend.

I would prefer it if like the french magistrate or the coroners court it was the courts job to find the truth - rather than what we have now which is basically a lottery of which barrister can play the same game of chess.

mayorquimby Tue 09-Oct-12 15:43:21

""My child relayed the events of that night to the court and the barrister told him that it hadn't happened, that I was a liar and I had lied to my own son.

How is that anyone other than the barrister lying to the court.""

that's not lying to the court or making up defences. That's putting a statement to a witness which they can verify or refute. And most likely it has stemmed from their clients instructions.

"Because they must only care about the sum of money they'll recieve."

Have you ever worked as a criminal defence barrister confused there's fuck all money in it.

"And do defence lawyers have any choice in which cases they get to defend? "

Taxi rank rule. obliged to take what comes your way.

amillionyears Tue 09-Oct-12 15:46:09

mayorquinby, is not your primary obligation the truth?

aziraphale,your last paragraph of your last post.
I could be reading it wrong because I have limited experience of the justice system
Are you saying it is false accusers that cause the justice system of this country to do possibly cruel cross examination of children?

JennaMoroney Tue 09-Oct-12 15:47:38

fuck all money in being a barrister?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! come on.

DesperatelySeekingPomBears Tue 09-Oct-12 15:54:06

Jenna, there really isn't in comparison to other areas of the legal profession. It always was the worst paid area but the arse completely fell out of criminal law when the government made huge cuts in legal aid.

It's affected all areas of law that are primarily legal aid. I work in immigration/asylum in a practice where 99% of the work is funded by legal aid and I earn less than the average teaching assistant with the bare minimum of holidays and no pension.

mayorquimby Tue 09-Oct-12 15:59:06

"fuck all money in being a barrister?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! come on. "

criminal defence barrister.

"mayorquinby, is not your primary obligation the truth?"

primary obligation is to not mislead or lie to the court.
It's semantics as to truth/justice/ the courts, the main point is that while we do have a duty to defend our client and to put forward the strongest defence possible our primary obligation is still to the courts. As such if a client tells us they're guilty we can't put them on the stand knowing they are going to lie etc. nor can we tell the cout that they are not guilty. In such a situation you would most likely recuse yourself as subsequent instructions are most likely going to be in conflict with that first piece of information meaning that you won't be able to fully act on instructions, or in the very rare event that you remained instructed in that case you would put the other side on proof. i.e. not put forward any information which is false or states the innocence of the accused, but instead focus on whether or not the prosecution has discharged their requisite burden of proof in satisfying the jury beyond reasonable doubt.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 16:00:46

mayor I don't think his line came from the defendant because he didn't continue with it - the OIC said he probably didn't press it with other witnesses (including OIC) because the defendant would have confirmed it did happen during recess and also it was recorded as happening in evidence so he would have realised that it wasn't a lie as soon as there was a break.

aziraphale Tue 09-Oct-12 16:01:52

amillionyears - no, I wasn't saying it directly, apologies if I wasn't clear. My point was that the thorough approach of a defence or prosecution barrister in cross-examination and other features of advocacy (and in gathering evidence) is partly because of the history of miscarriages of justice (and false accusations, perjury etc) in this country and the ongoing efforts of the courts to avoid these mistakes at all costs.

mayorquimby Tue 09-Oct-12 16:06:00

fair enough mustbetime,
we weren't there and you were so it's pointless to have any debate about it, and it's obviously an incident which holds no great memories for yourself so I don't want to argue with you for the sake of it or even enjoyment of it (as debate on these boards often are for at least one side), I'd like to hope that what happened to you is not often repeated by others.

suburbandweller Tue 09-Oct-12 16:06:18

A few people on this thread are under the misapprehension that all lawyers are paid megabucks. They aren't - criminal law is not at well paid for the vast majority of solicitors/barristers, although there are a few very top criminal QCs who probably do pretty well for themselves. In fact, the minimum wage for trainee solicitors has just been scrapped so criminal lawyers may well be paid national minimum wage in training from now on. No one goes into criminal law for the money.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 16:15:13

thank you mayor I am a bit hung up on that part - because it was a fact - everything else - well it was awful - but that's the defence doin their job - I don't and never will understand how they took something that was recorded by the police as happening, and entered Into evidence, and twisted it totally, to make me out to be a liar.

And for me - if I was on the jury - I would have thought - well it must be a lie because it would be easy to prove it did happen.

I had read plenty about how bad the system was for a victim - but I - in my niavity - had thought the truth would be enough.

Instead there was a web of deceit, game playing and lies, the truth seemed to have no place in that court room at all.

It wouldnhe easier tO stomach if it was an isolated tale - but it isn't.

British justice is famed throughout the world - but how many victims are being let down at the moment f

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 16:16:37

*for the sake of the 1 innocent man.

The system should work better for everyone - so not guilty does actually mean innocent - and those who have a not guilty verdict can hold their heads up and know it's because they are innocent.

BlueberryHill Tue 09-Oct-12 16:19:22


Having a defence is one of the cornerstones of our judicial system that everyone has regardless. It was what makes this country's legal system so great, look at China and Russia to see the impact of a partial system with no effective defence available is like. The statue of Justice shows someone blindfold and holding scales for a reason. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Defence lawyers do not 'make up a defence' for someone who is charged with an offence, to do so would be professional misconduct. They present a defence based on discussions with the accused. If the accused tells them that they committed the offence and they then run a defence e.g. an alibi that would be misconduct and probably contempt of court.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 16:22:33

So how Does that account for a barrister changing a defence as a case progresses then?

NovackNGood Tue 09-Oct-12 16:24:03


A barrister may change the defence if the defendant discloses something new or if new evidence is introduced. It will be because new information comes to light which has a bearing on their case. Not because they are losing.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 16:30:40

Ok I'll reword that - how does that explain a barrister changing the defence without speaking to the defendant, based on the answers a witness is giving - if he isn't making it up and only acting on the instructions of his client.

mayorquimby Tue 09-Oct-12 16:33:30

"So how Does that account for a barrister changing a defence as a case progresses then?"

because you can apply more than one legal theory to a set of facts and circumstances. And you can present more than one argument for any set of circumstances, especially if there are variables which are being contested.
You can run multiple and conflicting defences because the prosecution has to prove their guilt, the accused does not have to prove their innocence.
As such you could have a defendant saying that they are not guilty of assault because they didn't hit the accused at all during a confrontation.
If during the course of the trial it emerges that the defendant did in fact become involved in the confrontation physically, that is still not proof of their guilt (although it may turn some jurors against them) their defence counsel could and would still say that this does not prove guilt and argue that they still acted out of self-defence.
You could argue that someone didn't do x while also arguing that, in the alternative if they did do x then they did so because of a disease of the mind in te form of y. etc.

mayorquimby Tue 09-Oct-12 16:36:41

"based on the answers a witness is giving - if he isn't making it up and only acting on the instructions of his client. "

once again that is not making up a defence. that is attempting to apply established legal principles to facts being presented during the course of a trial.
Making up a defence would be stating "he's not guilty because for X reason he's entitled to act in such a manor" where X has never been a legal defence to such actions.
Reacting to witness questions and positing legal defences based on their version of events is not making stuff up. it's testing the validity of the prosecution case and testing whether it meets the legal threshold to discharge their burden of proof when seeking to convict someone.

CelticPromise Tue 09-Oct-12 16:37:35

If I had a pound for every time I've been asked this I might be fat cat by now smile. What IfImHonest and pannda and mayor said.

I sleep just fine thanks.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 16:38:27

Ok that actually makes sense to me - but how is it acting on the clients instructions? Rather than winging it as you go along??

SaraBellumHertz Tue 09-Oct-12 17:43:23

celtic was just about to say I would have made more if I'd had a £ for every time I'd been asked this question than all my years at the bar grin

But basically what ifimhonest said.

I was proud to be a criminal defence barrister and slept very well. Apart from always being skint.

wordfactory Tue 09-Oct-12 17:50:24

Let us be very clear here no lawyer does crimina; defence work for the money!!! You can earn ten, twenty, thrity times more doing corporate/commercial work.

Defence lawyers do what they do because they believe in everyone's right to a fair trial.

Put it this way. If you were accused of something you hadn't done, but everyone thought you had, and the evidence against you was stacking up...wouldn't you want a defence lawyer willing to fight for you? Or would you want to be tried on how things looked?

eurowitch Tue 09-Oct-12 18:08:00

mustbe you know that in your case the evidence you refer to was fact, but that is not always the case. Plenty of stuff ends up as evidence in police reports that is absolute horse sh1t. It is the barrister's job to test this.

And what everyone else said about the money. Being a criminal defence barrister in not lucrative (unless you are in the tiny minority of stars in this area and you could say the same about pretty much anything, e.g. being a nurse is not particularly lucrative but being a top nurse practitioner in a hospital is much more so).

taxiforme Tue 09-Oct-12 18:16:48

Read this with interest.

Criminal "Justice" is a hard concept to understand if you are a mother of a victim, father of a suspect, child of an accused, wife of a convict.

The Criminal Justice System has no winners. Most professional advocates and Judges know that. They can't rewrite history, they can't change terrible things that have happened to people. Most of them rarely get thanked, few- very few are well paid considering their experience, skills and as the OP pointed out the professional confidence in your abilities and ability to tackle dispassionately duties which raise passion in all right thinking people.

They ALL whether defending or prosecuting have a primary duty to the court and to the lady with the sword who sits on the top of it. Not to police, clients, families, colleagues or your own self interest and an early lunch.

Most serious matters are dealt with before a Judge. In my experience it is exeptionally rare to find a Judge who would allow shoddy and underhand tactics. Most things that happen in criminal courts are governed by a tightly controlled set of rules on procedure a and lot of an advocate's job actually boils down to making complicated things simple.

It is a cornerstone of the Criminal Justice System that suspects are represented. No matter how serious the allegation. It might be your son's DNA on a cigarette butt that ends up at the scene of a burglary. It might be your daughter's on a scarf found wrapped round a strangled victim's neck.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 18:56:19

euro yes I see that too - but it was denied that there was a police report at all - which is what I don't understand - how can that happen - that the police were in my house on a particular night is a fact - arguing about why they were there, etc, that I could understand - but this was a denial that they were there at all.

That's why I am so puzzled.

Also why were my Childs school records admissible as a victim, but the defendants - that would have shown a pattern of violent aggressive behaviour towards other children my Childs age - not???

Is a victim held to a different standard than an accused.

Why did no-one wake the sleeping juror?

I have loads of questions - and will have have any answers. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

I used to believe in our system - I don't any more. I would never, ever report it if anything happened to me - and if anything happened to one of my children again - I would never report that either - and that's a pretty damning view of a system that is supposed to support victims.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 18:57:09

*and will never have any answers

Seabright Tue 09-Oct-12 19:45:08

Mustbe - I will try and answer a couple of your questions. Background- I've worked as a lawyer in the UK and Far East and the UK, with it's jury system and appeal system is much, much better. Not perfect, but better than any other system I know of.

School records - the judge would have had to decide on this at an earlier hears and would have ruled on what is and is not admissable and have given reasons. I can't speculate on what they might have been, not knowing the facts.

Victim & accused held to different standards - it sounds harsh, but the victim is a giver-of-evidence, just like anyone else giving evidence. No, there are no different standards. There is no special weight given to either a victim, accused, police officer or anyone else's evidence.

Sleeping juror - sorry, no idea.

I've also been a juror, so seen it from the other side. You have to be really, really sure before finding anyone guilty. When they say "beyond all reasonable doubt" they mean it. If a juror isn't sure, then that juror will vote not guilty.

And, yes, I have always slept well at night. That doesn't mean lawyers don't question what we do and who we are acting for (in commercial law as well as criminal), but everyone who is entitled gets legal representation.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 19:52:01

I would love for all those who are so scathing of the mere suggestion that that criminal lawyers don't earn megabucks to actually come up with some stats to support their assertion that we are all lying.

Rather than just keep repeating that it is all bollocks.

I would also like people to realise that barristers and solicitors are on completely different pay scales and not just keep yelling "Barristers earn oodles of money."

Very, very irritating.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 19:54:12

Mustbe - was the police report ever produced in evidence? If not then you will probably find that it doesn't exist in which case you might need to look elsewhere for the people who let you down. If a document doesn't exist it is pretty understandable that a lawyer will put it to a witness that the events it is supposed to record never actually happened.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 19:55:55

And what taxiforme said.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 19:56:34

kungfu - yes it was in the evidence presented to CPS as part of the charging decision.

I checked this with the OIC before and after the hearing.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 19:59:02

Then your issue is very much with the CPS for failing to adduce it in court.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 19:59:30

What wasn't was his school records - the police never approached the school - this despite the fact that they wouldnhave showed a clear and documented pattern of violence against children the same age as the victim, at the relevant period of time.

(as an aside I believe they would also point to further victims - but that's by the by for this thread).

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 20:00:58

Kungfu quite possibly yes - there are lots of questions I would like to have answere about potential evidence by the CPS/Police - but I can't find anyone prepared to answer them

crashdoll Tue 09-Oct-12 20:24:33

It is everyone's human right (as mandated by law) to have the right to a fair trial. You can't pick and choose who gets treated fairly in that way.

LividDil Tue 09-Oct-12 20:35:05

The defence lawyer doesn't KNOW that their client is guilty, that is a matter for the jury to determine having listened to the case put by defence and prosecution.
Would you prefer a system where the accused have no access to representation, and where the police are effectively judge and jury?

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 20:49:04

mustbe - the CPS are not a perfect organisation. There are some great prosecutors, and there are also some crap ones who know that they will never be pulled up on their lack of work because, ultimately, the prosecution get an awful lot of leeway from the court. That is because there is only one prosecuting body for mainstream criminal work, whereas there are thousands of defence firms. If a defence firm cocks up they run the risk of being sacked by their client and having costs awarded against them by the court. If a CPS lawyer/branch cock up they can't be sacked and the costs come out of the public purse anyway. They might get a shouting at, but the person standing in court is highly unlikely to be the person responsible for the cock-up so it is likely to be shrugged off.

Because defence lawyers work for private firms, albeit under contracts to provide public defence, they are much more personally invested in getting it right. Where deadlines aren't met, it is generally the CPS who fail to meet them. Where documents aren't served it is generally the CPS who haven't served them. Not always, but more often than not.

Crap or dishonest defence lawyers tend to sink to the bottom. Crap or dishonest prosecutors get carried by their good and honest colleagues.

They are also working in non-ideal circumstances because the government keep bringing in all sorts of new initiatives that make fuck all difference to the running of the court system but sound good on paper. So the CPS are constantly being expected to change the way they do things. This means that things get lost in the system or just not done in time.

It is absolutely impossible for me to make more than a broad stab at some of the possible issues in your case but here goes:

1) Police report - it might well have been in the original file handed to the CPS, but for some reason never actually copied or disclosed to the defence until so late in the day that the judge decided it would be unfair to admit it. This would mean that the defence barrister had absolutely nothing in his hand to gainsay what his client was asserting. I think this unlikely as it would presumably be a fairlly key piece of rebuttal evidence and judges tend to take a robust view of even very late service of documents.

Another possibility is that there was some sort of defect in the document leading the judge to refuse to allow it to be relied upon - there may have been some sort of credible assertion that the report had been tampered with, possibly typed up after the allegation was made or something along those lines. Again, it would be unusual.

A third possibility, and I mean this as nicely as possible, is that you have misunderstood/missed some key issue re: this document. I mean no disrespect when I say that you have an imperfect understanding of the mechanics of a criminal trial. I have an imperfect understanding of them! And any lawyer who says they know every single little bit of procedure and legislation without having to look it up is lying, I'm afraid! It is a complicated system and barristers are surgically attached to their copies of Archbold (legal bible) for a reason.

2) Lying by defence barrister. I think this spectacularly unlikely. I strongly suspect that you are once again imperfectly processing something pretty standard, albeit incredibly confusing to hear. A barrister puts the defence case to the witnesses. Anything the defendant is relying upon MUST be put to the witness. So if the defendant says "It is a lie" then the barrister must put it to the witness that it is a lie so that they can respond. If something isn't put to the witness that the defendant ultimately relies upon then the witness would be recalled to give them a chance to respond to it. What you are hearing is the defence barrister filtering the defendant's case.

I have very, very rarely come across an overtly dishonest advocate who has actually got away with it. I can think of one solicitor that openly lied in court about a procedural matter. He was called on it and given a major public kicking by the judge. I would imagine that was very far from the end of what happened to him. I also came across a relatively inexperienced prosecutor who lied to the court. She was clearly out of her depth and thrown into a panic when the case didn't pan out as she had expected. She was reported to the bar council. That is it, for 11 years.

For a defence barrister to get away with actually lying about something, you would have to have a dishonest defence barrister, an incompetent prosecution barrister and a crap judge, all in one trial. This would be highly unusual. In the nicest possible way, I suspect there is more too it than you have been able to ascertain, and it is a shame no-one has been able to take you through this and make sure you do understand. That is not to say you would be happy with, or agree with, the explanation, but at least you would have things clear.

3) Sleeping juror. This should have been dealt with. I have had this twice and it was dealt with swiftly and robustly on both occasions.

You may be right. You may have been spectacularly unlucky and ended up in a case with two dishonest or incompetent advocates, an incompetent judge and a disinterested jury. This would be a devastating situation. But what is more likely is that no-one has taken the time to make sure that you understand how the various bits of law have worked together to produce the result you didn't want. I would have thought that it would be of some comfort to know that, even if you found yourself coming out of the system without the outcome you had hoped for, it was because your case was effectively caught in all the various safety nets in place to ensure that every case is tested in the most rigorous way, rather than because everyone got it wrong. Unfortunately, if that was the case, no-one has answered your questions and there is no way of knowing exactly what happened.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 20:49:53

I'd prefer a less adversarial system whose aim is to get at the truth.

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 20:50:37

This thread has angered me to the point of white noise in my ears. I sleep ok. Thanks. My loose moral of upholding out justice system strangely enough don't keep me awake, the shockingly low pay, erosion of job security and lack of future prospects for doing something I love and believe in do. the OP's question gets asked to all defence lawyers at least once a month. It never gets any less infuriating. Ffs. Get some insight. It is people with the OP's attitude who, when arrested, get the most strident, outraged and poor me about their situation. Froth, fume and storm off!

The mass generalisations about lawyers lying REALLY wind me up. I don't. I fight damn hard, but I fight scrupulously fair. Why? Because they have some fucking integrity. Because very few want to jeapordise their career over one defendant.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 20:51:52

Sorry, forgot to deal with school records issue. That would almost certainly have been dealt with under the Bad Character rules. These are a relatively new procedure for dealing with negative assertions about parties' previous character and they are an ever-evolving bloody nightmare. There are a hundred and one ways by which they particular outcomce could have been reached.

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 20:57:33

Also, what KFP said. Re school records, the nightmare that is third party disclosure application was possibly an issue.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 21:02:02

Sorry cross posted Kung-Fu.

You are probably right, I don't undersand any of it - all I know - it's that a pack of lies was presented as the truth, a bunch of things that could have proved they were lies were not presented, a very specific incident that required police involvement was put forward as never having happened, despite the police confirming they had found the incident logs of that night, a juror slept and a rapist walked free despite contradicting his own statement, himself, refusing to answer prosecution barrister until directed to by judge

Even the press reporter contacted me post trial to let me know his personal opinion was that he had fully expected a guilty verdict and was "gob smacked".

If that's a fair trial - from a victims point of view - then our legal system is failing victims.

I cannot believe what was "dragged" up by defence and left put by prosecution.

Our live are in absolute tatters and the rapist is walking around laughing at us - he is spreading various malicious runours about us all and no-one can do anything about it - because they are just "runours".

All I got from that trial is the truth means nothing - nothing at all.

We were warned at the start of the trial, that juries do not like to put young men in prison, at the end of the trial - when it appeared a guilty verdict was likely - we were warned again.

And the most galling - the decision the jury came to makes no legal sense - it complex but all parties are agreed it makes no legal sense.

So if the jury has made a decision that makes no legal sense - how are we to feel they have followed the trial?

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 21:04:34

The judge ruled he was going to allow evidence of bad character at the PCMH hearing - but no-one said what that evidence was btw.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 21:09:10

Ps - thank you Kungfu Panda - I really do appreciate the time you are taking to explain this system to me.

There is clearly a lot I haven't posted - I feel absolutely betrayed and let down - hindsight is a wonderful thing - I wish we had never agreed to the prosecution in the first place - our whole family has been branded as liars and it isn't pleasant.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 21:10:34

Juries are generally pretty good at following and digesting evidence. But they are not infallible and yes, there are sometimes not guilty verdicts where I think "Really? Were we involved in the same trial?" There are fewer unexpected guilty verdicts - I do remember one where my mouth pretty much fell open in shock - but generally you can see them coming.

You do occasionally get a verdict that makes no logical sense, but again it is rare. It is usually where one defendant is acquitted and the other convicted, where their defences are closely linked, or where a defendant is convicted of one charge and acquitted of another. It is open to the CPS to appeal a completely irrational verdict but that is very rare. I'm not sure why, to be honest.

It sounds shit.

The only thing I can say is that isn't a typical experience. Unfortunately, the people who feel that they got justice aren't generally the ones who are out there talking about their experiences, so it tends to be the negative experiences that are heard.

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 21:13:51

Sex crimes are always, always going to be a problem for any judicial system because they almost always take place with only two people present, both of whom have a vested interest in their version of events being believed.

No matter what safeguards are put in place, it is difficult to see how we will ever get close to ensuring that the guilty are convicted and the innocent acquitted where sexual allegations are concerned.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 21:14:15

The mass generalisations about lawyers lying REALLY wind me up. I don't but why do they wind you up? If you have been raped, and you know you have been raped - the defence barrister is the public face if you like of the defendant - so clearly a defence barrister is going to be tarred with the same brush as their client.

You don't like being called a liar through mass generalisation - how the hell do you think a victim feels?

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 21:20:14

You do occasionally get a verdict that makes no logical sense, but again it is rare. It is usually where one defendant is acquitted and the other convicted, where their defences are closely linked,

That's almost word for word what the OIC said - and also apparently the barrister - who said he (according to OIC) hadn't come across it in 19 years of prosecuting.

That's the thing with our case - it wasn't 1 persons word against the other, there was plenty of other evidence but I don't want to say what.

Thems the breaks I guess but from our side - living with it is so hard - especially when the rapist is determined to make things as difficult as possible still.

FamiliesShareGerms Tue 09-Oct-12 21:49:11

A family friend used to specialise in defending sex offenders. Often they would plead guilty, so her job wasn't to "get them off", but she felt she had done her job when their sentence included the right sort of treatment or therapy to help them and so reduce the likelihood of them re-offending. She sleeps very well - and, for all the reasons outlined above - I am so glad that there are decent people like her doing difficult jobs.

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 22:07:14

Because being accused of lying for a living is insulting and an attack on my character. Not all lawyers lie. Not all victims fail to get justice, some do, but not all. I am sorry you didn't.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:12:37

But in cases of sex crimes - relatively few victims see justice and that is well recognised.

As I see it - a defence barrister chooses to be the public face of a defendant, many defendants lie. No one likes being accused of lying but I have a lot more sympathy for a victim than I do a defence barrister who has chosen that profession.

Not many victims of crime have chosen that path.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:17:14

The Stern Review mentioned a lack of clear stats - I'd love to know what % of not guilty pleas result in a conviction - can't find that info anywhere.

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 22:24:46

Being accused of sex crimes is of course serious. It is serious for the victim, but it is also serious for the person accused. It is a label that will stay with even an innocent accused forever, just as it is a horrendous experience that stays with the victim forever. The conviction rates are not the 'fault' of the lawyer, but far wider and encompass procedure and policy.

Some defendants lie. Some complainants lie. 'Many' has no basis whatsoever. Not asking for sympathy, just not to be regarded as a hired liar, as I'm not. Just as you (on a clearly more serious and personal level) feel aggrieved about not being believed.

I have been a victim and the criminal justice system was truly, truly fantastic. Not everyone's experience and obviously not yours, but it is a case by case basis and not all defendants, victims, lawyers or judges should be tarred with the same brush.

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 22:25:36

I think individual courts have stats, I don't know about nationwide.

FourthTimeAround Tue 09-Oct-12 22:27:31

But, mustbetimetochange, what you are overlooking is that this thread is not about how victims cope with not being believed but how criminal defence lawyers sleep easy if they know they have defended someone who was guilty.

I'm not sure what evidence you are referring to when you say that few rape victims see justice when you can't judge yourself which defendants are guilty and which are not - and, as I feel I must point out, you have only ever attended one criminal trial.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:33:03

I'm not sure what evidence you are referring to when you say that few rape victims see justice

Is that a serious question??????????

It is well documented in numerous official reports and publications that only 6% of victims who report rape/sexual assault see a conviction, taking into account conservative estimates of under reporting - that can fall to as low as 1.2% - one charity estimates male under reporting to be 10 times that of female.

That tells me that relatively few victims - in fact only 6 out of every 100 who even make the brave step of going to the police - see justice.

FourthTimeAround Tue 09-Oct-12 22:36:56

But you have to break down those figures. Why did they not result in conviction? Was the crime reported but the matter not seen through? Did the complainant decline to go to court? 34% of cases brought to court in 2010 ended in conviction.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:38:17

The conviction rates are not the 'fault' of the lawyer, but far wider and encompass procedure and policy that I completely agree with.

Sorry if it offends but even before my own experiences - I tended to assume victims do not make up horrendous crimes - if you perpetuate the lies of abuser - you are as bad as them - barristers are not stupid or unintelligent - the guilt or innocence of their client is not their concern.

In simplistic terms - bit like blindly defending a naughty child when deep down you known they were wrong - allowing them to get away with it - doesn't really help them - just teaches them if you are going to lie - it's best to do it well.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:44:59

There are numerous reasons - which the govt is trying to address - but that just points to a failing system, not being able to access therapy, length of time to get to court, family pressure, indirect harassment, MH issues brought on by abuse, suicide, false reporting if I remember accounts for around 6.8% but I haven't checked that.

The CPS requirement for a 70% chance of a successful prosecution?

Very few of these actually mean an accused is innocent.

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 22:48:32

Yep, that's me, rapist, pederast, wife beater extraordinaire hmm

You don't really understand what it is like to do my job. I have done it for ten years. I've never lied, or knowingly advanced lies on behalf of a client. There is a code of conduct, you see, professionals tend to adhere to it.

That code of conduct means, simply, if someone tells you they did it, you can't advance a not guilty case. My beliefs are not important, it is for the jury to decide. I tend to point out difficulties in client's cases. They can't then change it to something better, I'd have to withdraw.

There are a variety of reasons why complainants lie too. More often it is an exaggeration with elements of truth. That cuts both ways.

Disappearing Tue 09-Oct-12 22:49:51

I have a friend who is a defence lawyer, and I asked her this question. FWIW she does litigation work, so defends dodgy plumbers and the likes, rather than the truly evil murderers etc.

Her response was insightful, she said she aids in achieving a fair trial, and often won't push for a not guilty verdict, but just a lesser sentence. In her experience, a lot of cases are settled out of court, which can be mutually beneficial.

FourthTimeAround Tue 09-Oct-12 22:52:19

"There are numerous reasons - which the govt is trying to address - but that just points to a failing system, not being able to access therapy, length of time to get to court, family pressure, indirect harassment, MH issues brought on by abuse, suicide, false reporting if I remember accounts for around 6.8% but I haven't checked that."

None of which are anything to do with defence lawyers.

The CPS requirement for a 70% chance of a successful prosecution?"

I can deal with that pretty easily. It doesn't exist.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:53:24

If you dont want to be tarred with same brush - why defend them? It's a total cop out to say my views don't count - it's a way to ease your own conscience.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:54:22

That's what we were told - but you may be right - the OIC couldnhave passed misinformation I guess.

LadyWidmerpool Tue 09-Oct-12 22:54:49


mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 22:54:51

(re 70%)

FourthTimeAround Tue 09-Oct-12 22:57:17

"Why defend them?"

I find it difficult to understand why, if you've read the many cogent, calm and informed responses on this thread from defence practitioners, you are still asking this question.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 22:58:03

Mustbe- conviction rates for rape once it gets to court are actually pretty respectable, what happens prior to that is not the fault of barristers or solicitors.

DilysPrice Tue 09-Oct-12 22:59:28

Rape conviction rates in court rose to 62.5% last Guardian article
Obviously there's been a lot of attrition before that.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:02:02

Mustbe- you keep saying this barrister was lying about matters of fact, just because something is written down, doesn't make it true. You say one thing the defendant clearly said another, why should either be taken as fact, without challenge?

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 23:02:35

Oh shit, you're right, I shall protest against an imperfect system by resigning forthwith and take my self off to weave a hair shirt to appease my conscience. Or not.

My conscience, does not need easing, thank you very much. Once again you are assuming that all defendants are guilty, all lawyers know this and they all carry on regardless at the expense of the victims. They aren't and don't. Maybe some, but not me. I would never accuse you of lying about your experiences. It's is incredibly rude to make assumptions about my moral turpitude.

Anyway, I can't imagine that you will ever, set against your personal experiences ever feel any confidence in those that work within the system and I would be wasting my time trying to convince you I have integrity. But please don't assume your sample size of one I'd reflective of an entire profession.

Must sleep now, assuming my conscience allows it.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:03:33

Dilys yes I understood them to be 58% in court (57% for general crime), I've been trawling trying to find the source. (think it was Stern) What I can't get a breakdown for - from anywhere - is what proportion of that 58% (or 62.5) arise from a guilty plea. Anecdotally I am told is a high proportion - but base facts - can't get to them.

But that doesn't change that fact that relatively few reported crimes result in conviction or that there is a fundamental issues with that

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:05:38

The guilty pleas will be in many cases on the advice of those defence lawyers you seem to detest!

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:07:32

London the defendant said nothing about it - he was never asked to confirm or deny.

The only thing I am saying is a fact is that the police were called to my house on a specific occasion - that is a fact, a matter of official police record - black and White, documented, with relevant log number - confirmed (not in court was never asked) by OIC.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:08:34

I detest anyone who stands by a child raping abuser - it isn't limited to barristers

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:10:30

Well clearly someone disputed what you believe to be fact!

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:12:26

Rosemary I May have only attended one trial but I could probably write a well researched and composed thesis on this topic.

I have spent over a year researching - and I don't mean on wikipedia - no it doesn't make mend qualified as you - but I am not stupid enough to base such strong views merely on our own experiences.

Sadly enough for me - I was considering moving into the field of victim support before this ever hit our family - I was well aware of the flaws in the system before we ever became a part of it - which believe me - doesn't help.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:13:21

And what about if tonight you were identified and accused of libelling or slandering a man who has been found not guilty by the courts. Would you want a solicitor to advise you at the police station?

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:14:05

Yes the barrister - to a child - the barrister told my child "so your mother lied to you" because they weren't present.

Strangely - they didn't put this to any of the adult witnesses - including OIC or even the defendant - just to a child they could bully and intimidate.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:14:39

I haven't posted anything that hasn't been in the press.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:15:17

Well I did - but I had it removed - I have had very specific advice on what I can and cannot say.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:16:01

And for the record - he hasn't been found not guilty as yet.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Tue 09-Oct-12 23:16:07

Londonone, libel is a civil matter, the police wouldn't get involved.

I detest anyone who stands by a child raping abuser - it isn't limited to barristers

But you don't know that they are until they are convicted in a court of law. To get a conviction they must have representation. Some one has to do that job.

I am really very sorry you have been through such a hellish time but I really don't understand why you have such hatred to all defence lawyers.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:18:57

The only thing the police could get involved in is "harassment" and I have nothing to do with him, his friends or his family, the fact wenas as a family believe he is guilty is a matter of public record.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:19:38

Well given that you have stated that someone who was found not guilty is a child raping abuser I would suggest you choose your words more carefully.

The barrister didn't suggest anything, he was representing the views of his client, who strangely enough didn't agree with your version of events. It sounds like your prosecution was shit tbh rather than the defence being a problem.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:20:28

So the case is ongoing?

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:21:19

Old lady - it was more a general point I was making!

Fozzleyplum Tue 09-Oct-12 23:22:36

I haven't read all of the thread as it's so long and I'm knackered, what with lawyerin' all day and that. I am however a defence lawyer and sleep v v well at night, ta v.m.

We are governed by very strict rules of conduct which prevent us from helping defendants make up defences. We are not allowed to represent a defendant who tells us he is guilty, but then wishes to perjure himself by giving evidence to show that he did not commit the offence.

I just wish I had a pound for every time I'd been asked that question, or a variant of it.

Am now off to sleep the sleep of the innocent...

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:23:07

Because to quote a corny quote "all it takes for evil to flourish is good men to stand by and do nothing".

It's not a defence barristers job to consider the guilt or innocence of their client - but perhaps it should be

It had been described to me (by a sympathetic barrister) as a chess game once it gets to court - but it's not a game.

Because our experience is far from unique - from the reading and research I have done (a lot) it is common to accuse a victim of lying as a defence.

It's not the barristers fault you are right - the whole system is fundamentally flawed - but if you chose to be the public face of a defendant - then sadly you are seen to be stood with them and making excuses for them.

xkcdfangirl Tue 09-Oct-12 23:24:27

I'm not a lawyer but I sleep a lot better at night if I believe that everyone who has been tried and found guilty had a strong enough case against them that a good lawyer fighting against it could not break it. If the case is strong, it will hold and the guilt will be proven. There will always be injustices in any system and there will always be a balance to be struck between guilty-but-unprovable-walking-free and innocent-but-unbelieved-being-convicted. I think we've got a reasonable balance and it certainly wouldn't be improved by people going to trial without a defence lawyer.

RosemaryHoyt Tue 09-Oct-12 23:25:38

By you. Not everyone feels that way. Mercifully.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:27:47

Mustbe - of course it is common to accuse the victim of lying and guess what sometimes they will be lying, sometimes they will be mistaken. What would your solution be? That we just take every victims word for it? Why bother with courts at all eh?

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:28:00

London believe me when I say - I would happily be charged for my view - I will not be threatened into changing my views by him or anyone else, he has tried to intimidate me into silence, it won't work.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:29:21

I already suggested upthread something more like the coroners court/French magistrates system - where it is someones job to find the truth.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:30:06

Rosemary of course these are my views - who elses would they be?

mayorquimby Tue 09-Oct-12 23:30:47

"It's not a defence barristers job to consider the guilt or innocence of their client - but perhaps it should be"

It really should not be and thanfully is not.
It is for the jury to decide matters of fact and the guilt or innocence of an accused.
If defence barristers start making unilateral judgments on what they perceive the facts to be and applying themselves to each case on that basis it would be no system of law at all.
Imagine a system where because the barristers all agree they reckon someone is guilty then there's no need for a trial.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:31:30

Tbh I think only the very stupid or small minded would think that lawyers somehow stand with their clients. How do feel about the fact that many barristers do both defence and prosecution work? Are they detestable in your book?

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:33:31

Must be - happily charged and convicted I assume as you don't seem to think trials are necessary.

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:34:54

I prefer to imagine a system where barristers dont defend someone they think is guilty.

London it is relatively new news (post trial) that some barristers do both. Playing both sides of the coin is I assume more lucrative?

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:35:39

I have already said what I feel is necessary - a system
Designed to establish the truth.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Tue 09-Oct-12 23:37:15

Barristers don't get to pick and choose their clients. They are allocated cases.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:38:51

Must be- not necessarily more lucrative. How the fuck should barristers know who is guilty before he trial?

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:40:45

Barristers don't get to pick and choose their clients. They are allocated cases.

And then it's their job to make the best defence case possible - regardless of their own personal feelings?

And London you can think it's as small minded as you like - Id rather be considered to be small minded than prepared to defend an abusers of any shape or form.

I couldn't and wouldnt do it.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:43:24

My question is how would you know they were abusers to be able to make that decision.

Thx for pm by the way

mustbetimetochange Tue 09-Oct-12 23:54:12

Barristers are highly intelligent - they see all the evidence before the trial.

Put it this way - I would like all defendin barristers to consider - if the defendant is found not guilty - would they be happy to leave their wife/child/loved ones exposed to them - if the answer is yes - I genuinely believe there is no risk to them - then its fair to do your best to unleash them on the general public - if there is enough doubt in your mind - that you wouldn't expose your own to the defendant - then you should recuse.

As I have said - defence barristers are the public face of a flawed system.

I couldn't and wouldn't do it - not for anything - at the moment someone has too - but there is no point in being then upset at being viewed in the same vein as the defendant by the victim and their family - when you are the one who appears to be getting them off.

I don't actually think the CPS or defence did a bad job - they presented a really strong case - my thought (and it's just my uneducated one) is prosecutor didn't want to dilute what appeared to be strong evidence with lots of questions.

But in a he said she said scenario - I dont really see how anyone can ever be 100% convinced enough to convict.

We need a different system - especially Given that there is a school of thought that many offenders will reoffend.

londonone Tue 09-Oct-12 23:58:34

Essentially then you don't believe in trials at all. Give all the evidence to one intelligent person and let them make decision! I find that a lot scarier!

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:00:01

It's a massively emotive topic - it is always going to attract strong opinions on both sides - doesn't mean it isn't worth debating - change never happens without debate - and even if you think the system is fine as it is - it's important those voices are heard.

I hope it changes - to a more investigative process - but I doubt that will happen in my lifetime.

londonone Wed 10-Oct-12 00:00:20

I don't think defence barristers expect the victims nd their families to like them, I just think they would rather not be vilified en masse!

OhDearSpareHeadTwo Wed 10-Oct-12 00:00:48

The prosecuting barrister isn't allowed to speak to the victim

This is not true. Victims of crime have an entitlement to a "special measures" meeting with counsel prior to trial in cases of sexual violence and other very serious crimes. They do not discuss the evidence but discuss how the victim will give hteir evidence and also offer reassurance about the trial process.

I have been in court all last week with a very serious rape case and the prosecutor came in to speak to the victim and update her on certain matters several times.

londonone Wed 10-Oct-12 00:01:45

Personally I don't particularly support the adversarial system, but until the system changes someone has to represent each side

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:02:20

London I believe the system as it stands - is flawed - soxdo many others.

If we could find a way to improve conviction rates within the current system - wonderful - but if we can't - then it should change to become fit for purpose.

Not guilty should mean innocent - at the present time - it doesn't and that is unfair for both victims and defendants.

MrsHoarder Wed 10-Oct-12 00:02:41

Also, a defendant must be able to question a witness's version of events. Surely its kinder for the victim that this is done by a professional then they are being questioned by their attacker?

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:05:21

ohdear while I absolutely believe you - we were told the barrister was not allowed to meet the witnesses or discuss case.

I wonder if different regions have diff policies - I have looked it up on CPS website and it does mention pre trial meeting (we were refused one).

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:07:00

We discussed special measure with OIC and witness services - they then put requests to CPS.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:08:14

*londonone Wed 10-Oct-12 00:01:45
Personally I don't particularly support the adversarial system, but until the system changes someone has to represent each side*


londonone Wed 10-Oct-12 00:09:34

Like I said, sounds like your case was handled v badly from the prosecutionside

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:09:46

ohdear also as victim in our case was a child - they left court after giving evidence and never came back on advice of OIC.

I had the lovely job of breaking the verdict to them

mayorquimby Wed 10-Oct-12 00:12:13

"I prefer to imagine a system where barristers dont defend someone they think is guilty."

Which would lead to a horribly corrupt system. Thankfully there are systems in place which mean that for the most part barristers can not pick and choose who they defend.
Barristers are advocates, they are there to speak on behalf of those who for the most part lack the legal knowledge and specialised skill set to do so for themselves.
It is not for them to pass judgment of guilt, they are there to present the the arguments of the accused.
Even if all the evidence points to their guilt, in fact especially so in those cases. If there is concrete dna evidence, a million witnesses and cctv footage of the commission of a crime then the defendant is still entitled to have his or her version of events to be heard in court, even if it is completely unbelievable and doomed to failure. Because the basic tenant of our legal system is that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and that until the prosecution have convinced a jury of their guilt they enjoy a presumption of innocence.

"if there is enough doubt in your mind - that you wouldn't expose your own to the defendant - then you should recuse."

that's a ludicrous argument. The aim of court isn't to pass judgment on their overall character and whether someone subjectively views them as a threat. The aim of all cases is to reach a conclusion as to whether X committed the SPECIFIC crimes they are charged with.
Also the notion that if you have a doubt in your mind as to innocence then you should recuse yourself is complete abandonment firstly of the taxi rank rule but more importantly of the principle of the presumption of innocence.
The standard is not "do you have any doubt in your mind that this person could be innocent." it's are you satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:13:33

I don't think it would have mattered what the prosecution did - there was some very strong evidence - it wasnt just the victim and myself who were accused of lying.

But I can't go into that here.

I'll just keep hoping for change and also that someone else comes forward - as sadly - knowing what I know of the defendant and his past - I do not believe there is only one victim.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:15:00

I understand all of that mayor - but the system we have does not produce a fair trial - for the victim.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:17:13

(is enjoyable - well that's the wrong word but you know what I mean I hope - to read well written and thought out explanations though - I have mostly read from the view of a victim/reports etc into why conviction rates are so low).

OhDearSpareHeadTwo Wed 10-Oct-12 00:19:38

So the CPS are constantly being expected to change the way they do things. This means that things get lost in the system or just not done in time

Our CPS branch have so few trial lawyers that they can't cover trials and they have to engage agents for mags work. There is one part time lawyer that reviews all the magistrates cases going through two very busy courts. 4 years ago we had about 10 full time lawyer posts (not APs). Now we have something like 4/5 with much higher volumes of trials. I have a domestic violence case that went not guilty in June, victim retracted in July, statement duly sent to CPS with request to issue a summons for the victim. Request was chased at the end of August and again in the middle of September. Trial is next Tuesday and the file still hasn't been looked at by a lawyer since the EFH.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 00:23:42

ohdear yes I know our local CPS is struggling with staffing, so are the CPU, SS and every other govt body involved.

It's where cuts are hitting the most vulnerable.

SaraBellumHertz Wed 10-Oct-12 03:09:54

kungfu I just wanted to say how kind you've been to attempt to explain the intricacies of a complicated system to mustbe

sashh Wed 10-Oct-12 07:23:11

Fortunately in this country we don't have 'defending lawyers', they take the next case that comes along, as defence or as prosecution.

There is an interesting talk called "phone call of doom" by Laurance Lee. That name probably means nothing to you.

Laurance Lee was in a court building and a phone rang, he picked it up and was asked if there was a solicitor available to be present while a 10 year old was interviewed. He went to the police station and by default became the defence solicitor for John Venables.

He said at the time, and since, no matter how horrendous the crime you are accused of, everyone is entitled to legal representation.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 07:30:01

Sara seconded and thank you to all the other posters who too the time to explain.

I do really appreciate it - and I do understand the system we have is the system we have - me complaining about it isn't going to change anything.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 07:31:22

And I am sorry of my views are offensive - we are not in a very food place in our house the moment - we feel very let down and betrayed by this system.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 07:33:30

(sorry hit post).

And it's easy to blame everyone and everything - I know every party was just doing their job, but thats no consolation to us.

Fakebook Wed 10-Oct-12 07:39:37

I had a lecturer who told us about the time he defended a woman who had murdered her own baby around the same time his wife was pregnant. He couldn't go into details but said it was the hardest thing he had ever done, knowing she has committed the crime. So I suppose some may not sleep restfully at night.


Only you know the details of your case and it sounds like what you went through was very hard on you and your family.

However, the system has to be bigger / broader than any one case. I think if you are going to take away someone's liberty possibly for a considerable period of time, it has to be on the basis that the state have proved their guilt and that they have had a full opportunity to defend themselves.

I am sure at the time the vast majority of people were sure that the Guilford Four, Maguire Seven and Birmingham Six were guilty. I am pretty certain that had you run an opinion poll shortly after their convictions asking people if justice had been done the majority would have answered yes.

17 people who apparently had committed horrible crimes, who the vast majority of people believed were guilty but were in fact innocent. Public opinion and the opinions of the police, prosecutors and defence counsel should not be relevant to a person's trial. So even if everyone suspects someone is guilty of a horrible crime they should get a robust defence because after all they may be innocent despite what most people think.

mustbetimetochange Wed 10-Oct-12 10:48:22

However, the system has to be bigger / broader than any one case.

Oh I absolutely agree, without a shadow of a doubt, but our experience is repeated, over and over and over and over again, by victims of this sort of crime and the system should be robust enough to make sure that if someone is a victim of a crime, they can come forward, safe in the knowledge they can hold a reasonable expectation of a conviction, rather than have everyone pat them on the back and tell them how brave they were for speaking out, regardless of if there is one.

Telling people, "there will always be a question mark now", well its pretty cold comfort to a rape victim who has just seen her attacker walk free from court.

SaraBellumHertz Wed 10-Oct-12 10:53:34

mustbe you've obviously had a very difficult time and for that I am genuinely sorry. I for one do not find your opinions insulting, the pain in your posts is palpable. I don't wish to insult you by inviting you to consider the broader picture but i hope one day you'll find it easier and perhaps beneficial, to do so.

In the meantime can I suggest you write to the OIC seeking some clarifications on the issues which are of most concern to you - I would be happy to help you draft a letter if you felt it might help.


I agree that there are some areas where the system doesn't seem to work very well at the moment. Rape / Abuse / Domestic Violence cases do have woefully low conviction rates and I think it is reasonable to question if the adverserial system is the most effective way of getting to the truth in these types of cases. Its a difficult balance because these are very serious accusations so they should be properly examined and tested as the consequences for both parties of the wrong result are so serious. I think part of the difficulty is that these are the types of cases where there is often the smallest amount of external third party evidence so it turns on who is the most believable the accuser or the accused. That will lead to a case where witnesses and the accuser will have their credibility tested and that can be a distressing experience.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 10:59:58

So sorry for your situation,mustbe.
I hope everything works out well as soon as possible.

I think the op worded this thread well.

There have to be some cases where a defence lawyer,or whatever the correct word is,has been allocated a particular case.
He/she has to defend it as it is their job,and their career would be on the line if they didnt. He/she then subsequently finds out that the person is guilty,but the accused doesnt actually tell the defence lawyer that.
But the defence lawyer,because it is their job,has to carry on doing a robust defence of that person in court.
To the general public,most of us could not face being that defence lawyer. We would feel much too bad.

SaraBellumHertz Wed 10-Oct-12 11:01:56

sashh we do have "defending lawyers" and most barristers do tend to specialise in one or the other once they have a bit of experience

Sidge Wed 10-Oct-12 11:03:54

I've found this thread very interesting as my knowledge of the legal system and process is quite limited (despite sitting on jury service once!).

I didn't realise that if the defendant's legal representative knows s/he is guilty then s/he can't assist them in providing a not guilty case but mitigates the case. Thinking about it it seems obvious now but I think that's what the OP was getting at; not about obtaining fair legal representation for all accused people.

stargirl1701 Wed 10-Oct-12 11:10:48

Knowing that they are part of our functioning democracy where accused are entitled to representation. Why would you feel otherwise? This is one of the bedrocks of UK justice.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 11:28:16


slappywappydoodah Wed 10-Oct-12 13:34:23

Right, sorry but I can't be bothered to read through 230 answers to this post, but it's made me angry that the question has even been asked.

I am a solicitor, though admittedly not a criminal defence solicitor. I do however know a vast number of defence solicitors who are good people and yet have defended people accused of, amongst other offences, murder, child abuse and rape.

First, if a defence solicitor KNOWS that a defendant has committed a crime (e.g. if they admit guilt), they advise the defendent to plead guilty. Should they refuse to do so, the solicitor is unable to continue to defend them and must inform the judge of such (in a tactful manner). Failure to do so constitutes serious misconduct.

Secondly, where a defendant has pleaded guilty, the solicitor's role is the to ensure that a fair sentence is given. Pleas in mitigation are heard, and defence solicitors usually set out the reasons why the lowest possible sentence should be given. On the other side, the prosecution sets out the reasons why the offender should be handed the most harsh sentence possible. The judge weighs the evidence and decides on the punishment. There are almost always partial defences or personal issues which may have an impact. Our legal system allows for this because it is FAIR to both parties.

Thirdly, where a defence solicitor is required to defebnde their client (e.g. on a not guilty plea), this is absolutely necessary to uphold the human right which ALL of us should enjoy - the right to a fair trial. If someone pleads not guilty it is not for you, the Daily Mail, the alleged victim's family or anyone else to decide whether they are in fact lying - that is for a judge or a jury to decide. In the UK we use an adversarial system in our court rooms, allowing both sides the chance to speak and both sides the chance to challenge each other's evidence. The aim here is to ensure that all facts are determined and all circumstances and word-against-word issues are hashed out, allowing the jury/judge to balance the evidence.

Fourthly, many of you appear to be suggesting that all victims tell the whole truth all of the time, or that all alleged victims are in fact just that. The harsh reality is that there are a huge number of false allegations made each and every day and, even where allegations are true, they are often exaggerated. If nothing else, a fair trial is just that - FAIR for BOTH parties. I have personally sat in on a rape trial where the poor man had been falsely accused. You'd have thought, from the press coverage and the fact that the alleged victim cried all the way through her examination and cross examination behind a requested screen, that she was telling the truth. Luckily, the defendent had a fantastic defence barrister who proved beyond reasonable doubt that she was lying in just three questions. She later admitted that she had just regretted the incident and had lied. This is not an uncommon occurence.

Finally, in order to prove guilt, it must be proven "beyond all reasonable doubt" in a fair trial. How can reasonable doubt be removed for any intelligent person without hearing both sides of a story and all evidence available? Just because you feel particularly strongly about some cases (e.g. child abuse or a brutal murder which has been proven beyond reasonable doubt) does not mean that the legal system is wrong.

Might I suggest that those of you who think defence solicitors "shouldn't be able to sleep at night" consider how you would feel if you were falsely accused of a crime?

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 13:37:14

you lost me on large numbers of false allegations, victim blaming at its best there.

slappywappydoodah Wed 10-Oct-12 13:45:47

FGS, it's not victim blaming at all - it's the very reason that both sides are heard. Just because victims are telling the truth in X number of cases does not mean that they always are. Just as defendants do not always tell the truth. If everyone did, we wouldn't need this legal system.

I'm sorry but I thought it was intelligently implied that not all defendants tell the truth either.

The discussion here is about why defence solicitors do their jobs and there's the reason - because defendants deserve a fair trial too. if someone pleads not guilty, quite frankly, they deserve to have their side heard.

higgle Wed 10-Oct-12 13:56:17

There are false allegations though - and usually in the most unpleasant of cases. I always slept very soundly at night when I was a defence solicitor and seldom felt troubled by my work ( even when defending in a baby murder case when I was pregnant myself ) . Now I work for a charity delaing with the care and support of older people. When I see how family members treat their parents, weedling and coniving to get their hands on the family assets I'm afraid I do end up waking up at 3am worrying about their welfare.

ReindeersGoldenBollocks Wed 10-Oct-12 14:02:10

My defence lawyer DH sleeps like a baby. The bugger snores all night and keeps me up instead!

(yes I'm being facetious grin )

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 14:04:06

I am sure there are false allegations, but The harsh reality is that there are a huge number of false allegations made each and every day and, even where allegations are true, they are often exaggerated that is not mentioning some, its a blatant attempt at victim blaming and should be challenged.

I havebeenprosecutingfor20years,andhaveprosecutedforafalse
infrequently.An experiencedpoliceoficerhadcomeacrosstwosuch
casesin15 years. "

stern review. They do happen, in any crime, but not in huge numbers at all, and as for accusing rape victims of exaggerating, words fail me.

And this is from a person who proclaims to be a professional.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 14:07:41

"How common are false allegations? It is not possible to establish an
exact figure and the research that is available gives a wide range of
suggested percentages. Some research suggests that a igure of eight
to ten percent of reported rapes could well be false reports.

However, those we spoke to in the system felt that there were very few. A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer told us, ‘They are extremely rare. I have been prosecuting for 20 years, and have prosecuted for a false
allegation once. ’The judges we talked to said these cases occur very
infrequently. An experienced police officer had come across two such
cases in 15 years."

Helps if you can read it.

lollilou Wed 10-Oct-12 14:17:43

Thank you to all who have replied. I don't see why it has angered so many though. I still believe it is a question which many people are curious about as other posters have said they have been asked the same many times. I am glad I asked and have been educated on lots of points.

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 14:22:30

You don't see why it angered people? You told people their career was a disgrace and it was their fault if people got to commit more crimes, and wondered how they could sleep at night.
It was deeply offensive, as well as naive.

EldritchCleavage Wed 10-Oct-12 14:25:13

One thing this thread has shown to me is that there is an enormous lack of knowledge about how our justice system, civil and criminal actually works. Anyone remember the thread where lots of posters admitted they didn't know the difference between 'charged' and 'convicted'? Also on that thread, people asking why there were trials because if the police had seen fit to charge someone, he had obviously done it.

If people do not even know, much less understand, the current system they are very likely to be suspicious of it. Especially when TV drama, most of which is US-derived, gives them such a hyped-up version of it and leads people to expect nice, pat solutions and lots of catharsis all round.

|If schools are covering this kind of thing (e.g. in Personal and Social Education), it's not working. If they aren't covering it they should be. Because all citizens really really need to know (i) our system of government and elections; and (ii) our court system as the absolute basics.

And as far as sexual offences are concerned, I wonder why people always blame lawyers for the poor conviction rates and never juries. Any rape thread on Mumsnet will uncover some very unpalatable views on this topic, victim-blaming, you name it. There must be some trials where lawyers can do whatever they like, the defendant won't be convicted because a number of jurors have just such attitudes.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 14:25:33

People are angered because the only way they can sleep at night is not to hold it as their responsibility if their client gets off and reoffends - you have challenged their belief that their only responsibility (other than if their client has admitted guilt) is a good defence.

I expect most defence barristers probably couldn't give a flying one what you, I or the general public think, the ones who are offended by the question, are, in all fairness, probably the ones with a conscience.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 14:26:56

eldritch "the defendant won't be convicted because a number of jurors have just such attitudes.", yes this is what we were told has probably happened in our case - given that there was strong evidence in favour of a conviction.

lollilou Wed 10-Oct-12 14:28:13

GoSakuramachi What the fuck. I did not say any of that! Don't put your words on my post.

EldritchCleavage Wed 10-Oct-12 14:28:54

What is actually the alternative to having defence lawyers though? None of the disapprovers have said, beyond the very general-have an investigating magistrate (not that they are fool-proof: have a look at the Gregory Villeneuve case). But defence lawyers exist even in an inquisitorial system.

Those who disapprove so strongly and think it is wrong: what (in detail please) would you have instead?

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 14:30:04

Actually you did. Read your own OP.

"how do defending lawyers sleep at night"
"When they are defending someone who is accused of a horrible crime and that they know are guilty yet have to come up with a defense to try to get a not guilty verdict? It must happen a lot, how could you live with yourself in that situation? What if the accused gets off then commits another crime?"

HazleNutt Wed 10-Oct-12 14:32:02

What's the alternative then? We should enver doubt any allegations and accusations, assume all alleged victims are telling truth and nothing but the truth and just send people to do the time?

What if you are the person accused?

EldritchCleavage Wed 10-Oct-12 14:34:09

That's hideous, mumsbum, I'm so sorry.

I think the system is ours, all of us, not just the people who work in it. We all have to have a sense of responsibility to victims. There should be no 'I don't want to get involved' from witnesses, for example. The arguments that put all responsibility for where we are with sexual offences onto defence barristers are avoiding a more unpalatable truth, I think.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 14:36:19

The issue isnt the defence lawyer, it is the system, personally, I think it would help if the victim had a barrister too, someone who they trust, if the victim was allowed to put questions to the defendant, through the barrister rather than not be allowed to approach the Crown Prosecutor to discuss the case.

It seems very one sided, when the defendant, can ask through his barrister/via solicitor to barrister, anything they like, but the victim does not have the same right.

If the defendant says something that is blatantly untrue, the victim has no recourse.

I could go on and on, and I know investigative magistrates, can fail too, but, it is no-ones job to get to the truth and that is what, IMO, is missing.

Court is simply not about the truth.

lljkk Wed 10-Oct-12 14:38:24

I am DD of a criminal defense lawyer. And another one who can't believe the question even needs to be asked.

Defense lawyers are an incredibly important and valuable part of making sure that the justice is done. Justice wouldn't be possible without them.

lollilou Wed 10-Oct-12 14:42:20

If it doesn't need to be asked why do so many in the legal profession say they have been asked this question over and over again? I needed to be educated on this matter and thank the ones who have done so without vitriol and nastiness.

EldritchCleavage Wed 10-Oct-12 14:43:22

Lollilou, do you think it would be good to have learned this stuff at school, e.g. in a citizenship class? I do.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 14:47:14

I think it is a very good question, and as someone who already had a good understanding already of the legal system

a) I too have learned a lot from this thread - Kungfupannda especially has been enlightening
b) I have revised my opinion that all barristers who defend scum are also bottom feeders themselves

Just from this small representation of the legal profession, I can see, that there are defence barristers out there who do genuinely care about the legal system.

If people don't ask, they don't learn, discussion never happens and change doesn't occur.

lljkk Wed 10-Oct-12 14:47:38

My guess is that dramatists love to explore this (ie, I blame TV), which occasionally provokes some people in real life, keeps the "issue" more present in many minds.

I've so many lawyers & their friends in my family & their social circles, & we never discuss this stuff. Never.

If you want to believe in the justice system delivering justice, there must be strong representation on both sides. Maybe some aspects of it need tweaking (like victim asking questions points).

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 14:48:09

As an American attorney who has worked as a defense and prosecuting attorney (but now do civil work) it's nothing like the tv shows, AT ALL. Much less exciting, much more boring and tedious.
think focusing on the hideousness of the publicized trials is the wrong focus. Most criminal cases where I am plea. Very few actually make it to trial. When they do, it's because the defendant's position is they are not guilty, or the evidence showing guilt just doesn't seem to rise to the level of "beyond a reasonable doubt." If you think you're client is being railroaded by the police, or was set up, or was beaten, then charged with resisting arrest, hell yeah you are going to try to show that to the judge/jury.

Just because you on the outside think you know all the facts of the case, well, you don't.

It's not a criminal case, but the facts in the notorious McDonalds coffee case were so horrific that the Judge actually had to REDUCE the sentence the jury (who before hand were livid they were even hearing such tripe) gave.

So yeah, I sleep just fine at night, thanks!

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 14:53:13

What is the role of defence lawyers/barristers is a good question.
How do you sleep at night is a fucking horrendous and offensive question.

See the subtle difference?

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 14:59:51

Actually its something I have pondered, because I believe barristers are highly intelligent and do have an inkling whether their client is guilty or not, I have wondered, how you sleep at night, knowing you have had a part in letting a rapist, a child abuser, walk free, especially if at some point, they re-offend and are convicted and you find out about that.

I have a better insight into how now, some don't care, others care about the "justice system", others are able to blank out their personal views to the point, they don't form them.

I wonder the same about some jurors. I would refuse to sit on a jury for a trial similar to the one I experienced, I don't believe I could be impartial.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 15:09:05

In an ideal world,[and I may be talking very naively], any defence barristers who know[without being told by the accused] that the accused was guilty,
wouldnt then defend them.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 15:11:50

amillion, if I have understood rightly the posts on this thread, unless there has been a confession, a barrister has a duty to defend their client, to the best of their ability, the barristers view of the innocence or guilt of their client is irrelevant.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 15:12:36

and in fact, to refuse to defend the client, on the basis of their own individual view would be to undermine the principles of the justice system.

I am willing to stand corrected if I have read wrongly.

x2boys Wed 10-Oct-12 15:14:30

actually my uncle is a defence lawyer just doing his job i guess and everybody is entitled to represetation

EldritchCleavage Wed 10-Oct-12 15:15:45

I would refuse to sit on a jury for a trial similar to the one I experienced, I don't believe I could be impartial

I struggle with that, to be honest, because to me it almost amounts to 'It's too hard, I don't want to do it'. You can't just leave this stuff to other people. You have to try and put personal feelings aside and do your duty. Someone has to do it, why not you?

If you are a citizen of a country like the UK, then very little is asked of you in return for the incredible benefits of citizenship. It isn't even compulsory to vote. Jury service is one of the very few things people have to do.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 15:19:28

But I wouldn't be impartial, I would go in there with a firm belief that victims don't lie, and that the accused was already guilty.

More unfair I feel would be to sit on a jury, with preconceived ideas and try to persuade other jurors of my view point. As I believe happened to us in reverse.

At this moment in time, I wouldn't believe my own husband if he was accused of something like this and he is my world, never mind a random stranger. I don't believe women and children lie about this sort of thing and it would be wrong to pretend I do.

I would happily sit on a different sort of case.

CakeBump Wed 10-Oct-12 15:21:46

You can't defend someone you KNOW is guilty.

But without KNOWING that, everyone has the right to fair trial.

So in answer to your question - they sleep soundly.


mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 15:24:38

actually, thats not true, at the moment, its all too raw and I doubt I could enter the court building without sobbing, but in time I would happily sit on a different type of trial

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 15:29:08

CakeBump,but you can defend someone you know is guilty providing they havent told you they are guilty, because you are intelligent enough to have worked it out.

CakeBump Wed 10-Oct-12 15:30:35

You can't know unless they've confessed though. You can suspect. It's different.

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 15:33:19

Perhaps a better way to understand is that it's not the defense's job to "get the accused off" it's the State's job to prove the person did the crime, and the defense's job to make sure the State does its job.

The State is completely powerful and can really do anything it wants to do. The criminal justice system is in place to restrain the State from doing that.

mumsbum it is highly unlikely you'd be asked to sit on a jury if you expressed that opinion. This is the purpose of voir dire, to make sure the jury members DON'T harbor prejudices that would make them unable to objectively weigh the evidence. No one wants jurers who can't be objective, it's not fair to anyone. This is why jury selection is an art of its own.

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 15:35:57

amillionyears it is rarely that clear, even smart people have prejudices and can be misinformed. And you can't know without a confession. You certainly tell your client that the evidence presented will very likely result in a conviction, or that you don't have much evidence to refute what the state has. But that's not the same as "knowing".

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 15:37:23

No, you cannot defend someone you know to be guilty: you would either know they are guilty because they told you that they are, or you would know they are guilty because you witnessed them committing the offence, in which case you shouldn't be representing them anyway. You may have a strong suspicion or belief that they are guilty, but that is not the same as knowing it. Even the jury are not told to convict if they know the person is guilty, but if they are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.

As a barrister or advocate you have to let go of the ego of knowing, so that you can look objectively at all the evidence.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 15:41:44

monster, having seen a juror, with their fingers crossed, appearing to pray they aren't selected, I did wonder, but yes I assumed, I would never be asked to sit on that sort of trial with my views, which I would honestly express. It would be fundamentally wrong of me to do so.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 15:42:47

ah,thank you,those last 4 posts make things quite a lot clearer.
Hope they help the op and others.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 15:43:51

x post.mumsbum posted just before I did.
I meant the 4 posts before mumsbums

mayorquimby Wed 10-Oct-12 16:39:03

"I have wondered, how you sleep at night, knowing you have had a part in letting a rapist, a child abuser, walk free, especially if at some point, they re-offend and are convicted and you find out about that."

Well the issue for me here is that I haven't done anything to allow them to walk free. The prosecution have failed to discharge the burden of proof.
If for example it involves a dodgy warrant etc. then it's not that the barrister has squeezed them through a loophole or gotten them off on a technicality as it is often portrayed, it's that the prosecution who are alleging a breach of the law have not followed the proper procedure and protections which apply to all citizens.
It's not a case of "win at all costs" and invent stuff to get them off. It's a case of, if you want to lock someone up for a crime then you had damn well better do it by the book.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 16:46:41

The problem in your above post,mayorquimby,is that it appears you are saying that if you are better at your job than the prosecuting lawyer,you may win a case that you shouldnt have won.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 16:48:27

In an ideal world truth and justice should come first.

lollilou Wed 10-Oct-12 16:49:05

GoSakuramachi An emotive thread title provokes an interesting response don't you think. But I absolutely disagree with your version of my post. By the way you may want to know that there was more behind my post than idle curiosity but I do not want to discuss that so this will be my last comment. EldritchCleavage Yes I think a citizenship class would be a great idea. I think we leave school with huge gaps in our understanding of society as a whole.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 16:53:36

It's a game I think amillion it's not about truth or even justice, it's about points of law not people.

I do have a far greater understanding as a result of posts like mayors - the "people" - defendant or victim, aren't important - the points of law are.

I still couldn't do it, but until we change our system - I guess someone has to.

I do see barristers as perpetuating their clients lies - but if they can tell themselves that's their job and they are upholding the great british legal system - that's for them to decide - I guess defence barristers aren't reponsible for the fundamental flaws in the system.

One day we will have a system where the truth is the most important thing - bit I doubt it will be in our lifetime - it requires a huge amount of change and willingness to change - and even then the wheels of beauracracy grind ever slowly.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 16:57:40

mayors - yes I understand - but to me tbh - it's just word games - the basic concept I have taken from this thread is if a client wants to please not guilty it's a barristers duty to try to find flaws in the prosecutions case.

I do have far more respect for some defence barristers - it's clear from this thread that the legal professionals posting on it - are dedicated to the law - it's not their fault the "law" is letting so many victims down.

There is one noticeable exception to that - the poster who immediately jumped in with age old rape myths - but in every profession there will be exceptions.

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 17:07:44

It's not my version of your post, it is your post. At least own it.

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 17:14:21

I think it would require teleportation and time travel to ever be sure that you have arrived at the 'truth' of something. Even then you could transport all the jurors back to observe the incident happening and you would probably still end up with more than one version of the 'truth' of what happened in most instances. One thing that becomes plain to anyone who has worked in the criminal justice system that even impartial witnesses are very likely to give differing accounts of what they have seen and heard. If they give identical stories it usually raises significant suspicions that they have in fact invented a story to agree on.

What most trials hope to end up with is a consensus. An agreement as to how a bunch of evidence should be interpreted. Each person involved in reaching that consensus probably holds a different version of the 'truth' in their mind. What each version entails is as much shaped by things that have influenced those individuals outside the courtroom as what they have heard within it.

As mumsbum has admitted, she now has an inclination to believe that there is likely to be truth behind any allegation of sexual assault, and would struggle to overcome this prejudice if she sat on a jury in an unrelated case. Maybe the answer as to why the jurors in the case she was involved in found that there was not an assault is just as much shaped by their influences outside of that case than those within it?

BlueberryHill Wed 10-Oct-12 17:22:00

Its been a really interesting thread. I believe absolutely in the pillar stones of our justice system, innocent until proven guilty and everyone has a right to and deserves a proper defence and ability to put their defence forward.

I agree with the pp who said the best way to look at it is that the prosecutor has to prove his case, the defence is their to make sure that he does that.

When my DH started out, he started in criminal law, I know a lot of defence solicitors and barristers. Without exception they are intelligent, moral and thoughtful people who believe in the concepts of our justice system but do acknowledge the practical limitations of it.

A lot of the people they defend are career criminals, however as said above a robust prosecution and defence are required. My DH thought that in his short 'criminal' career that only a couple of the people were innocent. The key word is thought, he didn't know and it isn't his job to try and sentence someone, that is the role of the court with a jury.

mayorquimby Wed 10-Oct-12 17:31:55

"In an ideal world truth and justice should come first."

But your version of justice and may be very different. Ditto with concepts of justice in relation to an individual trial and how you would like to run a whole system.

So lets take the example I gave above of a faulty search warrant. We have a fictional crime whereby irrefutably damning evidence was found on the back of an improperly obtained search warrant. The evidence found is the essence of the prosecution case and without it a conviction would not occur. Should we let the evidence stand even though improperly obtained? After all then justice will be served, the accused is guilty of the crime as proved by the evidence.

However you could also argue that justice would not be served as this mans right to a fair trial will have been breached, he will be convicted based on evidence found in contravention to the legal process and unlawfully obtained.

Let's go one further and look at the system as a whole.
Can we all agree that we would not wish to vest in the police the authority to search anyones house they feel like? (although some may still argue "if you've got nothing to hide etc.")
It is only right and just that citizens will have their right to privacy and autonomy of dwelling infringed upon where there is just cause and where the relevant authority has vested such powers of entry,search and seizure. To that end we then say that to obtain a search warrant certain strict procedure must be met and the authority given by people in positions who have the power to vest such authority (be it judges or chef super intendents etc. depending on where you live.)
If these procedures are not properly followed then surely it is not justice to post-facto justify or grant authority on the basis that something was found.
That is justice as well. If evidence is obtained in contravention to lawful procedure then it would be wholly unjust to allow it to be presented in court.

Similarly if a prosecution case has not been tested to the point where one can be certain that it has proved the accusation beyond reasonable doubt it would be wholly unjust to proceed with a prosecution.

"the basic concept I have taken from this thread is if a client wants to please not guilty it's a barristers duty to try to find flaws in the prosecutions case."

In some circumstances that's exactly what it is.
But that is how it should be imho. The core principal is that if you accuse someone of something then it is up to you to prove the veracity of that accusation.
This can't be done (in any field of acadmia or debate) without having someone test and examine the case. It's never as black and white as truth vs untruth or justice vs injustice.
There will be gaps of memory, contradicting statements. both accused and victim will often try and present their best version of the truth and downplay any failings they have in the incident (normally around drunken fights etc.)
So even if you are not putting forward a positive defence, it is still vital that someone is there to say "witness x said that the first punch was thrown with the left hand on the landing but witness Y says the accused had a drink in that hand at the time... is that plausible. have the prosecution convinced you beyond a reasonable doubt that the version of events which they present is the correct one." etc.

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 17:50:28

I had a great post, but it got sucked into the ethersphere.

All I can add is that often the "truth" is much more subjective than you'd like to believe.
When I was prosecuting cases I had a victim who had no idea that they were in fact the abuser. No clue. Honestly believed that they were the victim. The accused didn't really refute this as they were embarrassed by the whole thing. After some interviews and digging, we dropped the case. The "perpetrator" was the victim in that particular case. But if you'd spoken with the victim, there was a great injustice done.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 17:54:40

Yikes.That was a long answer. I am pretty sure I and a lot of posters are going to struggle to plough through and understand it,though I am grateful you posted it.
Any chance you can shorten that? It is going to take me a certain amount of time to understand and digest it.

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 18:25:19

amillionyears - in summary - the courts do not concern themselves with 'truth', but with 'justice'. This is because there is no such thing as 'truth'.

HTH grin

lljkk Wed 10-Oct-12 18:26:06

I guess the problem is that Jo Public thinks "Well the police obviously have a watertight case, how can the Defence lawyer stomach defending against that?" But the only reason the police seem to have a watertight case is because the police expect the Defence to test the evidence; the police would be tempted to do a shoddy job otherwise in their gathering of evidence, if they could get away with a lower burden of proof. So if you want the police to investigate crime competently, you want good Defence lawyers.

Alternative scenario: we lock up people willy nilly because they sure seem like guilty scumbags, and if they're not guilty of this particular crime they're probably guilty of something else just as bad; meanwhile the cleverest criminals get away with loads because nobody looks hard enough to make sure we've caught the truly guilty for each and every previous crime. We could even have a scenario where rich criminals paid poor people (or their families) to take the blame for crimes & serve the prison sentences. Some people would take the payments. Imagine if Al-Mugrahi did exactly that for Lockerbie bombings.

What if only the rich could pay for a good defence lawyer, and the poor had to represent themselves? That's why everyone is entitled to a qualified competent confident lawyer, if you want any semblance of justice being fair in the legal system. And why Lady Justice is blindfolded.

May I point out that some confessions are false, or coerced? A confession is not truly good evidence of guilt, either, quite often.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 18:42:23

major,I have tried to have a better read of your post,and somewhat understand it I think.
I dont really understand the concept of a faulty search warrant. How can a search warrant be faulty?
Am beginning to think there are systems failures in the legal system. Would you agree with that?
Does it make you personally cringe if you have defended someone,who the jury decides is guilty? Not just because you lost the case,but because the jury,with all the evidence submitted to them,has decided that the person is guilty.

OurPlanetNeptune Wed 10-Oct-12 18:54:23

My father is involved in international politics and as such has lived and worked in countries where the concept of justice is lacking. He will tell you that there is no justice system in the world that is flawless but he does say that a legal system that speaks for/supports the victim as well affords a defendant the right to counsel and upholds the idea of innocent until proven guilty is the corner stone of a functioning democracy.

Every defence barrister I know sleeps very well, as they should.

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 18:57:55

I think what mayor means by a faulty search warrant is where one has been obtained but not by due process, or it has been uses improperly- for example the police obtain a warrant to search a suspect's place of business, but they also search the suspect's home, for which they don't have a warrant.

I would not agree that there are systemic problems with the criminal justice system. I accept that it is not perfect, and that it doesn't always get the right result, but it has been refined for hundreds of years by people who genuinely have tried to obtain the right result. Human behaviour and experience is so varied it is impossible to design a neat little box into which every scenario neatly fits.

And no, I don't think defence lawyers cringe when they lose. At the end of the day it is your job, and if you over-invest and take each verdict as a personal reflection you will burn out within months, and not be able to do your job effectively.

TandB Wed 10-Oct-12 19:20:50

I'm actually pissed off with some of the comments on this thread all over again.

I've just spent all bloody day sat in a badly-managed court to represent a woman who, but for one bad thing that happened in her life, through no fault of her own, would probably be happily Mumsnetting at this very minute. She was highly educated, articulate and had worked in a number of professional jobs. She had a family and children. And then something fairly mundane went wrong - something that is posted about on MN all the time - and it had a catastrophic knock-on effect on her life.

She is now hopelessly enmeshed in the criminal justice system, with every substance abuse problem going and a catalogue of mental health issues. She has been abused, assaulted, abandoned by everyone she loves and was sleeping on a bench for a while.

And now she is going to prison again because nothing I said I could persuade them not to lock her up.

It's shit, utter shit what happens to some people, and then a whole bunch of posters, most of whom have not a solitary clue what they are talking about, come on MN and give a massive, ill-informed kicking to those of us trying our best to help people through the system.

I probably won't sleep terribly well tonight because I am upset about that poor bloody woman. That should make some people feel better.

I'm done with these threads. They are all bollocks sweeping generalisations and "oh but I don't mean yoooooou". This is the last legal thread I am even opening on MN because I really, really can't be bothered anymore. It's bad enough sometimes doing the job without having to defend it as well.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 19:29:08

mayor I think I get it - but the difference between you and me is - if something "proves" that someone did something - I don't really care how that something was obtained, it's not my job to care - as a member of the public, I only care that a criminal is taken off the streets - and I had first hand experience of what is allowable as a defence as opposed to what is allowable by the prosecution and the defence has a lot more leeway than the prosecution.

A defendant can say whatever he/she likes as I said a victim has no recourse.

So a barrister can say in summing up (RL example), this can't be a rape victim, they aren't upset enough.

That victim has made numerous suicide attempts, been through over a year of psychiatrist treatment and also counselling from a rape crisis centre.

Because we are at the summing point - it's too late to answer this.

The victim has no opportunity to answer the defences accusations that they aren't a "proper" rape victim - this being the first and only time the defence has referred to this.

Tell me - from a victims point of view - how is this "fair".

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 19:30:58

panda as I said upthread, your posts have helped changed my views on defence barristers - they haven't been pointless.

CelticPromise Wed 10-Oct-12 19:35:32

Kungfu sad

Sorry you've had such a shitty day. I completely agree those are the kind of cases that keep you awake at night. I often say that there are very few people I've represented who had nothing at all likeable about them and that many cases make me think ' there but for the grace of God'.

But that's why it's worth doing isn't it? And I hope you continue to post on these threads, your posts are really thoughtful and clear.

Hope you get some rest and have a better day tomorrow. Just don't think about your hourly rate for today, it might push you to wine.

mayorquimby Wed 10-Oct-12 19:36:48

Well a search warrant could be faulty if it has the wrong name, address, time or date on it.
It could be faulty if it is obtained under false pretences or without just cause for suspicion etc. there's a million different ways.

"Does it make you personally cringe if you have defended someone,who the jury decides is guilty? Not just because you lost the case,but because the jury,with all the evidence submitted to them,has decided that the person is guilty."

Absolutely not. I do not cringe in the slightest. The job is much less adverserial than many seem to imagine. The role of both defendant and prosecuting counsel is simply to present the evidence to the courts.
If my client says that he was nowhere near the scene of the crime then that is as much evidence as the victim identifying him or even definitive cctv images of him committing the crime. It is not my job to decide what evidence is to be accepted as fact, that is the sole role of the jury.
I have no dog in the fight, anyone thinking that they will build a practice on shoddy methods or underhand practices to get off guilty clients will not survive in the profession for the most part. What you do is set out to test the prosecution to the extreme.
If we are to accept that the standard should be to convinve a jury that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt then there must be someone who's role it is to present arguments and doubts about the prosecutions evidence. It is then for the jury to sift through what they have been presented with and decide which evidence rings true for them and if having considered all the evidence presented they believe the person is guilty.
If a jury sifts through all the evidence and finds a client of mine guilty then I have still done my job and fulfilled my role in the courts.

mayorquimby Wed 10-Oct-12 19:41:01

"if something "proves" that someone did something - I don't really care how that something was obtained, it's not my job to care - as a member of the public,"

but as a member of the public surely you would care if the government decided that any member of the police could at any time and for whatever reason enter and search any member of the publics private dwelling.
Cases can't be viewed in isolation. We have rules of law and evidence to protect the innocent because every knows that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
So we put checks and balances in place. The police can't search a house unless X procedures have been complied with and fulfilled. If they do then they will be held to have brokenthe law and unlawfully obtained evidence will not be admissible in court. Otherwise the police would be put in a power where they could too easily abuse their power and become unchecked and corrupted.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 19:43:12

kungfupannda - I'd like to repeat what mumsbum said.

I can completely understand that threads where posters have really strong opinions but no understanding whatsoever of what goes on in the criminal justice system can be really depressing and demoralising, but I'm certain that your posts do a lot of good in helping people to understand a lot better how the system works.

I also notice that on MN quite often a really good post simply gets no response. Possibly this is because other posters are digesting what's been said, possibly it's because many posters are in a confrontational mood and just don't want to say 'thanks, I understand now'.

But I've been reading your posts for a couple of years now and they always interest me as I know they'll be very, very intelligent ones.

Just wanted to let you know.

lljkk Wed 10-Oct-12 19:44:22

If you don't care how the evidence was obtained then you don't care if it was planted, either, or fabricated, right?
Badly obtained evidence increases the risk that the true guilty person will go free. It serves interests of no one except the corrupt.

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 19:47:52

It's everybodies job to care. You'd soon care if it was you.

Viviennemary Wed 10-Oct-12 19:48:53

Because it's their job. To ensure people get a fair trial. They should sleep as well as anybody else.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 19:58:23

I don't believe our police force are fundamentally corrupt.

And the few that are - I am sure they find ways .......

I have been on the other side of this system - and from a victims point of view, I don't think it's fair at all - and stats bear this out.

Too many criminals walk free - free to live their lives and free to offend over and over again.

londonone Wed 10-Oct-12 20:03:49

Mumsbum, do you know what the conviction rate is at the crown court and magistrates court? If not, take a guess

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 20:04:52

you don't know that. If they walk free, they have been judged not to be criminals.

What is your alternative then? We just decide which people look guilty and lock them up because we feel like it?

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 20:12:16

Crown Court I know - is approx 57-58% (last time I looked) - no ideas on magistrates - but then the attrition rate is huge - I don't think that just because something didn't make it to court - it should just be dismissed out of hand.

go my views on what I think should happen are clearly posted on this thread - and they aren't "lock em up and throw away the key".

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 20:14:52

If they walk free, they have been judged not to be criminals.

I wouldn't say that's necessarily so, GoS. It could - and often does - mean that on that occasion the CPS hasn't presented a strong enough case to get a conviction.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 20:16:07

What you have described sounds like what I witnessed.
For reasons I wont go into, I watched a case at a crown court,in the public gallery.
I cannot remember if the person in the dock had pleaded guilty or not.
But the case,which I watched from part way through,seemed quite bizarre.
The defence lawyer,the prosecutioin lawyer and the judge all barely looked at the defendant at all. They had legal books they were looking at,and quoted legal cases from the books at each other. It all felt a bit like a play. The judge occasionally looked at the accused to ask if he understood this or that,and that was about it. Case closed,accused given 18 months jail sentence.
I also thought that afterwards,the defence lawyer,the prosecution lawyer and the judge may all have gone off somewhere together for coffee or something stronger.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 20:19:04

My post was re mayorquimbys post.

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 20:19:53

2011 Conviction rates

Mags court - 78%
Crown court - 83%

These figures of course will include a proportion of cases where the person has committed the act but the court/jury has decided they have a valid defence. eg a defence of self-defence to an assault.

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 20:21:57

"I wouldn't say that's necessarily so, GoS. It could - and often does - mean that on that occasion the CPS hasn't presented a strong enough case to get a conviction."

And if they haven't secured a conviction, they are deemed not guilty. So not a criminal in the eyes of the law. So, exactly as I said.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 20:22:35

those are interesting, I am going to go back and source where I got my 57-58% figure from, I have only been reading re rape/sexual assault.

By tried does it mean where there is a "not guilty" plea, or do they mean everything that went to court, including guilty pleas.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 20:24:47

So you saw a hearing for sentencing, amillionyears?
In which case, I guess, the lawyers present would have been discussing guidelines, etc., possibly with defence counsel making a plea in mitigation. All sounds quite regular to me, as does the possiblity that they went for a drink afterwards.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 20:27:05

Could still have other convictions, GoS... grin
'Not a criminal' is not the same as not being found guilty (beyond reasonable doubt, blah blah) of a specific offence. SWIM?

GoSakuramachi Wed 10-Oct-12 20:29:26

Well obviously, but the context was in one particular instance rather than as a career!

If you are tried for one crime and not convicted, you are not a criminal as far as the law is concerned (notwithstanding any previous convictions that would render this determination invalid)

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 20:31:59

Ok, I have had a further look at the link provided, and this springs out


In 2011, 86 per cent of offenders sentenced at the Crown Court pleaded guilty to the offence.
Most frequently, where a guilty plea was made, the plea was entered at an early stage of the proceedings, with 74 per cent of offenders pleading guilty either before or at the Plea and Case Management Hearing (PCMH).
In 64 per cent of cases, the plea was entered at the first reasonable opportunity.

If you take that and the 83% quoted earlier (I dont understand the reduction from 86%-83% but I assume its to do with cases falling through between a gulty plea and a sentencing hearing), it suggests to me that practically every not guilty plea ended in a not guilty verdict and as stated way way back, the prisons are full of people who have pleaded guilty.

This in turn suggests that in most trials, defendants are found not guilty, indicating to me, that victims are not getting fair trials.

But that is based on a 2 second look at that website, which I have now bookmarked for a better look tomorrow.

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 20:34:07

I think the figures include all cases, including where a guilty plea has been entered.

The thing is you wouldn't want a conviction rate that was much higher, as it would be an indication that the prosecution were only bringing cases where the chance of conviction was high, and were not proceeding to prosecute where the evidence is not clear - thereby increasing the risk of offenders not even being prosecuted.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 20:34:58

This in turn suggests that in most trials, defendants are found not guilty, indicating to me, that victims are not getting fair trials.

can you explain the logic of that statement please?

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 20:36:31

I thought CPS already only brought cases if there's a 'reasonable' (reasonably high?) chance of conviction?

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 20:41:16

Ok, taking aside the drop from 86% guilty to 83% convicted, (don't understand that), the guilty pleas and conviction rates are remarkably similar, Ill just use 86% to illustrate my point (these are the Crown Court figures).

Conviction rate in a Crown Court is 83%. Of those convictions, 86% have pleaded guilty.

That means only 14% of cases ever go to trial on a not guilty plea, and the "not guilty (or not convicted) is 17%. Meaning, most trials result in a not guilty verdict, add this to this massive attrition rate and huge levels of under reporting generally.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 20:41:54

But as I said, I havent spent any detailed time looking at the site yet.

CelticPromise Wed 10-Oct-12 20:53:27

From a quick look those conviction rates are for cases that go to trial and don't include guilty pleas.

Just to clarify Thistledew they wouldn't include those found to have a valid defence, they would be acquitted. Unless a partial defence in a murder case.

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 20:55:23

What you have to remember is that with regards to the 86%, they plead guilty because they know or have been advised that the evidence against them is such that conviction is almost inevitable. I have yet to meet a criminal who throws up his/her hands and pleads guilty where there isn't enough evidence to convict! Each of the victims to those crimes have got justice.

Nyancat Wed 10-Oct-12 20:59:58

Sorry to jump in on this but are those figures not suggestive that in fact significant numbers of those charged plead guilty, perhaps on advice of legal representatives that on the basis of evidence against them they are likely to be found guilty and therefore with fewer 'guilty' defendants going to full trial it is more likely that the aquittal rates are g

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 21:00:16

or they dont want to take their chances on not getting a reduced sentence.

Nyancat Wed 10-Oct-12 21:01:49

Sorry to jump in on this but are those figures not suggestive that in fact significant numbers of those charged plead guilty, perhaps on advice of legal representatives that on the basis of evidence against them they are likely to be found guilty and therefore with fewer 'guilty' defendants going to full trial it is more likely that the aquittal rates are going to be higher as you are weeding out the clearly guilty earlier.

I'm on my phone so can't read this properly but hopefully this explains the gist of my point

Thistledew Wed 10-Oct-12 21:07:57

Celtic - yes, sorry I wasn't clear- those people who raise defences are part of the people acquitted. I mentioned this to illustrate that it might be agreed that the defendant did the act, rather than in cases where the prosecution are not able to show that the person was involved or that they did the act complained of.

CelticPromise Wed 10-Oct-12 21:15:13

Ah I get you. Was confused. smile

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 21:16:24

Im more confused by those stats now after half hour of looking than I was when I started looking. I cant find it broken down by offence either, which is where my real interest lies.

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 21:47:51

LastMango,perhaps it was a hearing for sentencing,as opposed to a trial? i dont know.
I think what surprised me the mpst apart from the fact that the defendant seemed somewhat incidental to the whole proceedings,was that the legal people seemd so chummy with each other. I always thought they would have been somewhat at each others throats.
The chumminess element somewhat alarmed me. It was easy for me to think that all sorts of things could go on behind the scenes.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 22:25:02

I always thought they would have been somewhat at each others throats.

I think maybe that comes from films/TV where legal reps are passionately entwined in their clients' cases?
Which isn't to say that RL lawyers can't be passionate about their cases, just that RL professionals tend to be a bit more professional than fictional ones. (Well, let's hope so, anyway...)
So there's no reason for opposing sides to be antagonistic towards each other, no reason that that would help advance anyone's interests.
It's not uncommon for colleagues who get on very well to work in opposition to each other on a case. Why wouldn't they? The work has nothing to do with how they feel about each other personally, nor should it.

The chumminess element somewhat alarmed me. It was easy for me to think that all sorts of things could go on behind the scenes.

But you were at a public hearing, no?
So you saw what went on, what discussion, etc.
So where was the opportunity for something untoward (i.e. concerning this case) to go on 'behind the scenes'?

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 22:28:55

Also, WRT the defendant seeming 'incidental'.

If the lawyers were working with facts, guidelines, etc., then in some ways, the defendant's presence was incidental. (S)he would still have been there as obviously (s)he would have aright to be there, to witness proceedings, continue to instruct representative, etc.
But (without meaning to sound flippant or sarcastic), it would hardly be appropriate for the lawyers to turn to the defendant and ask 'What do you make of all this then?' or turn and eyeball the defendant to try and get the measure of whether they liked the look of them, etc.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 22:44:08

I'm going to make a final comment, then I'm going to hide the thread, I am trying to get on with my life, I am not very good at it (getting on with life).

Speaking personally, when you have seen a rapist walk free, someone you KNOW with 100% certainty, is guilty, you aren't left with a great deal of faith in this system, you have already spent the run up to the trial, reading account, after victim account, you prepare yourself, to be called a liar, to be attacked in court, you tell yourself the defence lawyer is only doing their job, the rapist is only trying to save his own arse, literally.

All you are left with is questions, that no-one can answer.

The support (what little there is), confirms, this happens all the time, and quite likely will happen to someone else, they focus on helping you understand that isn't your responsibility.

There is sleepless night after sleepless night after sleepless night, after sleepless month and sleepless year, only now, with no hope.

You no longer have any faith or belief in justice, you fear for the safety of your children and you trust, NO-ONE, not even yourself and your own judgement any more.

However unpleasant it may be for defence lawyers to be called liars, and I can see from this thread there are some with integrity, it is 1 million billion times worse to be called a liar in court, and to watch a rapist go free, to be judged by his friends, and his family, as a liar and for him to be vindicated in calling you that.

For a defence barrister, its a job, you go home at the end of the day, secure in the knowledge you are an essential part of the legal system (which I actually agree with at the moment).

For a victim of these sorts of crimes, you have just been branded a liar, in some peoples eyes, for life.

And all the while you know, 6%, just 6% of reported rape and sex crime results in a conviction, and those convictions are often for lesser charges. It doesn't matter what comes after, what conviction rate happens in actual court, you are suppose to feel somehow "lucky", that you are one of the lucky few that managed to even get there, that you have cast some shadow of doubt on the perpetrator.

Life for you, will never ever be the same.

Me I can't even tell the therapist how I feel anymore, I have been forcing myself to move on with life, for so long - even I don't know what is real anymore.

Off topic, but then the thread has moved way off topic anyway.

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 22:46:49

mumsbum I think you are confusing the victims rights with the State's right to bring criminal charges. A victim has no real action in a criminal case. It's the State against the accused, not the victim.
A victim MAY bring a case against the accused in civil court (in the US and I assume in the UK) for what was done. The most famous of this type of case is of course, the OJ Simpson case.

The State screwed the pooch on that one, but the victim's family didn't, and they were able to punish OJ for what happened. So there are remedies for victims, they just don't always involve putting someone in jail.

The Jerry Sandusky case is another where some of the victims will very probably bring a civil case against Sandusky for what he did to them. (and this on top of serving 30-60 years in prison).

amillionyears Wed 10-Oct-12 22:48:21

"It's not uncommon for colleagues who get on together very well to work in opposition to each other on a case".
Maybe because it is getting late,but my mind is boggling on how that works.

re "behind the scenes"
From an ordinary persons point of view,ie me,law seems and looks confusing and difficult to understand.
So,from what I saw,it is easy to think that any group of the legal people involved in a certain case,if chummy, could quite easily stitch up the victims and or the accused. We,as Joe Public,wouldnt really know if we were being stitched up or not.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 22:55:40

"It's not uncommon for colleagues who get on together very well to work in opposition to each other on a case".
Maybe because it is getting late,but my mind is boggling on how that works.

It works in that both are working to a set of rules, both within a set procedure and system, both dispassionately to clear and separate goals.
No need to be shaking fists and snarling at each other.

Why would it be in the interests of the legal profession to 'stitch up' the public? What would be gained from that?

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 22:58:37

amillionyears I agree that to a non-lawyer it can be very distressing to see opposing counsel being friendly. You want your counsel to be as invested as you are. I do try to not be too chummy in front of clients for this exact reason. But I am always polite and professional. Some clients even think that is wrong!

I have a funny story about chummy attorneys. I had a client's mother who told me she was certain that her divorce attorney had been married to her husband's divorce attorney (and thus why she'd not gotten what she'd wanted from the divorce). They'd both had the same last name, you know: Esq.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 23:10:06

monster, a victim should have more rights in court, as I described below, most importantly to me, the right to question the defence so they cannot make unchallenged accusations as part of their summing up, also defence barristers should be required to stick to the evidence and not throw in whatever they feel like, in the same way as the prosecution.

Why should the defence get to produce witnesses the day of the trial, in some cases witnesses the victim has trusted and relied upon, up until the actual trial, while the prosecution has to provide the defence with a list of witnesses.

Does a victim not have the right to know they are relying on someone who is planning to give evidence against them?? Actually you don't need to answer that, I already know from personal experience, the victim doesn't have that right and the defence can basically produce whatever evidence/witnesses they like, whenever they like. They are not subject to the same rules as the prosecution. I know this from finding a close (and I mean close) family member, outside the court, waiting to be a defence witness when a week before we were out having a meal and I was crying on their shoulder, its more violation of victims and betrayal, heaped on top of what has already happened.

Victims don't have rights. Defendants have rights, victims don't have legal representation, defendants have legal representation.

And as for civil prosecutions, they are beyond the means of most day to day people, and we wont discuss the effect and impact all of this has had on a victim already, most of whom have families relying on them and whether the emotional strain of a civil case, if you have the rather large sums of money needed to action one, may be more than they can bear.

I understand only too well how the system works and how some not all barristers will play it. Thats an improvement on my views prior to this thread, a belief that there are some good defence barristers.

I don't think, and never will think, the system is working for victims - however well it is working for defendants.

No system that allows rapists and child abusers to walk free on a regular basis, is, IMO, working, and like any system, there is always room for improvement.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 23:13:16

(ps - I would expect all parties to be civil to each other, I have no doubt they all attend the same law society events, thats professional)

londonone Wed 10-Oct-12 23:27:54

But the trial isn't about the victim, it is a trial of the defendant.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 23:30:42

That is exactly right - Sad thing to me - is you don't actually see what is wrong with that statement.

It should be about both - both parties should be held to equal standards.

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 23:34:49

mumsbum I can only say that I have never had a trial where the defense could produce a witness that had not been previously named to the prosecution. That's not actually possible where I practice, so I don't know why that happened in your case. it seems it would be grounds for an appeal if the case turned on that witness's testimony. I think your big complaint is with the prosecutor, not the defense. But again, that's just going by what I know here.

And whether or not the prosecutor tells the victim everything that is happening isn't set in stone either. Which is unfair for the victim, I agree.

And yes, it is harsh, but the defense should be able to produce any witness that will shed light on the case. That's not to say the witness is always willing (they must go if subpoened) but yes, just because you are friends with someone who saw you drive into the other person doesn't mean the other driver can't call them to testify against you.

I can see why you feel betrayed, and I can certainly see why you feel like you do. But the system really wasn't set up to help victims, it was set up to punish defendants. Again, the reasons behind this system are valid and good, and in many cases the outcomes are also just.
But not all cases, and that is a reality that we as a society have to wrestle with. It can be changed, and does get tweaked all the time, but sometimes that isn't enough or in time.

there are victims right groups who are working on changing some of the things you have been subjected to. And different jurisdictions handle these cases differently, there are situations where the victim is allowed to confront the defendant directly in a court sanctioned setting.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 23:46:11

I am Not saying the defence shouldn't produce whoever they like - but that the victim should have the same rights as the defendant to question the "evidence" that is being used.

And also the right to choose who they have in their life - exactly the same as the defendant.

I am aware of victims rights groups and work towards implementing some of my ideas - but it won't happen quickly.

londonone Wed 10-Oct-12 23:47:25

I didn't actually give an opinion about whether it is wrong or right.

mumsbum Wed 10-Oct-12 23:50:59

I know how it is - I dont need to be told - anyway bed - DH cross (in a concerned way).

monsterchild Wed 10-Oct-12 23:57:50

mumsbum again, the victim does have that right in their own civil case.

Thistledew Thu 11-Oct-12 00:59:19

Monsterchild has a point mumsbum. Why don't you take some advice about bringing a civil action against this man? You won't be able to send him to prison but if you succeed you will be able to claim substantial damages against him and you will have the vindication of a judgment saying he has done what you claim.

The standard of proof that you have to meet is lower- you would only have to prove the facts on the balance of probabilities rather than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. You know where your case lacked evidence before, and can address this before you proceed. In a civil case you can also get orders for the other party to make disclosure of documents that might not be admitted in a criminal case.

mumsbum Thu 11-Oct-12 07:41:57

We have considered a civil case - I know the burden of proof is lower - but we can't face it and can't afford it. It was suggested to u's months ago.

I know there are "blame and claim" type firms who do take on sexual abuse cases, a quick google shows that but this has been traumatic enough.

It is an idea that rears it's head every now and then.

When I'm not so - I'm not sure what the right word is, traumatised, bitter, I plan to work with victims and find some solace in helping others - but it's not the right time yet - I'd do more harm than good.

As far as this system goes - the guilty should be found guilty, the victim should know the likelihood of that is high if they go to police, not slim.

The fact it isn't like that - I think it would be easier to bear if we were unique, but we aren't - far from it, miscarriages of justice work both ways - I'd stake an awful lot of money that far more often they work against the victim.

(as an aside I may look into how long we have to take a civil case - but unless it's free - financially this has crippled us as I can't work, other than school run, I rarely leave the house).

mumsbum Thu 11-Oct-12 07:42:55

But thank you both for the suggestion - it is kind - and I think good debate is important.

mumsbum Thu 11-Oct-12 07:55:40

PS - I know (well guess) if you are a defence barrister - for you it's not a miscarriage of justice it's the system working, but that's not how it seems from the point of view of a victim.

mumsbum Thu 11-Oct-12 08:15:29

I reallY am hiding this now - thanks for all the responses to me and generally - it's been interesting and has changed my view of barristers - if not the system.

Thistledew Thu 11-Oct-12 08:32:01

Do remember though that if a case is taken to court, there is an 83% chance of conviction. I would not describe that as slim. The chance of conviction only drops where there is a not-guilty plea.

amillionyears Thu 11-Oct-12 09:09:03

Does the lawyer profession sometimes feel that Joe Public walks into their world, a bit like a fly going into a spiders web?

amillionyears Thu 11-Oct-12 09:12:27

Actually,that may sound a bit harsh.
I think it was the comment about " But the trial isnt about the victim, it is a trial of the defendant" that triggered it.

MrsHoarder Thu 11-Oct-12 10:01:53

But it is about the defendsnt, the police/CPS has decided it believes the victim and it has to convince an independent body that it is definitely true and the accussed deserves t o loose their liberty. The burden of proof is so high because its time which cannot be returned if the sentence is found to be unjust.

I remember doing some pro bono work assisting people facing eviction and the one thing that struck me when you are dealing face to face with an ordinary member of the public who is facing losing the roof over their head is how intimidating the whole courts system is if you are not used to it. Quite often a significant part of our role was to help people cope with the experience and organise their thoughts, clarify the facts etc so we could represent them at all. These were not complex cases, they were not in open court, no formal dress, before a District Judge or DDJ and people still found them hugely intimidating.

EldritchCleavage Thu 11-Oct-12 12:09:27

as a member of the public, I only care that a criminal is taken off the streets

It frightens me if people can say this, not caring how that criminal is taken off the streets. It desperately matters how people are investigated, tried and convicted. Without the system being kept honest (most effectively, by having proper defence representation, how long would it take for things to degenerate into a 'round up the usual suspects' type scenario?

wordfactory Thu 11-Oct-12 13:27:43

People only say that when it's not them being unfairly accused of somehting. Or someone they love.

Suddenly the issues of fair trials and systemic adherence to the rules take on significence.

HazleNutt Thu 11-Oct-12 13:35:07

Hm really seems here that most people imagine like they could never be the accused. That those are bad people; only criminals can end up in court anyway. Could never be me or someone I know - right?

wordfactory Thu 11-Oct-12 13:41:53

Oh yes, the police never we see from the Hillsborough report wink.

lljkk Thu 11-Oct-12 13:45:21

My ? 22yo cousin had some rough friends from high school. One evening he was out late socialising with them & fell asleep in the back of their car. He woke up suddenly to the sound of gunshots: one of his friends had picked a fight with an off-duty police-officer at a petrol station (this is in USA, btw). At least 2 people hospitalised with gunshot wounds.

Cousin had nothing to do with why anyone had any guns or used them, whoever started the argument, the decision to get petrol, etc. His only crime was socialising with old friends. Still he spent 3 days in jail, was accused of many things, and badly needed a damn good lawyer to avoid being charged.

FourthTimeAround Thu 11-Oct-12 22:09:59

It may sound harsh, but it is one hundred percent true.

ReindeerBOOOOllocks Thu 11-Oct-12 23:10:51

Surely the irony of people getting worked up about 'criminals' getting off on trial is that it's the jury who make that decision? You know - the jury made up of ordinary folk just like everyone on MN?

This has been pointed out, and also shows that those challenging the legal system know very little about it.

Defence lawyers have to defend their clients case upon the instructions given by their client.

DH has also had cases which have made him very upset. Unfortunately he doesn't have the option of refusing work just because he doesn't like it. That's his job - just like any other profession.

amillionyears Fri 12-Oct-12 08:41:02

Reindeer,you are summing up well!
Just about all of us that dont use the legal system know very little about it, that is true.

Going back to a point I made late one evening,if the legal teams are chummy,does that not give the possibility that they could,between them all eg charge clients more than they should,withold evidence,choose to misrepresent evidence etc etc.Especially if the defence and the prosection all work for the same firm.
I dont know of any cases like this,I dont have much to do with the legal system.
Or are there many checks and balances in place to stop this happening.

Thistledew Fri 12-Oct-12 08:52:24

You could think that amillionyears- just as some people think that all doctors are in a conspiracy to keep us all sick so they are never out of work. I would suggest that it is a rather uncharitable view of people who go into a particular line of work because they believe in the importance of it to society.

Thistledew Fri 12-Oct-12 08:54:39

Not just uncharitable but downright insulting.

amillionyears Fri 12-Oct-12 09:27:19

I am very sorry to have insulted you Thistledew,and any other legal people I may have insulted.
I dont know that I do think that,just thinking things through.

I did ask if there is a possibility of that happening.
Perhaps someone else might like to answer that,or perhaps not.

MrsDonaldDraper Fri 12-Oct-12 09:34:00

Amillionyears - that is downright insulting to the professional integrity of many lawyers. I work in a law firm and there are strict procedures in place controlled by the Law Society to ensure neither side gains any information.

HazleNutt Fri 12-Oct-12 09:41:32

amillion, I understand why you think this might happen, but no it would not, if the person wants to keep working as a lawyer.

wordfactory Fri 12-Oct-12 10:04:08

amillion the decision to charge rests with the police and the CPS. Neither of these are a legal firm. Certainly no one for the defence works for the police or the prosecution.

If the CPS choose to instruct a barrister (who may indeed have colleagues in chambers who work for the defence), that is simply to run the court side of things. The case itself (and the continuing assessment of the case) will be run by a solicitor within the CPS.

amillionyears Fri 12-Oct-12 10:24:32

I am an ordinary person in the street.
I wouldnt think many on MN would even know that such a thing as the Law society exists,let alone what it does. I have vaguely heard of it,havent a clue what it does. I will have to google it.

Thank you for that expanation wordfactory, it helps to make things a little clearer.
Had no idea there are solicitors in the CPS running things.

Perhaps I had better stop asking questions now, as I am upsetting some people.

Lawyers are bound by very strict codes of ethics. Barristers are governed by the Bar Council / Bar Standards Board and Solicitors by the Law Society / Solicitors Regulation Authority. Both Barristers and Solicitors have a duty to the Court to present the case accurately and a duty to their client. To collude with the other side on a case would be a breach of both of those duties and a breach of either could be enough to have you struck off from the roll of practicing solicitors /barristers. If you are struck off you cannot work as a lawyer or tell people you are a lawyer etc.

If you see the Principles that drive the Solicitors Code of Conduct its clear that any form of chummy collusion would be a breach of quite a few of them (probably the first 6 of 10)

wordfactory Fri 12-Oct-12 10:50:15

Not at all is or should be a series of questions no?

The day I stop learning new things is the day I die.

And I actually think people are intrigued by the legal system. My books are about just that. In fact, at the risk of outing mysel, I write my first book in answer to the myriad times I'd been asked the question the OP is posing.

How it works is this (generally).

1.Police arrest suspect and take him to the nick.

2.They interview him, with or without a defence solicitor who comes from an oitside firm.

3. The arresting officer decides whether to charge. Some nicks have a resident CPS rep to help make the decision.

4. Suspect is either charged or bailed to return at another date pending further enquiries, or released without charge.

5. If charged the prosecutioin case is handed to the CPS who assign it to a lawyer (solicitor, barrister or clerk..but all in house).

6. As the case progresses the CPS may instruct a barrister, but the case lawyer within the CPS remains in day to day charge.

I agree with wordfactory ask away. If you don't understand how the legal system works then maybe us lawyers need to do a better job of explaining to people how things operate.

Just to emphasise a point. The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) is part of the State / Civil Service. It is a government body that employs solicitors and barristers to prosecute people. All criminal prosecutions (with the exception of limited rights to private prosecutions) are brought by the State, in the name of the State. So if I was being prosecuted the case would be listed as
R v ChazsBrilliantAttitude
i.e. Regina (the Queen /the State) versus ChazsBrilliantAttitude

wordfactory Fri 12-Oct-12 11:13:18

I've got a question actually.

Do briefs still go out tied with ribbon? Or are they emailed these days?

amillionyears Fri 12-Oct-12 11:18:43

I am somewhat enlightened and somewhat more confused in about equal measure!
I had no idea it was such a complicated thing,though I suppose it needs to be.
I didnt know that the CPS was part of the State/Civil Service,but thinking about it,I suppose it would have to be?
And all I thought the CPS did was decide whether there was enough evidence for a case to go to trial. Perhaps I should be watching some legal dramas about it all. But that was where I got the idea from that defence and proscuting lawyers almost hate each other.

The cases where they are eg Brown versus Smith are different again I presume. No one need answer that necessarily. Im thinking I should google some stuff. I will also look up the link that Chazs posted,later on.

Thanks for not minding me asking questions.

Brown v Smith would be a civil case not a criminal one.
Civil cases are disputes between often between private parties about contracts / agreements / commercial matters or may be family matters etc.

So if Mrs Brown sold 100 boxes of widgets to Mr Smith and Mr Smith didn't pay Mrs Brown would take him to court to sue him for the money and get a court judgement that he owed her the money.

The case would be listed as Brown v Smith and would be heard in a County Court or the High Court.

Criminal cases are heard in either in the Magistrates Court (minor offences) or the Crown Court. The most famous Crown Court is the Central Criminal Court which is on a street called Old Bailey hence its nickname.

mycatlikestwiglets Fri 12-Oct-12 12:01:49

amillionyears if you are serious about watching legal dramas, my criminal law tutor at Law School reckoned Judge John Deed was about the best UK drama in terms of having some realism (in terms of the system if not the other content). Most legal drama is complete tosh though I may have been known to shout at the screen due to complete lack of realism

CelticPromise Fri 12-Oct-12 12:11:49

Ha mycat when Silk was on DH made me agree not to say anything. I can't help the odd eye roll though!

amillionyears Fri 12-Oct-12 12:18:05

mycat and Celtic grin

I shall start watching Judge John Deed.
Didnt know there was a street called Old Bailey.

wordfactory Fri 12-Oct-12 12:23:28

Old Bailey is the street where the Central Criminal Courts are, known also as CCC or The Bailey.
Just round the corner from St Pauls.

The court itself stand on the site of the old Newgate gaol. It's pretty unassuming actually. The street is pretty narrow and you often find tourists wandering up and down thinking they can't possibly be in the right place grin
The iconic image of a court is the RCJ much further up and actually a civil court. The steps are often used in crime dramas though. One of my books has, hilariously, got the steps of the Supreme Court in the states on it because the editor (not in the uk) thought the Bailey was rubbish.

EldritchCleavage Fri 12-Oct-12 13:02:15

North Square was a fab one-much better than Judge John Deed (though I'm not saying it was realistic).

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

equinox Fri 12-Oct-12 14:26:35

Well I have known plenty of solicitors as I used to work in legal at one point in my life. A criminal lawyer told me 'you never ask them if they are guilty or not' perhaps that makes it easier!

However it must take some doing to defend creeps who have buggered old ladies outside Tescos I remember there were cases along those lines how disgusting!

Spero Fri 12-Oct-12 14:49:50

Wasn't there one episode of Judge John Deed where he had sex with a member of the jury, a defence witness AND the prosecution counsel while the criminal trial was ongoing? I don't think that is very realistic.

Or maybe I gave up criminal law too soon and have missed out on a lot.

Spero Fri 12-Oct-12 14:51:10

word factory - still get paper briefs tied up in pink string. There are a lot of Data protection issues around email. We will be drowning in paperwork for many years to come.

ThatVikRinA22 Fri 12-Oct-12 14:59:17

ive just done a video interview course, in which we were treated to this little gem from Ronald Thwaites QC

“There’s nothing personal about it, if I attack you and rip your arms and legs off and I nail your bleeding carcass to the witness box, its nothing I’ve got against you”. he went on to say "im just doing my job"

A nice quote from Ronald Thwaites QC, the famous and friendly criminal lawyer.

LastMangoInParis Fri 12-Oct-12 15:08:50

Still tied with pretty ribbons, wordfactory (and still affectionately known as 'bundles' of fun? ). White for civil, pink for crim, I believe.

ThatVikRinA22 Fri 12-Oct-12 15:12:29

i know that case theonewiththehair

Thistledew Fri 12-Oct-12 15:26:30

Pink ribbon is default for almost all cases. White is a Crown brief - Prosecution, Treasury Solicitor etc. Green I think is still used for Chancery cases.

wordfactory Fri 12-Oct-12 15:55:02

Vicar Ron was one of the biggest influences on my career as a lawyer. When I were a tiddler, just starting out, he was the QC on one of my cases.

He was probably one of the loveliest men I've ever met.

eurowitch Fri 12-Oct-12 16:26:51

In terms of everyone being pally, in my area of law (not criminal) this is often true. It's quite cliquey and everyone knowns everyone else. Nonetheless, people apply very strict ethical standards. For example, if you meet one of your judges at a social event or conference while the case is ongoing, you avoid one another or at most exchange a pleasantry about the weather. You absolutely do not mention the case. A colleague of mine was good friends with a judge who had a child while our case was ongoing. He waited until the case was over, many months later, to send a gift and congratulations. It would not have been proper to do otherwise. There is no written rule anywhere that says he could not send the gift in those circumstances, but everyone in the field is very concerned about propriety and acting well.

But if after the case if over one of the clients walked into a restaurant and saw them having a chummy dinner together with their respective wives, the client could get the wrong impression.

taxiforme Fri 12-Oct-12 18:12:32

Sometimes I wonder if I like my job.

It's stressful, emotional and not that well paid. Added to that criminal law is constantly changing and ever more complex.

As I mentioned before, the human need to empathise with someone who has been through something terrible or to understand someone doing something so dreadful to another human soul is often incredibly hard. All you want to do is turn the clock back for everyone involved.

So yes, sometimes sleep does not come easy whatever side you are on.

However. Reading these posts reminds my WHY we who do what we do. Just like all the other professionals who have to pick up broken lives.

We do it, actually, because someone has to. I am bloody glad that it's me.

Ooops. How Vicar?

I hope I haven't just outed myself my dad.
You are with the police from what I recall?

ThatVikRinA22 Fri 12-Oct-12 18:21:45

not outed at all - its just that case was within my force area and i know the case.

i have spoken to the head of our public protection unit about it - i dont personally know any other of the people involved in the investigation- i know the back story, i know the family involved - i dont know who counsel was in the case - so dont worry. i just know the case and the bobbies involved, the family involved - it was horrific.

ThatVikRinA22 Fri 12-Oct-12 18:23:32

i have trouble wordfactory with how such a lovely man can say such a thing - i realise we are in an adversarial system - but imagine being a rape victim on the receiving end of that statement he made.....

That's a relief. grin

It was such a bad one that I should have thought someone would recognise it. That'll teach me. smile

CelticPromise Fri 12-Oct-12 18:58:27

I could have a guess at it ThrOne but I wouldn't be sure. Just thought I'd better let you know if you are concerned.

Ok. I think I'll report my post. I still want to say thank you to everyone on here though. That bit still stands. smile

scarlettsmummy2 Fri 12-Oct-12 19:37:45

When I did law we were taught that if you get a guilty man off that is the fault of the prosecution for not doing their job properly.

ThatVikRinA22 Fri 12-Oct-12 20:06:41

well im sure that will be comfort to the victims of crime scarletsmummy

as a new PC we get sod all in the way of direction/training on prosecutions and the courts process. is that the victims fault then?

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 13-Oct-12 20:14:10

No, but I am just mentioning what we were taught when I studied law. I believe everyone has the right to a fair trial, and prosecutors should also be acting to their best abilities. If a police officer feels poorly prepared they need to get reading their law books a bit more the same as in any other job.

ThatVikRinA22 Sat 13-Oct-12 23:30:01

i find that quite insulting - ive just done a 5 day video interview course on evidence in chief - you get how many months training in this?
we were taught in 5 days how to be a laywer - to ask non leading, non multiple, no judgemental, non complex questions.
5 days.
refresh my memory in how many months of training a barrister gets?

ThatVikRinA22 Sat 13-Oct-12 23:34:14

oh and what law books are these? do you think we get provided law books?

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 13-Oct-12 23:35:17

It doesn't matter how many months of training a barrister gets. You wouldn't go to a GP and say 'oh well, you are only newly qualified, that's ok you misdiagnosed me'. When you qualify you are expected to be competent at your job- presuming you have to sit an exam to qualify. If you don't know what to do you go ask your superior for help. That is what the victim would expect you do.

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 13-Oct-12 23:38:52

If you aren't provided with law books you could always go the library. What do you think barristers do? Do you think they have someone that teaches them every little bit of law? The average law student has less than ten hours a week of taught study- the rest of the time they are in the library.

ThatVikRinA22 Sat 13-Oct-12 23:40:34

no exams, we get chucked in at the deep end.

i want to go into detail but i cant. i have a massive case looming, one which i had no experience in at all, i was left totally and utterly to it despite asking repeatedly for the end a CID officer helped me and was incredulous that id been left with it alone as its so huge.

we get no training. nothing. no law books. no advice on court process. i asked my superior.

being a new pc is being a jack of all trades with very little in the tool bag. it amazed me taht we are thrown out with so little - legislative theory - tons of it - i could pass a law studies A level easily now - actual practical advice and help?
you whistle.

ReindeerBOOOOllocks Sat 13-Oct-12 23:40:48

Vicar - the prosecution is made up of lawyers though, who choose when to charge and when not to. It isn't an attack on the police (well it shouldn't be). If the evidence isn't there the CPS shouldn't charge.

I thought thats why it was taken out of polices hands when to charge and given to lawyers, so that the police wouldn't have to undertake legal training?

<if I get this wrong I'm going to sound massively stupid aren't I grin?>

My law tutor recommends garrows law hmm. Plus I've decided I like civil law moreso than crime - hopefully more money in it, we already have one broke lawyer in the family!

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 13-Oct-12 23:41:32

And also- since when has a police officer had right of audience in a courtroom?? The police don't stand up in court to begin with- the prosecuting barrister does and they should know what they are doing.

ThatVikRinA22 Sat 13-Oct-12 23:58:07

but if you have a vulnerable witness you take on that role of the barrister if you are conducting the interview to be "evidence in chief" and save them the court process.

we get 5 days training on that.

we are doing the job of the barrister - or we should be- if the witness evidence in chief is the DVD interview. this goes for any vulnerable or intimidated witness.

ThatVikRinA22 Sun 14-Oct-12 00:01:25

also - not everything is in the hands of the CPS.

of those that are i have found wildly differing practice.

ThatVikRinA22 Sun 14-Oct-12 00:13:32

it seems that i should be an expert on both my job, and a self taught expert on the whole court process, from the job of the prosecuting lawyer to the defence barrister.

i earn naff all.

i work very long hours.

i have a huge crime list which is causing me masses of stress - i just get rid of one crime and pick up 5 more.....

in the midst of this, between circulating wanted suspects, circulating cctv stills, interviewing witnesses and suspects, taking statements, investigating crimes and suspects, and preparing case files for court, and getting CPS advice and tear arsing about going to new crimes cos im on a response team, which means i am meant to respond to the radio and go to new jobs daily, you seem to think i should also be teaching myself everything a solicitor knows about law.....?

CelticPromise Sun 14-Oct-12 01:36:11

I hear you * Vicar*. And I think the police have it shitty. But 5 days training on court procedure, cross exam etc is more than I've ever had.

I had to do advocacy, think it was three days, all about civil.

ThatVikRinA22 Sun 14-Oct-12 01:59:32

And ironically,As in the title of the thread, it's me that doesn't sleep at night. 2am. Been up since 5am worrying about my caseload. How to get the care assistant who is stealing from their elderly clients to court. How to do what the CPS have asked me for my section 18 the barrister awake now? I doubt it.

scarlettsmummy2 Sun 14-Oct-12 07:56:24

I am sure once you get a bit more experienced you will become desensitised to it all. If not, I would look at other jobs.

scarlettsmummy2 how patronising can you get! You have been incredibly rude to Vicar who has been nothing but kind and informative on this thread and doesn't need someone coming on here and undermining everything she says. sad

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 08:41:04

ooh,just what the general public wants. A policewoman who is desensitised.

babybarrister Sun 14-Oct-12 09:35:41

Thanks to all criminal lawyers who have taken the time to explain why the whole premise of this question is wrong. I do not do crime for what it is worth.
For anyone who does not understand why a lawyer would be offended to be equated with the 'scum' they may be representing perhaps you need to examine a little more closely how you would feel sad

Do all doctors feel terrible every day because some of them fail to diagnose cancer? No - why should they they? This is not an example picked out of thin air - it has happened to me! I do not loathe all doctors as a result ....

And for all those who have realised that the question they should be asking is whether there is a better system ie a non adversarial system - then as someone who does know a lot about 'continental' systems - I would warn you all to be careful of what you wish for. In the inquisitorial system there is one person who finds the 'truth' - problem is that their 'truth' may not be the same as yours ...

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 09:48:54

Sorry to hear what happened to you babybarrister.

I for one do not want desensitised police,densensitised defence lawyers,desensitised doctors etc. etc.

One of the things this thread has taught me,is that if I ever need a defence lawyer, I want to find one that IS emotionally involved in my case.

And yes,doctors if they know themselves to be a bit incompetent,then they should stop practising.
Not saying you doctor was,from what little I know, diagnosing cancer isnt necessarily straightforward.

No idea what an inquisitorial system is, perhaps you would like say a bit more about that,and which countries use the system. Or else I could just google.

SaraBellumHertz Sun 14-Oct-12 10:49:19

I'm pretty sure as a NQ barrister I had to do 9hours advocacy training within my first three years of practice. Your first VI pupillage is supposed to equip you for those first days on your feet but if you had a Pupil master who spent that entire VI at the bailey involved in complicated procedural stuff it didnt mean much the first time you appear in front of DJ Cooper at Greenwich.

Those first weeks years were a massive learning curve. Mostly what it taught me is that all jobs are so for everyone - no one goes into anything feeling prepared. I have a pilot friend who tells me the same. Now that is more worrying!

What I'm trying to say vicar is I'm sure you are doing your best, you're not the only ill equipped person struggling to make things right. It doesn't mean you're doing something wrong or won't achieve the right results.

Spero Sun 14-Oct-12 10:49:36

There is a big and important difference between being 'emotionally involved' with clients/cases and remembering to treat others humanely, sensitively and with respect.

Getting 'emotionally involved' means I have jettisoned my professionalism, makes it less likely I can offer proper advice and do a good job, makes it more likely I will put myself under huge personal stress.

The moment I feel I am getting emotionally involved is the day I will have to walk away from my job. And this does happen - lots of people involved in child protection in really nasty cases do find it impacts horribly on their lives and they burn out.

Spero Sun 14-Oct-12 10:51:55

Sara - at this very moment I am sitting in on a weekend advocacy training course for new practitioners! They have been doing it for real for three years now, and still learning, still unsure at times. So I have enormous sympathy for anyone chucked in at deep end with only few days or even hours training.

SaraBellumHertz Sun 14-Oct-12 12:36:44

Spero I was supposed to be doing the same next weekend!

Many of my colleagues who are silks and partners still have times when they are unsure. I certainly do most days (although I am neither!). It's the ones that are always sure who you have to worry about. I find that applies to most area of life!

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 12:53:44

Spero, would you agree to defend someone you know, or is that disallowed?

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 13:46:51

I see that your are on a training course.
I dont mind if someone else wants to answer the question.

Spero Sun 14-Oct-12 13:58:38

I would never agree to represent someone I knew - just as a surgeon would be very unwise to operate on a member of his/her family.

Emotion clouds judgment. It would be completely unprofessional.

Sara - agree, someone who is never uncertain about anything is quite dangerous IMO.

Spero Sun 14-Oct-12 14:00:05

Actually, I tell a lie - I did once get an injunction for a friend who was being harassed, but it was a quick application, no evidence called and other side not there. I wouldn't have wanted to do anymore though.

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 14:08:21

I think we must be different. I think I would want a surgeon known to me to operate on me.

If you had a friend,relative etc who you knew and loved, who would you recommend to defend them? A complete stranger?

Spero Sun 14-Oct-12 14:22:10

If I was a surgeon, I wouldn't trust myself to operate on my child. What if I broke down in tears?

I am often asked for recommendations for a good lawyer and I will tell people who I think is good and why. I think it is really unwise to mix friendship with court proceedings and I suspect it is actually prohibited but havent checked code of conduct. But even if it's allowed, I wouldn't want to do it.

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 14:31:58

Would you expect the lawyer you recommended to people, to become more emotionally involved, or would you not want them to be emotionally involved at all.

My dad always says that he would never represent someone he knows. He says it could damage the relationship irretrievably for so many different reasons. He would however pass them on to the best he knew of in the field concerned.

Spero Sun 14-Oct-12 14:45:49

I would not want ANYONE doing a job for me to be 'emotionally involved' with me. I want them to do a good job regardless of what they think of me. I am entitled to respect and courtesy and that is as far as it should go.

Why do you think a professional will do a better job if 'emotionally involved'? Sounds fraught with all kinds of dangers to me. It cuts both ways - emotional involvement can mean negative as well as positive emotions.

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 15:00:51

If they are emotionally involved,they would hopefully do their utmost,as opposed to normal day to day.
In the case of lawyers,they might go the extra mile or miles if necessary.
Also,if things didnt go well,they could advise you what to do next,even what they would do next if they were you.

I have been in a doctors surgery before,where they know me,and feel fine with asking them,"what would you do if you were me".

SaraBellumHertz Sun 14-Oct-12 15:10:14

I hope and genuinely believe I do my best for all my clients. Sometimes that involves giving them unpalatable truths, a very necessary part of an advisory role.

Representing a friend would almost certainly necessitate giving them advice they didn't want/weren't ready to hear, such is the nature of the beast. The fact that I was someone's friend first and foremost would probably mean I was less able to effectively represent them: My first instinct would be to protect them and ease their suffering which would mean withholding on being as factually accurate and perhaps blunt as I ought to be.

Spero Sun 14-Oct-12 15:37:48

If you want a lawyer who is emotionally involved with you, that's your call. I however would want a lawyer who would give me good advice based on the strength of my case and not on how much she liked me.

Thistledew Sun 14-Oct-12 16:03:22

I agree with what Sara says. It is not a good thing to become emotionally involved in your clients cases.

For one thing you have to protect your own emotional health. If you allow all your cases to be a burden on your own emotions, then if you are having a difficult time yourself you can end up shying away from tackling your work just because you can't face dealing with the extra emotional side. You are in fact more likely to fail to do a good job than if you are able to remain detached. I have seen colleagues who have burnt out through becoming too involved, and it has made a mess not only of their lives but of the cases they have left behind.

I try to do my utmost for all my clients, but I don't have to be emotionally involved to do so. In the few cases that I have, it has not always led to a good result, and a less involved colleague has been able to get the result for the client.

Secondly, I also would not like to represent anyone I knew well. It is almost inevitable that you will have to face them with difficult advice- whether it is questioning them about their recollect of facts because the way they are explaining it does not ring true or telling them that a decision they have made has in fact made the situation worse. Also, I need my client to be able to be honest with me. A client who knows they will never see me again after the case finishes will probably find it easier to tell me something unpalatable about themselves or something they are embarrassed about, than will a client who knows that they will see me at X's birthday party with all our friends the next week.

And finally, I would never tell a client what I would do if I was them. My job is to explain to them the options they have, with all the risks and benefits, and to give my opinion as to which I think is likely to have the best outcome. Which one would be the best for me to choose is not necessarily the best one for them to choose. I don't presume to know them in that detail or to manage their lives for them. My job as a lawyer is to give my client a voice in the legal process so they get the outcome they want, my voice and wishes are irrelevant.

amillionyears Sun 14-Oct-12 16:23:30

Looks like I may have got this one wrong!

scarlettsmummy2 Sun 14-Oct-12 16:51:51

Apologies if I seemed rude- not my intention. I do not think it is wise for police officer to get emotionally involved with every victim they deal with as they would eventually burn out. The same applies to anyone dealing with potentially distressing situations on a daily basis such as social workers, doctors and paramedics. This is obviously easier said than done.

babybarrister Sun 14-Oct-12 18:21:38

I once represented a colleague - it was one of my top 3 most hideous professional experiences - NEVER again !!!

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 08:13:45

All good police officers/lawyers/doctors [insert professional of choice] have once thing in common; an ability to remain objective.

Only by reanining objective can you make rational and analytical judgements.

Once you allow the personal and the emotional to creep in, you lose your objectivity. In doctors this can result in mistakes, in coppers and lawyers in can result in the bending of rules ie corruption.

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 08:15:21

Of course emotionally involved coppers and lawyers make terrific fiction wink.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 08:24:48

A month ago,I had to use the services of the police. And they had to send for paramedics.
While 2 police officers waited with me and some members of my family for the paramedices to arrive,1 poice officer dealt with phone calls,liason with the public etc,while the other one showed what I accepted to be genuine concern and compassion,for which we were all grateful.
Are you saying that the emotion that 1 police officer in particular showed,would not have been genuine, and she shouldnt have done it?

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick of what you are trying to say.

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 08:32:44

Concern and compassion is perfectly fine, indeed a requisite part of the job for all professionals...but that is very far from personal involvement. Had she needed to make a difficult judgement she could have done so.

I'm sure that officer went on about her business after she left you, able to go on and help others. As it shoud be.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 09:06:45

What do you mean by personal involvement then.
Perhaps I am just made differently from others.
Or perhaps I have just not been tested in that way.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 09:41:21

As in the example you gave earlier of wanting someone to represent you who knows you- I would define personal involvement as having a particular worry for the outcome and being upset for the other person if things are not going well. I would probably spend some of my personal non-working time thinking about how you are feeling.

The police officer who showed you care probably enjoys the side of her job which allows her to give emotional reassurance to the people she helps, but once her work on your case is finished she will probably walk away and forget about you. You may pop into her mind for time to time and she will think "I wonder what happened to that lady- I hope it all worked out ok for her", but she won't be troubled if she doesn't get to find out how you are getting on after the case is finished, and she won't be lying awake at night thinking about you.

That is what professionalism is about- yes, you care for your clients when you are working on their case, but you switch off that care when you are not working for them. And beyond that - that you treat each client's case with the same care and the same hope for a good outcome regardless of whether or not you care for them as a person. It would be wrong of you as a professional to put more effort and care into a case when you like a particular client than when you don't.

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 10:33:08

Personal involvement is when the professional has a vested emotional attachment to the outcome.

This is simply not a good thing fir any professional as it hinders judgement.

I know it seems counter intuitive, but any professional I've met who was good at the job would agree. That is why not many people are actually cut out to be good police officers/layers/doctors etc. Too many are attracted to these careers because of what they think the job entails.

I once worked on something involving an acquaintance. During the course of the process of reviewing the evidence I found out he had cheated on his wife through some unfortunate boastful emails he'd sent to his work colleagues (not relevant to the case). It took a fair bit of effort not to let them colour my view of the case because I it put a slight doubt in my mind about his credibility. Funnily we are not good friends and I would have really rather not known that about him.

Spero Mon 15-Oct-12 12:17:00

Completely agree wordfactory. Once I walk out of court I forget my clients. Not because I am a heartless bitch because the next day I have to do it all again with another client. How can I do a good job for her if I have been up all night worrying about the previous client?

I hope that when with clients I always show proper compassion, sympathy and interest. But you have to focus on the case and the client in front of you so you need a clear head.

Some cases and clients do stick a bit because the are so sad, and as I said earlier a lot of people invovled in child pornography cases etc just can't carry on after a certain time because it is all so horrific.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 13:00:49

I suppose I am not really a worrier. But I havent been put to the test with all of this,so I cant say for sure how I would react in a professional situation with someone I know.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 13:12:39

But you yourself raised the idea of personal involvement by saying that you would prefer to be represented by someone who knows you? That suggests that you do envisage a difference between how you might act in relation to a person you know as a friend/relative and a person you only know professionally. Surely you do recognise in yourself that it would have more impact on you personally if you were told that your sister/mother/best friend had XYZ serious problem than if you heard that Mrs Smith who lives at the end of the road, but whom you only know to say hi to, had the same problem?

It sounds like you have made a previous inconsistent statement and are amending your evidence to suit the case to me! wink

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 13:56:38

I do not understand your first paragraph.
Are you talking about lawyers or doctors?
Also, I have come to realise,from your posts and others, that although I maybe, if I was a defence lawyer,because I dont worry much,could take on a case of someone I know, but other people may not be able to do that,without it causing them sleepless nights.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 14:38:38

Sorry if I have been unclear. I had lawyers in mind, but the same would apply to a doctor, or any professional person who is tasked with solving problems for their client.

What you now seem to be saying is that problems that your family and close friends have do not worry you any more than you would be worried by a stranger having the same problem. You would not therefore find it difficult or problematic to bear the responsibility for solving that problem for someone who you knew well. However, in relation to someone helping you, you would expect that they would put more effort in to solving the problem if they knew you than if they did not, as they would have a reason to "go the extra mile".

You asked the rhetorical question earlier as to whether you are "made differently". I would suggest that if indeed you do not worry or suffer any anxiety when you bear the responsibility for solving difficult problems for your loved ones, then maybe you are "made differently" to the rest of us! I am not sure then why you would think that someone who knew you would be more inclined to become emotionally involved and "go the extra mile" if you find it peculiar that such investment would cause them worry.

I feel like I am getting drawn into a personal dissection, so don't feel you need to answer my post if this is getting too personal.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 17:27:40

Understand and I think agree with your last post until I came to your last but 1 sentence. Then I became lost. Happy to answer the question I think,once I understand it.

ThatVikRinA22 Mon 15-Oct-12 22:47:33

i dont mix up compassion with personal involvement - but the stresses of the job do bother me.

when i go to jobs, i rarely find out what happens, and i think its much as WF says - i do switch off when i go home, i think by now, having been to many different and some very harrowing things, if you really got personally involved it would hurt., that has never stopped me from hugging someone who needs it, or doing what i can to help in a horrible or difficult situation.

the problem for me is the workload, watching my crime list grow, taking on more and more work without managing to sort anything out due to lack of numbers on group/time - i worry that i cannot give my best when im trying to do so many things at once.

its that i find difficult and stressful. its lack of time to do those things because the radio is going again.

sometimes though - solicitors must know they have someone guilty but know if they go no comment, they might get off on a technicality? i had a shoplifter caught red handed, but the witness didnt leave details with the store detective, and due to no one having seen the theft, they got off. it was my first shoplifter, i didnt have a clue about stock check evidence, so a member of a large criminal gang walked free. no one can tell me the solicitor didnt know that, she knew i didnt have stock check evidence, she knew if he went no comment he walked. im not sure i could do that with a clear conscience.

CelticPromise Mon 15-Oct-12 23:09:13

In that situation your only professional duty its to the client and you are professionally obliged to act in their best interests. It couldn't possibly be in their best interests to answer questions admitting an offence when there isn't the evidence against them. You wouldn't last long as a defence solicitor giving advice like that!

I have no ethical problem with it at all. Professional ethics are different to personal ethics.

thebody Mon 15-Oct-12 23:17:23

Because we live in a democracy and in our country it's up to the prosecution to prove guilt.

Yes obviously some bastards slip through the net but that's not the fault of the defence barristers rather the fault of the prosecution, police, and forensics not proving a case.

I speak as a parent waiting for a case to come to court where my dd was badly injured. Not here though abroad so not sure how this translates.

amillionyears Tue 16-Oct-12 07:36:27

It sounds to me that being a defence lawyer can be somewhat of a dirty job that someone has to do. And that currently there is no viable alternative.
I do wonder if the defence lawyers,when 1 of their family is a witness to a crime,or is involved in a car accident that was not their fault, and the other person gets off on a technicality,its sounds like they would be ok about it because the prosecution were better than the defence.

Has the system ever hurt any of you personally?

lljkk Tue 16-Oct-12 07:39:37

I feel sorry for the lawyer "advising" Radovan Karadzic. If it were my job I would have to view it as an important court role for its technical value and just concentrate on procedures and steps of what to do. Because as a human being, RK is as scummy as they come.
Thing is, the conviction won't be sound without good legal advice and proper legal procedure, so we (humanity, justice) need a decent lawyer on RK's side.

wordfactory Tue 16-Oct-12 07:54:13

To me being a defence lawyer is no more a dirty job than being a copper or a prosecutor (who are both aware that oon some occasions innocent people are charged and convicted). You either believe in the rule of law or you don't. You either accept the rule of law as part and parcel of a civilized and intelligent society or you don't.

Spero Tue 16-Oct-12 09:20:44

amillionyears - it is almost as if you assume ALL defendants are guilty and anyone trying to defend them is complicit in their guilt?

Apologies if that is not what you think, but it is certainly how I read your post.

Most defendants are guilty but some are not. But that is really irrelevant - the point is - as many have said repeatedly - you either have a rule of law that applies to all, or you don't. And without the rule of law, presumably the only other option is gangs of people deciding to administer 'justice' to people they 'know' are guilty?

I know which society I prefer to live in.

It sounds to me that being a defence lawyer can be somewhat of a dirty job

You are forgetting the satisfaction of getting a truly innocent person off. Not all defendants are guilty and the ones who are innocent need defence lawyers too.

amillionyears Tue 16-Oct-12 10:25:58

Didnt know most defendants are guilty.

lljkk Tue 16-Oct-12 13:10:24

By the time a case reaches trial the odds are high that the defendant will be found guilty. It would be a waste of resources to get that case that far, otherwise. So the police & CPS understandably focus on cases that only have the best chances of conviction.

The reason the defendant is probably guilty at this point is because the defence lawyer is presumed competent and will contest the evidence as much as possible. The only way you can have faith in any conviction is by having good quality counsel available to the accused. If convictions are made on poorer quality evidence, then the odds increased that the real guilty person(s) will get away with it & commit the same crime again, or worse. I find that a horrifying prospect. I made this point aaaaaaaggges ago on this thread.

There are justice systems which don't start out with a presumption of innocence for the accused. That don't automatically offer good quality legal representation to suspects. They tend to be in countries with rather poor reputations.

Spero Tue 16-Oct-12 13:48:23

So amillionyears what do you think would be better than the current system of a presumption of innocence and robust defence lawyers?

Guilty if looks creepy? Guilty if your 'instinct' tells you? Guilty he if or she has precious convictions?

Don't really understand what your beef is, to be honest.

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