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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?

TheOneWithTheHair Tue 09-Oct-12 11:03:07

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.

offwithyourhead Tue 09-Oct-12 11:30:50

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.

TheOneWithTheHair Tue 09-Oct-12 11:40:48

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

How do you think your dcs would feel about that?

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