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Assault charge

(15 Posts)
sairishlass Sun 28-Apr-13 15:49:01

Overall (and in my opinion) my 16 yr old son is a relatively normal teenager. While growing up we had the arguing, tantrum throwing, odd minor fight at school (boys will be boys) but nothing too serious. He doesn't go out much but spends most of his time on his X-box so it's not like he hangs out with a bad crowd or anything.

Two weeks ago, on his first day back at school after the holidays, he got into an altercation with another pupil on the school minibus on the way home from college - he punched the guy in the nose and broke it - he said the guy had been riling him for ages. The school phoned and he was suspended for 3 days then put on immediate study leave until he has to go into school to write his GCSE's. We (his dad and I) told him that this was not an acceptable way to behave and he can't just go around punching people. We didn't get much of a reply....

I guess I had blinkers on and thought that was the end of it but to my horror a policeman knocked on our door on Saturday evening. He came in to say that the parents of the boy had laid a charge against my son (in all honesty I really don't blame them though personally I probably wouldn't have gone that far if the shoe was on the other foot) and that a statement had already been taken from the victim. The policeman said that my son is to report to the police station on Thursday to make his statement and suggested that I have my solicitor present. I don't have a solicitor, heck I've never had the need. My son was staying over at a friends house so wasn't here when the knock came.

There's no excuse as he should have known better but we've all had a hard time this past year as his dad had a stroke early last year and lost part of his sight so is no longer able to drive hasn't been at work since and I think this has taken a toll on my son though he doesn't really say much about it.

So my question is has anyone been down this road before with having a charge of any sort laid against your teenager, how do I go about finding a criminal solicitor, any idea of what they charge and how serious could the outcome be?

Any advice welcome.

parisfernandez Sun 28-Apr-13 17:20:39

I don't know how useful this will be.

I was charged when I was 15 for assault. 2 boys had been bullying me for years and I snapped, chased them across a bridge, kicked seven shades out of both of them. Looking back, it was really stupid and it and done out of pure anger. I have never ever had a fight since and had never done anything like that before. It was completely out of character - something the police took into account.

First of all, it's positive that your DS wasn't arrested there and then. For him to he able to go into the police station at a later date implies that there won't be a court case or trial of any sort. I would be very surprised if he got anything other than a caution if this was his first offence.

If he hasn't been arrested for it, he has not yet been charged with it. When he goes to the police station on Thursday he will be asked to give his side of what happened and most likely have his fingerprints taken etc.

Please try not to worry, he won't be jailed or anything like that. Depending on how serious the assault was, a fine is most likely what will happen if this ever goes further.

Do a search on Google for solicitors in your area and phone round a few to get an idea of prices (legal aid if you can get it) and if they will be available. They are great and will not judge you or DS at all. It's their job to get him off any form of charge.

Hope this was helpful.

BastardDog Sun 28-Apr-13 17:34:04

Are you in Engalnd? If so your son will be entitled to free legal advice if he is to be arrested or interviewed under caution, which I assume he will be as he is suspected of having committed an offence. Because of his age he will also need an adult present while he is being interviewed. The legal advice should be offered to him and organised at the police station. It can take a time to organise so there could be some waiting about.

Your son doesn't have to make a statement nor answer any questions, which puts the onus on the police to prove he committed the offence.

sairishlass Sun 28-Apr-13 17:47:26

Thanks parisfernandez for your reply - it was helpful and has put my mind a little more at ease though I'll only be fully at ease once this whole debacle is over! It didn't even cross my mind that he could have been arrested so will definitely consider that a positive thing. Fingers crossed that he doesn't get anything more than a rap across the knuckles with a fine and this will knock some sense into him.

The policeman did say that he still needs to get witness statements and I will make a point of checking that the statements aren't only from the victims friends but also from my son's friends as well so they get both sides of the story and not one-sided.

From what we were told there were some heated words over who was sitting where on the minibus and in anger my son let rip with a punch then it was over. Assault is assault is suppose, it just depends on the degree of the injury.

I believe my son may qualify for Legal Aid given that he would be the client, is still at school and not working however if the private solicitors don't charge me an arm and a leg I may just go that route. I worry that Legal Aid may be overworked and not be able to offer us their full individual support - that my just be my own preconceived opinion.

sairishlass Sun 28-Apr-13 18:01:26

Hey BastardDog - we're in Northern Ireland so I guess same principle applies. He admitted punching the chap when he was called into the principle's office so they don't need to work too hard to prove he committed the offence unfortunately. He's never had a problem admitting when he did something wrong (good thing bad thing? who knows). I would also worry that if he didn't make a statement or answer any questions it might make him look like he has sometime to hide which is why I think we need a solicitor (or some type of legal advice) before we go there on Thursday. Apparently only one of us (either OH or I) can sit in as an appropriate adult but not both of us.

flow4 Sun 28-Apr-13 18:59:15

sairish, I don't know if the criminal justice system works in Northern Ireland like it does in England, but if it does, it'll go something like this...

You can get legal advice for him in advance, but you don't need to, for a number of reasons. A 'duty solicitor' will be available at the police station, and anyone you hired in advance wouldn't get any more information about the case in advance, because there is none available until your DS has been arrested; they could just give you/your DS info about options and likely outcomes.

The fact of the offence isn't in dispute - he's admitted it - and if he continues to tell the truth (always a good idea), it's just a matter of 'taking his punishment', so to speak. A solicitor will help your son decide what to do at each stage - e.g. admit guilt, accept a caution, take the matter to court, etc...

You will turn up at the police station, and because of his age, you should be taken into a private room away from adult offenders very quickly. He will be formally arrested and cautioned, then they will take his fingerprints and a DNA sample. Then you will go into another room for a formal, tape-recorded interview.

You or your husband can be the 'appropriate adult', but there are a couple of reasons why you might want to let someone else do it. Firstly, the role of an AA is to make sure the young person understands everything that is being said and done; the AA must stay calm and rational, as well as making sure they understand everything themselves; so if you don't feel confident about that, it might be best to get someone else. Secondly, more harshly and personally, if you let your DS deal with the police interview without you, it may have a more shocking 'deterrent effect' - though of course only you can decide whether that's something you'd want. The police must arrange another AA for your DS (usually a social worker) if you decline.

In the interview, the whys and wherefores probably won't be considered relevant. The provocation might be a mitigating factor adding to the likelihood that he'll receive a caution, but it won't 'get him off'. The difficulties your family has faced won't considered at all.

If your DS continues to admit it, this is a first offence, he gives a clear statement and (crucially) expresses regret, then it is most likely that he will receive a final warning or reprimand - these are youth cautions. This is effectively a serious telling off from the police, and then it's over. There would be no fine (afaik fines are only given for civil offences, and assault is a criminal one).

If the charges turn out to be more serious than expected, something important is in dispute, and/or your son does not want to accept a caution, then he can opt to go to court. This means there is the possibility of him not being convicted at all (which is probably very slim, since he's already admitted it), but if he is convicted, then the punishment will be more serious. Cautions are only available instead of court, not after. He'd probably end up with something like a community service order. He might also have to pay court costs.

Given that your DS has admitted the assault, accepting a caution following arrest is definitely the best option if it's offered.

Hope that helps. And particularly, I hope it's not so different in NI than none of this applies!

BastardDog Sun 28-Apr-13 19:11:31

flow4 has said what I was trying to say.

Don't know if its the same for NI though as England. Wales and England do things the same, Scotland is quite different. NI?

sairishlass Sun 28-Apr-13 20:30:17

Thanks flow4 for your very detailed reply - it has given me a good idea of what to expect and of the possible outcomes.

I wasn't aware that with my son being asked to go to the police station to give his statement / for an interview meant that on his arrival he would be formally arrested. The policeman did not mention anything along these lines when he was here on Saturday.

Having not been down this road before I think I would feel somewhat more at ease if I hired a solicitor who I could meet with / speak to on the phone before the interview on Thursday just so he can explain to me (and my son) what we can expect from the interview, the various outcomes etc.

I totally understand your comment about the reasons why either his dad or I should consider not being the appropriate adult but I just can't see myself not being in the room with him. I believe I can request a copy of the interview tape as I can only imagine my head will be all over the place and will probably forget the majority of what is said so I can go over it at a later stage if required. I'm sure there won't be any emotional outbursts from my side, I'm more than likely going to be a sniveling wreck.

I will certainly make it clear to my son (as I'm sure a solicitor would do to) that he is to show remorse for his actions and that he is to accept any cautions which are put to him - he would be silly not to and I definitely don't want him having to go to court!

Again many thanks for taking the time to reply to my post (you too BastardDog).

CajaDeLaMemoria Sun 28-Apr-13 20:35:49

You are perfectly entitled to hire your own solicitor prior to your son going to the station, but you don't need too.

I've been here with my sister, unfortunately. We arrived at the station (I as her guardian) and the solicitor was there. She'd been briefed on the situation, and we went into a private room for a discussion. She told us what to expect, took some more details, and we went back out.

My sister was arrested, and her DNA and fingerprints taken. She was interviewed on tape, and asked about the incident. We were told if we needed to speak to our solicitor, we could, at any time. The solicitor explained a lot to us, and it was okay. My sister accepted a caution, and we signed documents to that effect, and then left.

If you do want someone earlier, you'll either need to get personal recommendations or do some googling, and find solicitors in your area. Find someone with an appointment prior to your son's, so you can meet them earlier, and then arrange to meet them at the station.

I'm not sure what the legal aid situation is in NI, so I can't advise on that.

I hope this helps a bit, though.

sairishlass Sun 28-Apr-13 20:57:56

Thanks CajaDeLaMemoria for your post and for walking me through the steps that you've already been through with your sister. Sounds so simple but not if you know what I mean.

I'll probably have a chat with some of my work colleagues (thankfully we're like one big family so I have no problem airing my dirty laundry as it were) to see if they can give me any personal recommendations. Failing that I have done a google search and have a few telephone numbers of solicitors in my area.

I'll have to pop back and give you all an update later on in the week since you've all been so kind take the time to reply to my post.

flow4 Sun 28-Apr-13 21:06:29

You're welcome, and I hope it all goes OK for you.

sairishlass Fri 03-May-13 21:37:28

Update as promised. So we get to the police station yesterday and meet with the solicitor beforehand so she could have a chat with my son and listen to his side of the story. We were then shown into an interview room where the policeman explained my son's rights and confirmed that he was there voluntarily to give his statement. Three tapes were put into the recorder and my son has his rights read read to him again. The policeman then asked my son to tell in his own words what had happened in the lead up to the assault and also went over the other chaps statement (it was pretty much the same as what my son had said) and after that there was some signing of paperwork. The policeman advised me that he would contact the public prosector in the morning to discuss the case and he would contact me with an update. No fingerprints or DNA taken. So I get a call from him this morning to say that it has now been handed over to the prosecutor and he has asked if it could be fast tracked considering my son will be writing his GCSE's in a couple of weeks. Either my son will get a caution from a Youth Diversion Officer or it will go to court. So the waiting continues...

flow4 Sun 05-May-13 21:33:32

It is good that no fingerprints or DNA were taken. I was very unhappy that my DS's were taken when he was 11 and had broken a window (accidentally but recklessly) and was arrested and reprimanded for criminal damage. It was very frightening for him (and me tbh) and felt very heavy-handed for such a young child and such a minor offence. sad

I have just done a Google search, and it seems I should have been asked for my permission - but as far as I remember, I wasn't.

Here's a link giving an overview of your/their rights if your child is arrested which might be useful to other people.

sairishlass Sun 05-May-13 21:58:45

Wow flow4 that is rather extreme for an 11 year old. Back in the day our parents would have been asked to pay to replace the window and no further action taken - I do realise that things have changed since then but the seriousness of the crime should be taken into consideration and dealt with appropriately. I have photos on my camera of my son with a black eye which happened at his school 4 years ago - the school did phone me and advise me that another pupil had punched him but I didn't run off to the police station to lay a charge as I know boys will be boys (and some girls for that matter).

Interesting link and I certainly hope it will help any other parents who have had to go through the same thing we have.

flow4 Mon 06-May-13 08:41:53

The whole experience was awful sairish. At the time I thought it might be a useful lesson, but in fact it was so over-the-top that my son just felt he'd been 'wronged', especially since he'd owned up, and nothing at all happened to the other boy, who didn't. hmm

I asked about paying for repairs and the police actually advised us not to - they said the landlord of the property would sort it out. That didn't sit easy with me at all, so I took my son round to apologise and I paid (and my DS paid me back through pocket money), despite what the police had advised. I wanted my son to understand there are human consequences to his actions, whatever the legal situation.

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