Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Saturday, 12 April 2014

A NOT SO LEVEL LEGAL PLAYING FIELD?



"Innocent until proven guilty" is axiomatic for a justice system to be held in confidence by any society.   It could be argued that long term trends within our criminal justice whilst remaining loyal to the letter of the law are nudging ever so silently to impinge upon the spirit of the law. “Essential Case Management: Applying theCriminal Procedure  Rules” December 2009 combined with CJSSS;  Criminal Justice: Simple, Speedy, Summary a worthy  initiative of the previous government can sometimes illustrate the difficult situations for unrepresented defendants. 

 

I don`t suppose there are any J.P.s who are unfamiliar with an unrepresented  defendant appearing for trial  and for him/her to change plea owing to the last minute disclosure by the CPS of incriminating CCTV evidence.  Earlier this week my court during a bail hearing had before it a represented prolific offender on remand for other matters against whom the only evidence, according to the CPS, was from  CCTV  seen by police but not by CPS.  The defendant`s representative after taking instructions told us that as her client had not seen the supposed evidence against him his not guilty plea was repeated.  The rhetorical question put to her was that surely her client knew whether or not he was guilty.  When pressed to disclose the grounds of her client`s plea she informed us that drug addiction had affected his memory and he could not be sure where he was on the date in question.  He was remanded in custody on the current matter and a date set for trial.


“Putting the prosecution to proof”, is no longer tenable for defence lawyers.  Are my antennae too sensitive or is the level playing field just a touch out of kilter?

3 comments:

  1. Putting the prosecution to proof is an absolutely fundamental aspect of the system and it seems to be being pushed to the margins by the ever increasing desire to speed up justice and deal with public spending cuts. It is, and should always be, the case that it is for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person they allege committed the crime that they also allege took place. We are sadly (both north and south of the border) moving more and more towards a system where the accused is to prove their innocence (and without a properly funded lawyer). The system cannot sustain anymore cuts; but of course, every lawyer doing legal aid work is a fat cat clinging onto a gravy train. I fear that the public will not wake up in time to save the justice system.

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  2. The problem is most of the public never have any contact with the judicial system or lawyers. There is nothing to wake up to for most until the need it, which for the majority will be never.

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