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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Friday, 4 July 2014

NOT THE SHARPEST KNIFE IN THE DRAWER

The current case management form used in our courts followed the guidance from the Senior Presiding Judge in 2009; “Applying the Criminal Procedure Rules”. The underlying principle is quite simply that the innocent are acquitted and the guilty convicted. There are still some defence solicitors who refuse to be bound by these rules. However in practice it is very difficult to confound them when they insist on putting the prosecution to proof. Be that as it may occasionally a word or two on the form can mean the difference between acquittal and conviction.

Some months ago it seemed opportune to sit in the well of our court over which one of our D.J.s was presiding. A small group of men was alleged to have caused criminal damage on a deserted high street at around 3.00a.m. All but one of the group admitted the offence on the morning of trial and the singleton not having answered his bail was tried in his absence. Prosecution relied upon CCTV the images on which were not of the highest resolution but appeared to show the defendant`s active part in the alleged offending. At the police station where he had a lawyer there had been a “no comment” interview and a pre prepared statement affirmed the defendant`s denial of knowing the others in the group and his being there. Before the prosecutor closed her case the District Judge asked to inspect the case management form completed on the 1st listing for the defendant who on that occasion was represented. He then commented for all to hear that written in the unmistakeable flowing black ink of a fountain pen equipped lawyer in the appropriate section 8 box was ticked “yes” to the statement; “The defendant was present at the scene of the offence alleged.” He continued, “At 8.4 ( disputed issue) in the same ink was written, “presence admitted but not part of group nor participant in alleged offence”. The defendant was convicted in his absence and a warrant without bail issued for his arrest. Unlike his co offenders when he would have been  sentenced he would have  received no discount.

2 comments:

  1. I'm confused: how can the case management form be considered evidence, especially when the deferent is not present and anything the solicitors says or writes would be hearsay?

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  2. Surprised the Legal Advisor didn't pick this up even if the DJ didn't. Oops, sorry. This may be one of the new procedures where no LA is present during a trial conducted by a DJ!

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