Saturday, 10 August 2013

Colover Crisis

Sometimes, just one word chosen tells you all you really need to know.  In this case that word was 'predatory' .

Neil Wilson, 41, had admitted sexual activity with a child of 13. The trial had been held, he had pleaded guilty and was entitled to consideration at sentencing for his cooperation with the authorities and his recognition that he had been entirely in the wrong to groom the child in order to encourage her to perform a sex-act on him.   He had moved from Romford, the place of the offence, to York, suggesting that he had wisely moved away from the victim. 

At the sentencing hearing all these  facts were already agreed, the defence had already had all the disclosure it required, and the defender, Rebecca Blain - a solicitor advocate - was able to make her case that her client was very low risk and could therefore be considered for a non-custodial sentence.

That was for the judge, his Honour Judge Peters QC sitting at Snaresbrook Crown Court  to consider.
Summary So Far

- This was a sentencing hearing.
- There was no dispute about the facts, there was a guilty plea which had been accepted.
-  The convicted person had a representative who was the proper person to make decisions about what should be put before the judge from her client's point of view. The defender already had all the disclosure they needed to enable her to do that job.
Then things went weird.

The prosecutor, Robert Colover, an experienced barrister was appearing for the CPS.  His job at the sentencing hearing at Crown Court is specified within the CPS document:
The Role of the Prosecutor at Sentencing
The prosecution advocate represents the public interest, and should be ready to assist the court to reach its decision as to the appropriate sentence. This will include drawing the court's attention to:
  • any victim personal statement or other information available to the prosecution advocate as to the impact of the offence on the victim; 

Instead of representing the public interest Colover suddenly took it in his head to try to act for  Wilson, who was not his client, and decided on a strategy of blaming the victim, rubbishing her character, saying it did not much matter as she was already damaged goods, and that in any case the hot little minx was gaggin' for it.
“The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced.
“She appeared to look around 14 or 15 and had the mental age of a 14 or 15 year old despite being younger than that.
“There was sexual activity but it was not of Mr Wilson’s doing, you might say it was forced upon him despite being older and stronger than her.”
This is not a victim's personal statement. It is victim-blaming.

Note please that the appointed defender did not consider that was what she wanted to say on behalf of her client.  Rebecca Blain did not think it necessary to discuss the victim.  If she had done so, she would have had to give notice of that as the protocol for this is also available from the A-G's office
Pleas in Mitigation

The prosecution advocate must challenge any assertion by the defence in mitigation which is derogatory to a person’s character, (for instance, because it suggests that his or her conduct is or has been criminal, immoral or improper) and which is either false or irrelevant to proper sentencing considerations.
So not only did Colover try to act for the wrong person, he did so by playing an antique 'blame the victim' card in defiance of the properly appointed defender and the A-G's advice.
At this point Honour Judge Peters QC failed to spot that Colover had strayed disastrously from his brief.  Instead of politely ignoring the irrelevant remarks from the prosecution and concentrating on what the defender wanted to put forward for consideration,  Judge Peters decided to take Colovin's remarks on board as if he was acting for the defence and repeated:
 On these facts, the girl was predatory and was egging you on.
The only explanation I can think of for this is that since Colover is well-known and deeply respected, the judge simply accepted what he said instead of recognizing it for the aberration it was. However, another explanation might be that Judge Peters failed to recognize that the female solicitor as the relevant defender, what with her bein' a girlie and moreover one 'o them new-fangled solicitor advocates.

Rebecca Blain is listed as a partner at DPP Law and appears on the duty solicitor rotas.   The practice in which she is a partner gives no profile, possibly as a protective measure although she has done nothing other than her job properly in accordance with the A-G guidelines. 


Robert Colover, representing the public interest, forgot who he was acting for and indulged in victim-blaming which, if the defence had tried it, would have been his duty to challenge as per the A-G's advice. Possibly he was unwell or became hopelessly confused as he more commonly works for the defence.

Rebecca Blain, defending,  did her job properly.  Due to irrelevant remarks made by Colover and the Judge, her client is now facing more uncertainty rather than having the case settled as the sentence may be reviewed.

His Honour Judge Peters QC, despite being a QC, became confused as to who was making the plea in mitigation, possibly because it was a lady solicitor.-advocate.  Since the contentious and irrelevant comments came from a hitherto respected barrister who more commonly appears for the defence, the judge threw the legal advice out of the window and joined in with the victim-blaming.   His is  the worst failing because he is supposed to be running that hearing. 

The victim has been blamed by a prosecutor and a judge, which will do wonders for encouraging other victims to come forward.

Perhaps it is not only fear of being called raaaaycists which has made the CPS tardy in applying the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to deal with grooming gangs.  It appears they have been fighting uphill against a judiciary which regards preying on children for sex as as not really a proper crime at all.