Friday, 25 February 2011

Jolyon Tuck - an apology

Torbay Duty Solicitor Jolyon Tuck has taken the trouble to write to ask for a correction to the original article which was queried his professional work in the case of Rodney Knowles.

Modesty forbids Tuck from saying it, but he had a difficult client.

Knowles is now in prison and received a fair trial on separate serious sexual charges. He has been convicted on secure grounds. Good.

Jolyon writes:
"I have been aware of this article for a few months. It is only now that the Crown Court case is complete and you have taken the opportunity to conclude the story that I would ask that you revisit the original piece.

Neither of your assertions that this is poor defence work or it being a calculated bet that a criminal record wouldn't matter to Mr Knowles are correct.

I am tickled by the suggestion that I rolled my client over nicely, but would be prefer you not to make such misguided comments.

My role in cases of this nature is to advise on the law, the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution case and balance that with my client's own instructions. During that consultation, the client will also receive advice on possible sentence both before and after trial.

Ultimately, I work for my client, act on their instructions, and they are under no obligation to take my advice. I have had people take my advice and I have had people ignore my advice, but I have not yet rolled a client over.
Your note that I should be dealing with motoring offences because of my field of work on our website is a slight misrepresentation. It states that I deal with Criminal Litigation and Motoring Offences. Having said that, I have made arrangements for my profile to be updated to address your concerns.

I am surprised that you criticise the Duty Solicitor qualification. All of the defence solicitors that appear regularly in the Torbay and Teignbridge courts are duty qualified and there should be no slur attached to the work we do under the Duty Scheme.

Any qualified solicitor is allowed to give advice on criminal law and represent clients in court on a private basis. To act as a Duty Solicitor you must complete two further qualifications.

Without public funding through the duty scheme and availability of Legal Aid, it is a sad truth that many going through the courts in would receive no legal advice at all."
If you need a solicitor in Torquay, Tuck is your man at WBW solicitors.

However, Tuck's quoted line in court that the law on knives is clear is still not the case. If it was clear, then the police wouldn't have had to issue clarification, which still isn't clear and never will be, because the law attempts to criminalize the carrying of common objects - such as a bread knife in a caravan, definitely a fixed blade, definitely longer than 3 in - and then decides to whether it fancies applying the law or not, depending not on demonstrated intent but on the grounds of whether the police have something else going on.

A bad law, which shouldn't have been passed in the first place because it was hysterical PR rather than effective legislation, is a doily of exceptions. Those exceptions cause resentment because a mohel may have to explain their surgical tools and be excused, whereas a pagan may end up having a court argue about whether an athame is or is not a ritual object and whether paganism is a religion. By then it will be too late; the pagan will now have a record of arrest and charge (or maybe a caution) and this will show on CRB checks.

Mr Tuck is concerned however, that duty solicitors do not command public confidence.

I've no doubt the ones in Torbay are wonderful and completely reliable. However, this is not the case nationally. There is a reason for that, and it doesn't lie in the qualifications of the duty solicitors. There are two main problems; the speed of change in legislation and the increasing politicisation of the criminal law.

The speed of change in legislation puts the duty solicitor ever more on the back foot before they are called to the station. Is the law what the police claim? For example, the case of the stupid old fantasist, Mr Roger Day, both the police and the CPS were convinced that Day had a case to answer. Day had worn an impossible collection of medals at a Remembrance parade. They assured the bench that this was a crime, and the bench duly castigated Day, confiscating property and fining him, which automatically created a criminal record such that he wouldn't be able to pass a CRB check.

The only snag was, the legislation had been repealed two weeks before the "offence" via a commencement order which brought a new act in to force act, automatically discontinuing the old one. It simply wasn't a criminal offence (or at any rate, not the one he was charged with) no matter how much other folk may have been offended.

When Day's solicitor - who may have been appointed later rather than as the duty solicitor - realized this he marched smartly back to court and the bench admitted the whole case was in error. It was too late for Day by then; he had been dragged through court and the papers do not record the striking out of the conviction.

It is a repeated gripe that duty solicitors are too ready to advise clients to accept cautions, failing to recognize that under the CRB and ISA systems - which are being revised but will take a while - a caution is of no practical difference to a conviction with an admission of guilt when it comes to applying for jobs or doing voluntary work which require an enhanced CRB check, and most of them do.

It was criticized in the Beefeater case where Yeoman Warder Bob Brown accepted a caution on what was claimed was legal advice, failing to realize that this would be used in the subsequent employment law case. (See Brown's own comment, I don't know what has happened to the IPCC complaint).

Even more serious is the way the law has been used as a political tool. Indeed, the men's groups claim that the Beefeater case was profoundly political and what should have been a matter of internal company discipline was elevated to criminal harassment on little or no evidence, and none that would stand up in court if it had gone there. Since one warder was immediately reinstated, and Mark Sanders-Crooks was paid a significant out-of-court settlement to withdraw his employment tribunal case and now works with a medevac service, they may have a point.

With the increasing politicisation of what will and will not be accorded criminal status, duty solicitors trying to advise on the criminal law are barking up the only tree they can, but it's still the wrong tree. The client has been arrested for show-trial purposes. The object of the exercise is the intimidation of the audience by the ritual humiliation of the defendant. In the end, it matters little if the defendant wins or loses; the main thing was to have caused as much inconvenience as possible for them.

One example of this is the Paul Chambers Twitter Joke Trial. Blogger Jack of Kent - David Allen Green - is acting for Chambers and has blogged this extensively. JoK became involved after an initial guilty plea seemed wrong to him in law on specific application, and wrong in general as the law was being used in a way which was - we hope - never intended by the legislators. JoK's first task was to achieve a change of plea.

It could be argued that the initial advice to plead guilty was sound as that would have minimized the time spent in court and confined the damage to a criminal record plus what ever other penalty was imposed. Chambers' conviction still stands. He's been sacked and he's probably unemployable in the general professional run of jobs - e.g. teaching - even if he manages to shift the conviction in subsequent rounds of litigation. So he's no better off than he was at the start, and maybe a bit worse.

However, another way to look at it is that when the agents of the state have their kicking-boots on, that's the most important time for the duty solicitor to warn the client that rolling up in to a ball may not save them much grief.
"WBW Solicitors strongly recommends that you do not agree to be interviewed by the police, whatever the nature of the investigation, without first speaking to a member of our team and, as the Criminal Defence Service funds our attendance at the police station, you do not have to worry about the cost of our advice and assistance at that stage"


JuliaM said...

"The client has been arrested for show-trial purposes."

Increasingly, certain high-profile trials seem to be less about 'upholding the law' and more about 'sending a message'...

Electro-Kevin said...

There are many bad laws being created because the authorities are too afraid to apply - or simply do not believe in applying - the good ones already in existence.

To make law against the length of a knife blade is the act of a parliament which seems hell bent on denying the culpability of violently unrestrained and predatory criminals.

I ask again. What is wrong with going back to the days when there was virtually no knife crime ?

Would it be that because to do that would be an admission that the social revolutionaries since the '60s were utterly wrong ?

(Incidentally I am a first dan martial artist of 10 years experience with a specialisation in knife fighting. I recognise with interest the presence of knives in 'sports' shops which are under three inches but designed specifically for slashing techniques.)

Electro-Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Electro-Kevin said...

BTW. I got that post published in the Aslef Journal on the letters page. Got me the Star Letter prize of an exciting array of Aslef merchandise (whoopeee !)

Now the question is in the public domain I'm hoping that they'll answer it ... in the public domain.

Job done within Union auspices. Arse covered and all that.

Woman on a Raft said...

Well done, E-K It will be interesting to see the reactions.

What on earth is ASLEF merchandise. Does it, you know, go?

Re: knives; in 2008 they got in to a pickle about curved swords. AFAICS, it is now illegal to be a swordsmith, but it is difficult to tell.

This article purports to sort it out, but it doesn't really because the law itself is scrambled.

Submariner said...

Welcome back. By which I mean your blog seems to have disappeared for a few hours earlier this evening, X-Files stylee, but has now been restored to us. Have you any new memories of litte green men?

Woman on a Raft said...

Somewhat discouragingly, the most popular search on this blog is still for Jeremy Clarkson in a state of undress, and I haven't even got a picture of that.

It is possible this caused the blogger bots (snigger) to mis-identify the blog and lock it off.

Moral: always back up, and - as has been suggested elsewhere - always have private mirror-blog.