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Criminal Defence Blog

Archive for March, 2016

Sexual Offence Solicitors Concerned by RASSO Report

sexual offence solicitors

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

 

Sexual Offence Solicitors Concerned by RASSO Report

 

Specialist sexual offence solicitors, Forrest Williams, recently reviewed a concerning report of the Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) units at the Crown Prosecution Service.

 

Given the severity of the cases that are prepared and managed by these units, this review is worrying for sexual offence solicitors like Forrest Williams.

 

Innocent people are charged with serious sexual offences and from the beginning of the investigations stand to lose their reputations, careers, families and freedom.  It is vital that the procedures used to investigate such allegations are followed correctly and without delay.

 

However, this Rape and Serious Sexual Offence review highlights that despite minimum standards for case work on Rape and Serious Sexual Offences cases being drawn up as a guideline to ensure consistency across cases and units, different working models have been developed across different units leading to poor compliance with the minimum standards set out!

 

Furthermore, while Rape and Serious Sexual Offence units should be staffed with rape specialist prosecutors and paralegal staff, this has not happened, and even when such specialists are in place, they are in need of refresher training that they have not received. 

 

The prosecution service has been shown to be under-resourced for the current volume of work they must do, with “lack of time” being described as an issue for almost all rape specialists and charging decisions taking an average of 53 days instead of the target of 28 days.

 

It transpires that case work on rape and serious sexual offence cases is not always being handled by specialists in dedicated units and early investigative advice has been found to be ineffective when used.

 

What does this Rape and Serious Sexual Offence report mean if you are being investigated for a rape or serious sexual offence?

 

It means that your whole life depends on the work of agencies who are overstretched, who do not have the time necessary to fully investigate all avenues, and who are probably either not specialists or do not have the up-to-date training needed even if they are.

 

It means your fate is in the hands of government departments who have minimum working standards they should follow to ensure your case is handled correctly, but who do not meet those minimum working standards.

 

It means early investigation work that could potentially avoid you being charged for an offence you are innocent of is often not being done and, if it is, is proving to be ineffective.

 

It means that if you are being investigated for a rape or serious sexual offence, you will need dedicated specialist sexual offence solicitors on your side to help even out this imbalance.

 

Forrest Williams are that dedicated team.

 

We only defend those accused of sexual offences who deny the allegations and whom we believe are innocent.  This means that we will fight against this injustice you are facing with passion, integrity and commitment.

 

Call us now to see how we can help you.

 

Need Urgent Advice? Call us now on 0800 1933 999

Psychoactive Substances Act – What You Need To Know

Psychoactive Substances Act

 

What is the Psychoactive Substances Act?

 

And more importantly – how could it impact upon me?

 

The Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA) was given its Royal Assent on the 28 January 2016 and will come into force on the 6 April 2016. The Act makes it an offence to produce, supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance if the substance is likely to be used for its psychoactive effects regardless of its potential for harm. Offences are triable either way with the volume and value a determining factor of penalty.  This means that cases can be heard in the magistrates or Crown Court.  This does mean that simply being in possession of a psychoactive substance is not an offence unless the offender is in a ‘custodial institution’ at the time it is committed.

 

The Act is clear in its description of what can be considered a ‘psychoactive substance’:

 

“any substance which is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it”

 

with further detail given as:

 

“a substance produces a psychoactive effect in a person if, by stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system, it affects the person’s mental functioning or emotional state”

 

The Psychoactive Substances Act applies to all substances which can be used to get high, the possibilities for which are extensive and will include items which some may consider surprising (for example Nutmeg can have psychoactive properties however for most it is simply a food item and is recorded as an exception to the act).  The onus is on the sellers and producers of a substance to ensure it is not likely to be consumed for psychoactive effects.

 

The Psychoactive Substances Act does not apply to those substances already controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act, such as nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and medicinal products. As the Act does not replace the Misuse of Drugs Act laws around existing illegal or controlled drugs remain the same.

 

The Psychoactive Substances Act does not make possession an offence as the aim of the act was not to lead to mass prosecution of individuals, it was to criminalise those who would sell and encourage the use of those ‘legal highs’ – thus allowing for the shops and websites that trade in these to be shut down.  The Police will have powers to stop and search and powers granted to the police and local authorities to deal with the owners of the shops and UK Based websites supplying these drugs.

 

Sentencing will take into account both the volume and value of the goods to be considered and any other aggravating features (such as being targeted towards minors).

 

Penalties:

Offence

Summary (Magistrates Court)

Indictment (Crown Court)

Possession

Not an offence

Not an offence

Possession in a custodial institution

Up to 12 months custody and/or a fine

Up to 2 years custody and/or a fine

Possession with intent to supply

Up to 12 months custody and/or a fine

Up to 7 years custody and/or a fine

Supply/Offer to supply

Up to 12 months custody and/or a fine

Up to 7 years custody and/or a fine

Production

Up to 12 months custody and/or a fine

Up to 7 years custody and/or a fine

Importation/exportation

Up to 12 months custody and/or a fine

Up to 7 years custody and/or a fine

Failure to comply with a Prohibition or premises notice

Up to 12 months custody and/or a fine

Up to 2 years custody and/or a fine

 

This is a new Act, creating new offences, and as such there will be questions raised regarding the implementation – the Association of Chief Police Officers  are expected to issue further guidance to their forces before the Act comes in to power. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have previously been asked to review any substances of concern to assess any potential harm though may not be required to under the new Psychoactive Substances Act (though could still be called to comment under the Misuse of Drugs Act). The ACMD have, however argued that the definition of ‘psychoactive substance’ is too broad and unworkable in practice – with the onus then being that any new, emerging substances, would need to be identified, tested for harm and proven in court to be psychoactive.  This does mean that there may be areas to explored by way of a defence!

 

If you are arrested on any of the above charges then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 600645 and any of the team will be happy to help you.

 

Forrest Williams solicitors

Post-Conviction Behaviour SHPO

Post-Conviction Behaviour SHPO

 

We were instructed recently by a gentleman who had concerns about a possible application for a post-conviction SHPO (Sexual Harm Prevention Order).  He instructed us to investigate whether there were reasonable grounds for this application to be made and whether it seemed likely that he would receive a post-conviction behaviour SHPO.

 

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders are Orders that can be imposed against convicted sexual offenders.  They are not imposed automatically upon every conviction for sexual offences, and there are specific rules that must be followed to determine whether an Application should be granted or not.

 

Our client had only become aware of the potential Application because of a chance conversation with the Social Worker working with his family. 

 

He was incredibly worried.  He maintained the position that he was innocent, and had already found his life and reputation damaged by the conviction.  Now, the possibility of a post-conviction behaviour SHPO threatened to further ruin his life.

 

He instructed Forrest Williams to investigate whether there were grounds for the application.

 

We thoroughly reviewed the whole of his case and discussed the matter with him in detail, and were confident that there were in fact no grounds for a post-conviction behaviour SHPO to be applied for.

 

We decided to go further than this, however.

 

We set out our position in detail to the Officer in the Case and received a telephone call from him the next day.

 

The application for the post-conviction behaviour SHPO had been listed in the Crown Court for the next day.  Our client had not been informed.

 

However, upon receipt of our letter and a further discussion, the officer spoke to senior colleagues who researched the matter and accepted that they in fact did not have grounds to make the application.  The officer assured us that the hearing would be withdrawn and the matter was concluded.

 

We informed our client who was delighted and thanked us for being the only professional firm he had dealt with who actually listened to his concerns, returned his calls and treated him with respect.

 

This should have resolved the matter, however there was more to come.

 

The next morning at 8am, we were contacted by another police officer to advise that the hearing would go ahead after all – at 10am.

 

We were, of course, not at all happy with this and felt that this complete turnaround was grossly unfair to our client.

 

We contacted the Crown Court and set out our position, advising that there were no grounds for the post-conviction behaviour SHPO application to be made and, as such, we would ask that the matter be dismissed.  If, however, there was any chance of the Application being allowed, we would ask that the matter be adjourned to allow sufficient time for us to prepare and organise representation for our client.

 

We were delighted to be informed that the Judge had considered the matter and, due to our correspondence, had refused the Application.

 

We were completely correct – there were no grounds for a post-conviction behaviour SHPO to be made. 

 

Our client remains delighted to have this behind him, and we have encouraged him to Appeal against the conviction.

 

As a legal team, Forrest Williams are experts on intricate legal matters.  We are also resourceful, intuitive and quick to take action.  We’re human too, and we know how much it means to have someone who listens, understands, returns your calls, and supports you without judging you.

 

If you need legal help, call us now.

 

Forrest Williams solicitors

 

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