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Archive for the ‘Court Procedure’ Category

Simple Caution: Should I Accept a Simple Caution?

simple cautionThis post gives general advice about what a Simple Caution is and whether you should accept one if offered one.  If you need specific advice about an ongoing case involving a simple caution, call our expert team now on 0800 1933 999 for bespoke advice.

 

What is a ‘Simple Caution’?

 

Previously known as a formal or police caution, it is a formal warning which may be given by the police to a person of 18 years of age who admits to committing an offence.

 

This disposal is aimed at dealing with low-level, mostly first-time offenders without the need for prosecutions, in circumstances whereby certain criteria are met.

 

NB: A conditional caution is not the same thing as a simple caution – conditions are attached to the former. Conditional cautions were introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

 

A simple caution should only be offered to a person who admits the offence (“offender”), and who agrees to accept the simple caution. Offenders can refuse to accept a simple caution even if they have admitted guilt to an offence and their refusal may result in a prosecution.

 

A simple caution should only be offered where the decision maker is confident that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction if the offender were to be prosecuted.

 

A simple caution should not be offered if the decision maker decides it would be in the public interest for the offender to be prosecuted.

 

The caution forms part of an offender’s criminal record and may be referred to in future legal proceedings, or be disclosed in certain criminal records checks. Offenders should be warned about this before they accept a simple caution.

 

There is no formal right of appeal against this once it has been accepted by an offender, but it can be challenged by way of a complaint against the issuing police force, or in court by way of a judicial review.

 

Should I accept a simple caution?

 

Before you decide whether or not to accept the offer, you need to consider the following issues:-

 

–      Do you admit the offence? (If you do not, then you should not accept, as to accept it is an admission of your guilt.)

 

–      The simple caution, once accepted, forms part of your criminal record. A record will be retained by the police and it may be referred to in future legal proceedings.

 

–      Some criminal records checks may reveal this in future (i.e. to present or potential employers, in some occupations).

 

–      If you accept this disposal in relation to an offence in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will result in the offender becoming a “relevant offender” for the purposes of the notification and registration requirements of Part 2 of that Act. This means that the offender will be put on the “sex offenders register” for two years from the date of the simple caution.

 

–      It may be taken into account by the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) for those working, or intending to work, with children and vulnerable adults.

 

–      If further evidence comes to light after it has been accepted, a prosecution could still be brought against an offender, or a civil action, or a private prosecution.

 

–      Entry to other countries could be denied as some countries’ immigration policies may treat this in the same way as a conviction.

 

If you have concerns about the offer or acceptance of a simple caution, contact our office today for initial, free advice on 01623 600645.

 

Virtual Court Hearing Solicitors

virtual court hearing solicitors

 

Virtual Court Hearing Solicitors

 

As specialist virtual court hearing solicitors, we are receiving many questions about the new Virtual Court Hearing system.  This post is our overview of the new system.  If you are in need of Virtual Court Hearing Solicitors, call our expert team now on 0800 1933 999.

 

What is the background to Virtual Court First Hearings?

 

Since 2009, magistrates’ courts have been able to conduct first hearings of criminal cases by a live link between the court and police stations. This means the defendant may appear by live link from the police station to court, rather than being taken to court to be physically present. 

 

Does a defendant have to consent to this process?

 

No, not any more. Since 14 December 2009, a former requirement that a defendant must consent to participate in a live link hearing (contained in sub-section 57C (7) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998) was removed by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Accordingly, it is no longer a requirement that the defendant consent to appear in court by way of the video link from the police station.

 

Are more defendants now appearing at court hearings by video link?

 

Yes. The suitability criteria custody officers use to initially assess the suitability of defendants to appear by video link have recently been relaxed. As a result of this more defendants are eligible to appear in this way at their first court hearing. (There may be regional variations as different police forces may apply different suitability criteria. In addition, youth court cases hearings will be conducted by video link.) 

 

What is a Virtual Court First Hearing (VCFH)?

 

In a VCFH, the defendant is not produced at court but appears in the magistrates’ court by a video link from a room in the police station custody suite.

 

The magistrates (or district judge), court staff and prosecutor will be at court.

 

The defence solicitor will either be at the police station or the court. (This is a decision they need to make with regard to the best interests of the defendant.)

 

VCFHs may take place in respect of any offence.

 

Custody officers initially decide if a case is suitable to be heard by live link by referencing suitability criteria. (Representations may be made to custody officers regarding their decisions and a copy of the suitability criteria can be requested by legal professionals.) There are also regional variations in terms of which cases are deemed eligible for VCFH. A risk assessment is also carried out as due consideration has to be given to the possibility of violent behaviour from the defendant prior to or during a VCFH.

 

The final decision to proceed by way of a live link hearing is made by the court. Section 57C (6)(A) of the Crime and Disorder Act 2006 states that ‘a live link direction under this section may not be given unless the court is satisfied that it is not contrary to the interests of justice to give the direction’. 

 

Is the Defendant Fit for this Process?

 

The defendant’s legal representative has a duty to ascertain that the defendant is fit – physically and mentally – to take part in the proceedings. The following indicators should be addressed for each defendant if they:-

 

  • are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering the effects of withdrawal
  • have cognitive, mental or physical health issues that may affect their rights while in police detention
  • have been subject to inappropriate police pressure
  • have the necessary communication skills and abilities.

 

Similarly, due care should be taken for defendants who require an appropriate adult (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) or interpreter. It is crucial that defendants are able to understand and cope with the virtual court process. If they are not, this would form the basis of an application to the court that it would not be in the interests of justice to make the direction.

 

If you have received notification that a VCFH has been fixed, and need virtual court hearing solicitors, contact us on 01623 600645 for free initial advice.

 

 

 

Private Prosecution Solicitors – We Fight For Your Rights

Private Prosecution Solicitors

 

Private Prosecution Solicitors – We Fight For Your Rights

 

Q: What is a ‘private prosecution’?

 

A: Private prosecutions date back to the earliest days of the legal system. They are prosecutions started by a private individual, or entity who/which is not acting on behalf of the police or other prosecuting authority. A ‘prosecuting authority’ includes, but is not limited to, an entity which has a statutory power to prosecute.

 

Q: What legislation covers the right to bring private prosecutions?

 

A: The right to bring private prosecutions is preserved by section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act (POA) 1985.

 

Q: Why would a person need to take out a private prosecution?

 

A: Private prosecutions are on the increase as police budget cuts and pressures on the justice system force people to fund their own criminal actions. They are often instigated following a failure of the police to investigate, or by the Crown Prosecution Service being unwilling to press ahead to trial.  Our private prosecution solicitors are in high demand to help people get the justice they deserve.

 

Q: What type of matters are suitable for a private prosecution?

 

A: Private prosecutions can be taken out for a wide array of offences including sex attacks, violent assaults and frauds.  Our private prosecution solicitors can advise you further.

 

Q: Have there been any high-profile private prosecutions?

 

A: Yes, lots of them have made the news. One that is particularly note-worthy is the private prosecution taken out by the family of Stephen Lawrence in 1996, against five suspects after three years of bungled police investigations. The case resulted in only three making it to trial and they were acquitted on the orders of the judge. The family took out a private prosecution as they wanted to see the men who had murdered Stephen in an unprovoked racist attack brought to justice.

 

Q: Can the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) take over a private prosecution?

 

A: Yes, the Director of Public Prosecutions – the head of the CPS – can take over cases and stop them if they are considered “vexatious” or “malicious”.

 

Q: Can a private prosecution be stopped?

 

A: Yes, if it interferes with other criminal cases, or is considered not in the public interest, according to prosecutors’ guidance.

 

If you are thinking of taking out a private prosecution, please call our expert team now for free initial advice on 01623 600645.

 

 

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