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Criminal Defence Blog

Archive for July, 2016

Appeal Against Magistrates Court: A Handy Q&A

appeal against magistrates court


How To Appeal Against Magistrates Court Decision


Q: Do I have the right to appeal against magistrates court decision?


A: If you pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge, and you were unsuccessful at trial, you have the right to appeal against conviction, sentence or both.


Q: What if I pleaded guilty but am unhappy with the outcome?


A: You can appeal against your sentence, but not your conviction.


Q: Is there a time limit?


A: Yes. You should appeal within 21 days of the date you were sentenced.


Q: What if my hearing was more than 21 days ago? Can I still appeal?


A: It may still be possible to appeal, but you would need the permission of the crown court.


Q: How do I appeal?


A: A Notice of Appeal must be completed and submitted to the magistrates’ court which sentenced you.  This will need to set out the legal issues in the case that form the basis of your Appeal.


Q: What happens next?


A: You will be notified of your appeal date in due course. This is usually within a few weeks, and held at the crown court nearest to the magistrates’ court where you were sentenced.


Q: What happens if my appeal is successful?


A: If your appeal against conviction is successful, then your sentence no longer applies. You may receive compensation. If your appeal against sentence is successful, your sentence will be reduced. You may be able to claim back a partial refund of legal costs (i.e. some of the fees paid to a solicitor).


Q: What if my appeal is unsuccessful?


A: You need to be aware before you appeal against magistrates court decision that there are three possible outcomes: the sentence could be improved, made worse, or remain the same. If the appeal is not successful, you do not have an automatic right to pursue any further attempts to appeal.  If an error in law has been made, further Appeal options may be available.  You would need specialist advice about whether or not to proceed. You may be ordered to pay costs.


If you are unhappy with a court decision, and are considering lodging an appeal, please speak with us first. We are happy to offer free initial advice on 01623 397200.

Fraud by False Representation

fraud by false representation

Fraud by False Representation


Do you need a fraud by false representation solicitor?


Forrest Williams can help.


We are specialists in this area and will prepare your case and support you without judgement.


When you see that somebody has been charged with Fraud, you think of a middle class man, probably a member of a high organisation who has been swindling the books to buy his second home in The Bahamas.


And as for Making off without payment, you envisage a young male speeding off in his modified Vauxhall Corsa from a petrol station after just filling up his tank, trying to get away without paying.


This was simply not the case for Steve.


Steve was a respectable man, who had always worked hard for his money, and had never been in trouble with the law before. Steve had a successful career which would be ruined if he was convicted of offences like these.


Steve was charged with Fraud by False Representation and Making off without payment.


Steve needed our help.


We quickly realised that there was much more to the story then just these two charges.


Steve was doing work for a company up North which in the end lasted almost a year. Steve decided that it would be easier just to move up there and stay in a B&B whilst the work was ongoing, rather than travelling up and down from home each week.


Steve had very good relations with the B&B manager and so payments were made on a very ad-hoc basis.


The Manager gave Steve partially completed receipts and told him to fill in the dates and the amounts when he paid them.  As these receipts were just for Steve’s records there was no issue with this at the time.


This was all fine until the manager started requesting large payments in advance to cover his own personal expenses such as Speeding Tickets, Tax bills etc.


The payments became very messy, and Steve suddenly found himself not knowing how much he was supposed to pay for his room.


As Steve was busy with work, he told the Manager of the B&B that there was a problem with his expenses and so he could not make these payments at the required times.


Steve’s plan was to try and sort out his finances and then he could go to the manager and tell him exactly what he owed and how it would be paid.


Unfortunately this didn’t happen. The matter quickly escalated and so Steve agreed to make three payments of £800 each, which would clear the balance.


He paid the first amount in full, on the date agreed. But then due to personal circumstances he had  to go back home and had to leave the B&B.


Steve left a cheque for the second payment in his room with his key and then left, telling the Manager that he would make the final payment on the date that was agreed previously.


The Manager claimed that he did not get this cheque or the message about the future payment and so contacted the police and Steve was charged with Making off without payment.


Steve contacted the Police and showed them the receipts that he had been given by the Manager and implied that this would show that he did not owe any more money to the B&B.


The Police found out that this was not the case, and so Steve was consequently charged with Fraud by False Representation.


Steve appointed us and told us he wished to plead Not Guilty on the basis that he didn’t leave without payment, he had left a cheque and had a payment plan set up; and that he didn’t intentionally try to mislead the police with these receipts, these were genuine receipts filled out for the amounts he had paid and it was a mistake that he regretted implying to the police that they were otherwise.


Steve asked us to prepare his trial, and arrange for him to be represented at the trial by a Specialist Fraud Barrister.


We appointed one of our Specialist Fraud Barristers, and started making preparations for the trial.


We requested the full file of evidence from the prosecution, took a full statement from Steve, and any papers/ documents that Steve had relating to the matter.


Once we had all of this we reviewed the case, and explained to Steve that there is a chance we could get the case dropped if we could liaise with the Prosecution and most importantly if he could repay the amount of money that was still owed to the B&B.


Steve quickly agreed.  This would mean that he would avoid being convicted of Fraud by False Representation, and Making off without payment, and he would avoid the stress and fees of taking the matter to a Crown Court trial.


We began immediately speaking with the Senior Prosecutor who was overseeing this case, and persuaded him that if Steve could repay the money, then the case would no longer be in the public interest to continue.


Between our liaisons with the Senior Prosecutor and our specialist fraud barrister, we had managed to get the Prosecution to agree to withdraw both charges of Fraud by False Representation and Making off without payment, if the fees for the B&B were repaid.  


Steve promptly paid the money owed into our client account where we transferred it over to the B&B. 


Nottingham Crown Court listed the matter for a Pre-Trial Review, where the Crown Prosecution Service formally requested that Not Guilty Verdicts were entered.


Steve was so relieved with this result. He had instructed us to prepare his case for trial. What we had managed to do instead was have him found Not Guilty of both charges without the need for a trial hearing.


Steve made the follow comments after his hearing;


“I should first thank you guys for providing me with superb representation – you obviously know your stuff!  But what impressed me was the way in which you made me feel at ease throughout what is a very stressful time for me.  I really can’t thank you enough for that and for guiding me through the whole process on the day.”


If you need help for fraud by false representation, call our expert team now on 01623 397200.



Sexual Assault Solicitors: Client Found Not Guilty

sexual assault solicitors


Sexual Assault Solicitors


Do you need sexual assault solicitors?  Forrest Williams can help.


How much do you trust the person giving you advice? Presumably, you must trust their knowledge but do you trust that they are giving you the best advice for you and not what is best for them?


I recently had the honour of supporting a client through his Sexual Assault charge.  As sexual assault solicitors we are used to helping many good people through allegations like this.  He accepted that the touching occurred but firmly believed that it had been consensual – and that he had believed that she had not objected to the touch.


To put it into context, he had been at a work party, they had all been drinking, in his own words “to excess”, and he, and a colleague, had been sat, snuggled together on a sofa, her back resting into his chest as she laid back into him. His arm was round her waist and rested just up inside her top.


The sexual assault allegation related to him then touching her breast.


Our client was mortified when the allegation was made some time later.  He had never set out to upset anyone, or to cause harm. He had simply misjudged the situation, believing that she was not averse to the contact – there were others present and she could have moved away, or said something, instead she had snuggled closer into him and had not objected to the initial contact.


Is this not how many sexual encounters begin?  Not with a written contract or a verbal agreement, but with subtle body language?


When initially questioned by the police our client (then not represented by Forrest Williams but a Legal Aid Lawyer) was too open and too apologetic.  He was clearly upset by the allegations and anxious to ensure the police knew how sorry he was for what had happened – and his interview could be interpreted as an acceptance of the charge.  His solicitor told him to accept the charge, to plead Guilty to the offence.


As specialist sexual assault solicitors, we understand the devastating consequences that a conviction for a sexual offence can have.  We would never advise a client with a clear defence to plead guilty.


Luckily his family urged him to seek a second opinion and he rang the specialist sexual assault solicitors at Forrest Williams.


We talked to him, we obtained the evidence from the CPS and, above all, we listened to him. It was clear to us that, though he was at pains not to suggest that the complainant was lying, that he had, at the time of the incident, firmly believed that she had consented to the touch and that his belief in that consent was reasonable.


We talked through the options with him and how each would work – together it was decided that not only would he plead Not Guilty but that he would elect to have the case sent to the Crown Court to be heard (a Sexual Assault case can be heard in the Magistrates Court by a judge or in the Crown Court when a Jury would determine his fate). This would mean that his case, instead of being over in a matter of weeks would instead take over a year.


This was a big consideration for him due to the ongoing stress and impact on his family, on his job, on his health. Pleading Guilty would have been easier and cheaper – but he would also have been a convicted Sex Offender, for a genuine mistake – and that was something he did not want to impact on his young daughters.


The incident occurred almost 16 months before his trial was heard. Sixteen months of questioning himself on whether he was doing the right thing? Was he in the wrong? Had he misread the signals? Should he just have pleaded Guilty and been frantically saving money to his daughters’ future (he was sure his career would be ruined by a sex conviction)? Part of my job was not just to advise him on the legalities of his case but to support him through it all – not only the preparation but to be there in court to answer his questions while his barrister was busy, and to support his family if the verdict was not in his favour.


In theory we have a wonderful legal system in this country – innocent until you are proven guilty. Except that’s not exactly how it works. It is for the prosecution to prove their case not yours to prove your innocence but that is not how it can feel. The media get hold of cases and even before being charged your name and image can be plastered across the press (Cliff Richard being a perfect example of this – he wasn’t even aware of an investigation!).


Our client was in a similar position – a man of good character with 20+ years of charitable service and regular volunteer work immediately suspended from those voluntary duties.  In his professional life he was pulled from a project he had been working on for almost 10 years and side lined to a non-public facing role – setting his career back 5-6 years and guaranteeing he would not receive the expected promotion at the completion of the previous project. The impact of this false allegation against him was immense – despite nothing being proven and no conviction existing he was punished. Why wouldn’t you question yourself when others around you seem quick to judge?


Luckily our client was surrounded by people who believed in him and knew his good and kind nature. They provided character statements for the court and were willing to attend court to give that evidence in person. They knew that he would never have intentionally set out to cause upset, and that he had genuinely believed that his actions were not only ok with her, but that they were wanted by her.  He was in turmoil by the idea that he had caused upset to another, and at times he was at risk of being so anxious to consider her feelings that he was doing so at the expense of his own situation.


Defending a Sexual Assault Charge is a very delicate balancing act and one Forrest Williams do very well. Just as there is no single type of Sexual Assault so there is not a single way to approach the defence.  In this case we never suggested the ‘victim’ was lying.  We never suggested she was making it up.  We never set out to suggest she was malicious in her allegation.  We just needed to show that our client’s belief in her consent was reasonable.


After hearing the evidence the Jury took less than 40 minutes to return their verdict of Not Guilty.




It was clear to them, as it had been to us, that our client had genuinely believed that she had consented to the contact. As he said, you don’t ask verbally for consent, you judge a situation, you read body language, and in this case, his interpretation was apparently mistaken – but that does not mean he was guilty of a criminal act!


After the hearing both the client and his father hugged us and thanked us for all our support over the past year. They knew that the outcome for him, and his future, would never be as it was before the allegation was made, but that his faith in himself and in us had been justified.


If you need specialist sexual assault solicitors on your side, or fighting for one of your loved ones, call our expert team now on 01623 397200.  It is vital that you get experts on side as early as possible – ideally, while police are investigating.  Do not wait to be formally charged.


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