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MAR
07

CPS To Continue With Hard-Hitting Prosecution Policy Against Historic Sex Crimes: So What Happens To Those Who Are Mistakenly Or Falsely Accused?

sex offencesDespite the recent series of high profile historic sex prosecutions that have resulted in acquittals, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, is determined to continue with their revamped prosecution policy in this area.

The prosecution of serious crime and sexual crime in particular is vitally important. However, what is concerning is the mixed messages coming from the CPS and the Police on this subject, and the prosecution of evidentially 'weak' cases, which would seem to be an important departure from the core elements of the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

The DPP, in a recent and important speech at the annual conference of the St Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester, said that the new CPS specialist guideline, released last autumn by her predecessor Sir Keir Starmer, meant a "shift of focus towards ensuring that potential victims have their day in court". She continued to say that prosecutors should consider that, "the impact over time might have become greater and led to adverse effects on the victim's physical or mental health and their circumstances in general. A prosecution, especially for a more serious non-recent offence may help the victim through the offender being brought to justice even if the courts are likely to only impose a nominal penalty. An admission or finding of guilt may help the victim to come to terms with the offence committed against them."

She went on to suggest that cases were not brought to court unless a conviction was certain, and dismissed any suggestion that victims were motivated by financial gain or other motives.

Her views are wholly endorsed by specialist support organisations.

To be frank this speech really hasn't helped matters.

The core elements of the CPS code are that there is a prima facie case for the defendant to answer, that it is in the public interest, and that there is a realistic prospect of conviction.

However the DPP seems to be suggesting that the new focus is that cases are only brought to court where convictions are certain. She refers to the offender rather than the accused and, frankly, to suggest that putting a victim through the court process will help them presumably find closure, even if the sentence handed down to the convicted individual is nominal, is astounding to those of us genuinely familiar with the trial process.

Not only that, but there are no nominal sentences in these cases; quite the contrary.

Although the CPS has had a number of successful prosecutions concerning historic abuse, particularly in certain institutionalised situations, there have a large number of spectacular failures where, evidentially, the evidence is weak.

Over the last two years we have successfully defended cases based on contaminated DNA (where the case was thrown out by the Judge); cases where the victim had substantially and fundamentally contradicted herself in various written statements and in the witness box; another when a victim identified one man that she believed seriously sexually assaulted her as an eight-year-old (we were able to prove that the accused was working abroad during this period of her life, which was raised by the accused during his police interviews); another case when a letter written by the complainant identifying another man as her assailant was left on the CPS file and only discovered and disclosed at the hearing in the Court of Appeal. We are also currently advising in another case relating to historic abuse allegations which are fifty years old and where the accused died twenty years ago, yet the police say that they have to continue with their investigation!

It is difficult to see how any of those prosecutions ending in acquittals for the defendants can help a vulnerable individual raising these sensitive and traumatic issues.

Not only that, but these acquittals come during a time of massive budget cuts for both the police and the CPS, when perhaps the focus should be on pursuing (and properly investigating and preparing) the stronger cases.

There has been a recent and huge surge of historic sexual abuse complaints. In November 2013 it was reported that there were 18,915 complaints throughout the country. 9,381 went further down the legal system and in 2012 only 28% of complaints were referred to the CPS for decisions on whether to charge or not, and yet evidentially weak cases are still getting through, which then result in acquittals.

What happens, then, to those who are mistakenly or even falsely accused? It does happen more often that the media and general public think. Jobs are lost, family homes sold so as to ensure a decent level of legal representation, family relationships disintegrate, the acquitted individual is also traumatised and, like the victim, expected to pick up the pieces of their lives.

The DPP is correct in that, for most victims, financial reward is not an issue, but a legal industry focusing upon claims on behalf of victims has mushroomed recently.

The important issue for the CPS and the Police is to get the balance correct and to ensure that justice is done fairly. It is what juries and the general public demand of them.

If you are facing any of these issues, please contact our specialist solicitors on 0207 387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form here.

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MAR
27

Two more major instructions for LNL crime and fraud departments this week.

Miles Herman has been instructed to advise and represent an individual in connection with Operation Weeting - A Met police investigation into alleged phone hacking.

Also, Jeffrey Lewis has been instructed in another large scale corporate vat fraud investigation.

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  1664 Hits
1664 Hits
JUN
25

Arson Acquittal for Mentally Disordered Client

Danny Barnard, one of our excellent in-house advocates, represented an individual facing arson charges relating to a fire set in the hostel in which he was living.

He was arrested after the Crown built a strong case against him, including CCTV and eyewitness evidence. He was initially remanded to a specialist hospital for treatment under section 36 of the Mental Health Act 1983 and was deemed too unwell to attend his trial, which was held in his absence.

In such cases, a jury is tasked only to consider whether the client had made the act as charged. Thanks to Danny’s forensic examination skills the jury found that the act was not proven and the client was acquitted.

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  1794 Hits
1794 Hits
JUN
19

Major Dishonesty Prosecution Acquittal

Penny Muir has successfully represented a second defendant facing a multi-charge indictment detailing major dishonesty allegations, involving an internationally known motor manufacturer.

Counsel, instructed by Penny, made a successful submission that there was not a case for the defendant to answer at the close of the prosecution case.

Penny had secured the acquittal of another individual facing similar allegations two years ago.

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2017 Hits
JUN
01

Yet another Lewis Nedas Law Acquittal

We acted for a young man of good character accused of a serious allegation of GBH after a disturbance at a London bar. He protested his innocence throughout, stating that some of the witnesses had innocently misidentified him.

Taking advice from the superb Kaly Kaul QC (9-12 Bell Yard Chambers) who was the advocate in this case, we instructed specialist photographers and video experts to provide a “walkthrough” video of the bar, demonstrating the detail of our client’s defence to the jury, who quickly acquitted him. We would not have been able to provide the quality of the video/photographs had the client been legally aided, the client’s parents paid for his defence costs which also enabled us to instruct Kaly Kaul QC.

Thankfully, the Recorder of London made an order for the recovery of all costs paid out so far by the family, which will be the subject of taxation by the NTT.

Siobhain Egan had conduct of this matter.

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1786 Hits

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