Most people anticipate being ill at some point in their lives. When that happens, the first thing we do is either attend our local General Practitioner or our local Accident and Emergency Department. Most of us know very little about physiology or medicine so we place our trust in the experience and expertise of those treating us.
Very few of us expect to ever become involved in the Criminal Justice System. Whilst some of us may do our civic duty of Jury Service, we would never expect to end up in the dock. However, surprisingly, of those accused of a criminal act, over 50% attend the police station without representation. Some think that they have not done anything wrong, so why would they need a Solicitor. Others think that going with a Solicitor makes them look like they have something to hide. Others think they can’t afford a Solicitor.
But, go back to the medical analogy. If you have a medical issue, you don’t have a go at operating on yourself, or take a guess at what is likely to be the best medicine for you. You immediately entrust a professional. Why is that any different when potentially, your liberty is at stake?
Most people do not understand the intricacies of Criminal Law so having an expert with you from the outset is just as important as seeking early medical advice. What you may believe is correct may be different in the eyes of the law. Proper legal advice at the outset of your matter may make the difference between you maintaining your clean character and having a conviction that may carry with it dire consequences to you and your family.
Every person interviewed at the police station is cautioned. The caution is worded:
"You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court, anything you do say may be given in evidence."
Thus, every word uttered may either be used in evidence and conversely anything not uttered may be held against you by a court. Any police interview can be crucial to any case and proper advice at this early stage is often decisive.
Legal Aid remains available to anyone being interviewed under caution, regardless of means. Even when the government is cutting public funding across the board, they appreciate the importance of accused persons having representation and the impact these interviews can have on proceedings. Having an expert at your side therefore will not cost you anything!
The Criminal Courts have introduced Better Case Management which aims to streamline proceedings and ensure Justice is done as efficiently as possible. This includes putting pressure on Defendant’s to plead Guilty. If you appear before a Magistrates Court for a first hearing you are now advised that you will get full credit for a guilty plea, but should you wish to plead not guilty, you will face increased costs. Many unrepresented people feel this puts them under pressure from the very beginning to plead guilty, even if they have done nothing wrong. It is therefore very important that you seek advice and representation so that when you appear in court, you know what to expect and are confident of your case and your plea.
Recent cases have hit the headlines where proper disclosure has not been undertaken. People have faced years of Criminal Proceedings only to discover at the 11th hour that the police have not obtained or provided evidence crucial to their case. This is happening more often, due to cuts and increased pressure on police forces along with many other factors. Again, expert legal advice can and, as these case highlight, will prevent travesties of justice from happening.
We at HPJV Solicitors have an excellent team of Criminal Representatives who deal with all matters from the Police Station to the Crown Court. It costs nothing to seek initial advice and our expertise may make the difference to your case.