A day in the life of a Criminal Solicitor – part 4

A day in the life of a Criminal Solicitor - part 4

In Part 4 of this series, Rob Beighton discusses another case that ended in his client being acquitted. 

People are always interested to know exactly what being a criminal defence lawyer involves and typical questions often relate to the moral issues presented to us. So we thought we would put together a series of blogs designed to explain what we get up to and why we do what we do.  This is part 3. Part 1 can be found herepart 2 here and part 3 here.   

The reality is, it’s not our job to make moral judgments about other people’s lives. It is our job to provide logical and coherent advice, based on the legal position and to assist people who are often at a point of crisis.

Assault – on the police or on our client? 

Last week I went to the Magistrates’ Court to deal with the trial of a lady that had been charged with assaulting a police officer.

The police had attended an address following a call from a member of the public who claimed that he had recently purchased a property but had been locked out by two women that he did not recognise but that he thought may be the previous tenants.  They had used a key to access the property.

Two police officers attended the house and knocked on the door with the intention of asking the women to leave.  When they refused to leave, the police used a battering ram to smash the door in.  The women were arrested for squatting.  One of them (5 feet 2, aged 48, with a pending hospital appointment due to a stomach complaint) was said to have kicked and headbutted one of the officers (6 feet 4 aged early 30s)  during the arrest.

Somebody recorded the incident but it wasn’t the police

Despite the fact that the police were wearing full uniform the officers did not record the assault on body worn video because, as they told the court, they had not received training on how it worked.  Unfortunately for them, one of the women used her phone to film what was happening.  Despite the phone being  knocked out of her hand by one of the officers and the video from it being lost, the phone still made an audio recording of the incident.  The police officer did not suffer any injuries during the assault on him.  The defendant on the other hand was taken to hospital in an ambulance as a result of her arrest.

The audio evidence was played to the court.  It contradicted the police account of the incident in almost every respect.

The defence case 

When she gave her evidence the defendant was able to prove that she was the rightful owner of the property at the time the police attended, a fact that could have easily been checked by the police. It was not possible for her to have committed the offence that she was being arrested for.  Inevitably she was acquitted and the assault charge against her was dismissed.  She has lodged a complaint against the police.

A most unfortunate state of affairs

It is not for me to pass judgement and the police undoubtedly have a difficult job to do.  That said, it is a sad state of affairs that the officers in this case were unwilling to accept that they had made a terrible mistake and opted to resolve the case by bringing a charge against this lady and putting her through the terrible ordeal of a trial.  One hopes that this will be a factor to be considered by the IPCC in due course.

This is the second trial that I have been involved in this month that has involved an allegation of assaulting a police officer.  It is the second time that either audio or video footage has contradicted the evidence of the officers and it is the second time that the court has found against the prosecution.

I have no doubt that had incontrovertible CCTV or audio evidence not been available the cases may well have been decided differently.  Do we all need to start wearing video cameras now I wonder?

Robert Beighton

Robert Beighton

Rob is a higher courts advocate but his main practice is in the magistrates court, the youth court and at the police station where he has a wealth of experience in representing clients.

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