My first week: the realities of the criminal justice system

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Created on December 01, 2021

The realities of the criminal justice system

The representation of the English and Welsh criminal justice system depicted by British crime drama was my expectation when undertaking my law degree. When studying my criminal law modules, it became apparent that teaching was very prosecutorial in its formulation, as I had imagined when beginning my degree. Despite believing I understood the law, in reality, I had touched upon a minute section of ‘black letter’ law that would assist me in my first week with Old Bailey Solicitors, in a new world of criminal defence.

A resounding sense of normality arose, albeit caveated with frustration, when red tape consistently restricted the meetings, court appearances and prison visits scheduled for the solicitors I shadowed. Whilst this was frustrating for the firm, I began to imagine how much more so this was for our clients. Two situations arose which particularly stuck in my mind, explaining this client frustration.

The first of these was a prison video conference arranged with the firm, the client and barrister. After waiting for the client to be brought to the video-link room, a prison officer appeared telling us our client had been moved and was no longer at this particular prison. This meant the conference was unable to take place, but we also now did not know of our client’s whereabouts. We contacted the ‘Prisoner Locator Service’ to request this detail, which later that day uncovered our client was at this prison and had not been moved. With our client going to trial in a matter of weeks, this conference was a vital one, which frustratingly for the client was unable to go ahead.

The second of these scenarios involved a client who had paid for a whole-day childcare to attend the magistrates court, only for her case to be adjourned at the time the trial was due to commence. This not only frustrating for her, but worsened by the financial loss of childcare incurred for nothing.

I return to the prior mentioned sense of normality within the firm in scenarios such as these. These are the realities of a criminal justice system under immense pressure. The silver lining on this cloud? The hard work and dedication I have seen by all members of Old Bailey Solicitors to overcome these hurdles in whichever way they materialise; I am incredibly excited to learn and progress with Old Bailey Solicitors and hope to continue this head-on approach to resolving the issues our clients face on a daily basis.

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