We understand that every case is different, but our years of experience allow us to understand the likely process and some of the issues that are likely to affect anyone going through this process.
- Initial Consultation
In many cases, our advice and assistance starts with an initial consultation, to meet or talk to you in more detail about what has happened and how we can help. The initial consultation will be with one of our specialist team of solicitors. We will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, identify what is important to you, and advise you about what is likely to be involved going forward. That initial consultation has no obligation to instruct us thereafter, though many clients do go on to use our services all the way through their case. An initial consultation is usually appropriate whether the allegation has just arisen or you fear it will, or if the police have been in contact already, or if you have been told you have to go to court. We are often instructed after a person has used the duty solicitor at the police station or first court hearing and is now looking for specialist advice and representation.
- Police Interviews
If the police are involved and you have not yet been interviewed then we may need to make arrangements with the police accordingly. This will involve us obtaining from the police disclosure about the nature of the allegation and the evidence in the investigation, so that we can advise you before you speak to the police. It may be a question of making further representations to the police, setting out lines of investigation or disclosure duties, or providing a proactive defence at that stage.
- Magistrates and Crown Court
If your case is or will be at court, our specialist team has decades of experience in handling the most sensitive cases in both the Magistrates and Crown Court, and we are accustomed to winning. If you have been on bail then the police may charge you at a police station and bail you to attend at court. If you have been Released Under Investigation you will get a letter from the police telling you what the charges are and when you must attend at Court. The first court hearing is usually about 3 or 4 weeks after the charge or receipt of the letter from police. Your first hearing will take place in a Magistrates Court (or Youth Court for those under 18), usually local to the place where any offence is alleged to have occurred. More serious allegations will then be transferred to the regional Crown Court, with the first hearing there usually 2-4 weeks after the Magistrates hearing. You will be expected very early in the process to tell the court whether you say you are guilty or not guilty.
- Guilty Pleas
Those cases where the defendant pleads guilty will proceed to sentence, usually with an adjournment for a pre-sentence report. There will be an opportunity for us to put together a mitigation bundle of supportive material, including, for example, any basis of plea, references, medical or psychiatric evidence, evidence of demonstrative steps to address offending behaviour, approved courses or counselling or material relating to mental health issues. Independent risk assessment may be appropriate in some cases. The preparation of mitigating circumstances is a vitally important step if a defendant has pleaded or been found guilty.
- Not Guilty Pleas
Those cases where the defendant pleads not guilty will eventually proceed to trial, where the witnesses must attend to give evidence, either personally in Court or by video link. The trial will either be in a Magistrates Court, where there is no jury but instead one District Judge or three lay Magistrates, or in a Crown Court, with a Judge and Jury. At the early or preliminary hearings, presuming you have a lawyer, you will have to speak only to confirm your identity details and to confirm your plea. We will lead you through all of that. Your lawyer will do the rest of the talking for you. Sometimes there is an opportunity to have a case dismissed or thrown out at a preliminary stage, if the evidence is inherently weak, tenuous or incomplete. Sometimes the Crown Prosecution Service can be persuaded to drop a case if new evidence or legal argument emerges. Sometimes it is necessary to go and win in front of a Jury. Whatever direction your case takes, a proactive, strong and ‘leave no stone unturned’ approach is assured.