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7June2016

Don’t be forced into pleading guilty

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Conor Johnstone

The Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association has today published guidance to Criminal Advocates in respect of initial disclosure of the prosecution’s case.

You may be surprised to hear that you are not entitled to any of the evidence against you prior to a first court hearing. This limits the advice your solicitor can give you. From a defence point of view, it is crucial that we test the accuracy of the prosecution’s evidence and force the CPS to comply with its professional obligations.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you will probably have a bail sheet detailing the arrangements for your first court hearing. If you look at the name and location of the court, you may see the word ‘GAP’. Believe it or not, this stands for ‘guilty anticipated plea’. In effect, the CPS are expecting you to simply plead guilty without even considering the evidence against you! This misjudgement, coupled with the CPS’s lack of resources, is the reason why you will see very little evidence on the first court date.

A step-by-step protocol published by the CLSA explains how defence advocates should deal with the above situation:

The CLSA Protocol

It’s paramount that defence solicitors don’t succumb to pressure from the court and CPS. Where the CPS fail to comply with its duty to provide initial disclosure, defence solicitors should;

  • Ask for the case to be adjourned to enable the prosecution to comply with its disclosure obligations.
  • Should the court refuse to adjourn the matter, advise the client to enter a not guilty plea.
  • Ask that the court make a note of the circumstances and the reason for the not guilty plea.
  • Inform the court that further instructions will be taken following the provision of disclosure.

M.A.J. Law has devised a unique way of dealing with the above situation, often leading to an acquittal. Our solicitors have an in-depth knowledge of statute, guidelines and case law relating to disclosure obligations in summary matters, allowing us to overcome most prosecution arguments. Over half of all our drink driving cases are won as a result of failings made by the CPS.

If you would like more information about the above protocol, or would like to discuss your case in detail with one of our specialist solicitors, please call 01514228020.

M.A.J. Law

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Conor Johnstone

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