“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled. Nor will we proceed with force against him except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice”
Magna Carta, June 1215
This, of course, is the cornerstone of British justice: innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof is on the prosecution. As criminal defence lawyers we are often asked how we can live with ourselves since our job is to defend those accused of crimes. We go to great lengths to explain that an individual is only considered a criminal at the point of conviction following a trial. Until then, innocence must be presumed and every man and woman is entitled to a defence. This is the enduring reason why the British judicial system is admired worldwide.
The Press understandably makes much of prison sentences that are perceived to be too lenient, but they also report those cases of wrongful conviction. The wrongful conviction and subsequent hanging of 25 year old Timothy Evans for the alleged murder of his wife and baby daughter were, in fact, highly influential in the final abolition of capital punishment in the UK in 1965.
Evans and others who were failed by the system did, of course, have defence lawyers (Evans’s barrister being both uninspired and uninspiring), but often had police interviews that were not, as they are now, audio recorded. Legal representation at the police station is, rightly, a free service available to all and the police are now obliged to make every defendant aware of that right.
Even today, the police are blamed for errors leading to criminal convictions. The reality is that, without criminal defence lawyers available, far more defendants would be unjustly convicted, whether the eventual penalty is to lose their licence or their liberty. Either way the legal profession ensures that there is due process and individual rights are preserved.
It is for all the reasons above that, in the early 80’s, Rodney Warren of Warren’s Law & Advocacy, set up the first voluntary Duty Solicitor Scheme outside of London, in Eastbourne, creating a model that was duplicated nationwide, and giving all defendants the opportunity to which all men are entitled: a defence.
Warren’s Law & Advocacy has one of the largest criminal defence teams in the south east of England with offices in Eastbourne, Brighton and London. They have extensive experience of representing both individuals and businesses in a broad range of criminal defence matters, including SFO and HMRC prosecutions.
Maureen Hurley, Practice Manager
17 July 2017
Disclaimer: While we do all that is possible in terms of ensuring its accuracy, this blog contains general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal problem or matter.