Monday, April 14, 2014

Not Guilty Doesn't Mean What It Used To

The case of Nigel Evans, who has been acquitted of a string of sexual offences, has pointed up the sheer injustice of the present system that prohibits the acquitted defendant from recovering the costs of his defence. Mr. Evans claims to be out of pocket by a six-figure sum that represents the bulk of his life savings.

The investigators and prosecutors have at their disposal the full resources of the state, including the freedom to choose the most senior (and thus costly) counsel to present their case. If the case fails, m'learned friends will be paid by the state, whereas the other side are on their own. There is so much at stake in a case such as the Evans one, and the trial process is so complex with so many potential pitfalls, that anyone who can afford it is well advised to fight fire with fire and brief a top silk himself. So he is damned if the does and damned if he doesn't.

As I have said before much of our work involves domestic violence these days, and we now see applications to make a Restraining Order on acquittal, so we are saying, in effect: "We find you Not Guilty, but we are making an Order to ensure that you don't do it again".

I can hear Rumpole turning in his grave. He would have said that you can no more be a bit guilty than you can be a bit pregnant.


  1. It is terribly unjust to say the least.
    No person chooses to be put on trial and until a conviction there is a presumption of innocence which if not displaced by a conviction means you were, are and remain innocent. You have absolutely no control of what will be done to you and you have to fight it as best you can. To be fair is you are aquitted you should have your reasonable costs paid- that does not mean exorbitant costs of the very expensive QC etc, but reasonable... Its a disgrace that the law has been changed in the way it has. The Tories classed legal aid as money to the undeserving guilty but it is not until the unsuspecting citizen is dragged to court does the sobbering effect become apparent. It can ruin you both professionally and finacially. Maybe now it has happened to one of them they might do something wo redraw the balance.

    Of course, it might help if the CPS found some spine to resist prosecutions like this where there is no chance a jury will convict, a bit like the date rapes and domestic "violence" where the victims want nothing to do with any prosecution and the intervention of the police actually causes more trouble than it solves.

  2. Has anyone checked his voting record to see if he voted for legal aid cuts etc? My sympathy would be significantly more if he / his party were not part of the problem.

    1. The speaker or deputy speakers do not vote unless a tie, to avoid a conflict of interest. Even then, the deciding vote is bound by convention:

      (i) Legislation remains unchanged unless there is a majority in favour of amendment,
      (ii) Legislation is allowed to proceed to the next stage unless there is a majority in favour of rejection, and
      (iii) All other motions are rejected unless there is a majority in favour of passage.

    2. Whether he voted or not, the Independent carried the story yesterday (Tuesday) and quoted him as saying he supported this heinous piece of exclusive legislation.

      "Yesterday he conceded he probably would have supported the last tranche of cuts to legal aid."

    3. He voted for parts of the legislation before he became Deputy Speaker

  3. There needs to be equality of arms otherwise there will be injustice. The CPS should be reporting how much it is spending and making the same sums available to the defendant.

    Nigel Evans was an unusual def in that he could actually afford his own defence. He declined legal aid so that he could appoint the QC of his choosing to go up against the CPS's senior treasury counsel. Most people wouldn't be able to do that and would have been crushed by the State's mighty spending power.

    Presumably Mr Evans was also making some prosecution costs payments as well as that is the new scheme.

    Let's hope this case becomes the trigger for a systemic reform. It seems that on both the civil and criminal side costs have become more significant than the actual verdict of the court.

  4. Ref Anonymous at 20.41, according to today's Guardian, he presided, as Deputy Speaker, over the debate concerning legal aid cuts. If he was listening, this outcome should have come as no surprise.

  5. Interestingly enough as D.Speaker he would not have voted.
    At any event the new rules are very harsh on the innocent

  6. There seems to be an even higher standard of proof required if the defendent is famous.

  7. Look, you lot. The reason we have a peer-judged system is precisely to reduce the pro-conviction bias of government's high flier QCs versus the common person's unfunded self-representations. Your job is to cut through the professional theatre and achieve reasonable justice. While it may well be true that a minority of your clientele need such protection. it is nonetheless your job to afford it to those who deserve it.

  8. The problem is that the prosecution have gone back to the bad old days of "giving it a run" regardless of how crap the evidence is as they are teriffied of being accused of not believing a so called victim. There is only ever a victim in most of these sorts of crime when someone actually is convicted. Otherwise they are a complainant.

    What has happend is that outr system has been hijacked by pressure groups who the media love and whip up such a maelstrom that the authorities take the easy option to let the jury decide, rather than pulling the case.

    You just have to look at the Hillsborough farce of an inquest. An inquest has a limited task to establish Where,when and who died, its not a trial and not there to write history- so what the hell is all this about giving the unfortunate victims life story as a prelude to the main event: none!

    Whilst I am deeply sorry for what happened to the people and their loved ones following this disaster corrupting the process just to make them feel betterr is not justice for anyone.

  9. And it is a peer-judged system in the mags'. courts that is now being dismantled. Tragic and unjust.


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