As a solicitor advocate working in the criminal defence department, I have the freedom of being hands-on in the preparation of a client’s case before the matter even gets to court and then conducting the advocacy at the trial myself. This means that I can be more involved in the case from the start, and am a constant link with the client and with the case. It also means a very heavy responsibility.
Solicitor Advocate case study
An example of how having a solicitor advocate benefitted a case is where I defended Mr Pearson, who was accused of sexual assault. Mr Pearson’s case was a difficult case to be involved in because for months and months we didn’t have access to the full account of the actress who was complaining about the defendant. Although Mr Pearson was quite clear from the outset that NOTHING HAPPENED, it was not possible to forensically analyse the complaint without the full details that she had given to the police.
I saw the CCTV before knowing the precise details of the complaint and could see from the start that there was little point in the jury seeing this in this format: 100 seconds of footage with a few relevant moments in the middle. If this was played to the jury on a big screen yards away from the jury box it would be difficult for them to make out much at all and it would be very difficult for them to cross check any features that the woman described. This crucial piece of evidence had to be reduced to something the jury could examine.
For this reason I made a decision to get in touch with one of my contacts in order to extract from the CCTV the most relevant seconds and to create a storyboard out of it. This would enable to jury and the witness to see the footage, frame by frame. The actions in it would be clear. The timings would be clear. The presence of a newspaper could be checked before and after and the other descriptions of the actress – what other people were doing, how fast Mr Pearson left the scene, could all be easily seen.
The storyboard was a pivotal part of the preparation of the case and I honestly believed that as soon as this together with the experts report were served on the Crown they would see sense and bring the case to an end.
Regrettably they didn’t, and this case went to trial. This was a real pressure on Mr Pearson who was incredibly distressed at what would happen next. Outcomes of trials are never certain and preparation of cases includes preparing for problems.
You can watch the interview about it on BBC 2 here.
About the author
Mark Bagshaw has been a solicitor since 1983, specialising in criminal litigation before becoming a partner at the firm of Amphlett Chatterton. He then became one of the 5 founding partners of Amphlett Lissimore and head of its criminal defence team when it was established in 1990.