It’s not just ‘them’, it’s you and me too

In 1984, following several miscarriages of justice pertaining to ‘confessions’ which later didn’t stand up, it was enshrined in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that an arrested person had the right to free representation at the police station.

The whole purpose of the Act was not only to protect defendants, but also to protect officers from allegations of foul play.

That right has been (thinks of a polite turn of phrase) ’modified’ over time, to the extent that since 2008, for less serious offences, a detainee may only receive advice over the telephone rather than from a legal representative attending in person, largely unless the offence is one where potentially liberty is at stake (i.e. you could be sent to pokey); although some offences, such as drink driving, can carry a prison sentence, and can fall into the telephone advice category. However, it remained free.

The government now wants to widen the scope of cases where telephone advice should be given, to save on the huge cost </sarcasm> of a representative attending in person, which on average is £150.

Not only that, but government now wants to introduce a means test. Quite aside from the important question of who will conduct a means test at 3am while you are sitting in a cell, consider what that will mean in practice.

Certain benefits will act as a passport, so that is the very needy sorted. High income earners can afford representation, so that is the rich sorted. But what about the huge swathe in the middle? Are they going to be able to find the money, or are they going to go without representation?

I know some people will read this and discount it, because in their heads, criminals are not like them, and innocent people are never arrested, so they don’t have to think about those that end up in police stations, and therefore won’t turn their minds to how they would afford a representative.

To them I say ‘really?’. What about Bob Dowler, questioned as a suspect regarding the disappearance and murder of his daughter, Milly? What about Chris Jefferies, the landlord of the murdered Joanna Yeates, questioned as a suspect? What about Rebecca Leighton, the nurse arrested and questioned as a suspect in the saline contamination cases in Stockport? All released without charge.

They are all in the ‘middle’. They would not pass a means test, and would have been unlikely to afford representation, being in the middle. While I have no way of knowing if it were representation that meant those 3 were not charged, I can say it certainly wouldn’t have hampered their chances.

If you want to keep the right to free representation, which was thought crucial in 1984 for very good reason, please contact your MP and ask him or her to oppose Clause 12 of LASPO. You can contact him or her here.



14 thoughts on “It’s not just ‘them’, it’s you and me too

  1. Is it just me or do I see insurance companies considering greater diversification into legal cover? It already exists in one form or another but I sense a widening of their area of operation.

  2. Even if I could afford a legal representative – how am I going to prove it?

    Just because I have a credit card, doesn’t mean I can afford to pay. What if the legal adviser doesn’t take Amex?

    If I don’t have my wallet on me, what then?

    Suppose I can’t remember who provides my legal insurance? Do officers have to guess?

    Regardless of the morality – how on earth would this work in practice?

    • In fairness, a straight-up means-test only takes about five to ten minutes to conduct depending on the criteria. The question is, how do you back it up with evidence? Presumably most people don’t carry copies of their benefit letters and bank statements on their person, so what happens when it transpires Joe Bloggs isn’t on income based ESA after all?

  3. dont believe an answer is possible but here goes..the genuine scenario is a couple split up (no violence,very argumentitive,) they have 2 young children 4 & 8years old..problems from the start for the father to get see kids,so mediation 6 washout,but mediators recommend access to father as by now its filed for 1st court hearing (mother never used a solicitor) also too for funding fathers legal aid (illness making him out of work) gets settled on funds & father to pay £30+ a month towards it.(approx 14 months stage) from first court appearance at magistrates mother offered no reason why he should not have access,so it is set for 3 hours each saturday..from the start father left waiting in town at pick up place and not seeing kids..court again and again (2+years stage) father gets to see kids just after each court date and the same thing happens where mother does not obey the access and its getting to months before the odd time of access which by now the mother asked to be 3 hours every fortnight and a callender the father used to keep a note of visits shows less than 5 times seeing the kids and in the 5 times the mother was over a hour late and insulting the father in a packed town in front of the kids,(she had an injuction to stay away from his house after demanding to stay on the visits and would sit outside,kicking the door etc) in all the visits to court (approx 4 years stage) the father was assured by solicitor that with haviving now the same judge it would be better,and the same judge did and said the same at the end of each session which was access to father (lost count how many times) in the whole time of my solicitor telling of the mothers behaviour the judge nodded but never spoke of it,not even when by this time almost 5 years the mother had stopped attending bar the token one, the father was effectively cut off totally from any contact with his kids including phone calls,but it went on and even the solicitor had taken another job and was replaced and it was now at the crown..the last bit of the slow process of taking every bit of hapiness, destroying a persons life beyond ever getting it back, constant degrading visits to court with false hopes due to lies from the very person who was there to make sure the father and children were a family, totally neglected as far as help goes, never once did the judge reprimand the vile evil seperation the mother had planned from the start,not once did he give an explanation to why he gave access with no objections offered yet failed to see the access through to the father who by that time was allready wrecked inside and out and whatever the mother fed the children as she groomed them into not having a father anymore worked…its strange she dident use it in court..but it worked that well, the oldest child is 21 this year and a single text was all since and it more or less said their dad had walked out on them and its like this, the father is dead inside and thinks constantly of death, very nearly living like a tramp on the streets but for friends, smells like a frucking dirty bum, lost most teeth through the last 12 0r more years beacause of not caring about hisself, grown into a recluse in constant mental pain that there are no answers for and one thing that cant really be explained is how at a point before getting medication he actually got inside his own head and it was a fucking nightmare, no distractions left like books or tv and it was a lesson in survival from the most surreal frightening experience you can imagine,fighting your self in your own head while there were people walking past the house normal and knowing that you will never be normal again..its more than grief because the children are still children you took to the park and museum and then it stopped and overnight they are adults and you missed so much for what? no abuse no violence nothing at all exept another persons jealousy and with hindsight, pure evil is all i can say..its a bad bad thing the mother did, but its frightening to know it was done so easy with no sign of a conscience and also how easy it was to be allowed to do it over years and in front of a judge.i have a doctor who i adore and i get these tablets that dont make me happy but sometimes i can write and im trying to get an answer before its too late from that judge and why,how, can it happen and just what level i was on in his idea of a human being with feelings and children and watching it all unfold in front of his lying fucking face with a false smile and wondering “how the fuck can he let it happen like
    this? its not material or even animal, its 2 little girls who idolised their dad and he done the worse inhuman crime with the worst injustice and done it over a number of years and i want him to explain how and why and what scale is it on in suffering? as he would be himself were it him and not me..and please let me not wake up tomorrow..thanks if you read this..fuck it if you dont.

    • I am very sorry for your experience, which sadly, is all too common. Unfortunately the law is a blunt tool, and really, is not a useful one for sorting out family relationships. Where there is a resident parent who is hell bent on destroying the relationship between the other parent and the children, there is very little the law can do – it basically is down to personality, and it is neigh on impossible to legislate for personality. I hope you find peace.

  4. A very good post. All readers should contact their MP and try to get rid of Clause 12. As for Djanogly’s links to insurance, it seems he is just trying to “tough it out” and pretent it does not matter. Unacceptable.

    Rebecca Leighton was actually charged with offences under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and also theft. Charging was on the basis of “reasonable suspicion.” However, when the CPS applied their “full code test” they concluded insufficient evidence on the criminal damage counts but sufficient evidence on the theft. However, they decided that it was no longer in the public interest to prosecute the theft charge because she had been remanded in custody for 6 weeks – (on “own protection” grounds). She therefore remains labelled as a “thief” but has lost the opportunity of taking the case to court. Her case is a very good example of how the criminal justice system can destroy someone’s life.

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