Pupil Diary: Week One

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Pupil Diary: Week One

Things have started well.

On Monday, I was introduced to my fellow pupil. We were then introduced to our respective pupil supervisors (whom we’ll assist for most of the First Six, and doubtless report to for all of the Second Six).

We were invited to attend a conference which brought together all of the CPS Crown Advocates. This was a prime opportunity to start getting to know people.

The CPS has its own terminology for the lawyers it employs. Crown Advocates are responsible for presenting cases in the Crown Court, while Crown Prosecutors (as we will be upon completion of pupillage) present cases in the Magistrates’ Court. Both spend time drafting Pre-Charge Advice in the office. To confuse matters slightly, all CPS lawyers who spend time in court are referred to as ‘advocates’, while all CPS lawyers who work mainly in the office are referred to as ‘lawyers!’

The highlight of the conference was a talk on the art of advocacy given by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, the current Presiding Judge on the Midland Circuit. We then left for a meeting with the Chief Crown Prosecutor (West Midlands) who assured us that despite what we may have heard elsewhere, as CPS pupils, we will have the chance to become fully-fledged Crown Advocates in time. In any event, we will be fully-qualified barristers by the end of our pupillage.

On Tuesday and Thursday, my fellow pupil and I attended Hereford Crown Court with my supervisor, who was prosecuting a sexual offence. We took longhand notes of the evidence, which proved useful as my supervisor would later need to refer to them. For homework, we were each asked to edit the police interview transcript down to 10 pages from 70. This was a painful exercise — i.e. deciding which bits were relevant, and which bits were likely to bore the jury. I reduced it to 14 pages, but on reflection, could have scrapped more. It’s so hard to tell when something prima facie irrelevant might later prove helpful in demonstrating an inconsistency.

During trial, I was asked to look up the Lucas direction in Blackstone’s (given to juries during the judge’s summing-up, cautioning against convicting on the basis of an admitted lie). As it turned out, though, the Lucas direction was not required. I was also asked to look up the ‘SHPO’ notification periods (Sexual Offences Act 2003, s.82).

As homework, I was asked to draft a few potential points for my supervisor’s closing speech to the jury. Naturally, such points might also be put to the defendant as leading questions on cross. After re-reading the case papers, I hit upon a subtle idea and drafted a segment of speech, with references to the trial bundle in square brackets. My supervisor did put some of my points on cross-examination, and later thanked me for my efforts.

I learned that letters from a doctor (or other medical professional) tend to be admissible, despite the rule barring hearsay, under the ‘Business Documents’ exception.

I travelled to Hereford by train:  Anytime Day Return, £18.50.  Happily, I will be able to claim this amount back, along with all future train fares (an undoubted perk).

We were unable to attend the Hereford trial on Wednesday as the Chief Crown Prosecutor had requested a further meeting with us. Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled, so we proceeded to Birmingham Magistrates’ Court for the day. We observed three summary trials there:

  • Breach of Probation:  defendant sentenced to 24 weeks’ imprisonment due to activation of suspended sentence;
  • Driving Without Control:  defendant represented himself (rather well, we thought!) and was acquitted;
  • Assault Occasioning ABH:  defendant convicted by District Judge; case adjourned for pre-sentence report.

After court, I took the initiative of stopping by a local chambers at which I’m known, having previously undertaken mini-pupillages there and won a mooting competition judged by its members. My aim was to secure a 4-week secondment for next year — as the CPS requires its pupils to do, so we can experience working for the defence. I’m pleased to say that after a chat with the head clerk, my secondment was arranged for February. With luck, I’ll soon be helping to defend their clients, whilst improving my skill as a tactician.

On Friday, my fellow pupil and I were given shiny new laptops with which to pursue our calling (another perk). There’s a fair bit of enhanced security, which we’ll be instructed on next week.

We were sent to a local chambers to attend a conference between police and Outside Counsel (briefed by the CPS) to review counsel’s Pre-Charge Advice. We took notes and fed the highlights back to our line manager.

And that concluded my first week as a pupil barrister.

As a postscript, I was asked by my line manager to create a profile for publication on the CPS intranet. I think the general idea is to get me thinking about the future, and what I hope to achieve in time. So, here it is.

 

ADVOCATE PROFILE

RICHARD MURTAGH

Pupil Barrister — Called July 2016

RM

BIO INFORMATION:

Richard is a Birmingham lad, born and bred. He was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 6, which disrupted his early education. However, he studied law part-time via The Open University and went on to gain a masters (LLM) from the University of Birmingham.

Richard is thrilled to be joining the CPS. He looks forward to practising criminal law exclusively, whilst also being able to provide for his family.

 

PREFERRED PRACTICE AREAS AND EXPERIENCE:

As a law student, Richard won two mooting competitions — including a national competition judged by a Justice of the Supreme Court. He also appeared as Defence Counsel in a mock trial at Birmingham Crown Court, winning the case for his fictitious client. This experience confirmed Richard’s desire to be an advocate. He aims to spend the maximum possible time in court.

Richard has an interest in homicide cases, which began with a ten-month internship on America’s “death row.” He also has an interest in disability hate crime, having personally experienced this as a youth.

Richard is fascinated by “cyber-crime” in all its forms, especially hate crime perpetrated via social media. He chose to study cyber-law as part of his masters (LLM) degree — basing his dissertation on the regulation of free speech online.

In time, Richard hopes to be at the cutting-edge, prosecuting serious online offences.

 

RECENT SUCCESSFUL CASES:

Before joining the CPS, Richard spent ten months as a volunteer in the Mississippi Office of Capital Defence Appeals. He worked on three cases. In one case, Richard discovered new evidence which resulted in sentence of death being commuted.

Richard undertook a case for FRU — the Free Representation Unit. He represented a disabled lady at tribunal, whose Mobility Car had been taken away under the new (stricter) benefit rules. Richard researched judgments of the Upper Tribunal. He persuaded the panel to restore her award.

 

PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENTS:

In the past, Richard worked as a self-employed musician (guitarist and singer), combining this with part-time legal study. He played gigs in the UK and abroad.

Richard wrote and recorded a reggae song about Birmingham, simply called “Birmingham!” This was released with former No.1 artist, Pato Banton (who also hails from Birmingham). It was hoped that the song would be adopted as a comical anthem in the event of Birmingham winning the European Capital of Culture Award. But, alas, it didn’t!

Richard once did a tandem skydive… and fully intends to do so again!

 

[Published with the permission of my line manager]

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