On Monday, I spent the day in the office with my supervisor. We worked on a case of sexual assault (and related offences). I was given the task of re-drafting an indictment, with the aim of reducing the number of counts from ten to five. I was generally successful, although my finished draft included some minor faults.
I learned that in cases where the same sexual activity is complained of multiple times over several years, it is best to draft one count covering one instance of the offending, then a second count covering a minimum number of further instances. That way, if the jurors believe it happened once, they can convict on Count 1, and if they believe it happened more than once (say, at least ten times), they can convict on Count 2. Thus, the prosecutor’s goal should be to state enough instances on the indictment that the judge has sufficient sentencing powers, whilst avoiding stating so many instances that the jury cannot be sure — so refuses to convict.
I learned that the cut-off point between the 1956 Sexual Offences Act and the 2003 Sexual Offences Act is 1st May 2004. Offences occurring before that date are subject to the old law, whilst offences occurring on that date or later are subject to the new law.
Having re-drafted the indictment, I was then asked to edit the complainant’s interview transcript, separating the pertinent from the superfluous. This took surprisingly longer than expected.
On Tuesday, I attended the CPS induction day for all of its pupil barristers and trainee solicitors.
This event was held at the national headquarters — Rose Court, Southwark Bridge, London. I managed to book a cheap(ish) train, Birmingham to London, £46.55 return.
From a series of motivational talks emerged the following steps, which must be completed as part of my training:
- Print Personal Induction Plan (PIP); tick boxes as pupillage progresses.
- Review Trainee Resource Pack.
- Become familiar with Legal Guidance & Casework Hub (online).
- Become familiar with Lawyer Resource Pack (online).
- Book onto BSB Forensic Accounting course.
- Book onto Inns of Court Advocacy & Practice Management courses.
- Complete Legal Needs Analysis (LNA) to identify learning opportunities.
- Complete Prosecution College (e-Learning) modules before week 9.
- Undertake face-to-face Proactive Prosecuting course from week 9.
- Consider joining Midland Circuit and Criminal Bar Association.
In any event, pupil barristers should aim to complete all CPS learning by the end of the fifth month, thus allowing one full month for observation of Magistrates’ Court advocacy prior to commencing the Second Six (subject to supervisor’s approval). To this end, it would pay to shadow some Magistrates’ Court advocates — prepping their cases in parallel.
The CPS has a corporate subscription to “CrimeLine” (expert commentary, etc) which its lawyers are encouraged to check out.
On Wednesday, I was in the office all day with my supervisor. I learned how to navigate the Digital Case System (DCS), and prepared a few trial bundles for court. I also helped research the point at which a terminally ill defendant becomes too unwell to stand trial (i.e. fitness to plead).
On Thursday, I spent most of the day undertaking ‘e-Learning’ modules in the online CPS Prosecution College. It is hoped that I will complete all modules by the sixth week of pupillage (latest, ninth). Happily, I’m expected to do this study during working hours, not on my own time. Thus, I’ll agree some study half-days with my supervisor.
Notably, I completed a module today on case management (CrimPR, parts 1 & 3). I realised that case management involves scope for advocacy. For instance, it’s possible to invoke these rules pre-trial in the Magistrates’ Court (where I’ll soon be based) to argue that the defence is not dealing with the prosecution ‘justly’ — say, because it puts the prosecution to strict proof; refusing to identify which parts of the evidence are in issue. Such cagey tactics were once acceptable, but no longer. Today, justice demands that trials be conducted efficiently and expeditiously. Failure by either side to meet this objective can have adverse consequences, and a growing body of case law is developing on this.
During the morning, a Crown Advocate sought input from my fellow pupil and I as to whether a particular offence should be tried as an attempt. Basically, a telephone scammer had been calling members of the public and misrepresenting his identity in order to obtain cash. In one instance, he had succeeded. In other instances, people wisely hung-up before the full words of his scam could be uttered. Thus, to prove Fraud by False Representation, evidence is needed that the defendant had intended to make a financial gain. But without having asked for cash, it’s difficult to prove such intent. However, by charging attempted offences on the same indictment as the one successful offence, it might be possible to show that the defendant took steps which were “more than merely preparatory” towards making further gains — hence, criminal attempt.
In the afternoon, another Crown Advocate debated the merits of a manslaughter case with us. Broadly speaking, the victim had been violently assaulted, but refused to accept medical treatment until it was too late. At trial, the defence may argue that refusal to accept life-saving treatment is a novus actus interveniens (intervening act) which breaks the chain of causation linking the defendant to the crime. I suggested that if expert medical evidence can show that death was highly likely in any event, then the prosecution should avoid being drawn into technical arguments about causation. Leave any fancy “lawyering” to the defence, whilst keeping the jury focused on the assault and its consequence.
On Friday, I attended the Crown Court in Shrewsbury (Anytime Day Return, £17.20), writing-up my diary on the train.
My supervisor was due to appear for a pre-trial review, but alas, the hearing was cancelled at the last minute (after we had both arrived). So instead, we had our first proper chat over a nice long coffee, discussing everything from my proposed ‘e-Learning’ schedule to the different pension options which the CPS has to offer. I also learned about my supervisor’s past as a self-employed barrister in chambers, and some advantages of working in-house for the CPS as opposed to being briefed externally.
My supervisor told me: There are no small cases, only small lawyers. In other words, aim to be a superb advocate in every case, and never forget the importance of each case to the victim involved.
I then returned to Birmingham and spent the remainder of the day at the Magistrates’ Court, where I observed three prosecution applications: (1)for an adjournment — refused on the basis that the key witness had simply failed to attend court, despite being fully aware that the trial was fixed for today; (2)for admission of police “bodycam” footage to stand in place of the absent witness’s testimony — refused on the basis that the defence had been given no notice of the existence of this evidence; (3)to draw an adverse inference from silence (in a different trial) — refused on the basis that the defendant had reasonably relied on legal advice to go “no comment” during his police interview.
That concludes my second week as a pupil barrister.
As a postscript, I normally enjoy a coffee on train journeys. But being on crutches and alone, I cannot carry hot drinks. I’ve found a solution, though. Starbucks do a nice range of chilled coffees — which actually taste like coffee-flavoured milkshake, but still do the trick! These normally cost £1.75, but can often be found for a pound. I particularly like the chilled “skinny” latte, made from skimmed milk.
[Published with the permission of my line manager]