Youth Offenders – Dangerous Children?

What would you say to a child who had stolen some money from your purse? What if they apologised and you decided to show remorse? Think about this, what would you do if that same child, exactly a week later, was arrested and charged with causing grievous bodily harm because they smashed a glass bottle over another childs head?

Youth offenders, also called young people, young offenders, are rampant in the United Kingdom. In fact, the UK has the highest rate of youth offenders across Europe. (https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/sep/22/ukcrime.prisonsandprobation) Although the article is from 2008, what does it tell us? Charity Barnados stated in that “custodial sentences are ineffective because 78 per cent of 10 to 14 year olds reoffend within 12 months of release”. Quite a significant figure. If you look at what is available to youth offenders, or children, you will see that the criminal justice system or youth court system powers vary widely when dealing with children.

Before going any further, it would aid if you understood exactly what a child is in the eyes of the law. The age of criminal responsibility is from 10 years old. This may bring up mixed emotions when you read it, as surely that is too high, or surely, is too low? Under 10 and you cannot be arrested and charged with a crime, a rather frightening thing though isn’t it? (https://www.cps.gov.uk/crime-info/youth-crime). Some suggestions out there state that people are born good or bad, and if that is true, and a child is bad and commits a heinous crime, like murder at 8 years old… that leaves open a massive hole, which will likely be filled by media misinformation. Young persons therefore, are from 10 to 17 year old. Actually, its 14 and under at which they are classed as children, at the point they committed the offence. 18 onwards is classed as an adult by the law of England and Wales. However, it gets complicated with the 18 year olds. If sentenced to prison, they will enter an establishment called a young offenders institution that holds 18-25 year olds. To read more about the sentencing guidelines of youths read the following (https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/overarching-guides/magistrates-court/item/sentencing-children-and-young-people/).

“…that leaves open a massive hole, which will likely be filled by media misinformation.

 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act (YJCEA) 1999 introduced safeguards for children which would allow youth court to operate completely differently to the normal courts. The youth court would not be as formal as a crown court. Counsel would not be wearing wigs or gowns and the child will be addressed by their first name, to help put them at ease. There is no public in the court and the identity of the child is to be kept hidden to protect them, although the press is allowed into the youth court. Usually there would be a parent or guardian required if the youth is 16 or under. There would be someone there from the youth offending team (https://www.gov.uk/youth-offending-team) if appropriate along with a court officer. The court will deal with offences such as theft and drug offences, (https://www.gov.uk/courts/youth-courts). More serious crimes like rape or murder, also called grave crimes, will be sent to the crown court.

There has been an overall decrease in young offenders and child offenders ( (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/youth-justice-statistics-2020-to-2021/youth-justice-statistics-2020-to-2021-accessible-version), however, what the statistics show is that a lot of the crimes committed are predominantly by males.

Young persons committing these crimes seems to be an integral part of society, it drags it down and doesn’t look promising for the future of our country when the children are turning to the dark side of crime. Take a look at the following post by the Crown Prosecution Servicehttps://www.cps.gov.uk/wessex/news/59-year-old-man-stabbed-and-beaten-teenagers. Both defendants were young offenders at the time of the offence, Clarke being 17 and his unnamed accomplice 15. Upon sentencing, at which point Clarke turned 18, he was stripped of the protection of the youth courts in terms of keeping his identity hidden. His accomplice must have been 16 and thus, they cannot name him. This change in age is significant and it will impact the sentence they received. It was a heinous crime involving stabbing a 59 year old man. Clarke received a sentence of 3 years detention in the young offender institution as has been touched on above. Notice also, that he was sentenced in the crown court. This is because of a few factors, most notable is that he is receiving a sentence above two years. The youth court cannot deal with him due to his age. The youth court can only impose a maximum of a 2 year detention and training order, Section 34A Children and Young Persons Act 1933. (https://yjlc.uk/resources/legal-terms-z/youth-court#:~:text=The%20maximum%20sentence%20in%20the%20youth%20court%20is,Section%2034A%20Children%20and%20Young%20Persons%20Act%201933). Reviewing this 3 year sentence, it does seem appropriate, given his age, given the nature of the offence and his plea. Had he been sentenced under 18, he may have received a detention and training order from the youth court at a lesser rate.

Moving to Clarke’s accomplice, who pleaded guilty to battery and criminal damage at Southampton Youth Court in June 2020. He received a 12 month referral order and must pay £50 compensation to the victim. Being I presume 16 at the time of sentence means he is still within the definition of a young offender. He received a referral order, meaning that he was pleading guilty and would have likely been his first offence. A referral order must be imposed on any youth with no previous convictions who pleads guilty to any imprisonable offence, unless the court is considering an absolute dischargeconditional dischargeMental Health Act order or custody(https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/pronouncement-cards/card/referral-order/). The justice system determined that 12 month referral order with a fine was sufficient. Due to the complex nature of the various possibilities with youth offenders, it will not be possible to cover all of it here.

There is more to young offenders and children being convicted of crimes. There appears much scope for the issues to be tackled before the crimes are committed. Perhaps targeted towards the rampant availability of dangerous weapons which are easy to get hold of. Or, perhaps the inadequate or uncaring parenting that is resulting in damaged children seeking some sort of justice for the way they feel? Is the crimes being committed by children due to a lack of education or empathy? Maybe a lack of human contact or support, drug use, housing issues, family issues… the possibilities are endless. This articles suggest some of those reason – https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/preventing-involvement-crime. Parents are not invisible to the court system though, and should they find their children involved in crime, may be given a parenting order. Such arises where a child doesn’t attend school or commits a criminnal offence (https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/explanatory-material/magistrates-court/item/ancillary-orders/19-parenting-orders/). (https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/law/research/criminology-research/parenting-orders-criminalisation-parenting/).

Ultimately, what someone does or does not do can come down to a range of varying factors, some of which may never come to light, due to embarrassment, such as mentally ill children who have been abused, or those who come from broken homes, or lower income families. It isn’t about blaming anyone though. We can’t resolve an issue by ignoring possible solutions whilst pointing the finger. Youth offending teams and the multiple charities supporting young offenders is incredible. Support is there to give them the rehabilitation they need and possibly more. It is easy to judge someone if they have a child who is convicted, but how would that affect you? Do you see beyond the newspapers and the mostly rhetorical nonsense that the news tells us about the real reasons for young people committing crimes? Do you better understand the legal definition of children and the possible sentences available, so when you see stories purportedly suggesting a 15 year old ‘should have got 10 years’… what will you say?

This has been an article on children and young offenders.

Civil Advocacy – Making Applications

Making applications to the civil courts has been the staple of advocacy training within my civil skills units. I have also managed an application or two in criminal law but nowhere near the level of civil. Welcome to my journey into law page and thanks for stopping to read this post.

Today was a civil skills session involving the application for something known as a Norwich Pharmacal order, the name of which is derived from the case of Norwich Pharmacal Co v Customs and Excise Commissioners (1974) AC 133. To those unfamiliar with how to read such a case title, you have the year of judgment in brackets, AC means the case was heard in the Court of Appeal and is number 133.

The Norwich Pharmacal Order, herein referred to as “the order”, is used by an applicant when they want a party to disclose the name or details of another party or of a document. Such relief could be needed where the applicant is seeking the correct party to sue where they do not know their details. Mitsui & Co Ltd v Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd (2005) EWHC 625 (Ch); (2005) 3 All E.R 511 ChD at (21) summarised the three pre-requisites of the order. I won’t go into that test here, but might refer to it.

Other applications made in civil advocacy sessions include, *application to set aside default judgment, application for interim application, today application for the Norwich Pharmacal. I may have missed out one or two but they are the ones completed which I can recall. All of them seemed daunting but in reality I performed better than anticipated. In fact the civil advocacy unit has been a strong point for me. Today the students I was with (online still, remember?) and I were told that we were all very competent. This is quite the achievement. Grading is from competent to outstanding so to be in the middle, knowing what I am doing is really rewarding and I know that my work is correct.

Civil advocacy takes place in civil courts, like the County Court, the High Court and Court of Appeal. Such applications are the bread and butter of newer barristers and I suspect most students will be well versed in them by now. Next week is the civil advocacy mock assessment. In fact next week is rather busy with mock assessments. My aim is to just take it slow and prepare as much as I have been doing, if not more.

The Civil Procedure Rules (“The White Book”) is what is used by civil barristers and students. It allows them to follow the legal rules for making applications to the court, such as whether they can bring such an application, the surrounding tests and the required case law, if required. There is also the need to research case law using other sources, but the information is readily available from one, which is a bonus. Given that we were all very competent today, I am sure that there is nothing to worry about and that I will pass my mock assessment. The only issue is that we cannot possibly know what the assessment will be on, only that we have some time to prepare for it in advance!

I can see why people get confused about the legal system, and I am studying it in considerable depth and some of it is still quite muddling to myself. Granted, there are some lovely online students and the civil advocacy tutor (online) has been great. I will have to go back to campus soon though because otherwise I will feel like I am letting myself down and there really is no better practice than face to face.

I hope you understand more about a civil application to the court. To summarise, a barrister / advocate can make an application to the court on behalf of the Applicant, not always the claimant but can be, which requires the court to consider it in line with the appropriate CPR rules.

An Update On My Results

Thanks for following my journey into law and my experience on the bar course. You may recall that back in November I posted about criminal conference as my assessment was due to take place in December. A lot has happened since then. I’ve been very depressed and had my ups and downs over the last month. Today I checked my results.

This month, February, is particularly busy in terms of completing mock assessments. I completed a mock drafting assessment in December where I had to complete a defence and counterclaim (D&CC). Sadly, I did not do as well as I hoped on that. I also recently completed another D&CC and didn’t do too well again. I was getting the marks, but one or two marks from what I should have got. But, the good news is this, the final drafting assessment for the D&CC which is the 21st this month, is the same type of law and area as the one we just completed. This is a relief, as it means, that I believe I can do well since I already have a grounding and example of what is expected in this. I pray to God to let me succeed, please.

Yesterday I also pumped out a professional opinion. The opinion writing mock assessment. To be honest, the brief was 10 pages which was a huge relief. I also spent an hour letting it sink in, before realising the area of law that I needed to research. I hope I was correct in both my research and in the matters in issue. It concerned a case of work being completed which later turned out to be dangerous, and there was no contract in place as the architect had done the work for free. If anyone knows a little about this, feel free to drop a message below!

I also have a professional ethics mock this month. Apparently there is a 2 week window to complete the mock assessment. I do not know when this is since it is not shown. Anyway, I hope I do well. It is 1 hour 30 minutes. Ethics seems to be an area that hasn’t been taught to us as students, and the university seem to have left it all to self study, which I find unfair since we are paying for the course and if this module is expected to be examined on, then we should receive classes on it.

This was a brief post so I thank you for stopping by and continuing to read about my journey. I passed the conference assessment. Now, I just need to pass the real drafting assessment on the 21st. Yes, I am scared and yes, I really will do my best. I also have next week off, a sort of revision week in which I intend to go over all the drafting materials and feedback that I can find. Wish me luck, and may God guide me through this challenging time.

I’ve Decided to Engage Online.

Given that it is winter, and that the crisis is not over yet, rather it is in full swing, I have decided to engage in my workshops online for the foreseeable future.

This was a decision I wanted to take before new year and I contacted my provider and made it clear that is what I was going to do. It will significantly reduce the risk to me.

I just hope that the online sessions are as good! Seriously though, not an easy decision to make, but nonetheless essential. I am also on the fed up side lately so working from home might help that. I completed my degree as a home based learning course which I found great.

When it comes to the development of working conditions, I believe students learning from home is up there as being something that they can do. Working or studying from home is essential in times like this. But, I don’t like the idea of people working from home who could otherwise work in person. Some areas like being a doctor… or lawyer, require face to face work for court cases and hospitals respectively. Although, a lot of lawyers are remote working anyway. My point is, utilise the work from home but do not overdo it.

How did you find the transition to home working? Do you enjoy it or are you simply in the office out of respect for old fashioned working values? A lot of people suggest that working from home creates laziness, and to a degree I agree with that, especially if one is sitting in their pajamas for a conference or in bed whilst on the laptop for work.

Criminal Conference

I have just completed my mock conference assessment today. I was nervous about how this would go, and what I would score. I had done my preparation but there is a significant element of flexibility required. The criminal conference is one form of assessment and something that is required to pass the course. It involves talking to your client before a court appearance for example.

In the type of conference I had today, a plea before venue and allocation hearing was scheduled to take place immediately after the meeting with my client. This means I need to establish the facts of the case, to confirm whether my client has satisfied the elements of the offences, whether they have a defence, how they would like to plead (after advising them on the strengths and weaknesses of their case) and choosing a court if pleading not guilty, and if they have a choice.

It sounds simple, but the mock assessment was 20 minutes. The real assessment will also be 20 minutes. This is not a lot of time. I did manage to get through all my points in time, but, I still missed things and could have done better. I can always do better. The conference was also recorded, which is great and conducive to learning.

At the core of a conference is the barrister client relationship and being able to act in the best interests of each client. This is a barristers core duty, and one which is subject to your duty to the court. Too much legalese? The core duties are not secrets of the state, although, they are probably not known by the majority of British citizens. Rest assured that barristers are independent and regulated by the Bar Standards Board and their chambers to an extent, you won’t find an incompetent barrister for the most part… yes, some barristers are bad, that is not usual.

A criminal case will be heard in the magistrates court initially. This is 99% of criminal cases. Only the most serious of offences will go straight to the crown court. The crown court has more sentencing powers, and as such, the process is strict, can take longer (getting a hearing date could take a while), is more formal with wigs and gowns, a legally educated judge and the most important part that defendants need to know, a jury!

12 lay people, from all walks of life, not legally educated, able to decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. The topic of much debate. Without a jury what will the crown court become? It is the best system that England has in place, and is a lot fairer than other countries. EU countries are not subject to common law like England and Wales. Rather, they are utilising a system of Civil law, derived from Roman law, which codifies the law… get it? The codes cover everything (supposedly) and rather than using previous case law, will instead rely on these codes for the sentence. EU law was rather enjoyable, and learning about the complications of cross border consumer law was brain stunning. I feel relieved that I achieved a decent mark in my undergraduates studies on this module.

Back to the conference. As mentioned a defendant will initially appear before the magistrates court. A bench of 3 non legally educated people, who are usually case hardened having listened to a lot of similar cases, and therefore more likely to find you guilty and sentence you. They are volunteers, yes, you heard me correctly, the 3 people about to decide your fate are volunteers from the public. You do have an automatic right of appeal though, which is a bonus, you don’t have that in crown court. The bench of 3 could instead be replaced on the day of your appearance by a district judge. These sit alone and are legal experts. Why they don’t just use these all the time is beyond me, and probably would help too.

If the client has any previous convictions, my understanding is that this will be of detriment and if it is a similar offence, could result in a much harsher sentence. As for defences, they are available and are limited in how they can be applied. If someone is charged with an assault – common assault at law which involved physical contact – they can use a defence if they committed the offence as the result of acting in self defence. You may know this, but the burden of proof remains with the prosecution to prove that the amount of force used was unreasonable. The defending barrister will have to prove that the client acted in self defence, and if they do this successfully, that is a complete defence.

Other defences are available, and essentially they are either a lack of mens rea – the mental element of the offence, and actus reus – the physical element of the offence. Most disputes in cases will focus on the mental element, as to whether the defendant intended to do something. After intention there is a whole host of other reasons for the crime being committed, such as recklessness, negligence, mistake, duress, etc. The actus or act is much easier to prove than the mental element, but again, this is something I love about English law, that it provides a fair a due process.

‘It is called Magna Charta, not that it is great in quantity … but in respect of the great importance and weightinesse of the matter.’

Edward Coke

Would you take the advise of your barrister to plead guilty or not guilty? Do you know that you don’t have to give a plea? Are you a good person of good character with no previous convictions? Although lengthy quotes from magna carter are not used by barristers in conference, they no less have to engage with the client and establish the details of their case. Without the details, you might be incompetent.

Needless to say the rest, I was told that I was competent, along with the other student. This is good I guess. The opposite would be incompetent, which would be rather embarrassing… Now I need to prepare for the full assessment and try not to mess it up, preparation is key.

Check out my article – part 2 of 2

The first article was published last week. Now, they have decided to proceed, today, with publishing the second. They are relatively small compared to what I would write on my own site. They said they had to split into 2 because it was quite dense, I suppose they have to appeal to students who want a 2 minute read. You got it.

I was invited to write some articles for Simply Law and after accepting was informed that I could contribute as much as I liked. The plan was to publish 3 articles from October to December… So, not a lot really! It helps to boost your cv if you have published articles, and that is a big point gainer in my eyes. Any aspiring law student, lawyer, solicitor or barrister should be keen to get at least 1 article published. I have yet to submit anything to Legal Cheek, but intend to submit something this coming November. Next month. Legal Cheek is a harsh website in terms of comments, so anything that is published could be burned, but it will be seen by a lot of people too.

As mentioned previous, this is similar to my ‘rough cut guide to student productivity’ published 11 October ’21on my ‘journey into law’ page. I have blogged a few times with an emphasis on productivity, a little known article on my articles page called ‘Top tips to boost productivity’ was published way WAY back in March 2017!

Enjoy!

Check out my article – part 1 of 2

Please find my article below.

They decided to split it into 2 posts. I am fairly happy they reached out, although my contributions seem meager, they still provide great reading for law students

Simply Law is a great site for law students. The staff are welcoming and friendly.

Rough cut guide to student productivity

After moving swiftly from the cold dark embrace of an autumn night to the gushing waves of the particulars of claim and witness handling, came a soaked insight.

I am now going to share with you some tips that you could incorporate to increase your productivity. Or maybe, possibly, just to increase the ideas you already have about how to best study and achieve when you are studying law. This is for all law students at any level, and people, yes, from earth… unless you know of any other kind?

How am I finding the bar course? Honestly, it is extremely tolerable at the moment. The biggest time consumer is engaging with the required reading for the campus sessions. Other students have echoed this. I also find it hard to recall what I have read, I remember the gist and the topic and maybe the sections, but not specifics or exact words or phrases. Not yet at least.

But the sessions build into one another, so you go from pre action conduct all the way to civil litigation trial throughout the course (civil litigation course)… From my understanding. The same applies to criminal litigation. I am enjoying the course though, which is a bonus, and getting up 7am for campus days is a real draining thrill. Motivation comes from a combination of fear and desperation, trying all so hard not to miss anything in the reading for this expensive course. Not to mention class preparation and the need to behave cohesively with the cohort.

Motivation comes from a combination of fear and desperation

I reckon I could round up the 3 most important things I have learned so far on the course, and the 3 things which are helping me to stay on top of the work and finish drafting those documents for the deadlines… did I mention witness handling? Conferencing? One session of each and next week, more conferencing, but that is a ‘practical skill’ and practice we will.

  1. Training the brain to engage with the new routine

When I finished my degree I was both relieved and tired. Mentally exhausted at some points. But, satisfied that I had an expensive piece of paper which I could now flash to prospective employers should they so wish to see it. I also had mine laminated, come on the paper was thin!

The routine I had developed was considerably different to that on the bar course. Why? The bar course had a structure which involved few actual campus classes, 2 days a week to be precise and the rest of the time was prepping and consolidation of what we had learned in our skills workshops. This meant that I had to adapt, and quickly, because I have to leave the apartment at 7:45am on campus days to reach campus for roughly 8:30am, depending on if the trains are delayed…

Get up early. There is no way around this. You either get up early for campus days and arrive for 9am or you simply get marked absent, and if you don’t attend 80% or more classes then you fail the course. It would be a shame to fail because you were late, rather than not passing the assessments. Mentioning assessments, this is at masters level and unlike undergraduate, there is a HIGHER PASS MARK. 60% pass mark for all of the assessments. 11 total assessments, combining practical skills and MCQ (multiple choice question) exams. I won’t bore you with that though, at least until I have an idea of if I will fail or not (:P).

Not only is getting up early vital, but you need to train your brain to do it everyday, maybe skip on Sundays like I do. Sunday for me is essentially a rest day, although I work on Sundays the majority of the time. If you get up early, you build a routine, your brain adapts, and it gets easier. You will have more time to do the reading, and more opportunities to finish early and enjoy the evening. That is not me saying 7am everyday, you could wake up at 8am on your none campus days. It is down to you to build a morning routine which engages your senses and gets you pumped and ready for the slaughter… excuse me, the day! Be sure to eat breakfast, be sure to hydrate. Collect what you will use the night before and have it ready to get into when you begin to work.

Don’t train your brain to overwork either. If you spend all day, from 8am to 10pm working on something, including the reading and any practical activities or written submissions, then stop and re-evaluate that schedule. You are setting yourself up for a very boring study life, one where fatigue and lack of exercise could kill you. Not to mention, working 14 hour days doesn’t seem productive or efficient. Why does it take so long to read and get it done? Come on, I could read a 400 page book in a day, so you can do the reading in less than that! Make sure you aren’t glued to the desk and get up and walk or stretch, exercise and healthy, frequent eating is great to keep to fueled for all that awesome work you are going to produce.

Healthy habits, will lead to an adapted mindset. Unhealthy and unambitious yet ridiculous schedules can train you into poor study habits. Make it work!

2. Don’t be afraid of the dark

You’ve never studied law before, or you have just started the bar course, or the legal practice course, or you are doing something in a law firm and you have no clue what to do, despite the preparatory reading and revision and countless hours spent completing a draft or trying to perfect a piece of work.

You get some cruel, hurtful comments… “your work was not good enough” or “this is not quite right, try this.” These are comments of a highly helpful nature. Utilise those comments, integrate them into the work, go back and do it again with the revisions. Try harder, be better, no excuses. It’s easy to think you are not good enough because you made a minor mistake, or perhaps you were completely off on this occasion, however, you are good enough. You got this far, this is a big chance to LEARN! Learning is at the core of what you are doing, you didn’t know how to do it before and now, after some time reading and being taught, you have had a bash at it. Well done, you are not a failure based on some constructive criticism. Learn to take that on-board and learn to understand where you need to improve.

Every bit of advice and feedback given to me thus far, I have taken with me, and used to my advantage. I also accept that mistakes will be made, since the course has not long started. That doesn’t deter me, we all make mistakes, and it’s those mistakes that we all learn from. If you are afraid of feedback, you need to start getting used to it.

3. Have a life for goodness sake

Many students, especially full time students, feel as if they have nothing else they can do because all their time is “taken up by studying.” FALSE. There is 24 hours in each day. Last night, I didn’t fall asleep until gone 2am and I had to be up for 7am. I didn’t have a longer sleep because I knew that if I didn’t get up, I’d be late and be marked absent. I had enough time to sleep is my point. I made the most of the little sleep I had.

Because I had prepped and done the reading over the weekend I was not particularly concerned about being behind. In fact, preparing for class is my strength currently, but that may change as the course intensifies. From an intellectual standpoint, and I genuinely mean this, it is not the hardest thing you will ever do, trust me. Again my perception could change, we will see. How does this combine with having a life? Let me tell you…

Studying full time, regardless of the ‘level’ of the academic work, whether that school grades, college or university, or postgrad, is going to require a set amount of time for the work. I guarantee that most full time courses do not require 12 hours study 7 days a week. University courses including the bar course require around 35 hours a week realistically, possibly going up to 40.. Let’s work this out, so I can show you why you HAVE TIME for a social life and time to do things you want to do.

35 hours a week / 7 = 5 hours a day

That will be the recommended time or the time that the institution says is required on the course.

There is 24 hours x 7 days a week = 168 hours in a week

Assuming that you are awake for a portion and asleep for another portion.

Time management is what I am excellent at. Keep a diary if you need to. Keep a study schedule and adapt as required. Make sure you plan in advance and don’t have conflicting arrangements. If you feel that 168 hours a week excludes you from a social life when a full time course would require (estimating) 35 hours a week, then something is seriously wrong… so go get a coffee and biscuit and let’s sit down for a long chat… lasting approximately 35 minutes during which you have a panic attack and rush home in time to complete that essay for next Monday.

rush home in time to complete that essay for next Monday

It is all about welfare. Be healthy. Be happy. Be free. Have fun and don’t give up on things you enjoy, otherwise your mental health could decline and depression could set in, and that’s is not good for productivity at all. If you have hobbies, keep up with them. I enjoy playing Xbox games, being on the bar course doesn’t exclude me from playing at 8pm at night when I have finished my work for the day. Nor does the thought of being too busy in any way stop me from taking on new opportunities, provided that they don’t clash with my schedule.

So, there you have it. 3 sections, each of which will provide you with a different perspective of being a law student. Bar course students do have a harder time, but when I hear students complaining they have no time or joke that the course is killing them 4 weeks in, then I am sorry but the problem is coming from the inside, not the outside. Unless a meteor happened to have crashed into your goat barn the evening before that opinion was due in. Haha?

Stay safe, happy lawyering!

Criminal advocacy 101

Journey into law.

The continuing quest to enter the profession of the noble and historic barrister. I’ve been blessed to be able to sit in this warm apartment with my heating. I am blessed to be able to buy ready made meals, drinks and ‘accessories’ on will. Not everyone has those blessings or opportunities. A significant population of the world does not have access to clean water, nor do they get 3 meals a day… they may go hungry for days because they can’t afford food or there simply isn’t any available. Many live in unsanitary conditions and have to live in shacks. They are at the knife point of various drug and trafficking gangs and a lot will be killed before they reach their 20th birthday.

When you conjure up an image of justice in your mind, do you automatically picture a 1st world country court? Perhaps you envision a revolution, a crown court trial, a mother receiving restitution for the wrongly gained, or a child being reunited with their lost parents. Subjective, arguably, is the perception of justice. Not so fast, you see there is a definition and it goes like this ( according to – https://www.thefreedictionary.com/justice):

1) The quality of being just; fairness: in the interest of justice, we should treat everyone the same

2.a.) The principle of moral rightness; decency. b) Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude; righteousness: argues for the justice of his cause.

3.a) The attainment of what is just, especially that which is fair, moral, right, merited, or in accordance with law: my client has not received justice in this hearing.

So we seek to maintain a just, fair society which is morally correct and any breach of that is to treat people differently and to breach the law. Of course, nowadays treating people differently has indeed become a criminal offence in some cases. You couldn’t now in the 21st century get away with homophobic or racist remarks. But, merely 50 years ago and indeed not even that long, people were saying these things more often. I personally don’t think there has been much of a change, but there is the fear now that one is breaching the law if they were to make such a ‘remark.’ Civilised society has become a bubble wrapped and tightly controlled arena, with the big cats with the money influencing huge policy makers and government. Private investment into new technologies and advertising has seen the general population brainwashed by morality propaganda. I’m not justifying those racist or homophobic remarks, or anything else that would breach protected characteristics according to the Equality Act 2010. Some of those include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership and pregnancy or maternity. But, rather, I am saying that morality doesn’t need to be enforced, it is learned and one can choose to obey or not to obey. The latter will see you (if caught) being persecuted by the state or private corporation. The former will also do the same, rendering you a slave to the idea that somehow those individuals are ‘targeted’ and ‘victims.’ If you cry wolf that doesn’t mean you care what happens to the victims.

Trying to control what people think and telling them how to behave is a sure fire way to provoke even the most docile of humans. Why? Because we have autonomy and freedom of thought. You can tell a group not to discuss the elephant in the room, but at the end of the day, it’s there and they will discuss it. Criminal justice has been spiraling downwards for a number of years. Legal aid cuts, fewer pupillage spaces and a general lack of money at the bar drives people away from this extremely tiring job. Criminal barristers spend more time working than they are paid for. If society wants a just and accepting place for all, then instead of stoking the fires of inequality, hatred and fear, instead focus on improving the structure already in place and provide Just and moral outcomes within the criminal justice system, adjust the propaganda machine accordingly. We don’t want people in prison based on their opinions of society, we want people to be able to live freely and without fear.

Thanks for reading. Namaste and peace be with you.

Bar Course Books arrive

Unfortunately I was feeling unwell last week and on Sunday went to an accident and emergency department on advice of the phone service. After many hours of waiting I was seen and admitted, put on some IV antibiotics and fluids. By 12am I was fed up and wanted to go home. By 3am I told them I had had enough of waiting and wanted to take oral antibiotics at home. Anyway, sent home on oral so thankfully recovering in my own space.

It really put a dent in my course start as I was thinking to myself, ‘If I’m not well enough I might miss my start dates.’ I’ll push through, I have my last 2 doses today and tomorrow so am healed almost.

And I am excited to start the course. After receiving a most dire response to my query regarding Blackstones Criminal law. I had asked why the book was not available to order along with the others, along with the likes of the daunting White Book or evidence and drafting… I was told that it isn’t available until October. Oh no! That is when a new version is released and I guess we have access via our university library anyway so one doesn’t miss out .

Today, early and by special UPS delivery, handled with modest care were the books that will consume me over the next 9 months alongside the course materials.

  • Course materials – civil skills, civil litigation, criminal skills, criminal litigation
  • The Jackson ADR Handbook
  • Evidence
  • Drafting
  • Remedies
  • Professional Ethics
  • Civil Procedure Volume 1 & Civil Procedure Volume 2 (The White Book)
  • Blackstones Criminal Law (Not Available in physical copy until October.)

It was all a little daunting before I even enrolled on the course. The doubt and unease kept creeping in after I passed the bar course aptitude test. Even then, I had a false sense of confidence. In reality I need to do way, way more mooting – something that I will no doubt post about in the future – in order to improve my speaking and legal knowledge. When I accepted my full place by way of completing the conditions, and by paying the deposits required.

Of course, this is me, I am strong and I am not scared like a little cat in the alleyway. No. The people scaring students into believing they are embarking on a soul quest are wrong. It’s a course and yes no doubt difficult, but that doesn’t mean we should be drilling students with a negative image. Let’s keep it positive and real yeah?

The reality according to the Bar Standards Board – the authority regulating barristers – is that the statistics page for pupillage shows that in 2019/20 404 pupils commenced pupillage in their first six.

(https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/news-publications/research-and-statistics/statistics-about-the-bar/pupillage.html)

Since the 1990’s, the number of pupils actually succeeding in securing pupillage has fallen. This is in part because in 2003 it became a requirement to fund or pay for a students pupillage. It also could be because there are considerably less pupillages over the last 20 years, particularly over the period of 2020/21.

“3,301 bar hopefuls compete for 246 pupillages” in 2021 according to the Legal Cheek article, Pupil Barrister numbers down nearly a third in 30 years.

It’s worth noting this is a low number of pupillages. Many chambers or sets have openly admitted culling pupillage during the crisis due to the economic uncertainty.

That’s the truth and the reality. A little unfair? Possibly.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and look forward to many more to come.