Litigation since 1880

Domestic Abuse Case Study by Hannah Baxter, Solicitor

Introduction to the Case

I was recently instructed in a case that involved a serious domestic allegation. Prosecuted in the Sheriff Court, the case carried a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.

Sensitivity, Client Background, and Potential Consequences

Most domestic cases are sensitive and need to be handled professionally yet empathetically. This case was particularly concerning due to serious doubts about the veracity of the allegation. It also presented additional challenges because of the client’s personal and family circumstances. My client was a trainee specialist doctor with an international medical degree. He and his family were legally residing in the UK, although they were not British citizens. A conviction, especially for a serious domestic offence, would have had catastrophic consequences. He stood to lose his job, be unable to renew his visa, and his family, including two young children, would no longer have the right to reside in the UK.

Initial Objectives and Court Proceedings

My first aim was to have the bail conditions relaxed so that the client could return home, and secondly, to have the entire prosecution discontinued. Given the potential implications, the case required a specific and strategic approach. The initial court proceedings occurred weeks after my client had been arrested and unable to return to his family. Before the court appearance, I met with his wife at her request. The meeting had to be handled delicately; I made every effort to put her at ease and allowed her to speak freely while ensuring that I gathered all the necessary information. When the case called in court, I made detailed submissions to the sheriff regarding the bail conditions. Following this appearance, my client was permitted to return home, much to the delight of both him and his wife.

Focus on Discontinuing the Prosecution

They both praised the way I handled the case in terms of preparation and advocacy. However, the focus now shifted to persuading the prosecution to discontinue the case. After considerable time spent on legal research and reviewing the case, I arranged a meeting with the prosecutor. In preparation for this meeting, I reviewed the prosecutor’s joint domestic protocol and prosecution code. I also requested documentation from the client about the impact a conviction would have on his employment and visa renewal. Being thoroughly prepared was crucial, as a strong presumption exists in favour of prosecuting all domestic cases. My submissions needed to be comprehensive and compelling to achieve discontinuation. During the meeting with the prosecutor, I discussed the public interest considerations outlined in the prosecution code. These considerations include the age, background, and personal circumstances of the accused, any mitigating factors, and the effect of the prosecution on the accused, witnesses, and others involved. These elements are often overlooked but are vital when considering whether to discontinue a case.

Successful Outcome and Conclusion

The outcome of my meeting with the prosecutor was that the case was discontinued. Consequently, my client was able to continue his employment, and his family’s settled life in Scotland was preserved. This case’s outcome could have been profoundly different had he not had robust legal representation. It underscores the importance of instructing a solicitor dedicated to meticulous research and preparation. Seeking legal advice as soon as you become aware of potential prosecution or police investigation is always advisable. Most people do not have the in-depth knowledge of legal complexities and consequences required to secure a successful outcome, particularly in serious cases.

 

Dangerous Driving Charge Case Study by Paul Anderson, Senior Associate

A recent case I was involved in has outlined the serious consequences individuals face when charged under Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and how those consequences can be minimised through strategic representation.

This specific charge pertains to dangerous driving, a charge that can have a significant impact on one’s life. In this blog post, I will share the details of this case and outline the challenges faced by our client, who was a company director.

The situation was of grave concern for our client, as a conviction under Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 would lead to an automatic disqualification from driving for a minimum period of 12 months. The stakes were high, as not only was our client’s reputation on the line, but the livelihood of his business was also at risk.

The case took place at the Sheriff Court before a single Sheriff. The primary charge against our client was driving at a speed of 90 miles per hour in a 40-mile-an-hour speed limit zone which was in place on a motorway due to temporary roadworks. The prosecution focused solely on the speed factor and did not allege any other aggravating factors contributing to the dangerous driving.

Speed alone can lead to a conviction for dangerous driving. I though negotiated with the Procurator Fiscal for a plea to a lesser offence, such as careless driving to be accepted. Although initially reluctant, the Procurator Fiscal eventually agreed to consider a plea to a Section 3 charge of careless driving.

The distinction between a Section 2 and a Section 3 offence is significant. In the case of careless driving, the court has discretionary powers when it comes to disqualification. Unlike a Section 2 conviction, a Section 3 offence does not mandate an automatic disqualification. This plea negotiation was a positive development for our client, as it significantly reduced the potential consequences of disqualification.

Careless driving, however, still posed challenges for our client. He already had nine penalty points on his licence, and the ‘Totting Up’ provisions necessitated a mandatory disqualification of six months upon reaching 12 points. Therefore, even with a plea to the lesser offence, our client faced the possibility of disqualification due to accumulating points.

During the court proceedings, the sheriff ordered four points to be added to our client’s licence. Although it was a relatively lenient penalty, it pushed our client’s total points to 13 within a three-year period. This meant he qualified for a mandatory disqualification under ‘Totting Up’ regulations.

To seek to avoid this outcome, we requested the sheriff to consider exceptional hardship as experienced not only by our client but also by other people connected to his business. Our argument centred on the fact that our client, as a salesman, relied heavily on his driving licence to travel across the country for meetings. It was impractical for him to hire a driver, use public transport, or rely on taxis.

The exceptional hardship proof was successfully argued, focusing not only on our client but also on the potential consequences for his business and employees. We provided evidence from our client’s accountant demonstrating the negative impact on the company if our client lost his licence. The court acknowledged the far-reaching consequences and accepted that others would suffer exceptional hardship as a result of our client’s disqualification.

In the end, the court granted our client the exceptional hardship proof, allowing him to retain his driving privileges despite accumulating 13 penalty points. This outcome was a great relief for our client, considering the serious charge he initially faced. A 12-month disqualification would have severely impacted his ability to manage his business and his overall quality of life.

This case serves as a reminder that contraventions of Section 2 and Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act can have significant consequences. Speeding alone can lead to prosecution and potential loss of a driving licence for an extended period. Losing a licence has far-reaching implications across all aspects of the professional and personal lives of the person disqualified.

It is essential to remember that dangerous driving charges must be treated seriously, and it is always advisable to consult legal professionals to understand the potential consequences and explore all available options.

In conclusion, this case demonstrated the importance of robust legal representation and negotiation in achieving a favourable outcome. By skillfully navigating the legal landscape, we were able to mitigate the consequences and preserve our client’s ability to operate his business and maintain his livelihood.

If you find yourself facing charges of dangerous driving or any traffic-related offences, it is crucial to seek professional legal advice promptly. Understanding the complexities of the law and having a knowledgeable lawyer by your side can make all the difference in securing a favourable outcome and protecting your future.