Litigation since 1880

Strategic Defence of a Domestic Abuse Charge: Achieving Best Outcomes

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.