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GETTING THE BEST DEFENCE YOU CAN
Your solicitor will
probably be the most important person (besides you) when it comes
to defending yourself against the courts and the police. Solicitors
are meant to prepare your case, gathering evidence and witnesses
and if you are going to the crown court they will brief your barrister.
If your solicitor does a poor job then you go to court at best
unprepared and vulnerable.
FROM A SOLICITOR
SOLICITORS IN GENERAL
There are very few good solicitors around. Most of them are into
money and do not want to rock the boat. This results in solicitors
being keen to take on a new case but not wanting to put a lot
of time and energy into preparing your defence - particularly
if you are on legal aid, because they get paid less for legal
aid work. Most solicitors should not be trusted. In fact they
should be actively distrusted. Solicitors are supposed to work
on your instructions but many will not even give you the chance
to say what you want. They like to run cases 'their way', this
can mean plea-bargaining, avoiding anything controversial (eg.
accusing the police of lying - what's controversial about that?),
and doing as little as possible. Many working class people are
in prison for offences they have not committed, when they could
be walking around outside, if it wasn't in part for their solicitor.
PROBLEMS WITH SOLICITORS
They don't know how to deal with people. They presume you
have recovered from the ordeal of your arrest, imprisonment, beating
from the cops, etc, then using their professionalism, smooth talk,
nice suits, etc, they will dominate you and take the case over.
Many people, not knowing how to deal with solicitors, end up not
knowing what is happening with their case.
They are not agressive enough. Most solicitors put court etiquette
before representing you. They have to work with the magistrates,
prosecutors, judges, etc, all day long, so they want to keep in
with them and are easily intimidated by them.
They are lazy. Often solicitors will go for the easiest approach
in a case, which usually isn't the best. They can be unwilling
to pursue any real investigations, chasing witnesses, etc. It
is rare that a solicitor does a very good job in preparing a case.
They lie to you. Many solicitors suffer from pathological
optimism - they will underestimate the prosecution case, assure
you that there's nothing to worry about ... even though you may
be facing a stretch inside.
They do deals. In court you can see how well all the solicitors
from both sides and the court staff get on with each other. The
pressure is on for everyone to work together to keep the court
running smoothly, not waste too much time. But while the prosecution
are eager to get a conviction as quickly as possible, the defence
solicitor often has a lack of conviction and a willingness to
see clients take a reduced sentence rather than run a strong defence
and spend too much time on a legal aid defendant. The perfect
conditions for doing a deal. They will advise you to plead guilty
in your best interests, or to get a reduced sentence, and if you
don't know what's going on, haven't been in court or trust your
brief you are likely to accept. We would not recommend any
solicitor who encourages people to plead guilty or do deals, especially
in cases of police frame-ups. At worst, solicitors can be
downright arrogant, obnoxious, slimy bastards who work with the
police and basically hold you in contempt, harbouring bigotry
and prejudice against you.
FINDING A 'DECENT' SOLICITOR
An awesome task. When it comes down to it, they are all a part
of the crooked justice system that is designed to keep us down.
For most of them whether you go down or not is irrelevant, as
they can go home to their comfortable house at the end of the
day. But since we have to live day to day with getting nicked
etc, till we can get rid of the lot of them, here's a few tips
to help the unwary deal with them:
Some Tips ...
If you think it's
likely that you will be getting into potential nicking situations,
ask around for a decent solicitor's phone number and memorise
DON'T use duty solicitors
at police stations or courts, they tend to work very closely
with the police and will not go against them in court.
In general we would
advise people not to use the senior partner of a firm (eg. Mr
Nark of Nark, Twist & Sellout). Some firms have young solicitors
from working class backgrounds, who can prove to be more understanding
and willing to put up a fight. Be careful though that you aren't
fobbed off with a trainee who doesn't know their arse from their
DON'T trust a solicitor
to build up a case for you. Take as active a part in your case
as possible - tell them what line of defence you want to take
and what you want them to do ... and make them work for you.
If you want to expose
police abuse, corruption and lies, or stir up the shit in any
way - tell them as soon as possible to check that they are willing
to put this defence forward. If they won't, sack them and get
Tell them everything
you think may be relevant, but don't trust them with dodgy stuff
if you're not going for a guilty.
Keep a note of everything
you give them and all appointments with them. After each appointment
they should write confirming what you have discussed and telling
you what they are doing.
up on them to make sure they are gathering evidence and witnesses
- better still get witnesses yourself and put them in touch
with your brief.
Don't let them make
you feel small. Stand up to them, demand as much of their time
as you need. Pushy people get action.
Don't let them persuade
you to plead guilty, plea-bargain or whatever - unless YOU want
With the reduction of legal aid, changes in the 'right to silence'
etc, we can expect things to get worse. We will have to develop
our own skills and defences. What have most solicitors ever done
for us anyway? At the end of the day they're just part of the
class structure of the legal system - together with the cops,
judges, prisons, etc, they keep the law under the control of our
masters and out of our hands. Taking our lives into our hands,
fighting for a better life of community, pleasure, co-operation;
that's the only real defence.
this leaflet produced by anarchist black cross.
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