This case represents our toughest battle to date. It was a battle at every stage involving Magistrates, District Judges, Court Clerks, Cps lawyers and Crown Court Judges. The argument was all about whether it was a public or private road.
I first spoke to our client when she had been advised by a local duty solicitor to plead guilty to a road traffic offence. She had tried to explain to the solicitor that she could not have committed the offence in question because it was a private road, was privately owned and not open to the public.
This offence can only be committed on a road or in a public place. The local solicitor looked up the law on a “Google” search engine in front of our client. This caused her some concern, but despite this she accepted his advice and pleaded guilty and the case was listed for a special reasons argument. The special reasons argument was going to be based (bizarrely) on the suggestion that she should not get a ban due to her thinking the road was private.
It was at this stage that we got involved. We did not agree with the original advice and told our client that she had a defence. She instructed us to act and we tried to get the Magistrates to reopen her conviction (guilty plea). The Magistrates refused to reopen the case despite the fact we were able to show them lots of case law to support her defence. The Magistrates refused the special reasons argument and banned our client from driving. This is a very brief summary of the trauma involved at the Magistrates Court where the sentiment of everyone was that our client was guilty and should accept it. We did not feel as though she would get a fair trial from the start.
We appealed conviction and sentence. We persuaded the Crown Court Judge that our client’s original plea was quivocal (she had a potential defence) and the case was remitted back to the Magistrates Court with an order that she should have a trial. Whilst waiting for trial we tried to persuade the prosecution to drop the case on the basis they did not have a reasonable prospect of convicting her.
We had a trial in the same Magistrates Court and unsurprisingly the court deemed the private road to be a place to which the public had access and convicted her. Despite evidence from local authority planning department confirming the road was privately owned and privately maintained and photographic evidence showing “No Entry” signs at every entrance to the estate. There was lots of other evidence too.
Our client had the courage of her conviction (pardon the pun) and we advised her to appeal against conviction to the crown court. She agreed. We appealed to the Crown court against conviction. We tried again to persuade the CPS not to waste public money and to agree not to oppose the appeal. They insisted robustly on going ahead.
At the Crown Court appeal the Judge dismissed the prosecution at the half way stage (before our client even had to give evidence) on the basis that there was insufficient evidence (no prima facie case) that the road was a public place.
Our client’s Comments;
“Dear Emma and Ria,
I have to tell you how impressed and extremely grateful I am to you both for your approach to my case. I was originally charged with “x”. From the start you advised that I was not guilty. The basis of this defence was that I was on a private road not open to the general public. This was a complex and protracted case, taking 11 months from the time you took over my case until the final appeal verdict of “no case to answer”. I had originally hired a solicitor who did not understand my proposed defence, and who wrongly advised me to plead guilty at the first magistrates hearing. When I later approached you I was told that my defence was indeed valid and would form the basis of my case. Your brief to the barrister, James Tucker, was awesome, and between both barrister and solicitor, the crown court finally quashed my original conviction and absolved me of guilt. I cannot recommend you highly enough to anyone faced with an alleged road traffic offence.
My kindest regards and grateful thanks”