Do we as criminal defence lawyers always believe our clients? This is a question that we are asked almost on a weekly basis and the answer is quite simple. Everyone, no matter how heinous their crime, is entitled to a defence and it is the Court’s obligation to pass judgement, not the lawyer’s.
Whilst we may sometimes suspect that someone is guilty, we rarely know for sure. We adhere to strict rules of law and ethics, and we cannot knowingly mislead the Court. If a client tells us that he or she has committed the offence in question, then we cannot allow him or her to give evidence of his or her innocence under oath otherwise we would be complicit in their perjury.
In the field of criminal law, personal feelings and thoughts are put aside, otherwise at times our job would be too difficult. As solicitors we not permitted to refuse to represent someone because we do not like what they say or even if we do not like them personally.
We advise our clients on the strengths of the case against them and on their instructions, and we give honest advice on whether they are likely to be believed. But ultimately, it is not for us to make a judgement on their guilt or innocence. That is what the Courts are there for.
Even when all of the evidence points to the guilt of a client, they are still entitled to a fair trial and that is what we help to enforce. It is for the prosecution to prove the case against them beyond reasonable doubt (one of the basic foundations of the English (and Welsh) law is that they are innocent until proven guilty after all) and so we monitor proceedings and advance and enhance our client’s legal rights from the outset.
There are times when we advise our client that they have no defence and that they should plead guilty at the first opportunity. We point out the evidence against them, and where their defence may struggle.
If they take our advice and plead guilty, their sentence may be reduced from what it would have been after a trial hearing. We can then put forward their mitigation, which may be substantial, and help them to obtain a sentence which both takes into account the offence that they have committed and takes into consideration personal difficulties or achievements.
At the end of the day it is only just and equitable that a defendant in Court is allowed to put their part of the case, so that an objective decision can be made. What chance would anyone have if their own lawyer judged them from the outset?
Even if the client is found guilty, as criminal lawyers we find some solace in the fact that we have assisted our client through what is highly likely to be one of the most difficult times of their life and ensuring that the police and prosecution act in accordance within the rules.
At Alexander JLO we have decades of experience of dealing with white collar criminal defence cases from minor motoring offences to high level financial crime. If you have been affected by any of these, why not contact one of our expert criminal lawyers and see what we can do for you?