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British Justice ?

The Experiences of an Old Man with the Criminal Justice System in the UK.

The Acquittal and Sentencing Hearing

I was acquitted of the charges against me. I was acquitted of assaulting Kevin Miles, I was acquitted of carrying a knife in a public place. Then I was sentenced. I was sentenced on acquittal to a “5A” Restraining Order to protect Kevin Miles and his relatives from me. I was sentenced to the confiscation and destruction of property that was lawfully possessed.

The phrase “sentencing on acquittal” should set off alarm bells in your head. Surely this is not the way the system works! How can anybody be sentenced on acquittal? Normally a criminal case that has gone to trial will result in a verdict. That verdict is either “guilty” or “not guilty”. If the verdict is "guilty" then the case proceeds to sentencing. The convicted person will be punished for the crime that they were convicted of. But, if the verdict is “not guilty” the defendant should be set free. How can the system punish an innocent person who has just been acquitted?

So, how are they able to sentence on acquittal, and why would they want to?

The how

The process is a little convoluted, but here is how it was done: The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (DVCVA 2004) section 12 modified another statute, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA 1997). Section 12(5) of DVCVA 2004 edits PHA 1997, inserting a new paragraph, 5A, as follows:

(5)After that section insert- “5A Restraining orders on acquittal (1)A court before which a person (“the defendant”) is acquitted of an offence may, if it considers it necessary to do so to protect a person from harassment by the defendant, make an order prohibiting the defendant from doing anything described in the order. (2)Subsections (3) to (7) of section 5 apply to an order under this section as they apply to an order under that one. (3)Where the Court of Appeal allow an appeal against conviction they may remit the case to the Crown Court to consider whether to proceed under this section. (4)Where- (a)the Crown Court allows an appeal against conviction, or (b)a case is remitted to the Crown Court under subsection (3), the reference in subsection (1) to a court before which a person is acquitted of an offence is to be read as referring to that court. (5)A person made subject to an order under this section has the same right of appeal against the order as if- (a)he had been convicted of the offence in question before the court which made the order, and (b)the order had been made under section 5.”

Prior to this edit a person could only be subjected to a restraining order upon conviction, not on acquittal. This is what PHA 1997 looked like prior to the edit:

5 Restraining orders. (1)A court sentencing or otherwise dealing with a person (“the defendant”) convicted of an offence under section 2 or 4 may (as well as sentencing him or dealing with him in any other way) make an order under this section. (2)The order may, for the purpose of protecting the victim of the offence, or any other person mentioned in the order, from further conduct which- (a)amounts to harassment, or (b)will cause a fear of violence, prohibit the defendant from doing anything described in the order. (3)The order may have effect for a specified period or until further order. (4)The prosecutor, the defendant or any other person mentioned in the order may apply to the court which made the order for it to be varied or discharged by a further order. (5)If without reasonable excuse the defendant does anything which he is prohibited from doing by an order under this section, he is guilty of an offence. (6)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable- (a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both, or (b)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both.

But, now comes the really clever part: The newly modified PHA 1997 allows a 5A Restraining Order to be placed on anyone who was acquitted of anything. Yes, you heard right! You do not need to be acquitted of Harassment to be subjected to a 5A Order, you could be acquitted of anything at all, totally unrelated to Harassment, and still be subjected to a 5A Restraining Order. The PHA 1997 now spans all offences that you could possibly be acquitted of. Indeed, I was never charged with, or even accused of, Harassment. I was charged with: “ASSAULT OCCASIONING ACTUAL BODILY HARM, contrary to section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.” and “HAVING AN OFFENSIVE WEAPON, contrary to section 1(1) of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.”. The critical wording is in paragraph 5(1): It reads “person is acquitted of an offence”. And that phrase is to be interpreted quite literally. It really does mean any offence.

Well, that was the clever part. Now for the really scary part: The court may impose a 5A Restraining Order if it “considers it necessary to do so to protect a person from harassment by the defendant”. The court is now able to punish someone for a crime they have not yet committed, but whom the court thinks might commit a crime in the future. A “Pre-crime” as described in several works of literature that describe oppressive Draconian regimes. Dear reader, you better be real careful what you are thinking right now in case the “Thought Police” come for you. Another really scary part is that the sentence for breaching such an order is 5 years imprisonment. This is often much longer than the maximum sentence for the original offence. The sentence for acquittal is longer than the sentence for conviction.

This UK statute is also in blatant defiance of European Law: The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that “no suspicion regarding an accused's innocence may be voiced after his acquittal”. ( S. AND MARPER v. THE UNITED KINGDOM - 30562/04 [2008] ECHR 1581 (4 December 2008): ¶122. ). So, what is the justification for punishing someone after acquittal? Either the UK Government is treating an acquitted person as guilty, which makes a mockery of the whole concept of acquittal, or else the government is punishing the acquitted person for a crime they have not yet committed, but might commit in the future.

One particularly disturbing precedent case is R v Trott (Peter) [2011] EWCA Crim 2395. In this case an acquitted defendant was subjected to a Section 5A Restraining Order not in spite of the fact that he was innocent, but because he was innocent. The defendant was falsely accused, which the judge thought might make him angry. The judge stated in his summing up: “He is entitled to feel enormously aggrieved, not to put too fine a point on it. He would be spitting feathers, yes, and he is nodding. I am afraid for that reason, and for that reason alone, I am going to make the Restraining Order”. So now the Criminal Justice System believes that innocence is a crime, and indeed must be punished.

Orwellian ?

In George Orwell’s novel “Animal Farm” the rights enjoyed by the animals are painted on the barn wall. But, one by one, they are eroded under cover of darkness. Eventually the most fundamental right of all, guaranteeing the equality of all animals, is changed to read: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. One of the ruling class of pigs, Squealer, is found stumbling around near the barn with a ladder and pot of white paint. But the other animals are too gullible, too trusting of the system, to realize what he was doing.

The PHA 1997 is a real world example of this kind of stealth law making. It has become a very blunt instrument that has evolved way beyond its original intended purpose. It has become a tool of oppression, a way to suppress free speech. It deprives us of a fundamental human right that is protected in many other countries. The general public have been blissfully unaware of the changes made to this statute over time. That is hardly surprising given the manner in which this statute was edited by other new laws. The defences to harassment have also been systematically eroded over time by the same stealthy process. For the good of the country this law needs to be drastically revised.

Acquittal Without Trial

If the Crown Prosecution Service offers no evidence, and thus there is no trial, is the defendant acquitted? The Criminal Justice Act 1967 section 17 allows the judge to record a not guilty verdict if CPS chooses to present no evidence. This is normal practice, and was done in my case. The text of section 17 is quoted below:

Entry of verdict of not guilty by order of a judge.

Where a defendant arraigned on an indictment or inquisition pleads not guilty and the prosecutor proposes to offer no evidence against him, the court before which the defendant is arraigned may, if it thinks fit, order that a verdict of not guilty shall be recorded without the defendant being given in charge to a jury, and the verdict shall have the same effect as if the defendant had been tried and acquitted on the verdict of a jury.
This is an acquittal in every sense: It provides autre-fois acquit protection to the defendant. The case cannot be retried. An authority is: R (O) v Stratford Youth Court [2004] EWHC 1553 (Admin).

The why

The criminal justice system is staffed with people who:

  • Do not care about right and wrong
  • Do not care about justice
  • Have no sense of ethics
  • Are playing their own sordid game
They are only interested in the win and loss columns by which their games are scored. My defence barrister told me that the Crown Prosecution Service wanted to “avoid getting egg on their face”. In addition to being a defence barrister he also prosecutes for CPS. Thus he is qualified to interpret their mindset and motives. Once they knew that they had arrested and charged the wrong person they had a duty to release me expediciously. But that would mean admitting their mistake. So, at each stage of case review, the staff member dealing with the case on that day doesn't want to be the one to admit the mistake and thus embarrass his team. He or she therefore chooses to keep the case in play, passing the problem on to whoever catches the case next time it comes up for review. Who suffers? The innocent defendant suffers!

How Widespread is this Corruption in the Judicial System ?

This attitude completely permeates the British Criminal Justice System. Indeed it extends to the very highest echelons of the judicial system. The most senior judges that are supposed to safeguard the public from corruption willfully pervert justice to enable their colleagues to “save face”. The highest courts in the land that are supposed to provide a safety net when all else fails are themselves willing participants in perpetuating injustice.

One famous case is the “Birmingham Six”. In that case six innocent men were tortured by the police into making false confessions. This torture consisted of, inter alia, putting a revolver in their mouths and dry firing it while the prisoners thought it was loaded and they were about to die, smashing the prisoner's teeth out of their mouths, dangling the prisoners from a window while threatening to drop them and applying lighted cigarettes to their bodies. The police officers involved in this campaign of torture openly admitted that they knew the prisoners were innocent, but they had been ordered to get confessions. The prisoners were convicted on the basis of these extorted false confessions, and served upwards of 16 years in prison before being exonerated and released.

During their 16 years in prison Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice of Appeal, publicly stated that it would have been better for the country if these 6 innocent men had been hanged so that they would have been forgotten about, and their desperate campaign for their freedom would not have caused so much embarrassment for the corrupt judicial system.

We shouldn't have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they'd been hanged. They'd have been forgotten and the whole community would have been satisfied. - Lord Denning

On another occasion The Right Honourable The Lord Denning OM PC QC DL made it very clear that he would rather innocent people be sentenced to prison than admit that the system had made a mistake.

It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned. - Lord Denning

In light of this attitude in the highest ranks of the British judicial system is it any wonder that complaint handling agencies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and force Professional Standards Departments have come to regard their duty as willfully frustrating valid complaints ?

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