Dawn McKnight, Partner at Lawtons Solicitors London office, was instructed to represent a youth client accused of making and distributing illegal images of children. The client’s parents had been advised that he would be eligible for legal aid funding. However, having read the reviews on the Lawtons website, they decided to instruct Lawtons Solicitors on a private paying basis as they wanted expert advice from a solicitor with extensive experience with sexual offence matters.
During the consultation, Dawn explained the legislation and the potential sentence, with possible Sex Offender Notice Requirements. Having initially met with the client and his parents, Dawn was advised that he had been interviewed twice on a voluntary basis at his home address.
As neither the client nor the parents had previous dealings with the police, they did not understand the severity of the offences and had declined legal representation. Two years following the police interviews, the client had received a Postal Requisition to attend a Northamptonshire Youth Court.
Once instructed, Dawn initially spoke to the officer in the case to ascertain whether a Youth Caution could be considered. The Officer advised due to the volume and categories of the images, together with the fact that admissions were not given during an interview, a decision to charge was made following CPS advice.
Once the Prosecution evidence (IDPC) was received, Dawn conducted a further conference with the client and his parents. The client advised that he had been scared during interviews and did not want his parents to think badly of him, so denied the offences during the first interview and only accepted seeing a small number of images during the second interview. He also denied the distribution of the images.
Dawn discussed the evidence with the client, which included the Thomspon Schedule. This details the types and descriptions of images found, while the Streamline Forensic Report (SFR) details the Categories of the images/location. Following this, the client advised Dawn that he fully accepted the case against him.
Dawn advised the client that written representation would be made to the CPS to review the matter, given his age and lack of maturity at the time. As the client had not made admissions during his interviews, a written signed admission statement was obtained from the client to be submitted to the CPS.
Unfortunately, as the IDPC is only made available to the defence seven days before the hearing, no acknowledgement of Dawn’s representations was received from the CPS before the hearing date that the client attended Court together with his parents, where Dawn engaged with a Senior Crown Prosecutor and again served the admission statement and written representations. The Prosecutor agreed to adjourn the case for a full review.
Fortunately, the CPS decided to deal with the matter by way of Out of Court Disposal of a Youth Conditional Caution, where the client would engage with the Youth Offending Team (YOT).
Following successful completion, the client was issued with his Youth Caution and was not made subject to the Sex Offenders Register. The CPS then formally dismissed the Court Proceedings against the client.
Both the client and his parents were extremely grateful to Dawn as if the matter had not been diverted, the client would have received a Referral Order and had criminal convictions on his record for serious offences. He may have also been made subject to the Sex Offenders Register if he was given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
As the client was almost 18 at the time of the proceedings, this would have had a detrimental impact on his future. Should you find yourself in a similar situation and require expert legal representation to navigate complex cases like this, please contact us as soon as possible.