Getting criminals off

Ed believes criminal lawyers must have flexible morals, to get criminals off.

The law of evidence and procedure, as well as the substantive criminal law, is complex. It should be fair. While accused persons are often the least educated in society, they should not suffer additionally from their ignorance of the law. Therefore, they need professional advisers on their side.

Even if a person is guilty, all mitigating factors should be brought out, for the purposes of sentencing.

Sometimes, criminals get off “on a technicality”. I do not want the police barging into my house on the off-chance there might be evidence of crime in it, without good cause. If the courts find evidence inadmissible because wrongfully obtained, the police will take care to obtain evidence lawfully. Criminals getting off is weighed against police intimidation of the innocent.

Sometimes, the accused is innocent!

I watched young lawyers harden. At university, people typically said that they would not want to get a criminal off; however after a year at Perth Sheriff Court, my friend said, “It is my job to defend, the Fiscal’s job to prosecute and the Sheriff’s job to decide between us. If the others do not do their job, that is not my fault.”

In an imperfect system, what mistakes are you willing to countenance? With dislike whipped up against benefit claimants, and loud voices condemning any payment of benefit which is not due, there are so many precautions against this happening that it is very difficult to get benefit. At one point Sheffield city council were taking a year to process housing benefit claims. That innocent person in prison could be me. I want such mistakes to be uncommon.

Barristers are accountable to an ethical code. A barrister must assist the Court in the administration of justice and, as part of this obligation and the obligation to use only proper and lawful means to promote and protect the interests of his client, must not deceive or knowingly or recklessly mislead the Court. Breach of this is professional misconduct.

No, not all criminal lawyers have flexible morals. The job is necessary. It may be done ethically.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Justice as a naked woman with sword and scales

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