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McKenzie friend in criminal court?

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McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby shootist » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:32 pm

I have been asked to speak on behalf of a friend who has been charged, justifiably, with common assault upon his partner of some 9 years. He has admitted the offence and will plead guilty in court. I hope to appear to give evidence of previous good character but I am also hoping to speak about his personal circumstances in respect of any sentence considered. I believe the circumstances are unlikely to give rise to a custodial sentence. He is employed in a low income job, now homeless, and is in that situation where he will not get legal aid free but neither can he afford a representative in court. He is on a cliff edge when his future is concerned and I would hope to persuade the court that anything more than a conditional discharge will be completely unnecessary and may wreck his life for many years. I should add that there is no possibility of any further assault, the relationship having come to an end. There are also three children that he is determined to support to the very best of his ability. An even moderate fine is likely to see him lose his job, end up on the streets or in a homeless shelter, and ruin any possibility of a smooth transition for maintaining contact with this children.

The problem is, of course, I have no right of audience (if that's the correct expression) but this person is a complete wreck, consumed by guilt, notwithstanding the fact that the assault was relatively minor. I think he would have trouble getting any further that saying the word 'guilty', such is his shame. I almost believe that if he was sentenced to life imprisonment he would offer to pay the bus fare to the prison.

What is the best way of trying to get to speak on his behalf, procedurally, and can anyone offer any other tips or helpful suggestions? I don't know if the McKenzie Friend status applies in the criminal court.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby diy » Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:08 pm

I'm assuming this is magistrates court?

Did the CPS consider a caution or are you looking for something less permanent?

Could you write a letter to the court for him as a plea of mitigation, which he can submit. It gives you a better way to structure your presentation and they may take it in to account.

However, before he confesses upon his sword, are you confident that the CPS can prove their case if required to?

btw I know less about this stuff than you do, but would have thought a plea of mitigation has more chance of being listened to than a request for his mate to address the court. Particularly if time is tight.

playing devils advocate - why can't he do community service? rather than discharge?
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby dls » Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:35 pm

I understand that a magistrates court ismuch moreunlikely to accept such a request.

As ha been said, best to asist in drafting a written submission which can be handed in and if necessary read out.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby shootist » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:29 pm

Thanks both. The role I am pursuing will be essentially to give a character reference and support his claim of constant efforts to maintain the relationship in spite of 'difficulties' he has encountered. I have always felt that a person presenting themselves to speak in court, and to open to questioning, under such circumstances is likely to carry more weight than a written submission. I have no intention of trying to justify or excuse his actions. More a case of trying to convince them that this was not the usual estate love match consisting of half a dozen cans of Stella (otherwise known as 'Wife Beater) and the regular bloody good hiding on a Saturday night. I'm hoping that I might persuade the court that a conditional discharge will allow him to pursue a decent job and find somewhere at least nearly decent to live and house his three children for weekends etc.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby diy » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:46 pm

I would definitely do some research on how to structure the mitigation plea. have you read this:
https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/ex ... g-factors/

I also googled "sentence for assault with mitigation" and the 1st half dozen articles looking interesting.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby Maz JP » Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:45 pm

shootist wrote:. I'm hoping that I might persuade the court that a conditional discharge will allow him to pursue a decent job and find somewhere at least nearly decent to live and house his three children for weekends etc.

And this is why Courts prefer written submissions of character. to focus on the defendant, rather than the sentence. We're not fond of McKenzie friends, to be honest.

For what it's worth, in my Court we would think it odd that someone would think any discharge would be suitable for a perpetuator of domestic violence. Community sentences tend to be the norm, if only so they. can undertake a remedial course.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby shootist » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:12 am

Maz JP wrote:
shootist wrote:. I'm hoping that I might persuade the court that a conditional discharge will allow him to pursue a decent job and find somewhere at least nearly decent to live and house his three children for weekends etc.

And this is why Courts prefer written submissions of character. to focus on the defendant, rather than the sentence. We're not fond of McKenzie friends, to be honest.

For what it's worth, in my Court we would think it odd that someone would think any discharge would be suitable for a perpetuator of domestic violence. Community sentences tend to be the norm, if only so they. can undertake a remedial course.


Well, his event of domestic violence was hardly perpetual. In point of fact, now that manipulation and oppression are finally becoming issues in line with domestic violence, he could make a very good case for being the victim in that relationship. He certainly doesn't need any 'remedial' course. You cannot remedy a person who has snapped after many years of mental abuse, other than to help them walk away. Not all cases of domestic violence are 'the usual'. Domestics used to be my bread and butter when working a council estate beat. They vary.

I can understand the lack of fondness of McKenzie Friends, but until the court system removes financial expedience from it's ideas of justice, someone needs to speak up for those not capable of doing so themselves and who cannot afford someone to do it for them.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby atticus » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:30 am

I think Maz may have meant perpetrator.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby Maz JP » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:00 pm

atticus wrote:I think Maz may have meant perpetrator.

Gosh, I feel foolish.

Bloomin' spellcheck.

Thank you, I did.
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Re: McKenzie friend in criminal court?

Postby atticus » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:37 pm

What's a letter between friends?
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