The firm has experience of every type of criminal offence. Those not specifically mentioned elsewhere include:
- Theft Handling stolen goods Taking a motor vehicle without consent. Possession or possession with intent to supply drugs Cultivation of cannabis Burglary Violent offences short of murder – common assault, ABH, unlawful wounding, GBH Public order offences Sexual offences of a more minor nature Health and safety offences
Whatever the nature of the allegation, call us on 0208 874 7433 to see if you are entitled to legal aid or to obtain advice on a privately funded basis.
The firm regularly represents individuals charged with murder. These cases often involve very lengthy and detailed police investigations. It takes an advanced level of experience and forensic skill to prepare such cases for trial and to represent suspects in the police station. Clearly on such cases, the outcome for those convicted is catastrophic and it is essential that the defendant can rely on the expertise of their lawyers to defend the case robustly. Murder cases often involve a large amount of evidence and in particular evidence of mobile telephone usage and connections between individuals including connecting them to various areas at certain times. It is important that the defence solicitor has the ability to interpret and use this detailed data in preparing the client’s defence. In recent years developments in forensic science have meant that defence solicitors have to be comfortable with complicated scientific material especially relating to DNA and the interpretation of profiling from microscopic particles of DNA often in a mixed profile. The firm has bene involved in two of the three main cases involving the interpretation of low template DNA profiling and the match probability in mixed profiles: R v Broughton  EWCA Crim 549 (not a murder case) and R v Dlugosz  EWCA Crim 2 (in which we represented the only successful appellant known as MDS).
Our expertise in relation to the interpretation and reliability of DNA evidence is therefore considerably more advanced than it may be for other solicitors without this recent specialist knowledge. These cases often involve psychiatric issues and defences related to such conditions, namely diminished responsibility and/or insanity. We are accustomed to instructing and working with forensic psychiatrists and neuropsychiatrists in relation to often complex conditions and legal issues around the mental well being or otherwise of the client and whether such a defence exists such that the charge can be reduced to manslaughter. The following are an example of some of the murder cases we have been involved in. We acted for:- the main defendant in a highly publicised murder of a banker in his own home and the attempted murder of his wife.
This was an extremely complex investigation involving a large number of documents including CCTV analysis, telephone data and DNA.the main defendant in a contract killing of a man then on bail for serious drugs offences in the Hastings area in 2003. The police investigation took 2 years before our client was charged with the offence. This was an extremely complex case again involving a huge amount of documentation.a man who was arrested on suspicion of the murder of a man in the flat of Count von Bismarck who fell from a balcony. Following police interviews and a detailed investigation our client was not charged with any offence.a man charged with the murder of a well known literary agent who had been stabbed many times whilst tied up at his own flat. Our client was claiming manslaughter by way of diminished responsibility. a young Asian man who was charged with the murder of a young white male who had been attacked and stabbed by a group of Asian youths in East London following an attempted robbery on one of the group of Asian youths. This was a particularly difficult and racially sensitive case which led to the acquittal of our client.a woman who was accused of murdering her husband with an axe.
She claimed diminished responsibility and her plea of guilty to manslaughter was ultimately accepted.a man who was tried on a re-trial at the Old Bailey for the random and unprovoked murder of a man on a bus in Vauxhall. Again the issue in this case was diminished responsibility.a young man accused of the fatal shooting of a man in Battersea following an altercation in the street. This is another highly complex investigation which produced a large amount of documentation and a lengthy trial before the case was dismissed after the close of the prosecution case.a man who was convicted of the murder of the baby of our client’s then partner. We made an application to the CCRC who referred the case back to the Court of Appeal. The issues related to the timing of death from forensic evidence. We had not been instructed at trial.a man who was charged with a conspiracy to murder a man in Liverpool by way of a proposed contract killing. The other defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail but our client was acquitted after a lengthy trial.two men accused of stabbing a male in the chest in a nightclub.
Again the police investigation was extremely lengthy and the case ended in the acquittal of both clients on the murder charge.a young man accused of killing a 21 year old man after an altercation concerning a sweet wrapper being thrown into the deceased’s car. This matter was concluded with a plea of guilty to manslaughter rather than murder following representations as to the nature of the charge.one of six young men accused of killing a 21 year old man in an apparently unprovoked attack when he was shot at close range with a shot gun in south Londona man who was attacked by the person he was selling drugs to and who the jury accepted killed him in self defence inflicting over 20 stab wounds in the processa man accused of killing a minder in a north London brothel which raised extremely complicated issues of DNA and which went through the Court of Appeal and back to the Crown Court on a re-trial;a man who was accused of pushing his brother from a balcony on the third floor of a block of flats when the brother died six months after the incident having sustained crippling injuries;two men suspected of a murder during the August 2011 riots in Croydon, neither of whom were charged;a man who was accused of murdering a drug dealer in a robbery for his supply of drugs in Leeds;a man who killed a stranger in a pub in an unprovoked attack by stabbing him in the chest and back several times whilst experiencing a psychotic episode. His plea to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility was accepted;a woman who killed her 7 month old child while mentally unwell. Her plea of guilty to infanticide was ultimately accepted by the prosecution;a man accused of killing his wife who was a trans-sexual sex worker, both only having been in the UK for a short period of time.
Serious Sexual Offences
Allegations of a sexual nature against an individual are extremely damaging to that individual’s reputation whether or not they are convicted. Conviction for such offences can have catastrophic repercussions for family life and the individual’s future. In most cases, a conviction will lead to an immediate custodial sentence and lengthy reporting requirements on the Sex Offender Register. It may also lead to a Sexual Offences protection Order which can limit contact with certain types of person (such as children) for a considerable period. Such orders can have long lasting impact on the individual’s life long after any sentence ahs bene completed. We deal with cases involving sexual offences on a regular basis. Such matters are often highly sensitive and complex in nature. All of our lawyers have extensive experience in representing individuals facing the full spectrum of such allegations including but not limited to historical sexual abuse, rape, controlling of prostitutes, child sex offences including large paedophile rings, indecent images and allegations brought against those in a position of trust such as teachers and medical professionals.
We are appreciative of the emotional distress experienced by those individuals facing such charges and provide an excellent standard of care to support our client through an understandably difficult time. Over the years, we have acted for a wide range of individuals including celebrities, professional footballers, doctors and professional carers as well as the most vulnerable of individuals through mental health problems or learning difficulties. Our cases are often met with significant media attention or raise matters of the utmost importance in law. We have recently acted in a case concerning two three year old complainants and secured pioneering expert evidence resulting in our client’s acquittal. This particular case now features in judicial training on vulnerable witnesses in addition to leading psychological research at an international level. The majority of cases do not involve well known individuals or attract a lot of publicity. They are nonetheless extremely stressful and important cases for the individual concerned and we do our best to ensure that the procedure is properly explained throughout and that everything that can be done to prepare the case for trial is done in a timely and efficient manner. We are well versed in preparing cases for trial which concern young and vulnerable witnesses.
Members of our team have attended training programmes within this area to ensure that we are up to date with current practice procedures. We hold an unparalleled reputation in cases concerning serious sexual offences. Such matters are often highly sensitive and complex in nature. All of our lawyers hold extensive experience in representing individuals facing the full spectrum of such allegations including but not limited to historical sexual abuse, rape and multi-handed rapes, controlling of prostitutes, child sex offences including large paedophile rings, indecent images and allegations brought against those in a position of trust such as teachers and medical professionals. We are appreciative of the emotional distress experienced by those individuals facing such charges and employ an excellent standard of client care to support you through an understandably difficult time. Over the years, we have acted in the interests of the widest scope of individuals ranging from celebrities and professional footballers, doctors and professional carers as well as the most vulnerable of individuals. Our cases are often met with significant media attention or raise matters of the utmost importance in law. We have recently acted in a case concerning two three year old complainants and secured pioneering expert evidence resulting in our client’s acquittal. This particular case now features in judicial training on vulnerable witnesses in addition to leading psychological research at an international level. We are well versed in preparing cases for trial which concern young and vulnerable witnesses. Members of our team have attended training programmes within this area to ensure that we are up to date with current practice procedures. Examples of our recent work include:-
- A former rugby league player accused of rape. Successfully acquitted following trial.
- A 12 year old accused of rape and sexual assault following a game of truth of dare. The complainant suffered significant learning difficulties and mental illness. Our client was successfully acquitted.
- A father accused of sexual assault upon two minors who were ABE interviewed aged 3 to be cross examined aged 5. Our client was successfully acquitted.
- Attempted rape of an ex-partner who was a past victim of large scale incestual sexual abuse. Defence of sexsomnia ran at trial. Client successfully acquitted.
- Court of Appeal ordered re-trial owing to a change in law concerning DNA evidence. Involved rape allegations upon an elderly woman.
- A student who was accused of raping a fellow student causing serious injuries. Our client denied the offence, the issue being consent and was acquitted at trial
- The alleged rape by four young men of a 15 year old girl in a town centre shopping arcade late at night. Our client was acquitted at trial, never having assaulted the girl at all.
- Incitement of another male to take and distribute indecent images of his own very young child.
- Sexual grooming of a young girl over the internet
- Successful appeal against conviction (where we had not acted at trial) of a man who had been convicted of a gang rape of a female at the home of one of his friends after a night’s drinking
- Rape of a vulnerable woman with mental health problems having met her on a night bus. Our client was acquitted of rape but convicted of attempted rape.
- Rape of a deaf and dumb woman. Our client was originally convicted but we then dealt with the appeal and had the conviction overturned. A re-trial is imminent.
A theft from a person accompanied by violence will be charged as robbery which is one of the most serious types of criminal offence. We deal with such cases on a daily basis, whether they involve relatively low level offending by youths, knife point robberies in the street or organised robberies with firearms on financial or other institutions.
Many youths are charged with robbery and appear in the Youth Court. These cases may be deemed serious enough to warrant a Crown Court trial notwithstanding the age of the accused.
Serious and organised armed robberies often involve complex conspiracy allegations and numerous robberies or attempted robberies by the same alleged gang. These investigations are often conducted by the Flying Squad and involve a large amount of documentary and/or video evidence. It is common to have a large amount of material from telephone call data and cell siting of individual phones around the planning stages and the actual robberies themselves. This has to be managed by the defence team and we have a wealth of experience in dealing with cases involving a high volume of material. Consequently, we are very experienced in handling robbery cases wherever they fall within this spectrum.
There is a sliding scale of assault which starts with common assault and ends with murder. A common assault can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court and attracts a maximum sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment. These cases are often reasonably straight forward although often raise the same issues the same basic issues as for more serious assaults such as the presence of the accused at the scene, participation in the assault and self defence. It is often thought by the public that provocation provides a defence to an assault charge which is not correct. If someone was provoked to act in the way that they did and assault an individual, it may be used as a factor which could reduce the sentence but unless the person assaulted dies, it does not provide any defence.
In the Magistrates’ Court if the defendant is not eligible for legal aid following a means test, the court is able to appoint a firm of solicitors to cross-examine the complainant at public expense. If the defendant is unable to or does not wish to pay privately for representation at a trial for assault, it is likely that a firm will be allocated in this way. We undertake this work on behalf of the courts and can act in this limited capacity under public funds if required on these cases.
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (known as ABH) is the next most serious assault with a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment (if tried in the Crown Court). This offence can be tried in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. How an assault is categorised depends on the level of injury. Where no actual injury is required for a common assault, a charge of ABH requires that the person assaulted has injuries of some description albeit often relatively minor. These cases will most often be tried in the Crown Court and consequently legal aid is more often available for representation as the means test is more generous for Crown Court cases.
Unlawful wounding carries the same maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment as ABH but involves more serious injury being caused. It is often known as a “section 20” assault as it is an offence by virtue of s20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The offence requires the level of injury to be at the same level as grievous bodily harm but it is not necessary that the assailant intended to cause such serious injury during the assault. Again these offences will mostly be tried in the Crown Court and often the defence is able to negotiate a plea of guilty to this offence in cases where the defendant is charged with the more serious offence under s18 of the Act.
Assault occasioning grievous bodily harm with intent (known as GBH or a section 18) carries a maximum of life imprisonment and can only be tried in the Crown Court. The offence is set out in s18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and requires an assault on an individual with the intent that really serious injury be caused and the causing of that level of injury. Many stabbing incidents or assaults with weapons such as broken bottles or glasses are charged as GBH with intent.
Attempted murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In these cases the prosecution has to prove that the defendant intending to kill the person assaulted during the assault. This is a higher level of intent than is required for murder itself where the defendant only has to intend to cause really serious injury but the person dies of their injuries. Attempted murder cases include shooting incidents or cases where it is apparent from the nature of the assault that death was the intended outcome. On many occasions it is possible to negotiate a guilty pela to a GBH with intent charge where attempted murder has been charged as the hurdle for the Crown on attempted murder is so high.
Manslaughter is the unindenting killing of an individual and carries a maximum of life imprisonment. If the assaulted person has died but it is clear that the assailant had not intended to cause serious injury, they can be found guilty of manslaughter. This may be in a case where for instance someone is punched in the face in a fight and falls to the ground striking their head on an object or the ground causing fatal injuries. Equally where an individual dies as a result of the gross negligence of an individual, a conviction for manslaughter by gross negligence may be achieved. In such cases there is a cross over with health and safety legislation.
Birds Solicitors has experience of dealing with these more complex investigations and prosecutions. As an example we acted for an individual who was charged with gross negligence manslaughter following the death of two people from legionnaire’s disease contracted from a humidifier in a hotel buffet. Our client eventually pleaded guilty to some health and safety breaches and the Crown decided that they could not prove the more serious offences after the trial had been running for a week or so. These types of cases involve expert evidence and careful analysis of high volumes of papers. We also acted at appeal for a man convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence following an incident in Tebay where a rail trailer loaded with tons of scrap rail ran off down a track and into a working party a mile or so below where the original work was taking place causing the death of several men. We also acted for an individual accused of causing the death of an elderly relative through lack of care. Although the case was listed for trial, other reasons led to the case against our client being dropped.
Cases originally charged as murder can be reduced to manslaughter as a result of the defendant’s mental health which diminishes their responsibility for their actions or as a result of a temporary loss of control as a result of provocation. A number of our murder cases end up in guilty pleas to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility where the psychiatric evidence suggests that the individual concerned was not fully responsible for their actions given their state of mental health.
Murder is punishable by a mandatory life sentence. The tariff set by the Court which the individual has to serve will depend on the nature of the offence and can include a full life tariff. Most murders involving firearms have a tariff starting point at 30 years, with knife attacks starting at 25 years and other murders at 15 years. A person is guilty of murder if they assault someone intending either to kill them or to cause really serious injury and that person dies as a result of the assault. For more details about our experience in defending murder cases see the page for murder.
Many assault cases involve the principle commonly known as joint enterprise but more accurately described as parasitic accessory liability. The recent Supreme Court case of R v Jogee has clarified the law on joint enterprise such that the secondary party to the act must now intend that the principle party carry out the act (the assault) should the situation arise rather than just foresee the assault as a possibility. We are currently examining a number of convictions where the individual was convicted of murder under the law as it was then incorrectly applied. However, not every such case will result in the conviction being overturned.
Birds Solicitors represent people charged with violent offences of all types and level of seriousness on a daily basis. We endeavour to explain the court process, the law and the options available to the defendant in a clear and concise manner and to guide the client through the very stressful process of facing a trial on such serious matters.
Theft and dishonesty offences
Dishonesty offences vary greatly and include complex frauds (see Fraud), forgery, theft of varying degrees, burglary and handling stolen goods. Many of these cases do not involve complex legal issues or a lot of paperwork, for instance shoplifting. However, without exception these offences are serious for the individual charged and can cause huge reputational damage to those convicted not to mention the risk of imprisonment.
We often deal with individuals who frequently commit minor offences of dishonesty (e.g. shoplifting) on multiple occasions. We are aware of the issues around such cases including mental health concerns and drug abuse. We will aim to assist the individual as best we can and to work with them to try to reduce their level of offending where possible.
We deal with dishonesty offences on a daily basis at all levels of seriousness. These offences can be complex (for instance a conspiracy to commit burglaries) and require analysis of large volumes of documents including forensic material (such as DNA), accounting records, telephone call data and cell siting and so on.
Our vast experience of dealing with complex crimes means that we are able to manage cases at whatever level of seriousness they may be and whatever the volume of evidence served by the prosecution.
We will guide the defendant through the process and explain the law, the strength of the evidence and any options that the client may have at each stage of the process. We are aware that the experience of being prosecuted for any offence and particularly one which will cause damage to your reputation is unpleasant and stressful. We aim to reduce that stress as much as we can by explain the process in clear terms so that the defendant knows what their options are and can assess for themselves the strength of their case.
Drugs offences can vary in nature from the minor possession of cannabis to large scale drug importations and conspiracies to supply or manufacture drugs. In addition the new Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 introduces offences related to the supply (rather than the use) of substances not within the list of controlled drugs but which have a psychoactive effect on the individual.
Drugs cases remain a part of the firm’s staple diet at all levels of seriousness. The lengthy sentences imposed in relation to cases involving large amounts of drugs and in particular class A drugs mean that such cases require considerable expertise. Such cases also bring with them the confiscation of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 from individuals which can also lead to lengthy sentences in default of payment.
Large drug cases can be extremely complex and involve large amounts of evidence akin to a fraud case. We have acted in numerous cases involving serious drugs offences in the past and continue to do so. Such cases often involve a great deal of surveillance evidence and require detailed forensic examination of evidence such as telephone records, bank records, tachographs, etc.
We have the experience of such cases to be able to deal with the complexities that arise in handling cases with large volumes of paperwork and complex factual issues.
As an example, some of the cases we have acted in include:-
- R v S: Woolwich Crown Court: represented lead defendant in multi handed conspiracy to supply 128 kg of Cocaine at import quality investigated by the NCA. This case involved evidence obtained from both South America as to the importation of the drugs and multi jurisdictional surveillance by various enforcement authorities throughout Europe of the client.
- R v S: Liverpool Crown Court: acted for lead defendant in conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, 420 kg of cocaine at import quality imported from South America to Tilbury docks in the UK. Client extradited form Holland having been placed on the NCA website as one of UK’s most wanted. Attended Holland to advise client as to UK proceedings prior to extradition.
- R v W: Teesside Crown Court: acted for lead defendant in conspiracy to supply Class A & B drugs between North West and North East of England, relating to Amphetamine and Cocaine.
- R v S: Teesside Crown Court: acted for lead defendant in 17 handed conspiracy to supply both Class A & B drugs valued by the prosecution with a street value of £1billion. This case involved detailed analysis of both mobile telephone communications between lead defendants. It was also one of the first cases involving evidence obtained from PGP encrypted phones. The case was investigated by Cleveland Police and NCA.
Steven Bird has lectured on behalf of the LCCSA on defending serious drug cases and on the confiscation provisions which arose as a result of conviction in such cases.
He is also the co-author of a forthcoming book on Drugs Law to be published shortly.
He also wrote an article for Lexis Nexis on the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 which was published online in March 2016.
There is a huge array of criminal offences and the firm is able to deal with any offence with which an individual can be charged, however, uncommon it may be. In the past we have dealt with offences in such diverse areas as dangerous dogs, collection of rare birds’ eggs, health and safety, immigration offences and so on. We can adapt to any offence brought by the prosecution and defend our client fairly and robustly.
Public Order offences
There are a range of public order offences with which individuals may be charged. They are set out in the Public Order Act 1986 and range from the non-imprisonable threatening words and behaviour at the low end of seriousness to riot at the top end of the scale. The Public Order Act 1986 sets out the offences at sections 1 to 5, starting with riot at section 1 and moving down to threatening words and behaviour at section 5.
We regularly defend people charged with public order offences, often but not always in the context of a public demonstration which ahs led to police intervention. However, such offences can also be alleged following fights at pubs and in town centres. The more common offences are those contained in sections 2 to 5 of the Act, with offences at sections 4 and 5 being triable only in the Magistrates’ Court.
The less serious offences are often referred to by the section number. An offence under section 5 is described in the Act as “harassment, alarm or distress” and a person is guilty of this offence if they use threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening or abusive, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby. This offence can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court and the maximum penalty is a level 3 fine.
An offence under section 4A is described in the Act as “ intentional harassment, alarm or distress”. A person is guilty of this offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, they use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress. This offence can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court and the maximum penalty is 6 months’ imprisonment.
An offence under section 4 is describe din the Act as “fear or provocation of violence”. A person is guilty of this offence if they use towards another person threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or distribute or display to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him or another by any person, or to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence by that person or another, or whereby that person is likely to believe that such violence will be used or it is likely that such violence will be provoked.
This offence is complicated from a legal point of view and can be committed in a number of different ways. It can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment.
Affray is defined at section 3 as the use or threat of unlawful violence towards another where the person’s conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety. There does not need to be anyone “of reasonable firmness” actually present for the offence to be committed. This offence can be tried either in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court and the maximum sentence is 6 months if tried in the lower court or 3 years if tried in the Crown Court.
Violent disorder (section 2) is committed where three or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using or threatening unlawful violence is guilty of violent disorder. No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene for the offence to be committed. The offence can be tried in either the magistrates Court where the maximum penalty is limited to 6 months or the Crown Court where it is 5 years.
Riot (section 1) is rarely charged. It is committed where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot. No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene. Such an offence can only be tried in the Crown Court and the maximum sentence is 10 years.
Public Order offences are relatively complex and require careful analysis and advice from a solicitor who is experienced in dealing with such matters. They often arise from public demonstrations and our work with animal rights and other activists means that we frequently deal with offences involving alleged breaches of public order.
Computer related offences
We have experience of defending individuals accused of offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 commonly referred to as computer hacking. These offences include unauthorised access to computer material, unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of a computer (including recklessness), unauthorised acts causing or creating risk of serious damage and the making and supplying of articles to commit above offences.
Computer related offences can be complex enquiries and involve complicated and technical evidence. Expert assistance is often required and an ability to understand the processes involved. We have experience of dealing with offences of this nature and can assist anyone charged with such an offence.
A guidance brochure detailing our services in serious criminal cases can be downloaded here.