I have been contacted by HHJ Mitchell who has asked if I could forward the following plea for help:
“I am writing to you to seek the support of your respective Societies regarding the escalating problem of securing representation for Defendants in Committal Proceedings.
These are Defendants who are brought before the County Court, often at short notice, either following arrest or to answer a formal Committal application. Usually the complaint is one of breach of an Anti Social Behaviour Injunction.
Such Defendants are entitled to public funding given their liberty is at stake.
My understanding is that this falls under criminal legal aid, although the committal arises from a civil Order. However, I also understand this can be accessed by a practitioner who has a civil contract by way of an individual case contract.
All too often, however, Defendants struggle to get representation, raising significant concerns for the fairness of the Court process and for outcomes for individuals.
What I am hoping, therefore, to achieve, is to have an informal list of Solicitors who would be willing to be contacted at short notice to represent Defendants.
That list could be given to Defendants when they arrive at Court to help them access representation.
It may be that in fact two lists are needed, one for Plymouth and one for Exeter (where this work in practice is dealt with).
If you consider that members would be interested, I would be most grateful if you could circulate this plea for help amongst your respective memberships and let me have contact details for those who would be willing to be contacted, as and when. I will then ensure that the Court staff have that information.
Many thanks in anticipation of your assistance.
If you or colleagues need any further details please feel free to come back to me.”
If you are able to assist please email me in the first place and I shall put you in touch with HHJ Mitchell.