Client Acquitted of Road Rage Offences after CPS Drop Case Image
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Client Acquitted of Road Rage Offences after CPS Drop Case

Our client, NB, had been charged with two offences: possession of an offensive weapon (a metal pole) and a section 4 Public Order Act offence arising out of a road rage incident. NB denied both offences and Hill Twine Solicitors was instructed to represent him at trial. If convicted, he faced a prison sentence of around 9 months imprisonment. He was represented by Philomena Murphy at trial. Through her diligent case preparation and expert handling of the case, Philomena Murphy successfully identified the problems in the prosecution case and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had no choice but to drop the case against NB. Read on to learn why...

What Was this Road Rage Case About?

One late February afternoon, police received reports of two men fighting in the middle of a road as part of a road rage incident. Both were said to have been fighting whilst armed with metal poles and their cars were blocking the middle of the road. When the police arrived at the scene, both men were still there, both said to have had injuries to their faces. A witness told the police that a fight had erupted between the two men when one had refused to move his car to allow the other through. Our client, NB, was the second man and was said to have started a fight with the man who was blocking the road. The witness had taken a video of some of the fight.

Our client was charged with offences of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place (the weapon being the metal pole it was said that he used) and using threatening behaviour in a public place resulting in violence (a section 4 Public Order Act 1986 offence).

How Did Hill Twine Solicitors Deal with the Case?

The client was interviewed by the police, when he was represented by a different law firm. He was charged with the offences and appeared before Poole Magistrates’ Court, where he pleaded not guilty to the offences. A trial date was fixed. It was whilst the case was working towards trial that he decided to instruct Hill Twine Solicitors & Barristers. We are able to obtain legal aid for NB meaning that he did not have to pay for his legal representation. Philomena Murphy was the trial advocate.

Having not had any previous experience of the case, Philomena worked hard to analyse all of the evidence and identify the issues in the case. NB engaged with the process and met with Zara Keu to provide the firm with his full instructions. Zara went through all of the evidence with him to ensure we were clear on what he accepted, what he disputed and what his side of the story was.

What Happened at the Trial?

On the day of trial, the main prosecution witness failed to attend court. This witness was the one who was said to have seen what happened between the two men, and videoed a lot of it on his mobile phone. Although the CPS wanted to proceed with the trial, Philomena Murphy challenged the prosecutor as to how he was going to be able to show the video in evidence when the witness who took it was not there. Realising the difficulty, the prosecutor looked at alternative ways to adduce the evidence. Philomena, however, was able to shut those down.

Philomena challenged the prosecutor as to how he was going to show the video in evidence without the witness being present

Faced with difficulties in proving the case, the prosecutor made an application to the Court to adjourn the trial to a different day to allow the opportunity for the witness to attend. Philomena opposed this application. She drew the judge’s attention to the reasons why the case should not be adjourned, and identified the law that had to be taken into account when dealing with such an application. Philomena successfully persuaded the judge to refuse the prosecutor’s application.

As a result of the Court’s decision not to adjourn the trial to allow more time for the prosecution witness to attend, the CPS was faced with the situation where it had to proceed with a trial without the evidence of its main witness. After reviewing the case, the prosecutor took the view that he was not able to prove the case against NB with the evidence of the missing witness. As a result, he ‘offered no evidence’. In other words, the case against the our client was dropped and both offences against NB were dismissed.

Philomena successfully persuaded the judge to refuse the prosecutor’s application

What Difference Did Hill Twine Solicitors Make to the Outcome?

The outcome of this case ultimately came down to Philomena Murphy’s expertise in applying the rules of evidence and her skill in dealing with procedural applications. In criminal proceedings, there are rules surrounding what evidence the prosecution and defence can rely on in a trial. Only evidence that complies with these rules is admissible. The rules are in place to ensure fairness in the proceedings. The rules of evidence can be complex and cause even the knowledgeable lawyers and judges a lot of head-scratching from time to time. They take many years of applied knowledge and experience to understand. It is extremely challenging, if not impossible for a person who is not legally represented to deal properly with these sorts of issues arising in a criminal trial.

In the circumstances of this particular case, the prosecutor was unable to rely on the video taken by the witness because the rules of evidence did not allow him to do so when the witness was not at court. Although he tried to get the video admitted in a different way, Philomena’s enhanced knowledge of the evidential rules ensured that the rules were properly applied, thus preventing the prosecutor from relying on the video.

Philomena’s skilful handling of the evidential issue, followed by the way she dealt with the prosecution application to adjourn the trial, undoubtedly led to the CPS deciding not to continue with the case against NB.

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