Response to the Daily Mail
In response to today’s article in the Daily Mail regarding the case of Jack Shepherd, referencing the role of Tuckers, there are a number of inaccuracies – as well as (predictably) the tone of the article being completely skewed to misrepresent the nature of legal aid, criminal defence solicitors and the role of the wider justice system.
We have absolutely no idea from where the Daily Mail has obtained the figures of £93,000 or £100,000 in respect of the amount “received by Tuckers”. It is correct that we are instructed to represent Mr Shepherd. The case is funded by legal aid. The fee for representing Mr Shepherd in connection with his trial was less than £30,000.
Mr Shepherd is represented by senior Partner, Richard Egan. Mr Egan’s & Tuckers’ position is simply that we are criminal defence solicitors and have an important role in the criminal justice system to represent those accused of criminal offences. We represent. We do not judge. We represent our clients without prejudice and to the best of our ability. That professionalism and duty does not go away because of the perceived morally dubious actions of any particular client (and in the context of a criminal lawyer that would be absurd). The fact is in this matter we prepared the case for trial and 95% of our legal aid work had been done already at the time Mr Shepherd absconded. The fact that Mr Shepherd absconded was notified to the Court, the CPS and police. The CPS then had an option to either adjourn the trial until the client was located and brought to court or to proceed to trial in his absence. They chose the latter and applied to the judge to proceed. The judge granted their application and the trial went ahead. The court were fully aware that we would act in his absence as we had a professional duty to do so. We are not professionally embarrassed because the client has not attended his hearing.
A legal aid certificate automatically extends to advice on appeal. The clients appeal is based on what the defence believe were legal errors made during the trial. The clients continued absence (we are not aware of his whereabouts) has no effect on the principle of an appeal which is purely based on matters of law and in fact we would be negligent and in breach of our professional duties were we not to proceed because the client had absconded. Previous case law confirms that an absent defendant still has the right to appeal against legal errors at a trial that took place in his absence.
The merits of the appeal are considered by a single judge and in this case he has authorised the fact that the grounds of the appeal have sufficient merit to go before the court of appeal. The client’s absence has no bearing on that assessment and as the judge has given his authorisation we are duty bound to proceed with the appeal.
Obviously, nothing in the Daily Mail’s article today relating to Franklin Sinclair has anything to do with this case whatsoever.