I know that we live under what is described in law faculties across the nation as an adversarial legal justice system, but the descripton of the system does not need to be adopted literally by all of its participants.
Generally, as a criminal defence lawyer, the police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), are the opposition. They are the ones trying to prove the case against my client and I am the person trying to thwart the police/DPP’s efforts and either reduce any penalty imposed upon my client or get them off the charges all together.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have butted heads with plenty of police and DPP officers over my years of practice. In fact the catalyst for this article was two very different experiences that I had with police in the last week. What I don’t do is do it as a matter of course.
“Why not”? I hear you ask. “If the police are the enemy Craig you should be trying to bludgen them at every opportunity”
Well the reason I dont is a very simple one…..it is not always in my client’s best interest to do so.
I remember one particular defence lawyer whom I would see regularly at court a few years back, who picked a fight with the police at every opportunity. He never gave an inch to the police in any legal proceedings, but you know what…..he never received one either and that wasnt in his client’s best interest.
His client’s were almost always totally oblivious to their loss. To them if their lawyer was uncompromising and aggressive with his dealings with the police, then he was doing a good job. Little did they know.
Before long this lawyer was so disliked by the police and in particular the police prosecutors that they would enter into no negotiations with him to amend police facts, never consider withdrawing more serious charges if pleas were entered in relation to less serious charges, never allow amendments to bail conditions nor consent to an adjournment required by the lawyer’s client.
Despite that lawyer’s bombastic demeanour, his clients did not benefit, in fact they lost.
They lost it terms of lost opportunities to better their situation by way of negotiations, they lost in terms of the additional efforts the police would make to convict them, they lost in additional time spent in court chalking up legal fees, they lost in terms of how long the matter took to conclude therefore how long their worry and anxiety extended and how long before they could put it behind them and get on with their lives.
A good criminal lawyer and for that matter a good police officer or DPP lawyer, will never pick a fight with the opposition if there is no gain in it for them. For criminal lawyers, focus must always remain on what is good for their client. Argument for argument sake is never good for your client.
Its the same outside of the law in everyday business. I’m sure everyone reading this has found themselves in the position or witnessed others at work, who continue to argue with their boss, a co-worker, a customer, when their is absolutely nothing to gain by it.
Now in the heat of the battle that is not always easy to do, especially if you have a recalitrant personality opposing you. It may not be easy, but it is a good criminal lawyers job. Our client’s should expect that of us and we as professionals should expect it of ourselves.