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A Week in the Life of a Criminal Solicitor – Thursday

Between April 2018 and March 2019 there were 4,500 recorded knife and weapons offences committed by children in London.

This is the penultimate blog in a five-part series documenting a week in the life of Darrell-Ennis Gayle, a Senior Associate in Hodge Jones & Allen’s Criminal Defence team, representing youths in police stations and courts across South East London. The names have been changed, but the cases are real and represent a true reflection of the impact of knife crime and the experiences of youths in the criminal justice system.

To read the series from the beginning, please click here.

Day Four – Thursday

I arrive at the station as instructed at 9am and meet with Tyrone’s older sister who is to act as his appropriate adult today. She is twenty-two-years-old and has just completed her legal professional exams. She is easy to talk to and has a very good understanding of the situation and procedure. Tyrone had given me permission to discuss all matters about the case with her and, although she is obviously distressed and worried about her brother’s situation, she proves excellent in providing some background information and a good insight into Tyrone’s character.

She explains that Tyrone had always been quite reclusive and quiet as a child, especially since the separation of his parents. However, he had recently come out of his shell and had started associating with older peers who she thought were a bad influence on him. She was aware of his recent conviction for having a knife and explained that she and Tyrone were very close and that he had confided in her that he had started carrying knives for protection because he was wary about attending college as there were lots of boys from different areas who attended there and that many of them were associated with local gangs. She said that, to her knowledge, Tyrone himself had never been involved in any particular gang.

The detectives confirm that the identification procedure will take place in the morning and afterwards they will interview Tyrone on one last occasion. As expected, they confirm that they will be presenting their case to the Crown Prosecution Service after the last interview and will be seeking a murder charge. They say they expect to get a charging decision by noon and will then aim to have Tyrone placed before the local youth court later in the afternoon.

We meet with Tyrone and I explain what will take place today. I relay what the detectives have told me and advise him that, after the identification procedure and a final interview, he will be charged with Maxwell’s murder and produced at the local youth court later in the afternoon. I explain to him that the hearing at the youth court will simply be to process the case to the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey). I give him the unfortunate news that he will not be entitled to apply for bail at the youth court today and will therefore be remanded into custody and taken to a youth detention centre.  Tyrone confirms that he understands everything I have told him and, when he is ready, I notify the detectives that we are ready to start the identification procedure.

The procedure firstly involves an identification capture which is the process where the police make a short video recording of Tyrone. In the recording Tyrone has to face the camera and then turn his head slowly from left to right. Afterwards Tyrone and I are given the opportunity to select eight candidates from a database of similar videos of boys matching Tyrone’s description. A compilation is then produced of all nine videos which include the video of Tyrone plus the eight other recordings that Tyrone and I had previously selected. The compilation of all nine videos will then be played to the eyewitnesses who will be asked if they can recognise the person they believed they saw stab Maxwell. This is called the identification viewing.

As is my right, I choose to observe the identification viewing. Two witnesses attend. Both are friends of Maxwell and attend the same six form college as he and Tyrone. The first witness appears to be about seventeen-years-old, but quite young looking. He is accompanied by his mother. He does not look up when he enters the identification suite and takes his seat in front of the video display unit without uttering a word. He appears sombre and only looks up from the floor when he is shown the video compilation. When he is asked if he recognises anyone in the compilation, he quietly confirms that he recognises Tyrone. It is a positive identification.

The second witness is also in his late teens and is accompanied by his older sister. He walks into the room, takes his seat and then sits intently watching the compilation when it is shown to him. When the compilation is finished, he immediately asks the operator to show it to him again. He then asks the operator if he can be shown only a still image of Tyrone.  He sits there staring at Tyrone’s image for what seems like an eternity and then finally he says, confidently and loudly, “that’s him, that’s the boy who stabbed my friend to death”.

Things move pretty quickly after this. Tyrone is interviewed for a final time where the detectives simply put to him that he has been positively identified by the two eyewitnesses. Again, Tyrone answers “no-comment” to all of the questions asked of him. After the interview, the detectives confirm that they are ready to submit their case bundle to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Tyrone, his sister and I wait in a consultation room for the inevitable charging decision. We do not discuss the case. We all know what to expect.  Tyrone’s sister tries to take his mind off things with general chit chat and the mood is briefly lightened when they share a moment of innocently teasing each other. After an hour or so the detectives come and confirm that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided that Tyrone will be charged with Maxwell’s murder and also of being in possession of an offensive weapon in a public place.

All three of us are accompanied by the detectives to the front desk of the custody area where a custody sergeant will formally record the charges against Tyrone. The sergeant asks Tyrone if he wishes to make any response to the charges but, on my advice, Tyrone confirms that he will remain silent.  When the charges are read out Tyrone simply stands there motionless.  However, it is too much for his sister and she breaks down in tears when the sergeant tells Tyrone that he is being charged with murder. It is still early afternoon and the sergeant confirms that arrangements are in motion to have Tyrone transported to the local youth court for a hearing later that day. The sergeant has no desire to have a youth in custody in the police station for another night.

Tyrone is transported to the youth court later that afternoon. I meet with him in the cells before the hearing and we chat briefly about what will happen next. I have been provided with the initial prosecution case papers which comprise of a charge sheet and a number of witness statements. I take Tyrone through the statements, but do not ask him to provide me with any detailed instructions at this stage. He will not be required to enter a plea before the youth court today, he will simply be identified and the matter will then be transferred to the Old Bailey. Early indications are that the case will be fast-tracked for him to appear there tomorrow for a preliminary hearing due to him being a youth.

Tyrone is brought up into the court dock from the cells. The court is closed off to the public due to his age and only parties to the proceedings are allowed to be present for the hearing.  His sister is there as she has been permitted to act as his appropriate adult. Tyrone’s father was meant to have attended the court to act in this role, but for whatever reason he has not made it to the hearing on time and the court refuse to wait for him. Tyrone is not fussed by this and indicates that he prefers his sister to act as his appropriate adult in any event.

Tyrone is asked to identify himself and he confirms his name and address when asked by the court clerk. The prosecutor then gives a brief outline of the facts of the case and I confirm that my firm will be acting on Tyrone’s behalf in the proceedings. The district judge then confirms that the case will be transferred to the Old Bailey with a preliminary hearing to take place tomorrow afternoon. She confirms that Tyrone will be remanded into custody to a youth detention centre and will not appear before the Old Bailey in person tomorrow, but via a video-link.

I see Tyrone in the cells after the hearing and, although I had fully prepared him for the eventuality of him being remanded into custody, he is still visibly shaken and tearful. It is obvious that he is terrified. He understands the reality of the situation is that, in all probability, it may be many years before he is released from custody if he is convicted of murder.

I explain to Tyrone that he will have to be represented by a barrister at tomorrow’s hearing at the Old Bailey, but that I would of course be at the hearing too and that I would introduce him to the barrister when we have our consultation before the hearing. I confirm with him that I will relay everything that has happened to his mother as soon as I leave the court. We then say goodbye.

Click here to read the final entry in the blog series.