Murder, Manslaughter And Violent Crime
If you or someone you know is facing serious allegations or think that you might be facing serious allegations, now really is the time to act. Delays at this stage can be critical to the preparation of your case and your defence.
If you are already represented, then you should ensure that your representatives have the ability and capability of preparing your case properly and thoroughly. Whilst every case will differ and turn on its own particular facts, good and early preparation, experience and knowledge of tactical decision making are the basic principles which will be equally applicable in all cases.
Forensic, medical and other expert evidence is very likely to feature heavily in any case of Murder or Manslaughter or serious crimes of violence and it is imperative that your Criminal defence solicitor and team understands the principles, pitfalls and challenges when dealing with this type of evidence.
Pathologist & Post Mortems
An understanding of pathology is crucial and your team should have access to the best forensic pathologist in the country. Time is so often critical and your team must give early consideration to conducting their own post mortem before the body is released to the family. Once the body is buried or cremated, evidence could be lost forever.
We have access to the best forensic pathologist to examine the body to ensure that issues or potential defences are not missed.
Investigators are increasingly reliant on DNA and Low copy number DNA to prove their case. This must be treated with appropriate caution. In most instances, DNA will go to prove elements of a case not the entirety of a case. This trend toward ‘forensic science based’ presentation of cases has created a popular perception of certainty of evidence. Your defence teams need to ensure that they adequately present before the jury that Forensic Evidence does not solve cases:
Forensic evidence is collected by fallible human beings;
It is then provided to other fallible human beings who are told to look for specific things by investigators who already have a pre-conception;
The results are then interpreted and presented by prosecutors whose function it is to prosecute;
Your defence team need to alert to the fact that there can be a huge difference between the full genetic profile of a person and the interpretation of forensic evidence from a crime scene in respect of which the prosecution suggest a match.
In many instances, the method of collecting and storing samples can be open to challenge and Evidence based profiles may be incomplete, or a mixture from two or more people.
At first sight, there may be incriminating traces of DNA, but closer analysis may reveal an innocent accidental source. Misidentification can be a real problem for defence teams. Experts’ opinions on DNA interpretation can vary widely. The final report may be weighted and be one sided and may contain comments based solely on what the expert has been told to look for.
If your defence team do not have sufficient eye for detail in ensuring that the entire forensic process was carried correctly, from the collection of DNA by officers at the scene to experts working in the lab, then your case, your defence and you are at the mercy of those fallible humans and expert prosecutors who are trained to secure a conviction.
Over the years, fingerprint evidence has been interpreted as conclusive evidence of touching or presence and is very often unchallenged and defence teams merely accept the findings of so called “experts”. Defence teams should treat all fingerprint evidence with care. Experts may have been told what to look for, especially where there is a comparison request. Defence experts should analyse reports and results checking ridge detail, partial prints and whether and to what extent profiles may have been caused by innocent transfer.
The law in relation to possession of firearms can be complex and you will need expert advice as soon as possible. There are many issues that will require expert legal consideration as well as consideration from firearms experts.
To being with, can it be proven that you were in actual “possession”. This will be a legal question and will turn on the specific facts. Wrong advise at an early stage can be fatal to the preparation of your case. Contact us now and we can guide you through this legal mind field – it’s not as straightforward as you might first think.
If you were in possession, were you in possession of a “firearm”. There have been many cases which have turned on the meaning of the phrase and simply quoting the Firearms Act as a definition is wholly insufficient and misleading. Your defence team need to know and understand these issues in real depth and be able to analyse the facts and circumstances so that expert evidence is targeted at the core issues.
In addition to the simple possession of a firearm allegation, there are a number of other allegations that the prosecution might consider, for example Possession of a firearm with intent or Possession of ammunition.
Given the substantial sentences that can be imposed (3 years and 5 years minimum depending on your age), it is important to get it right.
Even if you have already received advice, the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can begin the preparation of your defence.
Home Office statistics indicate over 20,000 offences in England each year involve the use of firearms.
Defence Teams need to consider the use Forensic ballistics Experts in the preparation of your defence. Forensic Ballistics involves the analysis of bullets, bullet impacts, shells or barrels to determine a raft of information that may assist the defence. This is doubly important where the prosecution have used a ballistics expert in bringing their case.
Defence teams should consider ballistics experts who would be in a position to examine firearms with a view to “ballistic fingerprinting”. This typically involves analysing the firearm, ammunition, rifling patterns, and markings upon bullets in order to establish whether a certain firearm was used in the commission of a crime.
Residue is principally composed of burnt and un-burnt particles from the explosive primer, as well as components from the bullet, the cartridge case and the firearm used. There are a number of definitions for this residue, such as Gunshot Residue (GSR), cartridge discharge residue (CDR) or firearm discharge residue (FDR).
The prosecution will often examine clothing or body parts for residue to establish a link between a firearm and a suspect. Defence teams need to be alive to the issues that Firearms Residue can present on a case. If it fits the prosecution case that a suspect has Firearms residue on his person, they will suggest that as conclusive. Defence teams need to analyse these reports with care and determine whether and to what extent the firearms residue was present, and whether and to what extent it can be explained by innocent presence.
The use of bloodstains as evidence is not new phenomena and has been a tool in the arsenal of investigators for many years. However, with the advent of easily accessible Computer Generated Graphics, we are now able to demonstrate the traditionally complex concept with relative ease.
A drop of blood tends to form into a round ball shape in flight rather than a teardrop shape. This ball shape of blood in flight is important for the calculation of the angle of impact of blood spatter when it hits a surface. The use of that angle can be used to determine the point from which the blood originated, i.e. from where the stabbing occurred or where the victim was when he was shot. This is called the Area of Origin. Defence teams need to consider these issues as they will all have an impact on the defence:
Was the attacker left or right handed;
How tall was the attacker;
Based on the victims account (if they survived), does the blood spatter support their account;
Does the blood spatter support the witness account.
Where the prosecution have commissioned blood spatter experts, defence teams need to be careful in advising on the basis of such expert evidence. A single spatter of blood is not enough to determine the Area of Origin at a crime scene – it simply cannot be done and any report that attempts to do so should be treated with scepticism. The determination of the angles of impact and placement of the Area of Origin should be based on the consideration of a number of stains. Expert reports that have been prepared using stains from one side should also be treated with scepticism. It is much more preferable to use stains from opposite sides of the pattern to create the means to triangulate. These are all issues that your defence team should be mindful of when preparing your defence. Contact us today for a discussion about how we can help you.
Experiments with blood have shown that a drop of blood tends to form into a sphere in flight rather than the artistic teardrop shape. This is what one would expect of a fluid in freefall. The formation of the sphere is a result of surface tension that binds the molecules together.
This spherical shape of blood in flight is important for the calculation of the angle of impact (incidence) of blood spatter when it hits a surface. That angle will be used to determine the point from which the blood originated which is called the Point of Origin or more appropriately the Area of Origin.
A single spatter of blood is not enough to determine the Area of Origin at a crime scene. The determination of the angles of impact and placement of the Area of Origin should be based on the consideration of a number of stains and preferably stains from opposite sides of the pattern to create the means to triangulate.
Low Velocity Spatter
This usually results from low impact blows. Often found following an injury where the injured victim is walking around following an attack. The blood will usually be dripping on the floor.
This usually results from attacks where the injury is close to the surface of the skin and blood spurts from the wound.
High-Velocity Spatter - Firearms
Typically found where the victim has been shot. The droplets look like a fine spray.
Defence Teams need to be alert in contesting the findings of any prosecution expert and be mindful in getting their own expert depending on the facts of the case. Contact us today to see how we can help.
The prosecution can call on most cities to provide CCTV evidence from hundreds of locations. Defence teams need to be alert in securing CCTV evidence themselves from private companies who may have witnessed the incident. In many instances, CCTV film is not kept for long and early request are crucial.
Where CCTV has been served, one should consider whether enhancements would be beneficial. In instances where the quality is poor, enhancement should always be considered where there is the possibility that it will demonstrate doubt in the minds of the jury.
In a number of cases, defence teams would need to consider whether it would be beneficial to consider:
Clothing or object comparison
Advanced image enhancement and clarification
Mobile Phone Evidence
One of the fastest growing tools in the investigators arsenal is the use of Mobile phone evidence. This is no surprise given the huge expansion of use of mobile phones across the world. The fact that most people say they can no longer “live without my phone”, is proof of the fact that your phone contains and can lead to so much information about you, the people you interact with, your life and your lifestyle. The fact is, your smart phone is “smart” for so many reasons and investigators would love to get hold of this smart information.
The use of mobile phone evidence is virtually part and parcel of every allegation of conspiracy to do anything. Even if the prosecution have been unable to adduce any direct evidence from mobile phone interrogation, we can guarantee that they have tried. Even where no direct evidence is used, it is virtually certain that the interrogation of the mobile phone has led to other lines of enquiry.
The primary reason why mobile phone evidence is so crucial to the police and other investigators when dealing with any allegation of conspiracy, is because the essential element of the offence of conspiracy is evidence of an agreement with others to commit an offence. The police and prosecution will try and demonstrate existence of this agreement from mobile phone evidence.
The police and the prosecution will invite the jury to look at all the surrounding circumstances as evidence of the agreement. In the majority of cases, this will usually involve demonstrating the contact by mobile phone or text message between suspects or defendants and the timing and frequency of those calls or text.
Defence teams need to be alert when dealing with mobile phone evidence as taking a broad brush approach can be very dangerous.
Make sure the prosecution can prove which phone belongs to whom
In the event that phones are seized during the course of an investigation, the police will need to track the “owner” of the phone or number. This is not so much of a problem when the phone is seized directly from a suspect on arrest or from a suspect’s car or home address.
This would be the first part of the puzzle. In order for the police to establish evidence that others are involved and to either track those others or implicate them, they would have to show that the suspect has been in phone contact with another suspect.
They would typically interrogate the phone and produce a list of calls, text messages and contacts list from that phone. They could then trace all of those other numbers. If the other numbers have a contract plan, then this would be easy. Network providers would be obliged to provide the police with details of the owner of the contract.
Where the phone is a Pay as you go, this can prove slightly (only slightly) more difficult for the police.
The easiest situations for the police are where there are incriminating text messages on the phone or where other known suspects are stored in the contacts list of the phone in question.
Cell Site Evidence
The police, investigators and the prosecution have increasingly used Cell Site Analysis to show the physical movements of a mobile phone. The assumption being that a suspect was with the mobile phone and by analogy, the prosecution will suggest that they can show the whereabouts of a suspect and their movements.
Needless to say that, the prosecution will suggest that this is compelling evidence in showing the whereabouts of each suspect, proximity to a scene of a crime and the patterns of movement of individual suspects and testing the strength or reliability of alibi evidence.
The defence themselves should not be slow in not only testing the conclusions within a cell site report, but should always consider obtaining their own cell site evidence to support a defence case or to weaken the prosecution case. For example, where the prosecution suggest that eye witnesses were at a scene, cell site evidence may show that the prosecution witness is lying or was in a nearby coffee shop at the time of the incident, from which they could not have seen what they claim to have seen.
It is quite common for investigators, the Police or the prosecution to produce colour coded charts showing a cross analysis of mobile phone usage.
Where investigators or the police have made a number of arrests or have seized a number of mobile phones, they will instruct experts to analyse the billing information into a spread sheet showing the calls between the phones and the length of each call.
Criminal defence solicitors must be remembered that these charts are not evidence of the actual phone calls, are likely to have been severely edited and will only show the calls that tend to support their case. Request should be made for the raw data from which the charts were produced to check that they have been produced accurately or whether there is any other information in the raw data that may assist the Defence case.
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