Representing clients in sentencing appeals is not an easy task but can be very rewarding. One example of this occurred only very recently.
Wells Burcombe assisted an IPP inmate on a successful sentence appeal. This particular gentleman was sentenced as long ago as 2007 and was sadly well over tariff.
A special- ist Barrister was instructed and with his help the sentence was substituted with a determi- nate sentence. This resulted in the client’s immediate release. On the same day of the successful appeal, his Personal Officer at the prison telephoned my office to advise that when he was told he had won his appeal and that he was being released, he collapsed.
He was just so overwhelmed that his nightmare was over. This doesn’t happen every day but when it does, there is a real sense of elation and justice.
Fortunately for this inmate he had a Barrister who understood not just the law but who equally understood how to prepare and present a sentencing appeal. Perhaps more importantly for him was the fact that my firm knew what particular Barrister to instruct. There are lots of competent Barristers but few who truly understand how to advise on appeal. Within the last year I wrote an article entitled ‘Horses for Courses.’ That article highlighted the importance for all inmates to choose the right legal team for the issue concerned. Take confiscation law as an example. When a confiscation case comes in to my firm, I ensure it is dealt with by one of my specialist confiscation lawyers rather than someone, for example, in the road traffic or fraud department. Barristers are no different to Solicitors in this respect and some Barristers choose to specialise in one area of law under the general umbrella of
crime. Robert Banks is one such Barrister. In recent years, he has become one of the country’s leading authorities on sentencing and is the author of the pre-eminent textbook on sentencing, ‘Banks on Sentence.’ His book is relied upon by most, if not all, criminal lawyers specialising in criminal appeals against sentence and sentencing generally.
Mr Banks does not receive enquiries for assistance direct. He is often written to via Inside Time and has offered advice to many inmates. He has advised in many of my own cases. His particular skill is to find grounds of appeal which no one up until then has spotted. He advises inmates eligible for legal aid and for those who can afford it, he advises privately funded clients also. His textbook is relied upon by most criminal Barristers advising on sentencing issues.
Very often, inmates disagree with the negative advice given by their legal teams following conviction and sentence. Equally as often, inmates have been told to expect a certain sentence, only to receive something quite different. Some clients are often told that there is no appeal because the sentence received is ‘harsh’ but not ‘manifestly excessive’. Perhaps one of the most serious problems is that a large number of prisoners have sentences which are unlawful. This is partly because the law is so complex and partly because many advocates don’t read their cases properly and many neither know the sentencing law properly nor keep up to date with the changes.
Wells Burcombe works in collaboration with Robert Banks. To ask him to review your sentence please write to him at Wells Burcombe. The process will start when I receive your letter. If appropriate, I will involve Robert Banks in your case and ask him to establish whether there are any grounds of appeal which no one has previously identified.