Barrister’s Career – Law and Murder Crime

11 Oct 2016

The twilight flickered low as Barrister Andrew Hill stepped forward yesterday evening to speak in the Council Chamber of 12 Bloomsbury Square on the subject of ‘Law and Murder Crime’. An appropriately macabre and interesting topic for the attending crowd of 40 or so people, including members from all years of the LSBM Law courses (and several staff members, including the Academic Principal) to enjoy.

Andrew has been a Barrister for over 30 years and is currently in chambers at 33 Bedford Row with a specialism in Serious Crime.

You can find his professional page here:

http://www.33bedfordrow.co.uk/barristers/andrew-hill.html

Andrew comes from a unique position to discuss murder, because, for the first 10 or so years since qualifying as a barrister in 1982, 90% of his workload was as a Prosecutor, while for the last 20-plus years he has almost exclusively acted for the Defence.

So he has seen both sides of the legal fence when it comes to murder.

 

What is ‘Murder’?

The Crown Prosecution Service defines ‘Murder’ as follows:

‘The crime of murder is committed, where a person of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane); unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing); any reasonable creature (human being); in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs - Rance v Mid-Downs Health Authority (1991) 1 All ER 801 and AG Ref No 3 of 1994 (1997) 3 All ER 936; under the Queen's Peace; with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH).’


It is interesting to note that even something as seemingly ‘obvious’ as murder has changed, legally speaking, down the years.

The above definition actually has six elements to it, and you can see that one of them, the definition of ‘in being’, was changed as recently as 1997. In addition, one extra element, of death having to occur ‘within a year and a day’, was removed in 1996.
 

Joint Enterprise

Andrew spoke extensively about a recent judgement of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in February 2016, R v Jogee, that reversed previous case law on joint enterprise that had been applied since 1985 following the case of Chan Wing-Siu. In that older case, liability for murder had been extended to a second party on the basis of a lesser degree of culpability, namely foresight only of the possibility that the principal may commit murder, but without there being any need for intention to assist him to do so.

This case was important, because this essentially extended joint enterprise beyond the already contentious boundaries where it had previously been applied.

This contentiousness can be seen in the film ‘Let Him Have It’ from 1991 for example, which tackles the true story of Derek Bentley who was hanged for murder under controversial circumstances on 28 January 1953 under the common law principle of joint enterprise.

The R v Jogee judgement from February 2016 was significant because essentially it marked a backtracking on the extension of joint enterprise through case law, and basically said that joint enterprise law had been misinterpreted for the last 30 years.

This is a bigger deal than you may think, because joint enterprise is for example, extensively applied on many crimes where more than one person is involved in a crime (all crimes – not just murder), but only one (or at least not all participants), deal out the actual act, such as stabbing someone, or shooting them.

Imagine for example being surrounded by a gang of men where all of them are shouting for you to be stabbed, but only one does the actual stabbing.

  • What crime (if any) has been carried out by the men surrounding you (who didn’t do the stabbing)?
  • And what sentences should be passed (if found guilty) on those who did not do the stabbing?

These are just two of the quandaries and questions that joint enterprise cases raise, and clearly the answers are far from simple!

 

A Few Facts…

It is interesting to note that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism used Freedom of Information requests in 2014 to examine the use of joint enterprise (you can read the report here) in the UK.

They found that for the preceding eight years that more than 4,500 people were prosecuted for homicides involving two or more defendants. This figure represented 44% of all homicides.

In that same period, 1,800 people were prosecuted for homicides involving four or more defendants, which represents around a fifth of all homicides during that period.

Joint enterprise is a big deal then, and Andrew was keen on emphasising that how it is interpreted has a wide-reaching impact on the justice system and the sentences that are meted out.

Andrew recommended in his talk that ALL law students should read the actual cases in full, rather than referring to academics talking about them, so that they can fully grasp the subtleties.

He said:

“Forget what academics say. Read the cases to get a real feel for what the law is. This will set you on the road to becoming fully fluent lawyers”

You can read R vs Jogee here - https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0015-judgment.pdf

And a summary of the judgement here - https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0015-press-summary.pdf

 

Andrew went on to extensively talk about sentencing considerations, appeals, the definition of manslaughter, and the basis upon which these judgements are made.

He has also prepared a great 54-page document to accompany the lecture which extensively covers the legal principles of murder in great detail.

If you are a law student who is looking to understand this subject, in depth, from a practicing barrister of some thirty-plus year’s standing, then this is recommended reading! (PDF)

 

Barrister or Solicitor?

The legal profession has changed considerably since 1982 when Andrew was called to the Bar.

At that time there was a clear demarcation point between the two sides of the profession.

These days though, with solicitors being able to act as advocates in higher courts (with appropriate training), and taking ever more cases in criminal and family law from barristers, the boundaries are much more blurred.

At the end of this talk Andrew addressed the issue of which avenue of the profession he would now go into, if he were to start again today.

His advice was that because of the blurring of advocacy boundaries, that he would train to become a solicitor, and become an advocate through that route.

Though he wasn't dismissive of still becoming a barrister. Advising students:

‘Solicitor is the safe option. But if you really want to be an advocate. Join the Bar.’

 

Can LSBM Help with that choice?

It is also worth pointing out that recently LSBM was visited by Larry Shaw, a Chartered Legal Executive, who spoke about the benefits of CILEx, which would potentially allow you to become a Solicitor WITHOUT the need for a training contract!

The good news is that because LSBM has CILEx exemptions for its Law Courses that this is now an easy option for LSBM Law Students who are just starting with us in September 2016 and beyond.

You can read a report about Larry’s talk here if you are interested in becoming a solicitor through that route.

 

Thanks Andrew!

Finally, LSBM would like to say a big thank-you to Andrew for his great talk and the (amazing!) notes.

You can find his professional page here - http://www.33bedfordrow.co.uk/barristers/andrew-hill.html

 

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

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