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Criminal cases are commonly seen as a fight between adversaries of equal strength: the intrusive power of the State versus skilled defence lawyers advocating their clients' cause. The reality, according to this major new study, is rather different. The provision of defence counsel is often rudimentary and unsatisfactory.
Based on one of the largest studies of legal professional practice ever undertaken, involving nearly fifty solicitors' firms, this book offers a critical examination of the practices and organization of defence lawyers in Britain. The authors show how defence lawyers discharge their obligations to clients from the moment of initial contact with clients through to the routine preparation and representation of defendants in both Magistrates' and Crown Courts. For the first time, this study reveals the role of paralegals and unqualified staff in providing defence assistance, and highlights how their inexperience and assumption of the client's guilt can critically undermine defendants' rights.
The deficiencies highlighted by their research lead the authors to question the effectiveness of recent liberal and managerial reforms, with their excessive reliance on market-led considerations. The authors propose a cultural transformation in criminal defence work, a reassertion of the defendants' rights within an adversarial system, and offer constructive suggestions for improving defence services.
Extensively researched and documented, this study is a major contribution to current debates about the criminal justice system, and as such will be required reading for all lawyers, scholars, and professionals interested in the administration of justice.