Last month?s edition may have left you nostalgic for times long gone, before fixed fees, decimated budgets and the compulsory redundancies of able colleagues from local courts and law firms ? a time when the two limbs of the criminal profession combined as "the Defence? and we were all mindful of conduct rules, loathe to poach and never lingered, uninstructed and predatory, at court.

These were times when we fought, not for survival and a decent wage, but for defence rights (even though we, too, were often locked up, next to the cell urinal "in consultation?, with the wicket shut, door locked and the bell inaudible, with a client whose health was, likely as not, suspect.) We were able to advise "keeping your powder dry with a no comment? if faced with no pre-interview disclosure, without fear of adverse inference or likely waiver of privilege; and, without standardised sentencing guidelines and case management protocols, we were able to argue for adjournments on merit or exceptional departure from the sentencing norm, the expectation being that justice should be done and be seen to be done, rather than that justice should be done speedily.

Maybe you too recollect a time when the young defence lawyer, with errant youth in tow, would receive a friendly word from a very learned court probation officer, such as, "Don?t worry. You?re in the best court, before the best judge. If you?ve got a firm and relevant package, ready in place, to propose for your youngster, his Honour could be persuaded. He won?t shoot you down. Just be sure it?s clearly defined, funded, and available, or adjourn the case until it is.?

Useful scheme

Despite the changed times, as a defence solicitor, I?m still standing and now it?s my turn to share practical knowledge with you. The "Steps B? research trial evaluating services for teens engaging in problem sexual behaviour has recently been launched by a collaboration with University College London and the esteemed Brandon Centre in Camden.

The scheme offers multi-systemic therapeutic programmes to young defendants charged with sex offences. The therapies involve the offenders? families, schools, neighbourhoods and community resources.

They are individually tailored and take place, preferably, while the young person is at home and certainly while they are still in the community, with the therapy team offering constant contact with the defendant and family.

This multi-systemic therapy for problem sexual behaviour (MST-PSB) is currently being evaluated. As a result, this intervention - which would otherwise cost approximately between £8,000 and £10,000 per client - is now being offered free of charge to youth offending services.

As part of the evaluation process, half the families who join the research trial will receive MST-PSB, with compilation of a pre-sentence report. Doing so may be vital to our young client?s future prospects of, not just a non-custodial sentence, but complete rehabilitation.

Not taken up

Notwithstanding all these advantages - and clear and public support from the Youth Justice Board and the Departments of Education and Health - not all inner and outer London borough youth offender services have signed up to this realistic non-custodial sentencing option. This is particularly surprising, as taking part would lead to unique savings for any youth offender service, which has statutory responsibilities for the young people in its area.

As defence lawyers, we should be aware of the trial?s existence and be prepared to give it our prompt and independent advocacy. We should be ready to refer to and even argue with the relevant youth offender service, when necessary, in advance of the final

Contact details

If you would like to discuss a case, you should contact Charles Wells, the supervisor of the Brandon Centre, where there is an eminent, committed and proven team of experts, all of whom have a ready and easy rapport with our young clients.

The Brandon Centre, counselling and psychotherapy for young people: www.brandoncentre.org.uk;

Charles Wells, the Brandon Centre, 0207 424 9935, familyservice@brandoncentre.org.uk;

Contact for copy trial launch conference literature: Jessie Greisbach, research assistant: j.greisbach@ucl.ac.uk

It remains to be seen whether the Steps B programme can be tailored to and offered within an intensive supervision and surveillance programme; this would be where this is part of a pre-conviction bail package in an appropriate case of early guilt identification. It is worth asking!

Source of information

Where did I learn of the source of this nugget of good practice? At a non CPD-bearing but well-fed launch conference, with only one defence lawyer in attendance, savouring the rare benevolence and wisdom of those who permitted a "not available for court? day. That she was joined by at least one London district judge bodes well.

Pamela Martin-Dominguez - BSB Solicitors

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