Ombudsman refers complaint to CCRC over fear that poor work led to wrongful conviction

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By Legal Futures

28 January 2011


Sampson: lawyers agreed to work pro bono on appeal

The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has passed a complaint to the Criminal Cases Review Commission after a solicitor and a barrister’s errors potentially led to a man’s conviction for theft, in one of 365 cases that the service has informally resolved so far, it has emerged.

In all LeO has had around 20,000 contacts since opening on 6 October 2010, and accepted 2,000 cases. Only one has reached a formal decision from an ombudsman.

Some complaints accepted for investigation are subsequently closed without needing to be resolved, such as those that are withdrawn by the complainant or resolved without LeO’s intervention.

The convicted complainant was accused of domestic burglary. He did not dispute having been in the property nor having left with a mobile phone. His case was that, contrary to what had been claimed in court, it had been his home and he had simply borrowed his partner’s phone after a row.

Chief ombudsman Adam Sampson explained that after LeO’s intervention, the solicitor conceded that he had not followed up two potential witnesses and the barrister that he should have had the case adjourned so this could be done.

Mr Sampson said it was hard to decide what the remedy should be in a complaint like this because LeO was not able to put the complainant back in the position he should have been, had the service failure not occurred – and LeO could obviously not know whether the jury would have made a different decision had the lawyers done their jobs properly.

“The barrister and solicitor having agreed to work on the preparation of a possible appeal pro bono but, just to be on the safe side, we have passed it on to the Criminal Cases Review Commission as well,” Mr Sampson said. “There is nothing to stop our complainant going straight for an appeal out of time but, given that there is no formal ombudsman’s decision, the endorsement of the body specialising in such cases will aid his chances immeasurably.”

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