Appeal judges reject attempts to blame lawyers for convictions

Court of Appeal: Convictions upheld

The Court of Appeal has rejected two separate attempts by convicted criminals to blame poor performance by lawyers for their convictions.

Both were litigants in person, appealing against refusals by a single judge to grant leave to appeal. In the first case, the convicted man, Liaqat Hayat, applied for a time extension of almost three years to make his application.

Both cases were decided in December but have only just been published.

Mr Hayat pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court in December 2019 to one count of putting a person in fear of violence by harassment and four counts of common assault.

He was sentenced to 46 weeks in prison for the first offence and consecutive terms of three weeks for the common assault offences.

Delivering the judgment of the court, Mrs Justice Stacey said that Mr Hayat challenged the legal advice he received at the time and how it was that he came to change his plea to guilty.

He argued that his counsel was “ill-prepared”, that he was “rushed into making a decision” and his counsel “countermanded his instruction to maintain his plea of not guilty by deleting part of his letter that he had written to the judge”.

However, Stacey J said his counsel had provided “a detailed note, supported by her contemporaneous records that demonstrate that she was fully prepared for a contested trial” in December 2019.

On the day of the hearing, she was “duty bound” to tell Mr Hayat that the Crown Prosecution Service was prepared to offer no evidence on two counts of perverting the course of justice, the most serious charges he faced, if he pleaded guilty to the harassment and assault offences.

Defence counsel “took detailed instructions” from Mr Hayat, explaining the implications of the prosecution offer with the aid of an interpreter.

“In accordance with best practice, the applicant signed two notes confirming his freely made request for a Goodyear indication from the judge.

“Following receipt of the indication of the maximum sentence that he would receive were he to change his pleas to guilty, he signed a declaration that it was an unequivocal guilty plea, made of his own free will, without pressure and made independently.”

Stacey J said the Court of Appeal agreed with the reasoning of the single judge, that defence counsel “acted professionally and appropriately at all times, as is well evidenced from her contemporaneous notes”.

Mr Hayat’s applications for leave to appeal and for an extension of time were rejected.

In the second case, Jannick Jensen, aged 54 at the time, was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court in May 2022 of one count of rape and two of assault by penetration, receiving sentences of six years and 10 months and five years respectively, to run concurrently.

Again giving the unanimous ruling of the court, Stacey J said the complainant had no memory of meeting anyone in the karaoke bar where she had been with friends on the night in question or how she ended up at Mr Jensen’s house.

“The defence was that the sexual activity was consensual at the time, but that the complainant’s attitude changed in the morning after she had noticed a cot in the applicant’s home and he had lied about not having a child.”

Mr Jensen claimed that the conviction was unsafe because of the failure of his defence or the prosecution to examine “integral and significant evidence and allegations that have a fundamental bearing on the outcome of proceedings”.

Stacey J held that he “clearly had the benefit of a diligent and thorough solicitor”, while defence counsel “was also meticulous in her approach to the evidence and disclosure”.

She added: “The applicant’s instructions were put to the witnesses and the applicant had frequently stated that he was happy with his representation at the time.”

The judge said the issue in the case was one of consent. The complainant’s evidence was “compelling and consistent with the contemporaneous disclosures she made to friends, and consistent with the evidence of the friend who was also at the karaoke bar that night”.

The points raised by Mr Jensen did not demonstrate “any failings by his counsel or her running of the trial so as to make the conviction unsafe”, while her advice “to stay well away from whether or not the complainant was menstruating at the time was clearly wise advice”.

In all, the matters he raised “are of no or of very limited evidential value when set against the complainant’s account and that of her friend”.

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