Five minutes with...Catherine Bond
Catherine Bond is a criminal solicitor at Gullands and has worked with those who have found themselves on the wrong end of the law for the past three years. It often involves long and antisocial hours, representing everyone from homeless drug and alcohol users, Friday night revellers caught up in a fight or the middle-aged lady arrested over a dispute with a neighbour. Christmas sadly sees little let-up.
When did you join Gullands?
I joined Gullands in 2005 and qualified in 2007, specialising in criminal law. Over the past three years my role has grown and I now also advise clients in prison on matters such as parole and adjudication hearings when prisoners break prison rules.
Describe a typical night for you when duty solicitor
A typical night might involve being woken up at 2 or 3am by a call from the Defence Solicitor Call Centre, then having to phone through to police station to take details. Often clients are drunk and asleep at that time so we cannot speak to them in any event. Sometimes they are drunk and awake and it takes quite a while to calm them down, because they are obviously distressed at being in cells.
Which crimes are more common over the Christmas period?
Generally it calms down before Christmas because people to do not want to be in prison over the festive season. Sadly domestic violence does increase, probably due to the stresses of the season and families being cooped up together. There are more drunken fights and public order offences due to the alcohol fuelled festivities.
What is your greatest achievement a solicitor?
It’s always a wonderful feeling when someone is found not guilty of a crime, and you have truly believed in their innocence. A guilty verdict in one of my cases would have meant a five year prison sentence for one particular client and deportation back to the country from which he had fled. I believed in his innocence and it was a wonderful moment when the jury gave the not guilty verdict.
In relation to prison law, achieving someone’s release by the parole board is always a great achievement. I attained release for one of my clients who was serving a sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP), which is similar to a life sentence. He had worked very hard to address his offending behaviour, and was one of the first 50 prisoners across the country to receive the direction for release. Before the arrangements were in place, the prison blocked his release and transferred him to a closed prison. I made an emergency judicial review application, and the day before the hearing the Secretary of State agreed to release him. That felt like a tremendous victory over the unacceptable actions of the prison service.
What would you change about the justice system in the UK?
To reduce the number of short prison sentences and instead to focus resources on rehabilitation in the community, getting people into work and giving them back some self-respect.
How do you relax in your spare time?
It is a job that is emotionally and physically draining and it can be very difficult to switch off at the end of the day. Running is a great way to clear the mind. I have run marathons in London, Paris, Barcelona and Rome, and I ran my fifth marathon in Dublin in October.
How will you be spending Christmas this year?
For the last two years I have been on call over Christmas and New Year. This year I will get a well deserved rest, enjoying Christmas at home with my family and not in the police cells. However, New Years Eve – that will be business as usual.