Five minutes with John Roberts, Head of the Criminal Litigation Department
When did you join Gullands?
I joined Gullands in 2001 after 4 years with Clarke Kiernan in Tonbridge. My early career was in business having obtained a degree in Management Sciences from Manchester. I switched to law in the late 80s, attending college and qualifying in 1992 and have specialised in criminal law pretty much ever since.
Describe a typical day for you?
A typical day would be fairly unpredictable given the nature of our work. It would usually involve a court hearing, sometimes an attendance at a police station to assist someone being interviewed and otherwise catching up with paperwork and case preparation at the office. As head of department and the firm’s complaints partner, there is also an ever increasing amount of administration.
What sorts of cases do you deal with under the duty solicitor scheme?
Cases dealt with as duty can involve anything from minor shoplifting and public order through to rape and murder. Often the most serious offences are committed by those who have never offended before and therefore don’t have their own solicitor to call on, hence the call for the duty solicitor.
Have you noticed an increase in any particular types of prosecution?
The CPS have, for a while now, placed an emphasis on dealing with cases of domestic violence and prosecutions are therefore much more likely than before. Similarly, I have dealt with many more cases of benefit fraud, prosecuted by the DWP or local council, no doubt reflecting a crack-down on this sort of fraud with perhaps greater co-operation between various government agencies.
What is the most unusual case you have dealt with?
The most unusual cases usually involve an element of mental health problems suffered by a defendant/client. I once dealt with someone charged with dangerous driving after he knocked a motorcyclist off his bike because he thought he was an IRA hitman out to kill him. This was as a result of drug induced psychosis. Another client pursued a course of harassment against GPs from a practice and took to writing to, amongst others, the Prime Minister and the Pope.
What changes would you like to see in the law?
I would like to see a government that understood the true value to society played by all parties in the Criminal Justice system so that it is properly funded. Sadly it is becoming more difficult to do the work economically under the current legal aid provisions which are becoming tighter by the year. The same goes for the funding of the courts, the CPS and probation. It will be a case of “we told you so” when the system grinds to a halt.
What is your greatest career achievement to date?
I have been involved in some very big cases, including the biggest ever case brought by the then DTI. I am also proud to head up a department which has a great reputation amongst its peers such that we often get referrals from others within the criminal justice system.
How do you relax in your spare time?
My spare time is taken up, for the most part, with family life. I have three daughters aged 14, 12 and 7 and a labrador that insists on regular walks. Before taking on the demanding role of parent, I was a great traveller and have visited all the world’s continents with the exception of South America. Maybe again, one day.