05/08/2021

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Judge 'putting down a marker' that barristers must back up their claims in court

Judge 'putting down a marker' that barristers must back up their claims in court

A judge of the Court of Appeal has "put down a marker" that barristers must provide evidence of anything they want to rely on during sentence hearings.

Mr Justice John Edwards said the practice of barristers giving evidence on a hearsay basis without calling witnesses or providing medical or other evidence to back up what they say "has to stop". He said it is "happening all the time" that barristers at sentence hearings make pleas in mitigation that are not backed up by anything.

He added: "This court is putting down a maker, that has to stop. If people are relying on matters in mitigation there has to be evidence of it."

In recent cases Mr Justice Edwards has questioned why barristers were relying, without evidence, on claims that their clients were suffering from depression, had drug or alcohol problems, had attempted suicide, had tragic family backgrounds, had a sibling who suffered paralysis following an accident, were attending drug counselling or were drug-free for a period of time. He warned the barristers that they are "getting a warning" that no court should allow pleas in mitigation without evidence.

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