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“We are a vital check on the power of the state. And that does involve us taking on unpopular causes, representing all kinds of people from hardened criminals to mentally ill people, people who can’t understand the system, people who need expert legal advice and help. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to have their say, they wouldn’t be able to get a fair trial.” – Franklin Sinclair, Tuckers Solicitors
The second series of The Briefs offers viewers an insight into British justice from the perspective of the defence. This new two-part series again follows lawyers from a Manchester firm as they represent clients accused of crimes ranging from brandishing an axe at police officers to blackmailing and defrauding a pensioner out of their life savings.
With close-quarters access to Britain’s busiest legal aid-funded law practice, Tuckers Solicitors, this returning series shows privileged conversations between lawyer and client, and follows the cases from police station to court - and even to prison. The cameras join them at a challenging time with business dipping and with legal aid cuts looming, our lawyers take to the streets in protest.
In the first programme, the lawyers represent a man accused of violent disorder and of brandishing a knife at police in a burglary, another accused of an armed robbery with an axe at a hairdressing salon, a serial burglar accused of changing his line in crimes by causing criminal damage, and a man accused of attacking with a claw hammer another man he suspected of being a paedophile.
The cameras also follow the Tuckers team away from the office, with the wedding of legal adviser Katy Calderbank in focus as she prepares for her big day - an opportunity for staff to celebrate together.
In the second programme, they represent a man accused of stabbing another man who he says attacked him with a spade at a house party, a conman with an imaginative line in aliases who is accused of defrauding and blackmailing an elderly doctor out of his life savings, and Tuckers staff go on a march to protest against the Government’s legal aid reforms.
Producers Chameleon Television spent two years filming with Tuckers Solicitors, who handle more than 10,000 clients a year. More than half their cases are legally aided - the lawyers paid by the taxpayer - but the Government has introduced plans to cut the legal aid budget. The company deals with more of these cases than any other law firm in the UK.
Cameras have also been allowed into police stations, so viewers are able to see privileged conversations between lawyers and clients following their arrest, such as when Katy advises her client before his police interview: “We don’t say anything. See what they’ve got. I will look at you. Once the caution’s explained I’ll look at you and give you a wink and that’s your cue to start saying ‘no comment’. If you do speak I might give you a slight tap on the foot to shut up. Apart from that we’ll be fine I think.”
Tonight, serial offender Kyle is accused of taking part in a violent street fight in Salford and of a house burglary in which he allegedly brandished a knife at police officers. Legal adviser Katy Calderbank says Kyle, who the firm is representing for the 34th time, is one of their least predictable clients: “You could never guess what he’s been arrested for, whereas other clients you could stake your wages on. You kind of don’t know what you’re going to get with him because you don’t know what he’s been involved in. It could be anything.”
But at home with his mum, Kyle admits she is embarrassed by his brushes with the law: “She gets upset about it. Every time the police come knocking on the door. It must be like a little bit embarrassing for her. She tells me off and says, ‘Why are you doing that?’ and all the usual motherly stuff. I don’t know why I just keep doing it.”
In the burglary, thieves stole gold and jewellery and when police tracked down the thieves following a car chase, Kyle is accused of turning on them brandishing a large knife and shouting, ‘Come on then!’
Senior partner Franklin Sinclair says of Kyle: “He’s repeat business, but more importantly he’s as good as gold – he doesn’t give us any trouble at all. You go and see him he’s as nice as pie, he’s very helpful with us, he takes our advice. So for us, Kyle is the perfect client.”
Gentleman thief Alex, meanwhile, faces a charge of causing criminal damage by scratching a car outside a hostel where he was staying. But he insists it’s not his style - which is robbing businesses: “I don’t do people’s houses – know what I mean - it kind of violates on them personally. You see where I’m coming from? It’s their home. It’s where they come back where they figure they can feel safe. But see, if it’s somebody’s business well they got insurance man. And plus they’re robbers anyways to begin with you know what I mean? The lot of them. Especially the bankers.”
Meanwhile, it’s a day away from dealing with burglaries and street fights for Katy as she’s getting married – it’s time for Tuckers staff to be witnesses for once as they are invited along to see Katy take her vows. Before the wedding, she is stressed: “I’d rather be stuck in a police station than be stuck in this kitchen at this minute in time. When I have had my hair done and I’ve got my dress on everything’ll be fine. Nice break from work as well.”
Watching the women at the wedding pose for pictures, Franklin is pleased to see his staff together for a day of celebration: “It’s just like a family, it is. It’s just like a family. Can we call you Tuckers’ Tarts today or not?”
“It’s totty. Tuckers’ Totty,” comes the response from his staff.
Lawyer Rob Martini takes his client Gary, accused of attacking a suspected paedophile with a hammer, through his police statement. Gary admits he’s not a master criminal - when the complainant called the police at the scene and told them he didn’t know his attacker’s identity, he shouted: “I’m Gary!”
He says: “I’m going to plead guilty. I can’t not plead guilty. I’ll just fall on my sword. I’ll hold my hands up. Made a bad mistake under the influence of alcohol. To be honest with you what’s done, is done. There’s no point crying about spilt milk. So just see what happens really.”
Tuckers client James is charged with the armed robbery of a hairdressing salon with an axe. He’s pleading not guilty and the key piece of evidence is a balaclava found at his grandmother’s house. Going through the evidence before his court appearance, lawyer Iain Johnstone says he is hopeful that he might be able to plant some doubts about the balaclava, and get James off the charge: “I’m just thinking you know, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you may not necessarily have a balaclava in your wardrobe, but how many people living on that street have balaclavas in their wardrobes? Possibly quite a few.
“There’s no evidence that that balaclava was worn in that robbery.”