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Tonight, Scott is on trial accused of defrauding and blackmailing an elderly doctor out of his life savings with an elaborate web of lies. During the case, he is accused of pretending to be an Italian count, and it appears Scott isn’t his birth name, says lawyer Hunter Gray when he speaks to him: “They’re simply saying that if you’ve told the court that you are in fact Gianfranco Giovanni Veradi born in taly, then you’re not. You’re Paul from Rochdale.”
Scott admits he’s not an Italian aristocrat, but denies the crime: “I know there’s evidence against me but I’m gonna tell you something now. I’m not gonna plead guilty to nothing. Right. I don’t care. I’m not a count, no. A few people have said I’m a right count.”
He is also accused of taking £12,000 off a woman after posing as a Muslim businessman on a dating website, and legal adviser Katy Calderbank guides him through 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.”
Meanwhile, client Liam is about to go on trial for grievous bodily harm and returns to the scene of the alleged crime with lawyer Iain Johnstone. He is accused of stabbing a gatecrasher at a party who he says attacked him with a spade: “I seen one of them had the spade, one had the fence panel. So the first thing I did was pull the knife out. As I come out I saw one of the lads throwing the spade at my car to clip the top of the roof. The group of them have come at me, so I’m backing off all the way down, just backing off, fending them off. So he’s ran past all them towards me. And because I’m stood here, he’s swung at me and it’s hit me here, and that’s when he swung at me again and I just struck out.”
Lawyer Iain says he will grill the complainant in court and find out if he has previous convictions for assault or dishonesty, to try to get Liam off the charge: “If he has, then we’ll make a bad character application and say that he’s not an honest witness. In a case like this it’s invariably going to come down to me calling him a liar. “
Young client Dexter has asked for Tuckers to represent him at a police interview, where he is accused of breaking into a caravan parked on a drive at 4am with friends. He claims it wasn’t just his idea: “It wasn’t my idea but that was what got said. Obviously it was a bit of all our idea. I just got blame put on me ‘cos they’re all knobs.”
But lawyer Shab Aslam says he should be careful in the interview, otherwise the police might take him off the streets by remanding him in custody: “The police are going to have reservations about bailing you. They reckon you’re like a one-man crime wave at this moment in time.”
Dexter is then arrested again for stealing a van - and starts telling Katy his side of the story. He denies the charge, saying the van was already stolen before he got in it. She stops him going any further to avoid incriminating himself: “Because you’ve made certain comments to me about that offence now, the best thing you can do is zip your lip. And not say anything. Simple as.”
Back at the Tuckers office, senior partner Franklin Sinclair is worried about the firm’s future as he says it’s already running on a knife-edge. It earned earned more than £8 million in legal aid fees last year, but the government wants to cut the legal aid budget, so the future for law firms like Tuckers is uncertain. His staff join a protest in Manchester against the planned changes - which Franklin describes as the ‘March of the Suits’. He enjoys the anarchic atmosphere: “Well, I’ve met some activists. I nearly pulled a French bird, with a thing through her nose.”
But the underlying message he has is serious: “If they bring in the scheme they’ve suggested, then we will be winding down. We’ll have told the staff that we are closing down and the company will cease to exist. If they do other things, that are still not very good for us like doing a cut, then I think you’ll be seeing then, the beginnings of a very different firm.”
“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.”