Chief reporter BEN FISHWICK talks to Simon Jones about his work as a senior prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service
Think of a barrister in a high-profile trial and your mind may conjure up an image of a bewigged lawyer looming in front of a jury alone.
But the image of a single figure marshalling evidence of a crime to prove a defendant’s guilt masks the hard work of unseen office-based Crown Prosecution Service staff.
That’s a fact CPS senior prosecutor Simon Jones is only too aware - who for starters, does not wear a wig and is not a barrister.
Mr Jones, a former defence solicitor before he joined the CPS around 12 years ago, is a solicitor advocate with higher rights - meaning he can prosecute in crown court.
The experienced lawyer prosecutes serious cases - including murders - and in May secured against a conviction against Ashley Luff for attempted murder in a frenzied stabbing attack on his love rival.
Mr Jones, senior crown advocate, has also prosecuted Pompey hooligans for violent disorder - leading to some being jailed.
But Mr Jones is clear he is driven to be fair - both in the case he’s prosecuting but also with witnesses and the defence.
‘I always think it’s important that you realise it’s a job and so out of court you have to be professional but everyone understands that there’s different jobs,’ he says.
‘I quite often say to witnesses that everyone should have representation and that we can only have a fair system of justice if a defendant is legally represented, so that’s extremely important.
‘But I think it’s important that you are professional with your opponents - but you have a responsibility with your opponents to present the case in a proper, orderly fashion to the court and so while the defence lawyer’s job is different to mine, there’s a great deal of work out of court.
‘I’ve got to ensure that you’re never to fall out with your opponent. It’s a highly stressful job but it’s very important that we don’t fall out.’
The pressure can be intense - there were more than 1,000 offences prosecuted at Portsmouth Crown Court in the year to June alone.
Juries have to be convinced of a defendant’s guilt to secure a conviction. But Mr Jones says a fair trial is the ‘overriding obligation’.
Mr Jones said: ‘I became a lawyer specifically to be in the crown court, I used to watch the crown court trials and I felt that this is what I want to do.
‘I want to be an advocate and so to that extent I'm really grateful that I am in the position I am.
‘But it does come with a huge responsibility, It’s never lost on me as a prosecutor, you are fairly presenting a case, and above all, every defendant must have a fair trial.’
Mr Jones is also keenly aware he is dealing with people who, given the choice, they would prefer not to be in court - including witnesses.
He said: ‘In a way you’re almost parachuted into the world of different people and this is people, witnesses, who are behind your cases and who have gone through experiences and that comes within its own responsibility as well.
’It is very challenging and I hope that my approach is to be fair and to be very approachable because as you know we have to speak to witnesses at court who give evidence and so it’s an important part of it as well.’
For a case to reach Mr Jones, police must first investigate an offence and the CPS authorise the proceedings against any defendants.
Caseworkers at the CPS then work on the initial steps and help build the case, with the teams on high profile and serious crimes, particularly with murders, swelling in number.
But cash cuts have hit these agencies hard. This makes the business of tackling crime a struggle, even though CPS Wessex’s annual budget has grown to £15.65m in 2018/19 from £14.79m the year before.
According to the latest CPS data, there were 2,842 defendants in Hampshire whose cases ended in conviction in the final quarter of 2018/19. There were 541 defendants acquitted.
This included convictions cases against 14 people accused of homicide (manslaughter and murder), 80 sex criminals, 75 burglars 20 robbers and 201 people involved in drugs. There were 478 thieves convicted.
In Hampshire sex crimes have the lowest conviction rate - with 72.7 of accused defendants convicted.
Taking in all of the CPS Wessex area - which includes Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire - the total number of defendants convicted in the same time period reached 5,280 for all crime types.
But when judges criticise CPS and police failings it will be lawyers such as Mr Jones taking the brunt.
‘You, in some ways, have to take one for the team because it will often be the pressures on the police, in terms of things that may not have been done,’ he said.
‘It can be the pressures within our own organisation, and I think that’s why I try to get involved in a case as early as I can because I want to see these problems before it gets to them, be as prepared as we can but it can be difficult because quite often you are the spokesperson who is giving the explanation but that’s part of the job.
‘You are the person there who is representing the prosecution and you have to provide the answers, whatever the way those answers are you have to provide them.’
Disclosure - the process of giving the defence the evidence being used and reviewing what might undermine the case - is a constant process.
‘That in fact goes right up to and throughout the trial, so that’s one thing I have to have an eye on as well,' Mr Jones said.
Although it is a judge presiding over the trial, lawyers are keenly aware that the people who need convincing are the jury.
The 12 members of a jury can sit through the prosecution’s opening case, listen to witnesses, watch CCTV, listen to 999 calls - and look at highly technical details of how phone movements can be tracked.
They will listen to a trial, may hear the defendant give evidence and then hear final arguments - closing speeches - from the prosecution and defence, followed by a summing up of evidence and relevant law by the judge.
Mr Jones said: ‘You need to look at how you shape the case, ultimately looking forward to the presentation of a case in a trial before a jury, for me that’s the focus of the case, to get the case trial ready.
‘By the time it reaches me there’s usually an extensive police investigation and a great deal of work on the case.’
He added: ‘I have to have an eye on what would be the best way of presenting this case in that trial so for example, the selection of exhibits that we have in jury bundles, looking at CCTV and we can best present that and I suppose for me it’s a team effort throughout.’
After days - or in some cases weeks - of evidence jurors have to decide if they are sure a defendant is guilty or not.
Strict rules mean a jury cannot be asked what they think, no-one can talk to jurors and so their individual or collective views are a mystery.
Mr Jones said: ‘It can be quite artificial when you are doing a closing speech, that you are not in a two-way conversation with the jury, they sit there carefully and patiently listen to you.
‘But you don’t know what’s been in their minds throughout the case and the sort of concerns they may have with different aspects of the evidence.
‘You don't know what impression they have to it so you feel you have to cover everything.’
WHY I WON’T WEAR A WIG
WHEN prosecutor Simon Jones walks the corridors of Portsmouth Crown Court he’s easy to spot.
He’s one of the very few robed lawyers not wearing a wig.
The CPS Wessex senior crown advocate said: ‘I am a solicitor advocate, and as a solicitor advocate I can wear a wig, but equally I can not wear one.
‘I’ve just never worn one and in some respects if i were to wear one now, people would think why is “Simon wearing a wig?”
‘I’ve got the utmost respect for the traditions of the court and the legal system so I understand that wigs are a part of that but I think I’ve always felt that I don’t need to wear a wig to do my job.
‘I have to wear the robe and the tabs, my view is that the job I do, I don't need a wig on my head to do that.’