When a court bails a person, they will often be given a precise future date on which they should attend again. In the Crown Court, this is only sometimes the case, and a client will rely upon their solicitor to inform them of any future dates on which the case is listed, and attendance is required.

But what happens if a defendant does not attend due to not receiving any reminder of the date from their solicitor – is this a defence in law (a ‘reasonable excuse’)?

It is not the first time that a court has pondered this question, but the issue arose again recently in the case of Balaam [2022] EWCA Crim 692.

The court held that whilst a possible failure by a solicitor to inform their client might amount to a reasonable excuse, it will depend on the facts.

In the case of Balaam, the Judge found that the defendant was not keeping in touch with his solicitors, and this failure on his part meant that he did not have a reasonable excuse when he failed to attend.

So, the lessons from this case are:

If you are in court when a future bail date is given, there is unlikely to be any reasonable excuse based on any failure by the solicitor. You should remember the date and it is your responsibility to attend.
Where a client does not know the future bail date and a solicitor fails to inform them, there may be a reasonable excuse.
In assessing whether in (2) there is a reasonable excuse, the court will carefully scrutinise the defendant’s behaviour so far as contact with his solicitor is concerned. Therefore, if things have gone unusually quiet, check in with your solicitor from time to time.

Communication between client and solicitor is of the most significant importance, and your solicitor must be able to contact you quickly, so if, for example, you change a mobile phone number, please do remember to update us.

In Balaam’s case, the Judge was not impressed with his attitude, and in the end, it resulted in a sentence of 28 days imprisonment for the Bail Act offence.


How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819