Breaking News... Opus Law shortlisted for ‘Firm of the Year’ in the 2020 Legal 500 nominations just announced
The Legal 500 is the leading guide to law firms in the U.K. highlighting the teams who are providing the most cutting edge and innovative advice.
Shortlisting for the most prestigious of award ceremonies follows months of thorough research by the organisation to ‘pinpoint the most capable, expert practitioners and firms operating at the top of their game’.
Opus law have been singled out to be included in the category of Crime, Fraud and Licensing (outside London) and are the only firm to have been so honoured in the Yorkshire and Humberside region.
Opus Law directors Ben Jones and Sarah Batty said “The nomination of Opus Law is an honour and represents years of hard work and dedication by an experienced team in providing a first class, premium service to clients, whether privately or publicly funded. We are proud that a Bradford based firm has, through amassed knowledge, hard work and expertise in conducting major cases, developed a national reputation which is recognised at the highest level.”
Opus Law Promoted in the Legal 500 Guide for Criminal Fraud
Opus Law has been listed in the 2020 Legal 500 guide for a sixth consecutive year. The prestigious and definitive 2020 guide, launched weeks ago, has promoted Opus Law to a tier two firm in the field of Crime: Fraud for Yorkshire and The Humber. Ben Jones and Sarah Batty have been recognised as recommended lawyers for the third consecutive year.
This years guide describes Opus Law as follows:
Boutique firm Opus Law provides a tailor-made service to clients nationally across high-value and complex fraud issues including investigations or charges from authorities. The 'tenacious and persistent' Ben Jones and the 'robust and straight-talking' Sarah Batty jointly lead the team; Ben Jones also has expertise in terrorism cases.
"Opus Law is passionate about delivering the best possible service to clients and genuinely cares about the outcome for them. Its approach is thoughtful and bespoke at all times which means it continually punches above its weight."
"Ben Jones is tenacious, persistent and a genuine market leader in terms of technical and commercial knowledge and connections in the market."
"Opus Law is an unusual form in that it is able to maintain a high level of work across both privately funded and legally aided work. It employs excellent staff and is deeply committed to providing a 24/7 service."
Opus Law Instructed in Serious and Complex Cases
Within the last few months Opus law have been instructed in two serious fraud cases that allege a conspiracy to defraud and VAT evasion offences. The cases will be heard in the Warwick and Leeds Crown Court.
We have also been instructed to contest a HMRC application for an Account Freezing Order made against the accounts of a previously reputable business. The application was heavily contested and the amount of time HMRC were allowed to freeze the account limited to only three months, when the application made was for much longer.
In the Stoke Crown Court we have been asked to represent a defendant in a voluminous and complex case brought by the Environment Agency in relation to the alleged illegal running of a landfill site.
And finally, we have received instructions to represent a defendant who has been indicted in relation to a “one punch manslaughter” before the Sheffield Crown Court.
New Instructions for Opus Law
In the last few months Opus Law have received new instructions in complex fraud cases in Halifax, Lincoln, Leicester and Manchester.
The cases involve a serious VAT fraud, investigations against professionals and an investigation by Trading Standards.
We have also been instructed in a number of very serious criminal cases in Preston, Hull, Doncaster, and Kingston Upon Thames.
Our regulatory department has been engaged in a new inquest case relating to a death in custody and in relation to a General Medical Counsel investigation.
No Off Season For Opus Law and its Sports Law Team
Whilst many fans are still mourning the end of the football season, Opus Law Director Ben Jones has been preparing for the next. Ben has become an FA Registered Intermediary to allow him to advise his professional footballer clients on their next potential moves and ensure they are protected when signing new contracts for the coming seasons.
This move will also allow Ben to further his involvement with www.1511management.com whom we have teamed up professionally with for some time.
Ben has also been negotiating new sponsorship deals with Bradford City, and can confirm that The Petherbridge Bassra Group will proudly remain as an Official Partner of Bradford City Football Club for the next three seasons, at the very least.
We can also confirm that we have agreed to remain as back of the shirt sponsors to Guiseley Football Club for the coming season.
Recent Cases attracted widespread National interest
Ben Jones, Director, who heads our specialist fraud and serious crime department Opus Law, has recently concluded cases that attracted widespread national interest.
The cases were grave and difficult and highlight the ability of the Opus Law team to act in the most serious of matters and to utilise all available resources to obtain the best results for our clients. Details of the cases can be found below:
Nationwide Instructions for Opus Law
The last few weeks have been very busy at Opus Law with new instructions being received in major cases in Leeds, Halifax, Sheffield, Newcastle, Exeter and Hull. The cases involve lengthy investigative operations by HMRC teams and the police.
A number of the matters are being prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Division and the Complex Case Unit, both specialist departments of the Crown Prosecution Service. The allegations relate to money laundering, serious conspiracies to defraud, and duty evasion in relation to both alcohol and cigarettes/tobacco.
These new instructions cement our reputation as being the firm to instruct when charged with the most serious of criminal charges and complex frauds.
RUI: Released Under Investigation or Released Unto Infinity?
Ben Jones, Director, looks at whether the changes to police bail, brought about in 2017, have had a beneficial or detrimental impact.
In April 2017 changes were made to pre-charge bail, also known as police bail, that were meant to signal the end of suspects being held on bail without charge (often with conditions) for months or even years on end. On the face of it a commendable change in the law to avoid abuses in the system.
In the words of Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, justifying her actions at that time:
“Pre-charge bail is a useful and necessary tool, but in many cases it is being imposed on people for many months, or even years, without any judicial oversight – and that cannot be right. These important reforms will mean fewer people are placed on bail and for shorter periods.”
“They will bring about much-needed safeguards – public accountability and independent scrutiny – while ensuring the police can continue to do their vital work.”
At Opus Law we are dedicated to defending, at every stage of proceedings, those who have been investigated and charged with the most serious of offences. Our daily caseload involves multi-million pound frauds, complex conspiracies, and grave and sensitive offences such as murder. It goes without saying that these cases, which sit at the top end of seriousness in the criminal spectrum, can often take some time to properly investigate. We were therefore intrigued as to how the new regime would impact upon our clients.
It would seem, after a reasonable period of trial, that the answer quite frankly, is that the new regime has failed spectacularly.
Let us recap. The old bail rules allowed a person to be released from the police station and placed on bail to a date and time in the near or semi-distant future whilst investigations continued. These bail dates could be further extended and often resulted, especially in serious fraud cases, with a suspect being on police bail for months or even years. This of course was not acceptable and change was needed and brought about.
Since 2017, under the new system an investigating team can still place a person on police bail, but only for an initial period of 28 days. This can then be extended up to a period of 3 months on the authority of a police officer at Superintendent level or above. In exceptional circumstances this can be extended yet further by a Magistrates’ Court.
With this in place, common sense would dictate that investigations now take place swiftly and suspects learn promptly whether or not they will face prosecution. Sadly, however, this is not the case as rather than bringing focus and expedition to an investigation, the investigation team simply skirt around the bail provisions by Releasing Under Investigations (RUI). So, where the authorities know their investigations will take them beyond the new bail limitation periods the neat trick is to Release Under Investigation. The person is not placed on bail but simply released while the officers go about their work. There is no timescale, no timeline that must be accounted for. You are simply told the investigation team will be in touch if and when.
When Released Under Investigation there is less public accountability, less independent scrutiny and certainly no judicial oversight. You are simply in the hands only of those who investigate you. The officers are without fear of having to justify their slow-moving investigation to an impatient Custody Officer when trying to extend bail. On the face of it an investigating team have no-one to answer to.
On reflection the old system may have been better. One had a date to aim for, a downtime between bail dates, a date when a decision could or might be made. Now every day is a day of waiting and which may involve the fear of a postal requisition containing a charge, a phone call from the police or perhaps the arrival of devastating news. There is never a perfect analogy. Perhaps the easiest to understand is being called to your GP who tells you that you may have something fundamentally wrong but he does not know yet, but if there is then it will involve immeasurable stress and be potentially life changing not only to you but also your loved ones. You are bound to ask when you will be seeing a specialist and when your situation will be resolved. Imagine then the answer being that he would simply be in touch. “But when?” you implore. “When we are ready” comes the reply.
It is often the fear of the unknown that is worse than the problem itself.
A recent example is to have a female client - a woman of good character, a mother and a wife - say “I wish they would just charge me, at least then I could fight back”. She has been under investigation for over a year.
The new police bail regime is failing the people it sought to protect and it would seem we are in a far worse position than we were before the enactment of the Policing and Crime Act 2017.
Please do not think this a thinly disguised barb at the Police or the Crown Prosecution Service, the prosecuting solicitors. The axe of public cuts has fallen as brutally on the prosecution side as it has on the defence. This article is not meant to stray into this well documented territory.
This piece is born out of a frustration for our clients who remain stressed, anxious, and exasperated for months, sometimes years.
There are no promised “much-needed safeguards”. People are left to whither “for many months, even years”. There is no “judicial oversight”. Life on hold encased in amber. Exactly what Miss Rudd sought to eradicate.
Opus Law Listed in the 2018 Legal 500 Guide for Criminal Fraud
Opus Law has been listed in the prestigious Legal 500 guide in the field of Crime: Fraud for Yorkshire and the Humber. This years listing marked a fifth consecutive listing for the firm in this field along with Ben Jones and Sarah Batty being recognised as recommended lawyers again.
This years guide describes Opus Law as follows:
The 'excellent' team at Opus Law has 'a very high reputation for handling complex fraud work', advising clients being investigated and charged by authorities. The 'forthright and hardworking' Ben Jones has been described as having 'a real instinct for a jury trial'; he heads the practice alongside Sarah Batty. The practice has an extensive track record in cases of the utmost complexity and value.
Acquittal in Multi-Million Pound VAT Trial in Newcastle for Accountant
Ben Jones, Director, represented N who faced 4 charges before the Newcastle Crown Court. Three charges related to fraudulent evasion of VAT along with a further count of cheating the public revenue by failing to pay HMRC National Insurance and Income Tax in respect of employees of companies in which he was an accountant.
A vigorous defence was put forward during the trial, which lasted for 20 days, after which our defendant was unanimously acquitted whilst the others who faced a jury were convicted. In this case, which at times flirted with cut-throat defences, we utilised defence obtained HMRC documentation and research documentation to compile a defence jury bundle which we feel assisted the jury and swayed the verdict in our favour.
The convicted defendants will be sentenced later this month. On acquittal our client received a Defence Costs order and the court ordered the return of all his legal aid contributions.
Opus Law Teams Up With Fifteen Eleven Sports Management Company
Opus Law are proud to announce they have teamed up with Fifteen Eleven Management, a football management company led by ex-professional footballer Jake Speight. Opus have joined their portfolio of
trusted affiliates to provide skilled and tactical legal solutions to their clients needs.
Both Opus Law and 1511 Management pride themselves on building lasting relationships with their clients. Our partnership will ensure that our mutual clients can develop their on field careers safe in the knowledge that their legal needs, and the needs of their families, are safely taken care of.
More information about Fifteen Eleven Management can be found at www.1511management.com
Opus Law Customer Feedback is Positive
At the conclusion of all cases a Client Feedback Questionnaire is sent to all of our clients. Within the last week we have received nothing but excellent responses in all of our feedback and the following additional comments were made by satisfied customers:
"I would like to thank Ben personally for his kindness, understanding and prompt action to help me and my family through a very distressing period. Many, many thanks from all of us".
"I would like to thank Ben Jones for his drive, determination and dedication to my case. His professionalism was clear from the outset and he made an otherwise stressful experience manageable. I will be forever in his debt for his assistance".
"Ben Jones was extremely supportive during a very difficult period of my life".
Opus Law Receives a Plethora of New Instructions
In the last two weeks we have been instructed in a number of new serious cases in Manchester, Cheshire, Liverpool, Bradford, Newcastle, London, Leeds and Portsmouth. Seven of the new instructions relate to complex fraud allegations and involve investigations by The Royal Mail Fraud Team, The North West Specialist Fraud Division, The Insolvency Service and the Serious Fraud Office.
One instruction is a serious crime matter of immense public importance.
Contact us should you require assistance when investigated or if you require advice and assistance during an interview under caution.
Out of Jurisdiction Instruction for Opus
Ben Jones, Director, has been instructed to advise on a consultancy basis on a case in the Isle of Man. The instruction arises due to the charges comprising a complicated fraud. The case alleged is one of international money laundering, and our client has been charged after a lengthy period on bail. We had initially been instructed whilst the matter was under investigation.
Both Ben Jones and counsel Simon McKay will travel to the island this week to advise our client and his Manx lawyers, and to add our expertise to theirs.
NOT GUILTY Verdict in Sheffield Murder Trial
Ben Jones, Director, represented F who was charged with a murder along with his brother and another. F vehemently denied the allegations and a trial was listed.
The evidence on CCTV showed 3 men leaving an area close to the Defendants flat, and travelling to the home address of the deceased. It was alleged the men broke into his home and tortured him to death. A short time later the same 3 men could be seen to return to the area of their flat. Further evidence showed that F was not using his mobile phone or social media at the time the men could be seen on the CCTV- whilst he was using it before and after. Also, blood of the deceased was found in mixed DNA profiles in the flat he owned and resided in.
We quickly set about dismantling the limbs of the prosecution evidence and utilised experts in the field of DNA, CCTV imagery and also a computer and telephonic expert. Large chunks of the prosecutions case were eroded and the expert evidence upon which the Crown relied was strongly rebutted.
Armed with compelling defence material we were able to cross examine the prosecution witnesses and discount a number of their assumptions. The vital telephone evidence was turned in our favour after the police witness and expert accepted that their charts were unreliable and misleading.
Our Defendant gave evidence and presented an alibi, stating he was not one of the men captured on CCTV.
The jury returned with not guilty verdicts for our client and the other two defendants were found guilty and received life sentences with recommendations of 30 and 27 years before they are considered for parole.
Siobhan Grey QC and Alphege Bell of Carmelite Chambers were instructed in this case.
Read more about the case below.
NOT GUILTY Verdict in Serious Bristol Assault Case
Phil Priestley of Opus Law represented I, a defendant who stood trial at Bristol Crown Court charged with a serious offence of Section 18 Wounding. The complainant suffered multiple stab wounds and it was alleged that I also stamped on the neck of the complainant.
The defence case was meticulously prepared and a pathologist instructed to deal with the injuries described by the prosecution expert.
The Jury was sworn and a 4 day trial took place, during which the defendant ran self-defence. The jury deliberated for only 3 hours before returning a unanimous verdict of NOT GUILTY.
Afterwards the defendant who had been in custody for 6 months and his family thanked his legal team for their superb efforts.
Counsel: Gerard Hillman of Carmelite Chambers London
NOT GUILTY in Modern Slavery Allegation Case
Ben Jones, Director, was instructed by a man and wife who appeared as co-defendants before the Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court charged with offences of modern slavery. Both defendants were professional people of previous good character.
It was alleged by the prosecution that the couple had intentionally arranged or facilitated the entry of an Indian girl into the UK and then held her in slavery or servitude by her acting as an au pair for their one child.
The allegations were vehemently denied and the matter listed for trial. In the course of the preparation of their defence, two lengthy and detailed defence case statements were served along with a vast amount of exhibits. A number of defence witnesses were traced and statements taken from them.
A tactical decision was made to “show our hand” to the prosecution and all defence evidence was served. As a result of this course of action the prosecution offered no evidence and NOT GUILTY verdicts were obtained for our clients.
Throughout proceedings our clients were the subject of onerous restraint orders and we assisted them with making the orders as manageable as possible to allow them to lead as normal lives as possible.
Below are a number of articles published upon our clients arrest:
Opus Law Instructed in Further Serious Operations
Opus Law have recently been instructed in a raft of new and serious investigations.
Three new cases have started life before Crown Courts in Leeds, Maidstone and The Central Criminal Court.
They are known as Operations Italite, Spruce and Decan respectively. All cases are of the upmost public importance.
We have also been instructed by persons alleged to be involved in Operation Fasti, a conspiracy investigation in North Wales.
Further details will be published in due course.
D Avoids Prison in Large Cash for Crash Conspiracy Case
D instructed Ben Jones, Director, in relation to a 37 defendant conspiracy to defraud case before the Carlisle Crown Court. The case, known as Operation Atrium, was so large that the sentencing hearing took place over two days and needed two courts to house the multiple defendants and legal teams.
D pleaded guilty following the commencement of her trial and was later sentenced to a suspended sentence meaning she did not serve an immediate term of imprisonment.
Sanjeev Sharma of Equity Chambers represented the accused.
NOT GUILTY Verdict in Cash For Crash Case
Ben Jones, Director, acted for G before the Nottingham Crown Court in relation to a large cash for crash case named Operation Skipsea. G appeared before the court along with 13 co-defendants charged with a conspiracy to defraud. At an earlier hearing G pleaded not guilty and Opus Law set about preparing her case for trial.
A robust defence case statement was served along with a lengthy list of disclosure requests, which we felt would undermine the prosecution case against our client specifically. Once further unused evidence had been extracted from the prosecution we formally asked the CPS to carry out a full review of the evidence against our client. This was done and the prosecution made a decision to formally offer no evidence and not guilty verdicts were recorded.
Roxanne Morrell of Carmelite Chambers was instructed to represent G.
C Avoids Immediate Jail Term in Large Publishing Fraud
C was represented by Ben Jones, Director, in relation to Operation Spinnaker before the Nottingham Crown Court. C was prosecuted by Trading Standards, along with 11 others, following an investigation into a large organisation which was in the business of selling advertising through regional telesales offices. It was alleged that sales were achieved through “breath taking dishonesty on an industrial level”. The dishonest gain alleged was well over £1 million.
C pleaded guilty and submitted a basis of plea. A strong mitigation was produced supported by character and expert evidence. Due to this hard work our client was one of the few defendants to escape an immediate jail term.
The prosecution sought a Proceeds Of Crime Act order of over £1 million. A forensic accountant had been instructed at a very early stage and allowed us to agree, at sentence, a POCA order of £121,000.
Grahame James of Carmelite Chambers was instructed along with Forths Forensic Accountants.
Read more about the case here…