Catherine Ravenscroft is a member of the St Philips Criminal and Regulatory Groups. Having completed a successful pupillage under the supervision of Jennifer Josephs, Cat accepted tenancy with Chambers in April 2019. Since then, she has gained a wealth of experience in both the Crown and Magistrates Courts. She recently returned from a two-month secondment on the island of St Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Our First Junior Criminal Clerk, James Withers, caught up with Cat on her return:
JW: So Cat, welcome back! Where have you been for the last two months, and what have you been doing?
CR: Thanks! I have been overseas on the Island of St Helena, in the South Atlantic. I was employed as Criminal Counsel and acted exclusively in their criminal court. For two months, I was involved in every criminal case they had, which ranged from assaults to malicious communications, and from drink driving to passing vehicles for MOT when they were in a dangerous condition.
JW: That sounds fantastic. What was the most challenging case that you worked on?
CR: I acted in a case with two vulnerable witnesses. We are used to conducting ground rules hearings and making special measures applications, but St Helena’s size and location pose unique challenges for the practical arrangements. The resources available on the Island are not what we are used to. For example, there is a small pool of people qualified to act as intermediaries and finding a person not known to the witnesses is near impossible. An intermediary was required for both witnesses and a live link also had to be established. This meant liaising with the Island’s only internet company to establish enough bandwidth to maintain the link for long enough for the witness to give their evidence in chief! Thankfully everything went smoothly in the end.
I also advised in relation to the investigation and charge of a sophisticated theft and carjacking. This is ongoing and is likely to be heard in St Helena’s Supreme Court in November.
JW: What was the most interesting part of working on the Island?
CR: The Island is still governed by the British Government, so there are many similarities between our laws. The Island has the authority to make its own laws, so there are many differences too. Part of my role was to advise the Government on the applicability and implementation of English and local law. I provided advice on issues including the development of a fixed penalty regime and an amendment to the criminal limitation provisions.
JW: How has your experience on St Helena developed your practice?
CR: Advocacy, advocacy, and advocacy! Acting in every criminal case developed my in-court advocacy exponentially by exposing me to a wide variety of offences, new challenges and potential issues. Practising in another legal system tries and tests your advocacy beyond your usual comfort zones. I have come back with deeper competence, increased confidence and focussed clarity. But my experience has also developed my approach to the background decisions we make which inform the arguments we pursue in court. While there I regularly made decisions concerning the preparation of trials, gathering evidence and making or addressing disclosure requests. These “strategical” decisions are fundamentally important to success in court. I have come back with a wealth of experience which has already developed my approach to prosecuting and defending since my return. And it will continue to do so!
JW: Fun question to finish – What was life like on the Island?
CR: A total adventure! St Helena is about 46 square miles with a population of about 6,600. It’s volcanic, so no real beaches to speak of but lots of hiking and amazing views. There is also a rich history from trade and the East India Trading Company to Napoleon Bonaparte, and the culture is a mixing pot of nationalities. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
If you would like to discuss a potential instruction, please contact Cat’s clerking team on 0121 246 0200.
Written by James Withers