This is a story of persistence and courage in advocacy by Nichole Warren who specialises in representing clients in Independent Adjudications before District Judges.
Independent Adjudications are disciplinary charges which can lead to prisoners having an additional custodial sentence imposed. Prisoners are entitled to legal representation at Independent Adjudications.
Nichole was acting for a disabled female client who is wheelchair-bound and needs 24-hour care. She had been charged with a disciplinary offence after receiving a positive drugs test. She was adamant that the results were wrong and were attributable to prescribed medication. She was very distressed and in tears during the hearing.
Nichole advised the district judge that her client was contesting the charge and that she needed to obtain an independent analysis of the sample. The judge indicated that he did not want to agree to this because he had been told by another advocate that it was not possible to get funding for an independent analysis and he did not want to waste time. Nichole resisted this and made detailed submissions explaining why the charge should be dismissed and, failing that, for an analysis of the sample to be obtained.
The judge initially refused to consider Nichole's submissions. Her client, having heard the judge's response, said that she was tempted to change her plea to guilty because she was never going to get a fair hearing. Nichole persisted and, after some time, was able to persuade the judge to adjourn the case.
After contacting two independent labs, both confirmed that the prescribed medication would more than likely have affected the client's MDT results and they would be able to produce a report to state this if required.
However, Nichole managed to contact the lab that tested the sample that led to the client being charged. After approaching the toxicologist that carried out the analysis of the sample, it was discovered that the incorrect results had been provided to the prison.
Nichole requested that an updated result was sent to the prison which the toxicologist did and, upon receipt of this, the prison dismissed the charge before it was put back before the district judge.