Criminal law isn’t an area that we get involved in much, although I have done more interviews under caution than many commercial solicitors – all for clients I hasten to add.

Criminal law has, however, become an incidental part of our practice, usually for family members of existing clients, or occasionally acting for client/directors who are accused of criminal activities by other directors. Which means it comes up more often than you’d think.

Over the years I’ve been to Old Bailey (as part of the team in a corporate manslaughter trial), I’ve assisted a client who was arrested on an airplane on his way back from a business trip (did you know that airports have their own police stations) and I’ve argued with police officers about why my client needed someone with business law experience in an official interview (I was right – the interview involved arguments over insolvency and title in goods, none of which the police had any legal understanding of).

Although most people who read my blogs probably (hopefully!) won’t have much use for my criminal law knowledge and skills, it does still sometimes happen that people in business can still learn something interesting from that side of my company. As it’s my job to keep an eye on the legal press on criminal as well as civil matters, I read with some interest the twitter storm created by the Justice Minster, James Cartlidge, who has been extolling the virtues of a legal services opt out scheme for minors.

The new scheme means that minors MUST have legal advice, unless they opt not to, rather than the current scheme, under which they have to opt to HAVE legal advice. Many youngsters might be afraid to ask for legal advice or feel that by asking for advice they are admitting that they have done something wrong. By making them see a solicitor, and then choosing not to proceed with that advice, some of the risk of prejudice is removed. Clearly a good idea.

However, Mr Cartlidge made it sound like minors were opting out of having legal advice – ie that they would not be getting advice at all – and he came in for a load of abuse. Whilst I don’t agree with the idea of venting on line particularly when you don’t know all the facts, it does give a great demonstration of how easy it is for things to be taken out of context and the damage that simple misunderstandings can cause. Mr Cartlidge may well have been embarrassed by the obvious misunderstanding of what he’d said, but some of the people who attacked him on line may be similarly embarrassed that they jumped to conclusions.

Similar misunderstandings can lead to litigation, contract disputes, and occasionally divorces!

So whether you’re emailing, typing, texting, whatsapping, tweeting or even using old fashioned paper and pen, be careful what you say, and be even more careful how you interpret what you read!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Clearly good advice.