Lawyer defends public apology in kidnap case

Solicitor Graeme White has defended his decision to issue a public apology on behalf of the man recently accused of kidnapping two school girls.

White took the highly unusual step of reading out a statement to the press on the steps of Hastings Magistrates Court, East Sussex, following the first brief court appearance of his client Alan Hopkinson.

Hopkinson faces 10 charges including two of kidnap, two of abduction, two of false imprisonment and four relating to serious assault.

The disappearance of two 10-year-old girls gripped the nation until they were found on Friday 22 January.

White, who works predominantly in conveyancing, but also practices criminal law, told waiting press: “Mr Hopkinson has specifically asked me to say he is very sorry about what happened to the little girls.

“He does hope they can put these matters behind them. He wishes he could put the clock back.”

White tells The Lawyer: “It was unusual, but the whole case is unusual. I told him [Hopkinson] that the press wanted a comment and discussed the implications with him. Then he signed my notes authorising me to speak for him.”

White says that, as a result of the statement, “public opinion mellowed”.

One respected criminal solicitor comments: “It is extraordinary. I have never heard anybody apologise before a trial.”

Malcolm Fowler, chairman of the Law Society's criminal law committee said it was difficult to comment on a specific case. “It is very unusual to speak at this early stage. But sometimes these decisions have to be made in the heat of time pressure.

“There are very few solicitors who would have done it at this stage, but there is nothing unprofessional per se. The question is whether it is in the best interests of your client.”