Advising at the Police Station
The most important aspect to remember about police station attendance is to keep a thorough contemporaneous not of the process including all representations made by you, your client, the police or CPS. A practical example would be your attendance at the police station to represent a client arrested for burglary who has made some incriminating statements to the police on arrest.
The first thing you would do: Ask to speak to the custody officer and peruse the custody record which will give you the reason for his arrest and all that has happened at the police station since his arrest including any medical checks and items that have been withheld by the police. You would then ask to speak to the investigating officer to ascertain what evidence the police have and are willing to disclose.
What to ask the investigating officer: You would want details of the burglary, nature of the arrest, whether there were any eye witnesses or CCTV footage. Try to obtain all the information you can and assess it in light of whether it is of sufficient weight for the police to decide to charge. Most times it would be the case that the police investigation is still in its early stages and the evidence is circumstantial.
Interview with client: The next step would be to interview your client. During this interview, you must confirm what is on the custody record, assess his demeanour and his fitness to be interviewed and his version of events alongside the evidence you have obtained from the police. If the client needs to be seen by a doctor, you must make representations to the police that this is done or it may mean that he is a vulnerable suspect in need of an appropriate adult. A police doctor must deem your client fit to be interviewed. If this has not been done you must as that this is done before the interview takes place.
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Advice about police interview: You must be satisfied with the police disclosure of evidence and that your client is mentally ready to sit through the police interview. If the police have little substantive evidence against your client you would probably be wise to advice him to remain silent. Make sure you make him fully aware of the consequences of silence as relates to adverse inferences if the case went to trial. At the start of the police interview you should state on tape that you have advised you client to remain silent and consider giving a reason for this advice. Be proactive during the interview as you may have to intervene even after you have stated your advice as to silence as police questioning can lead your client to start to answer questions although he/she has agreed not to.
The police interview can be suspended at any time in order for your client to consult with you in private.
After the interview: You must ask the investigating officer what course of action he intends to take and be ready to make representations on the basis of the evidence and your client's instructions. The options are to:
- Charge and release client on bail or withhold bail
- Release client on bail pending further enquiries or release him unconditionally
- Continue to detain client subject to custody time limits
- Detain or release client on bail pending a decision to charge
Other ethical matters to consider
Where a conflict of interest arises between two parties you represent you must cease to act for either. If having agreed to act for one, it becomes apparent that there is a conflict; you must advise the other to obtain separate legal advice.
If your client wishes you to pass on a message to a third party this is not an unusual request. You must ascertain the nature of the message, the third party and the scope of the allegations. Bear in mind that you will have to discuss this with the custody officer. It may be that you attend the police station on request of a third a party in which case you will have to confirm with the suspect that he agrees for you to represent him/her.
If your client seeks to give misleading information to the police or continues to give you conflicting instructions in an attempt to give false instructions you should cease to act.