Should I ask for a lawyer in the police station?
Yes. It is your right to consult privately with a solicitor and to obtain free, independent legal advice. ‘Independent’ means that any lawyer you consult is not in any way affiliated with the police. This right can only be (temporarily) delayed in special circumstances.
How will having a lawyer be able to help me in the police station?
The police are required to provide sufficient information to enable you to understand the nature of the offence for which you have been arrested, and why you are suspected of committing it’. This is known as ‘disclosure’. If you have a lawyer present, disclosure will happen before you are interviewed, which means that a solicitor will be able to advise you on the law, the strength of the evidence against you, and the best way to deal with the questioning in the interview under caution. A good solicitor should be able to predict what the police are likely to ask, and so prevent you from being taken by surprise or ambushed. You should be wary of taking any advice from the police about your alleged offence/s. The police are neither independent nor legally qualified.
The law allows a Court to ‘draw such inferences….. as appear proper’ from your failure to mention something in the police station, which you later rely on in Court. This means the Court might think you’ve had time to come up with your defence in the time between being questioned by police and going to Court, if you didn’t tell the police about that defence when you were interviewed. Having a lawyer present in the interview helps ensure that you do not incriminate yourself, while also making sure that you do not fall foul of this law.
Sometimes, it might even be in your interests to admit a minor criminal offence, as this might avoid you being prosecuted in court. An early confession can occasionally result in a police caution, or a community resolution. However, it is very important that the person advising you about that decision is both legally qualified, and independent of the police.
A solicitor can also ensure that the police treat you lawfully while you are detained.
Will requesting a lawyer delay my release?
Being in custody is not a pleasant experience. Most people want to be freed as soon as possible, and will agree to almost anything to speed the process of their release up.
The police know this. They often imply that your release may be delayed if you exercise your right to a lawyer. This is not necessarily the case. Obtaining legal advice can, in fact, speed up your release. Refusing a lawyer so that you get out of custody sooner could also prejudice any subsequent proceedings against you. In the worst-case scenario, you could end up with a more serious sentence, or be found guilty simply because you answered questions without first understanding the law, or were taken by surprise by the police questions. Always ask for a lawyer. We are inundated with enquiries from people who have obtained the ‘wrong’ outcome because they wanted to get out of custody quickly and did not get a lawyer.
Do I still need a lawyer at a voluntary interview?
Yes. Even if you have not been arrested, and the police want to interview you on a voluntary basis, the issues described above are still relevant. You are accused of committing a crime. It is always worth taking the time, before attending the interview, to find a solicitor who gives you confidence in understanding how the facts relate to the criminal law, what is at stake, the interview process and all of your options.
If you are under police investigation or invited to attend a police interview, feel free to contact our Crime and Regulatory team.