Fighting Injustice at the Police Station and in Court
23 November 2018
With over 5 million crimes reported, Government figures from last year confirmed that in the year ending March 2017, 780,000 arrests were made by the Police in England and Wales which is half the figure it was 10 years ago.
Whilst arrests by the Police are dropping significantly, “Voluntary Interviews” of suspects of crime which do not require an arrest but instead an invitation to be interviewed at a Police Station, are on the increase.
Being arrested by the Police or being invited to a Police Station as a suspect for a “Voluntary Interview” can have very serious consequences. Its significance was recognised back in 1984 when Parliament enacted legislation ensuring that every suspect to be interviewed at a Police Station is entitled to have an independent lawyer present to advise them and to protect their rights. This law was passed following high-profile miscarriages of justice where the rights of a suspect at a police station were abused. Despite this, surprisingly many people choose not to have a lawyer during their interview with the police and are subsequently charged with offences and then regret that decision and look for a lawyer to represent them at court.
At the beginning of this year the news headlines in the UK have highlighted a number of sex trials which have collapsed because the Prosecution did not disclose important material to the defence which could have undermined the Prosecution case and therefore should have been disclosed. These problems are not simply confined to sex cases but affect cases of all types. These cases have exposed the frailties in the criminal justice system which is often touted as one of the best in the world. But it is now clear that innocent people are at risk of being convicted of offences because the Prosecution and the Police in some cases are not fulfilling one of their primary duties once a person has been charged, which is to ensure a fair trial by disclosing all relevant material to the accused.
There is increasing concern that the Police and the Prosecution do not have sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute crimes following the increase in terrorism investigations and the massive increase in sex cases resulting in mistakes being made. In London many detectives are being taken off their normal work duties to focus on sex cases to ensure that material that should be disclosed to the defence is being disclosed.
The problems faced by the police and prosecution combined with the pressures on the courts to conduct matters speedily, leaves those who are accused of crime in a vulnerable position. A criminal record for a relatively minor offence can have far reaching consequences for an individual’s future employment prospects or their travel plans where visas are required.
The main safeguard against injustice are highly skilled and motivated defence lawyers whose job is to protect the client’s rights and advise upon the steps they should take to achieve the best outcome in their case. Anybody accused of a crime by the police should speak to a defence lawyer urgently before they speak to the police in a recorded interview.