Solicitors getting the grubby end of the stick in police stations
While accepting that society cannot slip into lawlessness during difficult times, it must also be accepted that it is incumbent on the police and prosecution to take steps to ensure the safety of suspects and their representatives while in police custody.
It was, after all, a police officer’s decision to detain and individual in the first place rather than take verifiable details and arrange an interview at a later date. Again, we accept that there will be circumstances where an arrest and detention will be unavoidable.
Partner and duty solicitor Jon Hullis attended upon a client at the Bridewell police station. Although we had earlier published emails that flowed from our attendance at the police station we have been asked to remove them so have done so.
In summary, observations were made:
- Jon’s experience was that literally no measures were being taken at the Bridewell to distance people. Officers had to be asked to keep a safe distance.
- He was not offered any PPE, although to use it would have been pointless as nobody else was.
- No adjustments were being made to normal procedures in deciding whether interviews are actually necessary. The client to be interviewed in this case was clearly shown on 18 separate sets of CCTV committing shop thefts. The interview was planned to take 90 minutes. The police had indicated the client would be charged in any event.
- In the event Jon’s client, following consultation, chose not to be interviewed. This seemed unarguable bearing in mind the evidence and the current public health situation.
- The officer responded by saying that the Crown Prosecution Service insisted on an interview in every case and that position had not changed. The CPS ‘would have a go at them’ if an interview did not take place.
- Jon made the personal observation that he had carefully followed Public Health England guidance and therefore this was the first time he had left his house in three days. As a result at this attempt at a pointless interview, he has now risked exposing his family to the virus.
- This scenario is being repeated numerous times every day across the two Nottinghamshire custody suites.
A request was made that urgent advice be given from the CPS as to the necessity of recorded interviews in many cases, so that as many people as possible can be protected from wholly unnecessary risks.
We intend to provide advice and representation to all suspects who seek it. There are many benefits to representation in police interview.
Now more than ever it might be that our early input into a case can secure your early release, either to return for interview on a future date or for no action to be taken.
However, we can only permit our staff to attend at police stations when it is safe to do so. The police and prosecution can take simple steps to try and ensure safety. We await confirmation of whether those steps are to be taken.