The yes/no game

Over the past 9-months or so it's become increasingly common for me to read police station attendance notes that say "call from officer to say ready for interview; attend station and am informed client no longer requires rep, has seen inspector and now in interview.  Returned to office."  Basically, this means that a suspect has been asked by an officer, "would you like a solicitor?" and the suspect has said, "Yes."  But at some later stage (for some reason it's usually between us being told the police are ready to interview and us arriving at the police station), the suspect changes their mind and decides to be interviewed without a solicitor.  The most remarkable instance of this was a call from Stoke Newington saying they were ready to interview.  We actually had a solicitor at the station at the front desk.  In the few minutes it took for us to contact the solicitor and him to speak to the front desk, the client had changed his mind about wanting a solicitor!

If suspects want to do that then fine, I don't have a problem with it.  But, it's the number of times it's happening lately that makes me very suspicious whether police officers haven't gone back to the old trick of telling suspects, "you'll wait hours for a brief," or "if you have the interview now you'll be out in half and hour," etc.

This is a cycle that we seem to go through every few years of suspects being told not to wait for a brief, we complain ad nauseam to the commissioner/cheif constables and then it stops for a few years.

When I started out it seemed like officers didn't really want to screw people over unfairly.  I remember one of my first cases was a burglary.  The young lad was terrified (literally shaking in the interview), the officer was very tough and did a proper interrogation (not unreasonable or wrong I should add just tough).  The officer and I spent most of the interview arguing.  After interview, I was asked to wait in the front office and shortly after the tough officer appeared with an inspector saying that the client had said he didn't want a solicitor any more.  To his credit though, the tough officer was the one who said to the inspector that he didn't think the client should be left without a solicitor and was asking that I be allowed back in to speak with him again!  I can't imagine that happening these days.

Am I wrong?  Any police officers reading this fancy putting me straight if I'm completely wrong about this?


  1. Long time lurker, first time poster. I don't really know if officers are persuading people to change their mind over solicitors. I know that Stoke Newington custody is covered with CCTV and audio recording so you would have to be pretty stupid to advise someone to get rid of their solicitor, especially in the current climate of cuts!! I personally prefer solicitors to be present there as a "check and balance". One point though, I have recently read PACE (for my own personal knowledge, sad I know!). From the deepest recesses I swear I read something in CODE C that if a solicitor attends a police station to speak to a person in custody then the PD has to be allowed to see them, even if its mid interview. Does this not apply in these cases?

  2. I think your right we have the same experience on police and i think that line "you'll wait hours for a brief," or "if you have the interview now you'll be out in half and hour," was really used again and again.

  3. I would never try to dissuade a prisoner from having a brief and I often find it's beneficial for me too. I have no problem with informing a prisoner that they will have to wait for their brief to turn up because that's a fact but I'm also honest about how long it will take them to get there and it's rarely if ever longer than an hour.

    As The Defence Brief is well aware, people can come up with all sorts of strange defences to what they are accused of and often a brief will put them right and the interview will either be no comment or a cough. There are of course exceptions to the rule but generally I find that a prisoner having a solicitor either makes no difference or helps both of us. It's very rare I groan when a solicitor is requested unless I'm in a rush.

    I personally feel the old attitude of "us against them" is slowly fading away. If the evidence I have obtained is good enough then brief or not, the prisoner will be charged. If it isn't well that's fine too, my job isn't to try and "do" people it's simply to gather evidence and if that evidence points towards possible guilt, present it to a court.

  4. ask for the tapes then. complain.

    i am a custody officer and if your asked a question "how long will it be" then the only honest answer is "i don't know.....could be 1/2 and hour could be hours"

    that is the truth.

    the wheels of justice turn you well know

  5. I personally quite like the detained person having a solicitor. It gives me someone reasonably normal to have a chat with over disclosure and it lubricates the whole process. The amount of idiot criminals who think 'they know the law' who disrupt interviews by using their 'urban knowledge' really pisses me off.
    " Yea but like you searched my house and you cant do that without a warrant , I know the law" to which I sigh and have to explain section 32 or 18 of PACE to.

    A solicitor tends to clip this into a nice no comment/ prepared statement which makes it all quicker and more efficient.

    Besides I believe the interview is more or less pointless anyway so i'd rather concentrate on my other sources of evidence.

  6. Anon #1, you are correct about PACE, if a solicitor attends then the police should tell the PD that a solicitor is at the station to advise him. Quite often, the inspector will say "he said he doesn't want a solicitor and he's in interview now, I'm not prepared to interrupt at this stage." Also, because the PD now says he doesn't want a solicitor, quite often the police are no longer willing to discuss his case with you so it's hard to judge whether to wait or not.

    LondonPC, if you feel that the interview is pointless then I think you are probably correct! At Bar School I was told that if you cannot deal with an adverse inference from interview then you shouldn't be a barrister (incidentally not the reason I left the Bar). It was also generally thought that in all but the most horrifically bad interviews you can do something with them and now I've been in practice a good few years I agree. I used to really speed things up when client wanted to make admissions by getting the police to write an admission in their pocket note books (they were PNB, then IRBs think they are now called EABs dont ask what that stands for!) and having hte client sign it. Could be in and out in under 20 minutes including the cautioning. Don't think inspectors like that any more though.

    More generally, I'm very encouraged by the responses to this post. To all the police whether posting on here or not, please keep up the good work.

  7. Anon 1 again. I did post something from my iPhone but it never got here... Glad to know I didn't imagine that bit of PACE! Your response raises more questions for me though. Are there any stated cases where an interview has been excluded as the PIC has not been given access to a solicitor in the circumstances you describe?


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