The Law Society has welcomed an assurance from the Home Office that police should make it clear to any suspect who speaks voluntarily to the police, that free legal advice is available to him or her at any place, and not just at a police station.
The Law Society was concerned that police interviews were increasingly taking place at the suspect’s home in order to avoid the need for the police to advise the person of the right to legal advice. The Society had written to the Home Office to outline its unease, following a number of reports.
Law Society’s concerns about this issue have now been eased following agreement by the Home Office to propose an amendment to Code C, made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which will soon be tabled in parliament.
The Code will make clear that free legal advice is available under the Legal Services Commission duty solicitor scheme for any suspect volunteering to speak to the police (i.e. who has not been arrested) at any place, not just at police stations, and that police should inform such people of this. The Home Office issued last week the proposed amendment, which is likely to be included in the next tranche of PACE Code amendments
Law Society President John Wotton said; “We are very pleased that the Home Office has taken on board our concerns. The right of access to legal advice for those suspected of a criminal offence is one of the most important and fundamental rights of a citizen, and should not depend on whether the suspect is present at the police station or is interviewed elsewhere, for example, in their home. Circumvention of this right is not only wrong from the perspective of the rights of the suspect; it is also likely to put at risk the admissibility of any confession that may be obtained in such an interview.’