Legal Aid is available for a police interview under caution regardless of means. It has long been accepted that someone in custody facing a criminal allegation is entitled to free legal advice. Their predicament is difficult enough without them having to worry about the cost of representation.
The entitlement to free legal advice is embodied in the ‘Notice of Rights and Entitlements’ which is given to every suspect and which is issued in accordance with Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
So, there you have it. A suspect can get free advice at a police station. But what does this mean and what are the implications for a suspect interviewed as a volunteer?
Put simply, the free legal advice covers the attendance at the police station which includes travel to and from the station. It does not cover work undertaken after the police interview. So for example, it may be necessary to speak to witnesses, check dates, carry out research into emails, texts and social media activity. Unfortunately, there is no funding in respect of this crucial area of work.
Representations against charge
At Olliers we will always consider the possibility of either formal or informal representations against charging. This involves drawing to the attention of the police and crown prosecution service, weaknesses in the prosecution case as well as reminding them of their obligations under the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Pre charge representations are discussed in more detail here.
Preparing for a voluntary interview
A significant number of interviews under caution are conducted on a voluntary basis. This means that instead of arresting a suspect the interview takes place by prior appointment. The police may contact a suspect and look to agree a time several days later. This, in turn gives a person time to contact a solicitor and for arrangements to be made for the solicitor to attend and represent them. This is an excellent opportunity for the solicitor to discuss the matter with the police, possibly obtain formal disclosure from the officer dealing with the matter and see their client by appointment in the run up to the interview. Evidence can be gathered pre interview. The same steps referred to above in respect of work following an interview of a suspect arrested can actually take place before the interview of a suspect attending the station by appointment. This level of preparation can make a huge difference come the pre arranged police interview. Matthew Claughton discusses his proactive approach to defending sex cases here. This philosophy applies equally to all criminal allegations.
Funding work outside the police station
There is no funding in respect of work undertaken prior to the police station and it can be expensive.
At Olliers, we will always ensure that a client arrested without notice is represented and for this there will be no fee payable. However, for a client attending a voluntary interview, we will always look to undertake preparatory work before the interview, liaising with police over disclosure of their case, taking instructions from our client and ensuring that we are as fully prepared as possible for interview. This will attract a fee. Details of our charging rates can be found here.
The same applies to work required after the police station. Irrespective of whether a client was interviewed as a volunteer or under arrest we will review a file following a police interview and look at what additional work needs to be undertaken. Our role is to undertake whatever necessary and appropriate steps are undertaken to keep the chances of our client being charged to an absolute minimum. Whilst there is no funding available for this work, if it avoids a prosecution then it is money well spent.