How are my rights protected in custody?

How is a suspect protected in the police station?

The police and criminal evidence Act 1984, contains certain provisions that protect suspects that are held in a police station for interview.  

These safeguards have been put in place to reduce the number of miscarriages of justice.

The Caution

Under code C, a person must normally be cautioned on arrest. Any person who is suspected of being involved in criminal activity must be caution before being asked any questions concerning their involvement or suspected involvement in the offence in question.  

The caution is as follows: 

‘You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned anything which you later wish to rely on in court. Anything that you do say may be given in evidence’.

Tape – recording

Section 60 of PACE, states that an interview in a police station must be tape recorded.  This was introduced by PACE, to safeguard a potential suspect from being threatened into saying something false, from being forced into a false confession or confessions being made up by the police.

The right to inform someone of your detention

Section 56 of PACE provides that once a suspect is taken to a police station, they are entitled to let someone know of their detention. This could be anyone such as a relative or friend. The person chosen by the detainee to be informed of their arrest must be told that the detainee has been arrested and where they are being held.  

This right may be suspended if the suspect has been arrested in connection with an indictable offence and informing an outside person may lead to interference with evidence relating to the offence, other suspects being informed of the arrest causing them to flee, interference with recovering evidence and / or causing injury or interference to witnesses.

The right to consult a legal advisor or have a legal representative present

Under section 58 of PACE, a person held in custody has the legal right to consult a legal representative free of charge whilst being detained in the police station. Since 1995, the legal representative can be either a qualified legal worker, such as a solicitor, or an accredited representative.  

The right to seek a legal advisor may be suspended for up to 36hours under the same circumstances as the right to inform an outside person of your detention.

How does someone become an ‘Accredited representative’

A person can become an accredited representative by registering with the legal services commission. They must have a signed document from a solicitor saying that they are suitable to become an accredited representative, and are capable of undertaking the duties linked to such a title. 

Once a person has become a registered accredited representative, they are able to attend police stations and advice suspects just as a solicitor would do. They can advise on either way offences or summary offences but cannot advise on indictable offences.   

During the first six months of becoming an accredited representative they must complete a portfolio that contains two police station visits that have been monitored by a qualified solicitor, and then a further five police station visits that have been carried out on their own without supervision. If they successfully complete this stage, they will have to complete an oral and written examination. If this stage is successfully completed, they are officially a fully qualified accredited representative and are allowed to represent clients in all criminal proceedings.

An appropriate adult present at the police station

Code C and PACE includes, that all young people and anyone suffering a mental disorder or disability must have an appropriate adult present with them during a police interview. This runs alongside the right to have legal representative.  

An appropriate adult may include a parent or guardian but is most commonly a social worker due to nature of the circumstances.

The treatment of suspects in police detention

The police code states that a police interviewing room must be appropriately lit, it must be well ventilated and heated during an interview. The suspect being interviewed must be able to sit down during the interview and there must be regular breaks scheduled during the interview for refreshments and the detainee must also be allowed adequate time for sleep.

The recording of the interview

Once an interview has been conducted, the police officer must make a recording of the interview. This recording will be kept on file for the protection of the police and the suspect.

The ability to refuse evidence

Under PACE, the courts have the ability to refuse to hear evidence that has been obtained in an inappropriate manner.

Section 76(2) of PACE states that the prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a confession was not obtained in an inappropriate way.  An inappropriate way would include torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or duress.  

Section 78 of PACE allows the courts to refuse to include evidence that they believe will have the reverse effect of fairness on the hearing itself, and should therefore not be heard.

These section were introduced to allow the courts to dismiss evidence which has been obtained through a breach of PACE or Codes.