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Advising and Representing Clients in the Police Station

NZ $45.00
Author(s): Stephen O'Driscoll, Andrew Becroft
Published: 2 May, 1995
Pages: 142



For many decades the police have usually interviewed suspects and obtained statements/confessions without lawyers being present. That has often determined the outcome of the case. Not without reason has the "confession" been called the "queen of evidence". The police are receiving sophisticated training in the psychology of interviewing suspects and the art of appearing on video. Nowadays almost all interviews of suspects for moderate and serious offences are recorded by video, if possible.

Most lawyers have never received formal training regarding the interview process and in reality know little about it or about how to conduct themselves during a recorded interview.

Everything has now changed with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the subsequent "Police Detention Legal Assistance Scheme". Lawyers are now being contacted "around the clock" by people arrested and detained by the police prior to their being interviewed as well as by suspects who have not been formally arrested or detained under any enactment but who have nevertheless been advised of their rights under the Bill of Rights Act.

The involvement of a lawyer, especially during an interview when a statement is being made, may be crucial.

Overseas research concludes that lawyers perform badly in this situation. They over-estimate their ability. They have been described as adopting a feeble, even supine posture. English research in particular has concluded that...

"[t]he working philosophy of most defence advisers is neither adversarial nor partisan and lacks the appreciation of the dangers and inadvertent self-incrminiation which interrogation involves." (Silence and the Suspect, Hodgson and McConville, NLJ, May 7 1993, page 659).

An equally alarming assessment is that...
"most lawyers view themselves more as neutral referees than as adversaries of the police, relentlessly pushing their clients' interests. Their common posture, is in short, conciliatory and acquiescent..."

Even more soberingly, the same study concluded that the presence of a lawyer...
"...far from assisting the unfortunate suspects concerned, merely served to lend legitimacy to what were unfair, even discreditable, police practices." (Legal Advice in the Police Station, John Baldwin, NLJ December 18 192, pp1762ff).

In the authors' view, it would be a mistake for New Zealand lawyers to assume that they are adequately trained for the purpose. The "ball game" has changed.

This seminar is apparently the first attempt by the New Zealand Law Society to provide up-to-date defence oriented material to enable competent and courageous advice to be given to suspects at a police station.

Content outline
  • Historical background
  • Overview: aims and components of a skilled defence of suspects at a police station
  • Advice over the phone
  • The decision to attend the police station
  • Planning and preparation prior to arrival at the police station
  • Arrival at the police station: who to see and in what order
  • The need for and use of interpreters
  • Obtaining full disclose of the police case
  • Consultation with suspect
  • The decision to advise whether to make a statment
  • Advantages and disadvantages of making a statement and which type?
  • Preparatory matters prior to making a statement 
  • Aims of the police in an interview
  • Police interviewing techniques
  • The role of the lawyer during an interview: before the police questioning commences
  • The role of the lawyer during an interview: intervening
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