As a criminal practitioner I would make a good guest at a dinner party. Everyone knows the law. People used to watch “The Bill” and now it’s “24 Hours in Police Custody”.
Every now and then “Coronation Street” or one of the other soaps have a story at the police station or court. This exposure makes everyone have a little knowledge of the Criminal Justice System and as we all know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
This got us thinking. What are the top myths about criminal lawyers and the system.
1 You don’t need a Solicitor in the police station if you are innocent
mmmm….. let us be clear on this one, the police station is a scary place for those not used to being there. It is designed to be intimidating. There are no windows, no plants or mood lighting. Even if you are innocent and have nothing to hide wouldn’t you prefer someone to attend with you and be on your side? Remember, we are free and we are experts.
2 If you attend the police station as a volunteer it means that the police has no evidence against you or you would have been arrested
Oh dear, this is just plain wrong. You have been invited in as a volunteer for a number of reasons. None of the reasons are about the weight of evidence against you. The police prefer voluntary attendances as they don’t need to arrest and can plan when the interview will be.
3 The Police are just fishing. If I don’t attend a voluntary attendance the police will just leave me alone
The police want to speak to you about an investigation. You are a suspect. If you fail to attend as a volunteer they will just arrest you. This can be anytime day or night. Ignoring the voluntary attendance is not an option.
4 The complainant has retracted so the police have no evidence against me
This could be true but in more and more cases, prosecutions proceed on the basis of hearsay. This could be the 999 call the person made or the body cam footage of the officer who attends the incident.
5 I am always entitled to a jury trial
Offences triable on indictment are those offences which can be heard in the crown court and therefore involve a jury. A summary only offence is an offence that can only be heard in the magistrates court and therefore there is no entitlement to trial by jury. Either way offences can be heard in either court. The court can decline jurisdiction in the magistrates and send to the crown court. In circumstances where jurisdiction is retained, a defendant still has the right to elect crown court trial by jury.