The Appeal judges yesterday considered whether a person had made an ‘informed, voluntary and unequivocal waiver’ of their right to legal advice in a police station, writes Kim Evans.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the appellant in the case of Saunders v R had made an informed decision, due to their previous experience of police interviews, and level of intelligence.

However, the judges also said that the practice of the police to disclose information concerning the extent of the evidence in the case against a suspect only where a solicitor is involved, was ‘too rigid and inflexible’.

‘There may well be cases where fairness demands that a detainee is afforded pre-interview disclosure, so that he knows sufficiently the nature of the police enquiry and is placed in a position to know whether legal advice would assist or not. The inflexible practice adopted by the police officer, and endorsed by the judge runs a serious risk of depriving a detainee of information he needs before deciding whether to waive or not…the approach needs to to be flexible so they they can be sensitive to the different needs of different detainees.’
Lord Justice Moses, giving judgment

This judgment may mean that in the interviews of vulnerable detainees who have waived the right to legal advice – and so not being informed of the extent of the case against them – evidence obtained from their interviews may be witheld from the jury under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, section 78.

Profile photo of Jon Robins About Jon Robins
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award

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1 Comment

  • Peter Jones June 27, 2012 2:49 pm

    Interesting implications for practice in relation to telephone advice in circumstances where the police have deemed it approriate to give pre-interview disclosure to an unrepresented suspect who has then asked to speak to a solicitor.

    In the vulnerable suspect scenario this looks like a bit of a non-issue because if an appropriate adult is from one of the voluntary services becomes involved they always insist on representation in any event.

    Finally, the link to the case on Bailii didn’t work for me.

    Peter Jones

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