Sunday, May 29, 2005

Please Stop Talking

From time to time I come across Clients who simply cannot stop themselves talking. There are some Clients who simply give you too much information and will admit to offences without there being a shred of evidence against them. Some Clients will be told to answer Police questions with the phrase "no comment" and they are sometimes unable to maintain those two words and spit out exactly what I was trying to prevent them from saying. Other Clients simply cannot be stopped from saying anything.

I went out to a Police Station tonight to deal with a fairly routine matter that involved a Client who did not speak English. An interpreter had attended at the Police Station to assist with the language difficulties. After obtaining the Police disclosure I had a conference with my Client and the interpreter. I would ask simple questions and have these translated from English to my Clients native language through the interpreter - I would then have to wait for about five minutes whilst the Client rambled on and provided an answer to my question. I found myself asking the same question again and again to the Client through the interpreter, and despite the simplicity of the questions I could not stop the client from talking.

I must have spent about one hour with the Client with him providing me with his innocent explanation of events. I then explained that the Police were likely to caution him for the offence and immediately his story changed and he admitted the offence. Once I was satisfied that the Client was not just changing his account to get out of the Police Station we went in to interview. By this stage the interpreters patience with the Client was growing thin and every now and then he would grunt in English (and I do not understand why he did not say this in the Clients native language), "No, just stick to the point, come on now." At the end of the interview the Police Officer asked the usual question of did the Client have anything he wanted to say or add to the interview. The Client did not answer this question, the interpreter immediately replied, "No, he has nothing to add thanks." I have to say that I was rather happy with this response and on the basis of the Clients admissions to me previously this response did not damage his case at all.

As a result of the admissions the Client was given a Police caution, although if he had carried on talking he could have been charged with wasting Police time!

2 comments:

Lennie Briscoe said...

You will have to forgive me I don't know the legal bits and bobs.
If your client admits an offence to you, are you duty bound to declare it to the prosecution? In other words before your client says anything do you ensure they only tell you information that isn't likely to incriminate themselves?

Gavin said...

Solicitors have a duty of confidentiality to Clients meaning that they are not allowed to disclose information given to them by the Client unless the Client gives permission for that information to be given to someone else. So if a Client admits to committing a crime there is no duty to tell the Police/Prosecution.

Solicitors are not allowed to represent Clients who they know are telling lies. Solicitors should not make judgments on whether Clients are guilty or not, and should accept a Client's account as it is given. So if a Client admitted to an offence but then did not answer questions there is no problem for the solicitor because the Client is not putting forward an account that the Solicitor knows is not true. If the Client tells the Solicitor one thing and then presents his case on the basis of another different account the Solicitor should cease to act for the Client as the Solicitor then knows that the Client is telling lies.

I do not tell Clients when they are talking to me to exclude any information that will incriminate them as I do not have a duty to inform anyone about the information I have received.