Thursday, October 13, 2005

I Said No Comment

I went off to the Police Station in the afternoon today to deal with a youth. The youth seemed to have a particular dislike for the Police. After discussing the case with the Client it was agreed that he was not going to answer questions in the interview and that I would read out a prepared statement on his behalf at the start of the interview.

The interview started and I read out the prepared statement, my Client then started giving his reply of 'no comment' to all questions. The Client seemed to get frustrated during the interview, particularly when he believed a question was being repeated:

Q: Where do you live?
A: No comment.
Q: Do you live at 68 Potter Street?
A: No comment.
Q: Do you deny living at 68 Potter Street?
A: I've already said, no comment?
Q: So you agree that you live at 68 Potter Street?
A: Are you stupid, no comment.
Q: So you don't live at 68 Potter Street?
A: For f***s sake, no f***ing comment, are you deaf?

The Clients interview transcript is not going to make pretty reading if he is prosecuted. As the interview progressed the Client realised that the earlier he said 'no comment' the more he could frustrate the questioning process. As the question was being asked, and before the Police Officers got a chance to finish the question the Client started to answer 'no comment'. Eventually he started saying 'no comment' repeatedly whether he was being asked a question or not. The Police followed their interview procedures and continued despite my Client's best efforts.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

No Comment

Anonymous said...

Have you ever had a client who remained completely silent, not even confirming their name? How do the police handle that?

Gavin said...

I have had a few Clients who have refused to say anything at all during the interview room.

By not saying anything the Client frustrates the initial interiew process as the Police like the Client to confirm his name, address and date of birth at the start of the interview. They also like to confirm that the Client understands the Police caution regarding silence etc.

What the Police have done in the past is to ask the Client to confimrm he is in the room. When the Client does not answer they usually ask me to confirm that the Client is in the room and I say that my presence is not for the benefit of the Police to confirm or deny that someone is present in the room.

The Police usually interview in pairs and one of the Officers will turn to the other and ask them to confirm that the Client is in the room.

After the initial problems the Police just carry on with the interview and ask questions where they know that they will get no answers.

Anonymous said...

Why do they continue to ask questions if they know the only answer they're going to get is "no comment"

Gavin said...

It is all to do with the caution under s. 34 of the Crimial Justice And Public Order Act 1994 that says; "You do not have to say anything. It may harm your denfence if you do not mention when questioned something that you later rely on. Anything that you do say may be given in evidence." (Or something very similar to that).

Basically if the Police do not ask questions during the interview and the Client then raises a defence in Court it is arguable that if he had not been asked a question he did not need to provide a defence in interview. This is a very complicated area of law and my explanation has probably over simplied things - but they ask questions when they know they will get a no comment answer because if they don't it can cause problems at Court with adverse inferences not being drawn.

Anonymous said...

Gavin wrote: "When the Client does not answer they usually ask me to confirm that the Client is in the room and I say that my presence is not for the benefit of the Police to confirm or deny that someone is present in the room."

I then remind smart ass solicitors like yourself that if I have to stop the tapes, get everyone out of the interview room, inform the custody Segreant what has happened and go and get another officer to come back into interview with me, it will keep their client in custody for even longer. Dumb or dumber usually speak up after that!

Gavin said...

It depends though, what if the PACE clock is running down and it is advantageous for the detention clock to run down for the defence? It is not so dumb then.

The real point is that my presence at the Police Station is not to assist the Police. If my Client has decided that he does not want to accept that he is in the room then I only assist the Police by accepting he is there.

Anonymous said...

I don't think i've ever gone into a first interview anywhere near the 24 hr limit. If the P.A.C.E. clock was approaching the 24 hr mark then this would give us further 'ammunition' to apply for an extension.

My way usually works when the D.P. finds out, not answering those questions (name, date of birth, understand caution, etc...)will keep them in for even longer.

Lennie Briscoe said...

Non-cooperation is usually the sign of a guilty conscience. People tend to shout very loudly if they are innocent.

I'm sure it was the youths hormones and previous brushes with the law that shaped his sketchy response. If he won't take any responsibility for his actions, then I hope the book is thrown at him.

chazza said...

Gavin said
'If my Client has decided that he does not want to accept that he is in the room then I only assist the Police by accepting he is there.'

And if he instructed you to deny he was in the room? You'd do it?
I think not. And how does supporting your client in a completely idiotic attempt to prove he doesn't really exist help him? The police just get someone else to witness his presence and he wastes his own and police time. Does that look good in court? How are you helping him by supporting him? Beats me. Seems as though you regard the police as the enemy though, so maybe that's why you're prepared to watch your client make a complete chump of himself in a way from which inferences will most certainly be drawn by a jury. Still don't see how your client benefits, even if it makes you feel better about yourself.

Gavin said...

Chazza,

My role is not to assist the Police. The Police are investigating Client whom I have been instructed to represent, so in one way I could consider them the enemy. I do not go to Police Stations to fight with Police Officers or obstruct their investigation. My role at the Police Station is often the opposite role that the Poilice are fulfilling.

I have never advised a Client to remain completely silent, it has always been their decision to take such a course of action. I advise, where appropriate, to give a no comment interview, and I often find that by a Client not accepting that they are in the room that the investigation procedure ultimately takes longer. Providing legal advice means exactly that, I advise a Client and they then decide whether to take that advice or act upon that advice.

Why do you suggest that by a Client refusing to accept their presence in a room that it makes me feel better about myself? I am just doing my job, just like the Police are doing their job.

Section 34 inferences are vastly overrated. A person cannot be convicted simply on the basis of an inference. Silence was always the best policy prior to PACE, and it is often an advantegous option even with the threat of an adverse inference. Of course every case is different...

Another Constable said...

I like no comment interviews. They are really easy to conduct, especially if you have prepared a good interview. In fact, we're trained to treat every interview in advance as though it will go no comment.

I can ask all the really good questions and not have to be bothered about the defendants reply having to make me consider new questions on the spot. Stick to the script, get a hundred no comments, charge, and Bob's your uncle!

Anonymous said...

Many years ago I went to a police station to deal with a duty client. I did not realise at first but I had dealt with the interviewin officer the week before and had on the previous occasion advised my client to make no comment. She was then released.
When I walked into the custody suite the officer bounded across to me and told me 'Your client will have to answer questions today. I've got a prima facie case' Once I had established why he was saying this (he was miffed about the week before) I asked him what evidence he had.
His response was that he had seen my client walking about with a vacuum cleaner and my client could not tell him where it came from.
Do you ever say something you later regret? I told the officer that after interview I would give him a short lesson on what a prima facie case was and went to speak to my client.
To say he was an alcoholic understates the case. He reeked of alcohol. An examination of the custody record showed that he had been in custody for hours and that the police had waited a couple of hours after the doctor advised before saying they were ready for interview.
Please understand that this was in the days of the old caution and I was much less experienced then.
Anyway, I spoke to him at length and explained that my advice was to make no comment and why. I went through how to make no comment and after about an hour and a half (no kidding it took that long) I felt that he had grasped the point I made.
Off we went into interview.
One thing I hadn't covered was that the officer would read out his notebook entry. As the officer began to read it out, I interrupted and explained to the client what the officer was doing and said 'I remind you of the advice I gave you earlier.'
No sooner had the officer started to read out the entry than the client began to argue. For the first four or five questions in an attempt to get the interview back on track I repeated the mantra 'I remind you...etc' Each time the client answered the question.
I gave up trying to get the client to follow my advice and dutifully made copious notes until by the client's answer to a question it became clear that he had not understood the question. I therefore said to the client 'Do you understand what the officer asked you? What the officer asked you was...... Do you understand?'
The client looked at me carefully, thought about it for a moment and said 'No comment' I was gobsmacked. The client was 47(3) bailed. I dont know what happened when he answered his bail but I have often wondered. You can imagine how the officer reacted.

Gavin said...

I liked your story, most amusing.

Anonymous said...

i have in the past, actually written on a piece of paper for the client to read: "NO COMMENT". This piece of paper was on the interview table and in full view of the officers.
The client still answered the questions!

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Lee Neidorf said...

The police just get someone else to witness his presence and he wastes his own and police time. Does that look good in court.
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Josh Green Rock said...

Silence was always the best policy prior to PACE, and it is often an advantegous option even with the threat of an adverse inference.

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