Under arrest: solicitors give conflicting advice

  • People arrested for hunting after the ban comes into force should not follow Countryside Alliance advice to refuse the services of the duty solicitor, a pro-hunting lawyer has urged.

    Sarah Barnard, criminal partner at a Hampshire-based firm, who has worked as a duty solicitor for 15 years, warns that using a solicitor unfamiliar with police station work may not be in suspects’ best interests.

    “The police station interview is crucial: information from it goes to the Crown prosecutor, who decides whether to prosecute or to drop the case. Get the interview wrong and you’re in deep trouble,” warns Barnard, who is not on the CA’s list of recommended solicitors.

    She adds that those who practice criminal law “day in, day out” are more familiar with police station work, than experts on the Hunting Act who do not.

    The CA has set up a 24-hr helpline so that anyone arrested can reach a local solicitor who is an expert on the Hunting Act and will work for free at police station stage. But, though all of the 60-plus lawyers on the list are qualified and registered to do police station work, the CA admits that not all do so regularly.

    “All are well-versed in criminal law and qualified to do police station work, and are experts on the Hunting Act. But they won’t be the same solicitors the police offer, who could know nothing about the Act,” the CA spokesman adds.

    Criminal lawyer Clive Rees, who is on the CA’s ever-expanding list, adds: “The most important thing is that under no circumstances should anyone try to respond to police questioning without an experienced solicitor present.

    “Solicitors will give the suspect full details of the prosecution case so he or she is not taken by surprise in the interview. Plus, if there’s insufficient evidence for a prosecution, the solicitor will advise a ‘no comment’ interview.”

    Both duty solicitors and those on the CA’s list provide their services free until a detainee is charged — after this stage, clients must pay or apply for legal aid.

    If you are arrested:

    • Co-operate with police, even if they’re being rude or provocative. Be polite, or they may find something else to arrest you for, such as a public order offence for swearing at a police officer
    • Don’t answer questions about the offence until a solicitor is present. Don’t talk to custody staff about the offence — they’re obliged to tell the investigating officer
    • Get a solicitor, one used to working in police stations, or phone the CA 24hr legal helpline (tel: 08719 193505).
    • Always go back for your police station appointments, and keep in touch with your solicitor
    • Apply for legal aid — it is not means-tested
    • Conditions may be set for bail to prevent further offending, such as not going for a ride with more than one other person or not riding at all. But you could say that you need to ride your horse for its health
  • This news article was first published in Horse & Hound (17 February, ’05)

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