Will I be able to meet my solicitor in person during the second lockdown?
In criminal cases it is very important for the solicitor and client to meet each other in person in order to get to know each other so that they can work together in defending the case. This is especially important when the client is new to the firm.
Remote legal representation at the police station
During lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 virus most police stations will enable the solicitor to give advice to the client during the interview remotely by a video-link platform, in order to avoid travel and personal attendance increasing the risk of the transmission of the virus. This can be helpful as you will not have to wait for the solicitor to attend. But it is not ideal. Not all police station custody suites have a facility to provide a private telephone conversation, before an interview, between the person arrested and their solicitor. What you discuss with your solicitor should remain private. This is your legal right. The police should not be able to listen in.
Many junior police officers do not have access to a laptop computer in order to allow the solicitor to be present remotely and instead use a mobile phone on loudspeaker. This again is not ideal as we cannot see the client in order to assess their welfare and health condition. Remote attendance makes it more difficult for the solicitor to draft and agree a prepared statement to submit in the interview.
Are there any exemptions for vulnerable clients?
There will be some people for whom remote representation will not be appropriate. This applies to young people; those with poor mental health; those who have difficulties with speech, language and understanding and those who are experiencing arrest for the first time and are particularly anxious. In these circumstances we will always attend the police station in person to represent you but we will have to wear a mask when there is no screen between us. This is in order to protect you as well as our staff.
If you are kept in custody overnight to appear before the Court the next day you are likely to appear remotely from the police station. Before your hearing you will be able to speak to your solicitor by telephone but again the consultation may not be entirely private. Your solicitor may be able to attend the police station in order to represent you at the court hearing. If you are taken before the Court in person from custody your solicitor will attend in person at the Court in order to represent you.
If you are appearing before the Crown Court remotely from the police station or prison your lawyer may not be able to speak to you by video-link.
Technical equipment to deal with remote consultations; interviews and hearings at the police stations and courts is wholly inadequate. The system is not joined up and often the sound quality poor.
Some say it is better and more efficient for criminal cases to be dealt with remotely without the solicitor and client meeting in person. We do not agree. Interaction between the solicitor and client is very important. In court it is important for the Judge and Jury to see the demeanour; body language; and physical and mental health condition of the person appearing before the Court.
The prisons will only allow the solicitor to speak to the prisoner by video-link during lockdown and there is little availability of such slots.
We await the rules and guidance of Government; Court Service; the Law Society and the Legal Aid Agency as we enter the second lockdown.
Unfortunately, we will not be able to see clients in our office. We want to protect our clients from the spread of the virus.
Hodge Jones & Allen Criminal Defence Team are ready. We have the necessary technical equipment; experience and adaptability; and the professional commitment to our clients in order to continue to provide the highest quality of service to our clients during lockdown without disruption as we did during the first lockdown.
If you require legal representation from one of our criminal defence experts please call free on 0808 271 9413 or request a call back online. Outside of normal office hour please call our emergency number 0808 274 8226.