When a citizen gets an expected or unexpected knock at their door or telephone call from a Gardai to say an allegation of a criminal nature has been made against them by a fellow citizen and would they be willing to attend at a Garda station to help the Gardai with their enquiries a number of basic rules apply.
These rules are common sense, but in over 10 years in practice, it never ceases to amaze me why people do not go to the trouble of speaking to a solicitor there and then, or simply tell the Gardai do you mind if I speak to my solicitor first of all. Such a riposte may result in your arrest and detention but at least that arrest will trigger your human and constitutional right of reasobable access to a solicitor.
In the investigation of crime, it is normal and proper for the gardai to wish to speak to suspects to either rule them out of their enquires or frankly, to try and incriminate them on the basis of any admission either voluntary or otherwise that person might make or evidence that the Gardai already have that incriminates the person/suspect. Often it is the admission, properly obtained that will result in the charging and conviction of an accused so the Gardai may not welcome a lawyers involvement. It’s a complication for them.
The benefit of speaking to a solicitor before co-operating with the Gardai or for example availing of your right to silence and not incriminating yourself is that the solicitor should if he is a specialist criminal law solicitor or criminal legal aid lawye,r know the law and be able to assist you at the Gardai Station (when the pressure is on) as to whether you should make a statement or not. Contrary to popular belief sometimes it makes sense to make a statement or a limited statement once your solicitor has been given disclosure (enough information/facts so you know the case being made against you) by the Gardai.
What are the basic rules tactically ?
1. Tell the Gardai you will be happy to co-operate after you have taken advice from a solicitor so do not go with them or make any admission short of enquiring what the allegation is about.
2. If you have been arrested do exercise your right to speak with a solicitor of your choice. Or have them call a solicitor who does criminal law on your behalf. Usually they will have a list and you can pick the solicitor from that list.
3. If you volunteer to go to a Garda Station provided you have not been arrested you are free to get up and leave at any time.
4. Even if the evidence is overwhelming, speaking to a solicitor may reveal an issue that may go in your favour at a later stage in the process but you will never know unless you avail of legal advice.
It is possible to get free legal aid/criminal legal aid in respect of an advice given at the Gardai station if you earn under €20,000 or are on social welfare. If you do not qualify for legal aid a solicitor will be able to agree a reasonable fee with you for the advice and attendance at the station or in his office.
I attend Garda Stations in Dublin and surrounding counties 7 days a week and after office hours.
If you have any queries on the contents of this post or any issue to do with criminal law or free legal aid/ or entitlement to a criminal legal aid certificate please do not hesitiate to contact Peter Connolly Solicitor.
The views expressed on this site do not constiute legal advice and should not be treated as such.