Information and Toolkits

FAQs: Getting support for your case

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N.B.: The information on our website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice, nor does it constitute legal advice. Whilst we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, Fair Trials makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or applicability to individual cases of the information contained on our website. Any reliance you place on such material is therefore strictly at your own risk. Fair Trials disclaims any liability to the fullest extent permissible by law for any loss or damage of any kind arising from the use of the information provided.

You should seek professional legal advice from a lawyer qualified to practice in the jurisdiction you are in.

What kind of support can I get?

If you are being accused of a crime, it is crucial that you seek help from a lawyer so that you can get the best possible outcome in your case.

In some cases, you might also be able to get support from charities or non-governmental organisations, your political representatives, your friends and family, or even the media. However, in most cases, these sources of support are not suitable substitutes for help from a local lawyer.

I have been arrested outside my own country. How can my consulate or embassy help?

The help will depend on your country of nationality and, sometimes, the country you are arrested in, but consulates might be able to offer the following:

  • Visits in prison, including one visit to you shortly after arrest if you are in pre-trial detention. Discuss this with a representative from your embassy as the regularity of consular visits to prisons varies depending on your nationality, the country you are in and your personal circumstances;
  • A list of local lawyers who might be able to help you;
  • A list of legal interpreters or translators;
  • Help contacting your family; and
  • (In some cases) attendance at your legal hearings or trial.

How can political representatives help?

As a general rule, politicians do not interfere with criminal trials, especially those that are taking place within their own country. However, in some cases, they might be able to give you non-legal advice that might be helpful to you, and help you find other sources of support.

Are there organisations that might be able to help?

Which organisations can assist you and how will depend on the issues you are facing and where the case is based. Many countries have local non-government organisations that might be able to help people in prison. The following are examples of charities that might be able to assist, depending on your circumstances and your case:

Prisoners Abroad provides welfare support for British Citizens in prison overseas.

Reprieve represents prisoners facing the death penalty or in illegal detention around the world.

REDRESS provides support for torture victims.

These charities might also be able to refer you to a more appropriate organisation if they cannot help you directly. Your lawyer or consulate might know about similar organisations in the country of your arrest; ask them.

What kind of help can my local community give?

Some people ask their local community to support them with their cases, either financially and/or by helping to publicise your case. It can be very encouraging to get people in your community to support you, but you should be aware that this is not always an effective way of getting a desirable outcome in your case.

Some people choose to publish information themselves, for example through their own dedicated websites or in blogs about their case.  A trusted friend or relative, or people from your local community, might be able to help with this.

There might be other people or groups facing similar issues to you, or who have been through the same experiences and have helpful information to share. They may have websites or blogs where you can contact them. They may be willing to work with you in organising events or publicity.  The best way to find out is by searching the internet, or by speaking to people in your community or to charitable organisations who work in similar cases.

Should I seek media coverage for my case?

Media coverage can be a risky way of seeking support for your case. It can damage your defence – and your reputation – in ways that are hard to predict or control. Before taking this step, speak to your lawyer to check that this is the right thing to do.

It is important to understand the risks of media coverage. We have included some examples below:

  • The local law might treat speaking to journalists as a ‘contempt of court’, which can attract fines or even prison sentences;
  • You could damage your defence by angering local prosecutors or judges by ‘going public’ with your complaints. You may also inadvertently weaken your own case by publicising details about your defence, as the investigating authorities could take advantage by re-tailoring the prosecution case against you;
  • Media coverage could put pressure on your family and friends;
  • Journalists are interested in getting a good story. That might coincide with wanting to expose injustice or ill-treatment, but not necessarily. Your interests might be secondary to theirs; and
  • Once you have given information to a journalist, they can investigate and report on the case without your input and publish information without your consent or involvement. Once this process has started, it can be hard to control.

The press are asking questions. What should I do?

The safest thing to do is to say ‘no comment’. This may seem rude or strange if a journalist seems sympathetic; however it is important to remember that journalists are simply after a story and you have no obligation toward them, nor they toward you.

Ask your lawyer’s opinion before you speak to any journalist. If a charity is supporting you, ask them. Discuss whether they believe that media coverage will be helpful or harmful to your case, and how they intend to respond to any media queries that arise.  If you prefer that your lawyer does not make any comments to the media, make that clear to them.

Do not be pushed into making any comments before seeking your lawyer’s advice; until you have their consent, you should say ‘no comment’.

Make sure your family and friends also respond to the media with ‘no comment’.