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Templates to request effective (remote) lawyer-client communication before and during police questioning

FairTrialsAdmin - May 28, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Guides, Access to a lawyer, Remote Justice

Read the story of Yan, arrested and unable to communicate with his lawyer during the COVID-19 crisis and learn how EU law can help him! Yan’s story is fictional but is inspired by similar events* that have happened across Europe during the pandemic. ​

Early April, Yan, who lives in a small flat with 3 other students, decided to go for a walk to clear his head. On his way out, he met a friend and offered him a cigarette. During this interaction, a police officer approached him and asked for his ID card saying that he would be fined for breaching social distancing rules. Yan panicked and initially refused. The discussion became heated and Yan spat at the police officer who immediately arrested him. 

At the police station, Yan asked to see a lawyer. The police officer explained to him that it was no longer possible to appoint a legal aid lawyer due to a lack of protective equipment to ensure their safety. The officer informed Yan that he was entitled to call a lawyer of his choice prior to the interrogation but that telephone or video links would not be available during the interview.  

Under EU law, Member States have the obligation to ensure timely and effective access to a lawyer prior to and during police questioning. In light of current social distancing rules, this means providing the necessary protective equipment or setting up effective technology to enable legal assistance before and during questioning. The COVID-19 pandemic does not entitle States to adopt blanket policies which prevent or restrict access to a lawyer. 

 

Have you recently experienced a similar challenge? Are you a criminal lawyer whose client has faced the same issues?

Fair Trials has produced two templates based on relevant EU standards: 

  • to challenge a general refusal to allow access to a lawyer during police custody / pre-trial detention. Download the template here or view the pdf version in your browser here. 
     

  • to request effective (remote) lawyer-client communication before and during police questioning. Download the template here or view the pdf version in your browser here. 

These templates are part of a toolkit which aims to equip lawyers with arguments to address the threat to the right to a lawyer as a result of measures adopted in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more here.

 

* Examples include: 

  • United Kingdom: The UK Crown Prosecution Service published examples of actions that have been charged as coronavirus-related criminal offences. These include the case of a man who spat at employees in a shop before spitting on police. He pleaded guilty to the assault and has been jailed for 22 weeks.  

  • Ireland: A survey undertaken by Shalom Binchy Solicitors highlighted the lack of remote legal assistance during police questioning. Suspects had access to telephone legal advice with solicitors before the interview but telephone and videolink were not available during the interview. 

  • France: Paris Bar council stopped appointing state-paid lawyers due to the lack of protective equipment. Lawyers also complained they were unable to participate in detention hearings at all due to the lack of videoconferencing equipment in some courts.  

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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