Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Getting Serious About a Suspect's Right to Timely Legal Advice

"Getting serious about a suspect's right to timely protection"
Access to immediate legal protection must be provided under Article 35
South China Morning Post
17 February 2015
Simon Young
Everyone in Hong Kong has a constitutional right to a "choice of lawyers for timely protection of their lawful rights and interests" (Basic Law, Article 35). Is the right fully complied with when a police officer hands a suspect the Law Society's list of solicitors and says, "Choose!" If the suspect asks "Who can I call for free legal advice?", the answer will be "Try your luck with the list", whatever the hour or day.
     The Law Society has a free legal helpline but it works on the basis that a lawyer "will contact you within three working days"; not much use for someone who needs legal advice immediately. It only takes a few minutes for an officer to embark on an interview that leads the suspect to making ill-informed statements damaging to his interests at his trial. This is known as self-incrimination.
     Had there been timely access to a lawyer, the suspect would be told to remain silent or to provide a statement favourable enough to be used at trial without having to face cross-examination by the prosecutor.  Whether to remain silent or to give a statement will all depend on the circumstances but the lawyer will know best...  Click here to read the full article.

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