The High Court upheld a decision to admit confession evidence which was the sole evidence relied upon by the Crown. This case particularly focuses on the requirement to advise a detainee of their right to legal advice, and of the approach police officers should take when interviewing a person who may be sleep deprived and/or drunk
The appellant was convicted of assault by beating, contrary to s.39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 by Coventry Magistrates' Court. The facts of the Crown's case were that during an argument between the appellant and her partner, she picked up a baseball bat and struck her partner causing injury. Her partner did not make a complaint, give a statement or give evidence during the appellant's trial. There was no forensic evidence adduced and the sole evidence relied upon by the Crown was a confession that the appellant made whilst interviewed under caution.
The appellant argued that when she interviewed at the police station she was not given "proper advice as to the availability of a duty solicitor" and "whilst being interviewed she was drunk at the time and was sleep deprived"; therefore her "confession was unreliable" and "its admission into evidence would be unfair". The Deputy District Judge after conducting a voir dire rejected the defence's application to exclude the confession pursuant to sections 76 and/or 78 PACE 1984 on the following basis:
1 The appellant had been told of her right to independent legal advice. She was further told she could have advice either in person or on the phone and her right was an ongoing one which could be exercised at any time.
2 The police had a duty to investigate expeditiously and the right to eight hour uninterrupted rest did not apply in the appellant's case due to the limited period in which she was detained.
3 The appellant stated she had consumed 5 pints of lager prior to arrest and maintained she was "quite drunk". Her evidence was inconsistent with the CCTV evidence obtained which showed her being booked into the police station and the observations by police officers. The Judge took the view that she was not intoxicated at the time of her interview.
The appellant applied to the High Court, testing the correctness of the Deputy District Judge's decision to admit the confession evidence.
The High Court held that the Deputy District Judge's approach was "proper and correct" and the following principles were confirmed:
1 An officer does not have to split the offer of legal advice into (a) face to face, and, if declined, (b) telephone advice;
2 A failure to make explicit reference when offering legal advice to the ‘duty solicitor' scheme was irrelevant;
3 If a detainee is fairly assessed as being able to answer questions in a coherent, appropriate and logical manner then the sooner they are interviewed and released the better. The fact that they have not had eight hours rest (in a cell which for many will not be conducive to rest) preceding interview is not dispositive.
The appeal was dismissed.
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