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The Home Office is consulting on changes to certain existing provisions of Codes C and E for the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The proposals support the continued operation of the interview protocol between the National Police Chiefs Council, Crown Prosecution Service, Law Society, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association.
The overall purpose is to limit the number of cases that have to be abandoned because solicitors are unable to attend in person during the pandemic.
The changes apply when suspects who have not been arrested are interviewed, as well as to detained suspects.
The temporary changes to Code C modify the existing provisions which allow a suspect to have their solicitor present during their interview.
They specifically allow for legal advice during interview to be provided by a live link or a telephone conference link. For the latter, the interview must be visually recorded.
These modifications are subject to a number of safeguards which take account of the circumstances of the suspect, nature and circumstances of the offence and the investigation and the impact on the suspect.
They include requirements that:
The temporary changes to Code E modify the existing provisions by introducing additional requirements for the interviewer when the solicitor uses a live link or telephone conference link to advise the suspect during the interview.
These relate to confirmation that consent to the link being used has been given and to visual recording and remote monitoring of an interview when a telephone conference link is used and to matters to be recorded in the interview record.
We support the proposals.
The changes will allow for the continued provision of legal advice to suspects in custody (or who are interviewed by the police in a non-custodial setting) during the pandemic in a safe way by using technology where:
Criminal defence solicitors will continue to be able to provide legal advice to those suspected of committing criminal offences in a safe way.
The consultation closed on 3 July 2020.
The Home Office will consider the responses and set out its final proposals in due course.