The criminal defence team at Ringrose Law were recently contacted by a client, who we will call Malcolm, accused of assault. He rang on the Monday morning, having been arrested over the weekend and interviewed at Boston Police Station. He had decided not to bother having a solicitor. He thought that it wasn’t that serious, that it would be a quick interview, and that he would be quickly released from custody. Malcolm had never been in trouble with the police before, so he had no reason to think that there might be more to it than that. Malcolm decided to simply tell the truth. He had been attacked by an unknown man, who had punched him on the nose. He even had the bruising to prove it. He had then chased this man away. When he had caught him, he punched him twice to the stomach to make sure that he didn’t do it again. Malcolm thought that there was nothing wrong with that, that it was self defence because he had been hit first. Who wouldn’t think that? So that is exactly what he told the police.

Unfortunately, that is beyond what self defence covers. Malcolm agreed that he hadn’t needed to hit the man at all and that he hadn’t even needed to chase him. Malcolm was the victim of an assault, but in reacting the way he did he sadly became a perpetrator.

A couple of weeks later he appeared at Boston Magistrates’ Court. We had listened to the tapes of interview. His recollection of what he had told the police was accurate. We now had the evidence. There wasn’t one witness to the incident. There was no CCTV. The other man involved in the fight had simply disappeared into the Boston night. “Well, I’ll plead not guilty,” said Malcolm, “There isn’t a cast to answer.”

But of course there was. Malcolm had admitted an assault in the police interview. The interview was conducted fairly in accordance with PACE. He would inevitably be found guilty. If he had exercised his right to silence, there would have been no case to answer, he wouldn’t have been charged, and he wouldn’t have been about to acquire a criminal record.

The assault wasn’t that serious (he was fined), it was a quick interview (just over ten minutes), and he was then quickly released from custody (thirty minutes later). But Malcolm now has a long time to reflect on his decision not to have a solicitor. We would have advised him to “No comment,” to exercise his right to silence. Without his admissions in interview, there was no evidence against him.

We also had to advise Malcolm that certain kinds of advanced criminal record checks will always show that he was convicted at Boston Magistrates’ Court of assault. This was a genuine disaster for Malcolm. He was shortly due to go to college to study nursing, but with a criminal record for violence, it is unlikely that he will be allowed to work in that field.

Police Station advice is free

He made a genuine mistake. He had too much to drink, and acted entirely out of character, but who hasn’t done that in their younger days? But for the sake of waiting half an hour longer in the police station for a solicitor to arrive, the mistake need not have become a disaster.

Legal advice at the police station is free. Ask for it. Ask for Ringrose Law.

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