Welcome back. My name’s Marc Saupin. I’m the practice director of Criminal Lawyers Perth. This is one of a series of videos to help people understand this area of law called criminal law. Today I want to talk about the right to silence and how it’s used in our advice to clients and how it is beneficial to clients in the process of taking a matter to trial.
So first of all, what is the right to silence? If you’re a suspect in a criminal matter, and the police want to speak to you, they could come to your house and tap on the door and say, “We’d like to ask you a few questions about so and so.” Our advice to clients does not say anything. You are required to give your name, your date of birth, and your address, but that’s it. So the right to silence means that you don’t talk to police about anything that they want to talk to you about. Might sound a bit strange really. It might even sound rude, but it’s not. The police understand what the right to silence means and it’s been a part of our legal system for a hundred years.
So, why do we do that? Well, what we don’t want clients to do is to inadvertently say things or make admissions that really they shouldn’t have made. We’re not asking you to lie to the police. We’re asking you to say nothing to the police. What do the police do in return? They’ll try and say to you, “Well, there’s something we want to ask you about. Just give us a little bit of detail. Were you there at such and such a place? Where are you driving such and such a car?” Or, “Were you simply in company with so and so the person at this time and place?” Again, these questions to make out what we call the prosecution case. In this jurisdiction, like any common law jurisdiction is up to the police or the state prosecutor to make out their case. They have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The police are there to undertake the investigations and the police are there to then charge you should have prima facie case exists. That is, is there sufficient evidence to charge you for a particular crime.
In the process, we ask clients to remain silent so they’re not inadvertently helping the state make out their case. Again, I emphasize, we’re not asking you to lie, we’re asking you to say nothing. What then does the lawyer do with the information that clients have not said to police and with what the police have said to them? The police will invariably if they are going to charge you, they will charge you. And then they will produce a brief of evidence or what they call a prosecution brief. We then take that prosecution brief, and if you’ve said nothing to police, we start with, shall we say, a clean slate.
We may want to say something to the police. We might say, “Well, the identification of this person is not an issue. He or she was there at so and so time and place.” Or we might say, “Yes, that person was driving that car or a passenger in the car.” It may not be in fact an issue that concerns us when creating your defence and preparing you for trial.
So in a nutshell, say nothing to the police. Now you might think, and a lot of clients say to us, “Well, we don’t want to offend the police,” or, “We just want to give them our side of the events,” or, “We just want to say what we want to say because we’ve done nothing wrong.” These are all very admirable reasons to speak to police, but they’re not good enough. We, in the course of time, will speak to police and we’ll make it very clear, your position when it comes to any charges laid against you. So the right to silence is something that’s been around for a long time. It is your right. Just like the presumption of innocence attaches to a person who’s been charged. I’ll talk about that later in another video. For now, find us at Criminal Lawyers Perth to find out more about your right to silence. Thank you.