Rights on Arrest for Service Staff

Kelly Thomas July 4, 2017

Rights on Arrest for Service Staff

This guide will help members of the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the British Army and the Royal Air Force who have been arrested by the RMP (Royal Military Police) or civilian police with regards their rights on arrest. This covers any offences whether military offences or civilian offences (or both) and outlines your rights on arrest at the Police Station, including the right to a lawyer free of charge and your right not to say anything at all.

Rights on Arrest – What to say?

Sometimes military staff will be aware that they are about to be arrested as they are informed by their supervising officers, although sometimes there is no notice given. Comments with the police or even your own colleagues before your formal interview are often recorded and you are strongly advised not to say anything to anyone before you receive advice from a lawyer.

You will either be taken to the police station by the police (if you are arrested immediately) or an appointment will be made for you to attend. Those early phone calls by the police, and chats with your Sgt Maj or Officer in Command are often used to gather an idea of what defence you have or worse, do not have. It is often the case that your own superiors will tell you not to worry about a lawyer, and just to be open and honest with the police, and you may feel that you must follow this as a direction rather than advice. You may feel that you should do what they tell you in case it affects your status or promotions. Whilst they may be trying to be helpful, it is not always in your interests to follow this advice.

You must protect yourself as the action you take in the police station may affect the entire course of the investigation. It may be the difference between you being prosecuted and not.

Rights on Arrest – Representation at the police station?

You have a right to free legal advice at the police station and you should request access to a lawyer immediately upon arrest and before your interview. You should explain that you do not want to say anything at all regarding the case to the police before you have seen a lawyer, in person.

You can request any lawyer, both civilian and Army lawyers, and you are entitled to a named solicitor, free of charge.

In our experience, civilian criminal lawyers who are independent from the Army, are better than Army Legal, simply because the civilian lawyers will definitely be completely independent from the police officers dealing with the case. It is crucial that you are aware of this right and exercise this.

Often you will hear comments such as “you only need a lawyer if you have something to worry about” or “if you have something to hide, get a lawyer.” This is totally false. Every person, especially Military personnel, and especially those who are innocent, have the right to and absolutely should obtain legal advice prior to any interview. Lawyers at the police station are provided free of charge and this is covered under the Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority (for military case) or the Legal Aid Agency (for civilian cases). You will not be charged for a police station attendance by a lawyer unless you have agreed private arrangements.

Rights on Arrest – Conduct of the interview?

An interview with the police (either civilian or military) can be scary and frustrating, whether you are guilty or innocent. Often the police will seem to have a one sided view and will suggest it is up to you to persuade them otherwise.

However, it is not for you to prove your innocence. It is for the police to investigate, with evidence, whether you committed an offence.  If you have chosen to have a lawyer, then the lawyer will be informed in advance of the interview of the evidence against you. This is called disclosure and the lawyer will go through this with you before the interview starts. This means, with a lawyer, that you will be aware of the evidence before you give your account. If you do not have a lawyer then you will not be informed of this and you will be expected to go straight in interview, learning of the evidence for the first time.  Your reaction and comments are recorded and it goes without saying that this is not a sensible choice to make.  Remember that anything you do say can be given in evidence at Court.

Rights on Arrest – Summary

• Exercise your right to free advice & representation
• Do not say anything to anyone before you have received legal advice
• Conduct any interview with civilian or military police on the basis of the best advice you can obtain, based on disclosure before the interview starts

Rights on Arrest – About the author

Kelly Thomas is a solicitor in the Military Law department of Tuckers Solicitors. She has over 10 years of experience of dealing with serious criminal allegations in both civil and military courts, including advising military personnel based abroad in Germany, Cyprus and elsewhere.