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Explaining the criminal justice system

Explaining the criminal justice system

What do I do if I have been arrested or have volunteered to assist with an investigation?

It is everyone’s right to have legal advice and representation when being questioned at a police station. (Sometimes investigations are carried out in places than a police station, for example, investigations conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions.) We are available to provide advice and representation, 24 hours a day, to those under arrest and to those attending as volunteers; call us on 0330 999 4999. We provide this service either under the Legal Aid Scheme (without cost to the client), or alternatively on a private, fee-paying basis.

All of our solicitors are accredited duty solicitors, independent of the police and the courts. Also on our team are a number of experienced accredited police station representatives, who are qualified to provide advice under the Legal Aig Agency Accreditation Scheme.

We provide a 24-hour emergency service for clients arrested in and around West London, although we often travel further afield on request. All of our police station representatives and solicitors are highly experienced and specialist. Call us on 0330 999 4999 for immediate representation, day or night.

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What are my basic rights at the police station?

  • You are entitled to free legal advice throughout any period of detention. Ensure that the police officers contact your solicitor; ask them to call 0330 999 4999 and we will have someone with you within 30 minutes.
  • There are virtually no circumstances when you should be interviewed by the police without having your solicitor present. You should always ask for your solicitor to be present before you are questioned by the police.
  • You should never be persuaded to carry on without a solicitor on the basis that it will take too long. We can have a solicitor present at the police station within 30 minutes at any time – day or night, if you call 0330 999 4999.
  • You have a right to have someone informed of your arrest and detention.
  • You can only be detained for 24 hours unless an extension is applied for. After 24 hours you must be released or charged.
  • You have a right to be kept in reasonable conditions and given suitable food and refreshments.

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What happens if I am charged with a crime?

If you’re charged with a crime, it means the police think you are involved in the crime you were arrested for. You are given a ‘charge sheet’ that sets out the details of your suspected crime.

The police decide whether you:

  • can go home until the court hearing – known as ‘bail’
  • are kept in police custody until the court hearing, known as ‘remand’

Bail means you are allowed to leave police custody while your crime is investigated further, or while you wait for your court hearing. You may have to follow certain rules, such as reporting to a local police station.

There are two different types of bail:

  • police bail – this is given at the police station after you’re charged
  • court bail – this is given at your hearing at a magistrates’ court

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Why haven’t I been given bail?

You’re unlikely to be given bail if you:

  • are charged with a serious offence – for example, armed robbery
  • have been convicted of a serious crime in the past
  • you have been given bail in the past and not stuck to the terms
  • the police think you may not go to your court hearing
  • the police think you may commit a crime while on bail

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What happens if I am refused bail?

This is otherwise known as being ‘on remand’, and you will be kept in custody until your hearing. You have the right to ask for bail, and the right to legal advice.

You will be sent to a magistrates’ court to be given a chance to ask for bail. This is normally within 24 hours (or 48 hours at weekends).

You are kept on remand until either a bail application is successful, or your trial is over and you have been sentenced.

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