The European Court of Human Rights has made it clear that the right of access to legal advice at Garda stations is a critical part of the right to a fair trial, protected under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

From the 1st to the  13th of May 2020, Shalom Binchy Solicitors hosted an online survey asking colleague defence solicitors about their recent experiences of providing legal advice to suspects detained in Garda Stations during the initial stage of the Covid 19 public health emergency. The following are summary findings of the above narrative:

The provision of legal advice to suspects in custody has been difficult to effectively vindicate whilst complying with Government and HSE social distancing and hygiene guidelines

  1. Currently when a solicitor attends a Garda station there is no consistency in approach in  complying with social distancing and PPE HSE Guidelines.
  2. There is no provision for remote advice during questioning.

This leaves solicitors and suspects with a choice of

  1. a) A solicitor attends the station in circumstances where it is difficult if not impossible to comply with Government Public Health Guidelines.

or

  1. b) Reverting to the pre-2014 practice i.e. the right of access to legal advice before and after questioning but not during questioning.  We acknowledge that clients have been allowed to step outside and get legal advice during the interview but this is very different to having constant contemporaneous advice and having a solicitor present during the interview.

The report makes comprehensive recommendations to An Garda Siochána, The Department of Justice, The Law Society of Ireland and Practising Solicitors including:

  • Develop a clear Protocol governing arrests, charging and detention during the current Public Health Emergency.
  • Facilitate remote access between a solicitor and the suspect by videolink for the consultation and during the interview.

Download the full report hereShalom Binchy Solicitors Survey Findings 20_05_2020