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Lawyers Urge Politicians to Protect Defendants’ Right to Silence

The Law Society of Jersey, which represents the Island’s legal profession, has written to all States Members urging them to reject proposals within the Draft Criminal Procedure (Jersey) Law, which will, if approved, compromise a defendant’s right to silence in criminal matters.

The States Assembly is due to debate the Draft Criminal Procedure (Jersey) Law 201- on Tuesday 20 March 2018.

In its letter, the Law Society highlighted the issues within the new draft Law relating to the requirement for defendants to provide a Defence Case Statement setting out the nature of their defence. 

Where a defendant does not provide such a statement, or the statement provided it is deemed inadequate, adverse inferences can be drawn.

Where a defendant has chosen to remain silent, as it is their absolute right to do so, a requirement to detail their defence serves to wholly compromise this fundamental right.

Neville Benbow, Chief Executive Officer, The Law Society of Jersey, said:

Requiring a defendant to state their case is wholly incompatible with the ability of a defendant to maintain their right to silence and, in our view, is likely to represent a breach of their human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

We urge States Members to implement an amendment to the Draft Law so as to protect the absolute right of a defendant to silence, throughout the process, such that they may, but are not obliged to provide, a defence case statement and that, if they elect not to do so, no adverse inferences may be drawn.

The letter to States Members can be found here.