Law and Policy Clinic: Rights at the Police Station

Article

Safeguarding fundamental rights at the police station such as the right to legal assistance is indispensable to ensuring compliance with the rule of law.

This Clinic will allow students to research the law in action and influence public policy in this area.

Background

England and Wales have since the end of the 1980s been seen as important innovators in relation to the protection of procedural rights at the police station.

The right to legal consultation and right to have a lawyer present during questioning were implemented in English law – with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 – nearly three decades prior to similar rights being enacted into other significant legal systems in Europe, including those of France, Scotland and the Netherlands.

The audio recording of police interrogations, which is standard practice in England and Wales, is similarly still a rare occurrence in other European countries. Notorious miscarriages of justice have come to light in the UK at the beginning of the 1990s, and English law seemed determined to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

But in recent years English law has taken important steps backwards and away from the due process position it had adopted with PACE.

A gradually increasing reliance on assigning custodial legal assistance to non-solicitor staff and restricting opportunities for face-to-face consultation with legal counsel, coupled with an ever-shrinking legal aid budget has diminished the protection of suspects’ rights at the police station.

At the same time, European Court of Human Rights case law and EU legislation have – in the last 10 years – led many European countries to come to terms with the need to provide suspects with effective legal assistance.

This Clinic will explore key themes in this area, and will allow students to engage with stakeholders and make proposals for reform, in relation to the protection of pre-trial procedural rights.

Aims and activities

LLB Law Students registering with the ‘Rights at the Police Station’ branch of the Law & Policy Clinic engage with criminal procedure and ‘police law’ research at a domestic, comparative and international law level, and have the opportunity to take part in a range of research-led and legal practice activities such as:

  • Researching UK law, European Court of Human Rights case law and EU legislation relating to procedural rights, and their practical application in the UK and other members of the Council of Europe
  • Publishing their research in the form of thematic blog posts, case commentaries and news items on the Knowing Our Rights (KOR) website
  • Participating in KOR school workshops and speaking to 16-18 year old students about their research on rights at the police station
  • Contributing research on suspects’ rights to inform the development of VR experiences and other digital immersive experiences, in collaboration with creative technology studios working with the Law & Policy Clinic
  • Supporting the delivery of practical training on offering advice at the police station
  • Supporting, through their research and advocacy work, NGOs active in this area
  • Contributing to Goldsmiths Law responses to formal consultations, policy briefings and research reports

Supervisor

Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos

Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos

The ‘Rights at the Police Station’ branch of the Law & Policy Clinic is supervised by Head of Goldsmiths Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, a leading expert on the application of human rights standards to criminal justice processes across different legal cultures.

Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos's staff profile

Partners

The ‘Rights at the Police Station’ branch of the clinic is supported by the Knowing Our Rights research project, which aims to provide analysis, and to deepen and increase understanding, of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the UK, based on academic scholarship and engagement with the public. 

External partners include Dr Yvonne Daly, an Associate Professor of criminal evidence and procedure at Dublin City University (DCU). Dr Daly’s research has a particular interest in the rights to legal advice and silence, along with the courtroom consequences of evidence improperly obtained at the investigative stage.

She is an Editor of the Routledge Handbook of Irish Criminology, a Board Member of the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development, and the current Director of Research of the School of Law and Government at DCU.

Dr Daly was the lead for Ireland on the EU-funded SUPRALAT project, which developed and delivered a training programme for criminal defence solicitors on providing the best defence for suspects detained for police questioning.

She is currently working to complete a research project on solicitors’ experiences in police stations in Ireland.

Career links

The clinic runs in parallel with the ‘Criminal Law: Theory and Practice’ module in Year 1. It is of particular pertinence to students aiming to follow a career as a solicitor, and will allow them to embed knowledge and professional legal skills relevant to the new Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The Clinic is open to students from other Goldsmiths departments. 

Award

Students who participate in the prescribed number of activities sufficient for them to complete the clinic, are awarded a certificate in an end-of-year special ceremony, where all student-teams engaged with the Law & Policy Clinic get the opportunity to present their work.

Students successfully completing different branches of the Law & Policy Clinic will be given priority in potential applications to the Human Rights Law Clinic in the final year of their studies.