Locating Client (Zimbabwe)

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Lawyers may be engaged to represent persons who are in police custody and who have not yet been brought to court. In order for lawyers to protect the interests of persons in custody, it is imperative that access to their clients is obtained as soon as possible.

Usually there will be no difficulty in finding out where the client is being held. He may have telephoned from a particular police station and asked the lawyer to come to the station where he is being held.

Where a relative or spouse of the arrested person engages a lawyer to represent the arrested person, this person may have been told to which police station the arrested person was being taken or he may have asked from which police station the arresting detail came. He may have information at which police station the arrested person is being held. If the arrested person is being held at a large city police station, the client should be asked if he or she knows the name of the investigating officer, his section and the number of his office. The client may be able to find out this information for the lawyer. This information is helpful to the lawyer and saves time and thus will reduce the fees charged.

There are, however, situations where the person engaging the lawyer on behalf of the arrested person has no idea where the arrested person is being held. Often arrests take place in the early hours of the morning. The family may be upset and have no clear knowledge of where the person has been taken. If the person engaging the lawyer was present at the place where X was picked up, the first thing to find out is whether members of the arresting detail were in police uniform or in plain clothes. If they were in plain clothes it is likely that it was a C.I.D. or C.I.O. arrest. The lawyer should also find out if it is known for what sort of crime the person arrested was picked up.

If it is known that the arrest was made by the uniformed branch of the police, these sorts of procedures should be followed to try to locate the arrested person. In smaller centres it is usually a fairly straightforward matter to locate the client as there will be only a limited number of police stations where he could be held. The main police station in that area is the logical starting point for inquiries. Even if the prisoner has been transferred from the small centre to one of the larger centres for questioning, the local station will know where he has been taken and will usually give the lawyer this information.

In larger centres ascertaining at which police a client is being held may sometimes be more problematical. The best starting point is to check with the Controller or Member-in-Charge at the Central Police Station in order to find out whether your client is being held at that station. Many of the people arrested are taken to the Central Police Station first, especially if they are arrested for more serious crimes. If the client is not there, the Controller or Member in Charge should be asked if he has or is able to find out any information as to where the client is being held. If this proves unsuccessful and the exact place where the client was arrested is known, a check should be made at the police station closest to where the arrest took place. If this does not produce positive results then Police Headquarters should be contacted to obtain information. It should be borne in mind that where an arrested person is being held in police custody, his name and details are recorded in the custody or detention book.

Where the persons effecting the arrest were in plain clothes the arrest was probably made by the C.I.D. or the C.I.O. If you know the nature of the crime for which the arrested person was arrested this will help to indicate which unit would have made the arrest. If it is fraud or a currency contravention, it is likely to be C.I.D. fraud squad. If it is a security related matter it may have been the C.I.O. If it is a homicide case the case will be in the hands of the homicide squad. Both the C.I.D. and the C.I.O. will usually have sections at the main police station and inquiries may be made to the persons in charge of these sections.

In the past, in some security cases, the police or the CIO have deliberately moved persons in custody around various remote police stations in order to make it difficult for legal practitioners to locate their clients. If this happens the best thing to do is to contact Police Headquarters or the CIO Headquarters and insist that whereabouts of your client be revealed. If this fails, you may have to seek a High Court order to force the authorities to reveal where your client is being held in custody. The Ministry of Home Affairs should be cited as respondent in such an action.

Where the CIO have their own sections at police posts, the CIO usually does not reveal details of their arrests to the ordinary police and thus inquiries to the ordinary police will prove fruitless. Direct inquiries to the CIO itself will have to be made.

It should be borne in mind that it is not only police officers who have powers of arrest. The other persons who have powers of arrest are listed in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Designation of Peace Officers) Notice of 1990 (SI 130 of 1990). For example, in certain circumstances officers and inspectors in the Department of Parks and Wildlife have powers of arrest.


See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual