Advice on Statement to the Police (Zimbabwe)
Where the client has not yet made a statement to the police, the lawyer, having listened to what his client has to say, will have to decide on what advice to give his client about making a statement. In general terms the client should not be rushed into making a statement before careful consideration has been given to the matter.
The defence lawyer will obviously advise the client to make a statement in circumstances where a statement will be beneficial to his client's interests. An innocent person will clearly proclaim his innocence at the outset and the failure not to so proclaim it will look suspicious. Adverse inferences may be drawn from such failure at a later juncture. If it seems clear to the lawyer that his client is innocent and that his innocence can be very easily established by, for instance, checking an alibi, it is sensible that the client makes a statement as soon as possible so that the client's story can be investigated and the matter can be cleared up and the client can obtain his release.
It may appear that the client has a defence to the charge and it will obviously assist in establishing the defence in court if the client makes a statement to the police at an early stage, setting out the details of this defence.
If the client wishes to confess his guilt and the lawyer is satisfied, on the basis of his instructions, that the client is guilty of the crime charged, the lawyer will advise him to make a statement to that effect.
The lawyer will often advise the client to allow the lawyer to draft the statement based on the client's instructions so that the statement is carefully worded and sets out the client's case clearly and in logical sequence and includes only relevant detail. The lawyer would then inform the police that he is preparing a statement which his client will sign and hand over to the police. The client should also be told that should the police seek to obtain a statement from him, he should inform them that his lawyer is compiling a statement for him and that it will be submitted in due course.
The client may wish his lawyer to be present when his statement is recorded so that he can act as a witness to this process or the lawyer may advise him that it would be advisable that he, the lawyer, be present when the statement is recorded. In these circumstances, the lawyer is legally entitled to be present when the statement is recorded. Before leaving the police station the lawyer should inform the appropriate police authority of his client's instructions and insist that he is to be summoned before any such statement is recorded. As quickly as possible the lawyer should also confirm in writing that he has been instructed to be present at the recording of the statement and that he must be informed when the statement is to be recorded so that he can be present. A letter to this effect should be addressed to the officer in charge of the investigations or to the member-in-charge of the police station.
After the police have been so notified it would be improper conduct for them to record a statement in the absence of the lawyer.
In some cases it may be better for the client not to make any statement at all to the police. This would be the case where, for instance, from the information to hand it seems that the police have no evidence of the commission of the alleged crime against the client and that they are hoping to construct their case around incriminating statements from X.