Interviewing Client (Zimbabwe)

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The main purpose of the interview of the client at the stage when he is still being held by the police will usually be to find out whether the police have reasonable grounds for holding the client in custody and, if they do, to ensure that the client is not held beyond the maximum period allowed by law for holding a person without bringing him before a court of law. The lawyer will also need to obtain relevant details to enable him to make a bail application when the client is brought before a court for remand. This will apply especially where the client is likely to be charged with a serious crime and where it is likely that remand in custody will be sought by the State (i.e. it will oppose bail.).

The lawyer has a right to interview his client in private without any police officer or prison officer present. The police cannot insist that the client be interviewed within their presence or with a police officer within earshot who can hear what is being said between the lawyer and his client.

During this interview the lawyer must find out all relevant information including:

  • the client's response to the allegations levelled against him;
  • the names of the officers who arrested him and that of the investigating officer;
  • what the arresting detail said to him at the time of the arrest;
  • what questioning, if any, the client has been subjected to since he was arrested and by whom the questioning was done;
  • whether he has made any sort of statement and, if he has, what sort of a statement it was and what its contents were (i.e. was it made orally or was it a handwritten statement; was it a warned and cautioned statement which was typed and read over to him before he signed it; has the statement been confirmed before a magistrate? etc.)
  • if a statement has been made, whether it was made freely and voluntarily (If the client says he was physically maltreated or threatened in order to force him to confess, the lawyer should carefully note down the details of the alleged maltreatment or threats. The client should also be asked to show the lawyer any injuries and bodily marks which resulted from his mistreatment and the lawyer must carefully note down his observations about these.) If a medical practitioner has already given medical treatment to his client, the lawyer should ask the police for a copy of the medical report.

Where the client has already made a statement to the police and this has been recorded, the lawyer should ask the police to allow him to see this recorded statement and he should request that he be provided with a copy of this statement.

See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual