Law Soc backs research into NI right to silence

THE LAW Society is backing research into the effects of the abolition of the right to silence in Northern Ireland.

The research is spearheaded by the Law Society of Northern Ireland which has been concerned about the abolition of the right to silence in the province in 1988.

The Law Society of Scotland will also support the research and the NI Bar may also be involved.

Suzanne Bryson, deputy secretary of the NI law society, says little research work has been carried out into this area. However, joint research by civil liberties organisations Justice and the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) in April found there was no increase in the conviction rate as a result of the abolition.

The societies aim to start this work in October and conclude next March.

“We are investigating the effect which the legislation has had on the work solicitors have to advise their clients and detainees. We have to see how it effects the work of the courts, the attitude of judges, and also the way the police see it,” says Bryson.

NI solicitors are concerned about the effect of advising clients on cautions, particularly when the reason for detention – under PACE or the Prevention of Terrorism Act – is unknown, says the NI Law Society.

John Hayes, secretary general of the society in London, says: “It will be very important to see how the situation works in NI and whether it makes any difference or not.”

The right to silence was abolished by the Criminal Evidence (NI) Order 1988. The NI law society has always made its opposition known.