Chapters

But we were just talking!

There is no such thing as an ‘off the record’ conversation with a police officer, irrespective of the time or place of such a conversation. This includes overheard conversations. However due to alleged abuses in the past, it is now expected that any admissions of the accused will be recorded on video. 

Making an Admission

If a person verbally agrees with the statement of another person after reading it, then it is regarded by the law as being adopted and may be later tendered in evidence against that person. Words, silence or conduct may amount to an admission of what a police officer has put to the person. However, no adverse inference can be drawn from their refusal to answer questions which they have been expressly told that they are not bound to answer, or from their silence after they have been told they need not speak at all.

The police can and do use verbal statements.

The Right to Silence

In the majority of cases, it is their own admissions used as evidence that convicts people. This is why the right to silence is so important. It is the right to not incriminate oneself.

As a general rule, a person does not have to answer questions except to provide their name and residential address. Legally, no adverse inference can be drawn against them for refusing to answer questions especially if their refusal is a consequence of their known right to silence.

However a refusal to answer some questions but not others can give rise to an inference of a ‘consciousness of guilt’ about the subject matter of the unanswered questions. The inference is that the answer would not be helpful to their case but it is not an inference of guilt. As juries and magistrates are only human, failure to answer questions might be misconstrued in court.

In addition, the person’s answers could determine whether or not the police will proceed with the matter. However, any suggestion from a police officer that by making a statement the person will make things easier for themselves should be ignored. It is for the court alone to determine what will happen.

© 2013 Hobart Community Legal ServiceFeedbackDisclaimer