Right to Silence in English Criminal Law

Right to Silence in English Criminal Law

The right to silence is an important principle in English and Welsh criminal law. It is the right of a suspect to remain silent and not answer questions during police questioning, without any adverse inference being drawn from their silence.

The right to silence is protected under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which governs the powers of the police in England and Wales. Section 34 of PACE provides that a suspect has the right to remain silent and not answer questions during police questioning, and that no inference can be drawn from their silence.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if a suspect fails to mention something during police questioning that they later rely on in court, the court may draw an adverse inference from their silence.

In addition, if a suspect makes a statement during police questioning that is later contradicted by evidence at trial, the court may draw an adverse inference from the inconsistency. This is known as the adverse inference.

Despite these exceptions, the right to silence is still an important principle in English and Welsh criminal law, as it protects the fundamental right of a suspect to remain silent and not incriminate themselves.

It is important to note that the right to silence only applies during police questioning. Once a suspect is charged and the case goes to trial, they may be required to give evidence and answer questions in court. However, the right against self-incrimination still applies, and a defendant cannot be compelled to give evidence that may incriminate themselves.

In summary, the right to silence is an important principle in English and Welsh criminal law, and is protected under the PACE. While there are some exceptions to the rule, the right to remain silent during police questioning is a fundamental right that protects suspects from self-incrimination.
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