On 31 March 2021 the EmpRiSe project team (Professor Yvonne Daly, Diletta Marchesi and Dr Anna Pivaty) presented the preliminary results of the empirical research in the Netherlands and Ireland viewed against the background of our comparative legal findings from Belgium, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands in a pre-arranged panel ‘Police Interrogations: The Guilty Sound of Silence’.
The right to silence is a legal right of criminal suspects, which enjoys a high degree of formal protection in the four examined legal systems. However, silence is often perceived by police and other criminal justice actors as hindering effective police interrogations and the discovery of ‘the truth’. In practice, the exercise of the right to silence leads to various negative consequences for suspects. These include, for instance, the risk of silence contributing to the criminal conviction (alongside other evidence) and negative implications for pre-trial detention and sentencing decisions. In practice, a variety of mechanisms exist and are used to overcome a suspect’s decision to remain silent in the face of police interrogation.
In this panel, we examined the legal and empirical aspects of the exercise of the right to silence and related rights of suspects in criminal proceedings. The first paper presented by Diletta Marchesi examined the comparative legal aspects of the right to silence at police interrogations and the legal implications of its exercise in the four jurisdictions. The second and the third papers examine the practical reality of the right to silence at police interrogations in Ireland and the Netherlands, and its impact on later proceedings, as reflected in empirical research studies carried out respectively in Ireland and in the Netherlands. In Ireland, the research comprised (focus group) interviews with lawyers (barristers and solicitors), judges and staff of the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions. In the Netherlands, the research consisted of (focus group) interviews with police, judges and former suspects, and an examination of written case files.