A lawyer who was the public defence counsel for a remand prisoner sought to make contact with his client over the telephone on an evening during a weekend. The deprivation of liberty relates to a criminal investigation other than the one in which the defence counsel was appointed. The prosecutor did not allow the contact unless the defence counsel explained the purpose of the conversation.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that the unconditional right of a remand prisoner to contact their defence counsel must also apply to a defence counsel appointed in a criminal investigation other than the one to which the deprivation of liberty relates. In view of the strict confidentiality applicable to contact between a suspect who is detained and their defence counsel, the Parliamentary Ombudsman further states that a defence counsel cannot be obliged to explain what the contact relates to.
There were therefore no legal grounds for refusing contact between the defence counsel and his client, or for asking what the contact related to. However, it would have been acceptable to consider whether practical conditions for contact were available at the time.
In assessing the prosecutor’s conduct, the Parliamentary Ombudsman takes into account the fact that there was no clear regulation in the constitution on how the situation should be handled. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that the investigation does not support the fact that the contact would necessarily have taken place on the evening in question, or that there is reason to believe that the lack of contact would have
limited the remand prisoner’s chances of preparing his defence. However, the Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that the prosecutor should not have tried to find out what the contact related to.