Government says the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) is not obliged by law to allow lawyers to sit in during its interrogations.

Minister for Interior Martin Amidu, who announced this in Parliament Friday, says a lawyer may be permitted only after the detainee has been formally arrested. This was in response to a question posed by the Offinso South Member of Parliament Ben Abdallah Banda.

“The Bureau of National Investigations or any of its officers has no legal obligation to permit the lawyer of a person it invites for investigations to sit through any interrogations when the invitee has not been arrested, restricted, or detained by the BNI,” Martin Amidu stated.

He explained that the BNI may interrogate a person either as a witness or a suspected perpetrator of a crime as part of a pre-arrest investigation process because at that stage “the BNI is only gathering evidence of crime to enable it to make up its mind whether or not to arrest, restrict or detain a suspect or suspects for the crime”.

But the Offinso South MP who thinks otherwise says the Interior Minister’s explanation is unacceptable.

Mr Ben Banda told Joy News that the minister’s position contradicts the constitution.

He argued that since the law allows everybody the right to a counsel, one cannot contract the services of a lawyer whereby the lawyer sits somewhere whilst the client is grilled at a different place.

“What is the essence of telling a person that the person has the right to a lawyer of his choice if the lawyer cannot be with him?” he asked.

However, according to Kofi Abotsi, a law lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the law is not binding on the BNI to admit lawyers when an invitee is being interrogated.

Mr Abotsi further explained that it is within the right of a person to turn down a BNI invitation. At this point, he said, the BNI would have to arrest the person who would then be entitled to a lawyer to avoid giving out self-incriminatory statements.

“If you are only invited and you go, then at that point you are really not protected by the constitution, so to speak, because the constitution deals with the point of arrest. If you have been arrested and you are facing a criminal charge or trial then you have the right to a counsel and therefore at that point it is no more a discretionary matter.”

Play the attached audio for excerpt of the interviews

Story by Isaac Essel/Myjoyonline.com/Ghana

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