Police/defence solicitor conflict of interest?

In the BBC police series Cuffs, one of the characters is a police constable who is in a relationship with a defence solicitor. (Both are male - this is not relevant, but just to avoid confusion over pronouns below.)

A recent plot point had the solicitor defending a suspect who had been arrested by the police constable. My question - would such a situation be allowed to happen in real life? It seems incredible that it could. I would have thought that there would be rules in place to prevent such a conflict of interest. FWIW the relationship was common knowledge among the staff at the police station.

Don’t know anything specifically about code of ethics for English solicitors, but it wouldn’t fly in Canada.

Nothing wrong with the police officer doing the initial interview, unless he knew that the detainee was already a client of his partner, but it’s not common for most people already to have a lawyer when they’re first picked up, so that’s my assumption. If so, no reason for the officer not to do the interview.

Different for the solicitor. As soon as he realised his partner did the interview, he’s off the case. The lawyer owes a duty of undivided loyalty to the client. That duty is compromised if the lawyer is closely connected to a key witness.

Most cop/lawyer shows ignore conflicts of interest because they want the emotional and ethical issues raised by the conflict to drive the plot. That’s exactly why codes of conduct forbid acting when in a conflict - those emotional and ethical issues can undercut the lawyer’s foremost duty to the client.

ETA: just realised I’d misread the OP - thought the officer did the interview, not the arrest. Even so, same principle applies. An issue could come up about what the officer saw, why he arrested, and so on. There’s always the potential the accused has a different story about the arrest, and therefore the solicitor shouldn’t act.

Depends. If it was a Duty Solicitor at the station, and a simple arresting officer, then no, not a problem unless the interview is being conducted by the same officer.

If the Solicitor is the one who is instructing Counsel, then yes, its a major issue.

BTW, this is only true for Solicitors, a Barrister would have different rules.

Let’s make it more interesting with some more TV-style facts. Suppose the initial arrest was by a different policeman – not the one in a relationship with the defense lawyer. The lawyer comes in and gets the charge thrown out based on violations of the Fourth Amendment (or your local equivalent), and it becomes a public embarrassment for the police. To save the case, the police captain redoubles the investigation, to look for new and untainted evidence.

Now the key fact: Out of spite, the police captain adds the officer who has the relationship with the lawyer to the investigative team, with the deliberate goal of forcing the defense lawyer who embarrassed him off the case.

Now what does the defense lawyer do? The relationship-based conflict is still just as present, but if he withdraws from the representation, he has acquiesced in a knowing scheme by the government to deny his client his choice of counsel.

By the way, wasn’t this also the situation on Hill Street Blues? I seem to recall that the police captain was dating a public defender.

The client can’t waive conflict of interest?

Clients normally can waive conflicts, yes. However, a lawyer is also bound by their code of conduct, enforced by the law society. One of those principles is that the lawyer owes a professional duty of loyalty to the client.

I would think that if a lawyer were in the position of having to act for a client when the lawyer’s significant other is a witness against the client, that is an irreconcilable conflict of loyalties that cannot be solved by a waiver from the client. (Just my personal opinion; I’ve not actually seen a case like this in real life.)

That engages the police officer’s code of conduct. He should immediately declare a conflict and withdraw. If the defeat or inspector tries to insist, the office should ask that it be referred to the Police Commission (or equivalent) for a review.

I can’t see any reason why a police commission would uphold the sergeant or inspector in this. First, it’s a breach of professional conflict of interest rules. Second, it could jeopardise the investigation, because the lawyer may then apply to court to have the proceedings stayed, on the basis that the investigation is not impartial.

(Again, I’m speculating here, because I’ve never heard of a case like this in real life.)

Yes, Frank Furillo was dating Joyce Davenport. I recall one episode where Furillo et al pulled a spectacularly dirty stunt to get a punk of confess in court, who was being defended by Davenport. The episode ends with Davenport not wanting to spend the night with Furillo that night.

There was an episode of Star Trek TOS (“Court Martial”) where Kirk gets court-martialed on some variety of homicide charge, and the Star Fleet prosecutor turns out to be an old flame of his. She takes her job seriously, pursuing the case against Kirk zealously – but also tells him ahead of time privately what her strategy will be, and recommends a defense lawyer.

I am not sure if it would be an advantage or a disadvantage if the prosecuting police officer was sleeping with my defense lawyer. My gut says that pillow talk is likely to be beneficial for me rather than for the prosecution.

But it’s more than just the impact on the accused. This situation also affects the reputation of the administration of justice. One doesn’t want the public to conclude that the outcome of the case is decided by the officer and the solicitor sleeping together.