Read the Crime section of any of the local UAE newspapers, and you are bound to come across this sentence in nearly every story: "Police say the suspect has confessed." We estimate that perhaps 90-95% of all convictions in the UAE are based on confessions. Either there is something unique about the Emirates which causes every criminal o have spontaneous attacks of conscience at the moment of their arrest, or there is something more ominous going on here.
Over the years, we have been told repeatedly that our clients have already spoken to the police, provided a signed statement or even confessed to a crime (often that they are completely innocent of). It is quite standard for suspects to sign a statement in Arabic, even if they have not been provided with an English version and where they are unable to verify the content of what they have signed. It is not unheard of, in fact, for suspects to sign bank papers upon which "confessions" are later written. Usually, suspects sign such statements on (often false) promises of instant release or as a result of threats, intimidation or duress. The feeling of helplessness and vulnerability is overwhelming and the police often pretend to be supportive or helpful of the suspect, to elicit a confession or statement.
It is difficult to imagine for those who have not endured the experience, how hard it is to maintain a strong stance to police questioning, particularly when you are ignorant of your rights under an unfamiliar legal system. We have been conditioned by popular sayings such as “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” or “only guilty people need a lawyer”. It is this conditioning that can lead to innocent suspects being prosecuted. There is a sense of desperation and hope. There is an innate survival instinct which leads people to hope that if they cooperate, their captors will spare them. Sometimes, the promise of bail is enough to coerce someone to sign a statement in a foreign language, just so that they can achieve their instant freedom. They believe that once they are free and can hire a lawyer, he will be able to solve the problem. This short term desperate thinking can lead to prosecution and imprisonment. One might think that they would respond differently if they were in such a situation but more often than not, suspects succumb to pressure.
Law enforcers are well aware of human psychology in these situations and use it to achieve their objective… a conviction. Signing a confession in the UAE will not secure your freedom, it is more likely, indeed, to seal your fate. Obtaining a confession negates the need for any further investigation by the police, and the Public Prosecution is relieved of the task of proving guilt. If you sign a confession, you are essentially issuing your own guilty verdict against yourself.
We suggest that in the event that you are arrested by the police, you only request information from the Police, such as the charges for with you are being held and whether you can be bailed. Then request that you are able to make contact with a legal representative and your embassy. If the police want to ask you a “a few questions” first, request that your representative be in attendance. Naturally, this will make the police more determined to discourage you and they will increase their promises, advising you that this will mean you have to stay longer. However, there are many reasons not to speak with the police…
Talking to the Police can not help you. If you have been arrested, you are suspected of a crime and they are only interested at that point in establishing sufficient evidence to detain and prosecute you. They want to talk to you so that they can either obtain a confession or further evidence against you. They are not there to help you. They are there to convict you.
Admitting guilt to the police will not help your case either. Your sentencing at Trial will not be determined by whether or not you have been cooperative with police.
Even if you are innocent, it is easy to mistakenly report an element of events which can lead to further suspicion and damage your credibility.
Even if you are innocent and honest, you may in error provide the police with information that could be used against you or raise their suspicion further, such as admitting that you did not like the man whose assault you are suspected of.
It is difficult to tell the same story twice in exactly the same way. This can enhance suspicion.
It is also easy to add detail to a statement that you may have overheard from the police themselves in the reception area. The Police may think that you could only know that if you had committed the crime yourself.
Even if you want to confess to a crime, you may be given an increased sentence if you provide additional detail that was not required.
Police do not have authority to "cut deals" for confessions and no one should ever be asked to sign a statement in a language that they do not understand. Statements should always be signed in the suspects native language and then legally translated into the locally required language.
While it may be tempting to think that you can talk your way out of a situation (and the police will certainly encourage you to think that way), this short term attitude can result in serious ramifications.