Is a lawyer in the United Kingdom obliged by law to inform the court or the police if his or her client confesses to a crime he or she has committed? I looked everywhere, can't find this answer.

1 Answer 1


Assuming that privilege applies, no

Not all communications with your lawyer trigger privilege and if it doesn’t then the lawyer is not your lawyer and is under the same obligation to report as any other member of the public.

If privilege does apply then they must keep your secrets.

If they are defending you and you confess to the crime then they can:

  • represent you if you plead guilty
  • withdraw unless that would prejudice your defence
  • continue to act providing that they do not:
    • suggest someone else committed the offence
    • set up a defence inconsistent with the confession
    • they can: argue the prosecution has not made their case, that you are not guilty of the offence charged by reason of law, or argue for any other (non prohibited) reason that you should not be convicted.
  • It is worth noting that in the U.K., as in most places, most people represented by lawyers in criminal case are guilty of something that is a crime, and everybody involved knows it. A truly innocent client is the exception to the rule and honestly a bit of a pain in the butt since it narrows the range of acceptable outcomes. This doesn't mean, however, that there isn't room for interpretation about the relevant charge, that their isn't cause to argue for leniency, and that there isn't a sentencing case to be made. Defense attorneys also provide an incentive for the Crown to do its job right.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 9, 2019 at 17:31
  • If there's a plea of not guilty, in England in particular, you are very limited in cross-examination. You cannot suggest to a prosecution witness something you know not to be true. You really also can't allow your client to give evidence. All this is part of the general rule that counsel may not mislead the court. So any defence would be very limited in nature. May 13, 2019 at 22:45

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