A witness counsel is a criminal defense lawyer that provides legal assistance to witnesses. According to the jurisdiction of the German Constitutional Court (BVerfG) each witness has the right to mandate a lawyer as witness assistance who advises him/her during the interrogation in front of the police, the public prosecutor’s office, a court, or even a parliamentary committee of inquiry. This right is expressed in Section 68b of the German Criminal Procedural Code (StPO).
This right is important because the situation the witness is exposed to in an interrogation may lead in critical constellations to the prosecution of the witness himself and, therefore, brings him in a similar situation as the accused is in. As witnesses are regularly closely connected with the subject-matter of the risk of incriminating themselves in the interrogation adequately without a qualified legal help by a defence lawyer as a witness counsel (BVerfG. v. 10.03.2010 – 2 BvR 941/09). The law, in general, does not grant the right to refuse to give testimony comprehensively, but only to refuse the answers to such questions, which might put the witness himself/herself or one of his/her relatives at the risk of prosecution (Section 55 StPO).
Without qualified legal help most of the witnesses cannot evaluate what kind of answers could lead to an incrimination of themselves or others and if the right to refuse to give evidence applies to them or not. As a specialized lawyer and witness counsel Juergen Klengel offers comprehensive advice in these situations and assists witnesses before and during interrogations avoiding any risks deriving from the testimony given.