The police want to speak to you – what is a voluntary interview?
Why are there more voluntary interviews by the police?
Over a number of years changes were made to the way police conducted interviews with suspects. Proper safeguards were brought in to ensure that investigations were conducted fairly, particularly in regard to the recording of the questioning of suspects including their access to free and independent solicitors. This was a direct reaction to ‘confession’ evidence being obtained in far from satisfactory circumstances leading to miscarriages of justice.
Legal safeguards too expensive?
Unfortunately, all of those safeguards cost money. As a result, although there remains the right to speak to a solicitor and receive advice during interview, in many cases the police now create an atmosphere where if a suspect insists on their right to legal representation they are made to feel that the case will be treated more seriously, or that they will have to be arrested and taken into police custody, or that access to a solicitor will cause significant and inconvenient delays.
As a result, although the police will always offer a solicitor prior to a voluntary interview, the general tone is of the suspect not doing themselves any favours by requesting one.
If I’ve not been arrested are the police treating the allegation seriously?
There might be the expectation that the police ought to arrest those suspected of a criminal offence and take them to the police station to be interviewed. This will have the natural effect of concentrating a suspect’s mind on the gravity of his situation and will lead to serious consideration as to having a lawyer represent them in interview.
Unfortunately the ‘softly softly’ approach recently adopted by the police might avoid a person having the same set of worries. A request by a police officer for a ‘quick chat’, either at your home address, a room at the police station, or another place such as the rear of a police car, is because the officer is investigating you for an offence.
The police have reason to believe that you have committed an offence. They are investigating this allegation.
Why is a voluntary interview important?
What you say in a voluntary interview has the same weight as if you had been arrested an interviewed at a police station. It remains an interview under caution.
As a result, what a person does or doesn’t say might have the following effects:
- lead to a conviction where there is no evidence other than an admission
- result in a charge to court rather than an out of court disposal such as restorative justice
- the police may issue an unwarranted caution where a person has not given clear denials
- give an accused problems at trial before either the Magistrates’ or Crown Courts
The gravity of the situation is best shown by the fact that the police routinely deal with such serious matters as robbery, drug supply and serious sexual offences by way of voluntary interviews.
Whether you are interviewed while under arrest at a police station or as a volunteer in your front room this will not influence the decision as to whether you will end up in court. This will be influenced by the seriousness of the allegation and the strength of the evidence. This will include what you have said to the police in any voluntary interview.
Should I have a solicitor in police interview?
Perhaps a better question is why shouldn’t you have a solicitor in police interview? We have previously written on this subject here, but in summary you ought to seek legal advice for any of the following reasons:
- a legal aid solicitor will always be free
- it is your legal right to have a lawyer – use it!
- our lawyers are experts in the field of criminal law
- we are totally independent of the police
- only the police delay your release, not your solicitor
- a lawyer will give you time to think
- we can negotiate an outcome with the police
- the police are more likely to disclose the evidence they hold
- having a solicitor does not make you look guilty
Instruct a criminal defence specialist now for your police interview.
There is an element of truth in the police suggestion that having a solicitor will delay any voluntary interview. That is only true, however, if we are only called when the police are at your door or you have attended at the police station.
You are likely to know that you are to be interviewed under caution in advance. As soon as you find out, contact your nearest office to make the arrangement for one of our solicitors or accredited police station representatives to attend. We’ll need to know you details, where you are to be interviewed and when, and then we will make sure that we are there at the same time as the police.