Fly on the wall documentaries are increasingly popular, particularly when they show the workings of the criminal justice system. Such programs may, particularly when they rely on interviews with the police, present a no comment interview as harmful to a suspects case.
While there may be instances where a person is not helped by failing to give an account, there are many occasions when there is substantial benefit to a no comment interview.
Exercising your right to silence
Choosing not to answer questions is your legal right. The reasons for refusing to answer questions my be complex. You would certainly be best advised to seek expert legal advice before doing so.
Rob was instructed to attend for a voluntary interview. His client was being investigated as an allegation had been made that he assaulted a neighbour. The neighbour was said to have stepped onto his land to remonstrate with a third party who was driving a tractor.
The allegation was that Rob’s client had then shoved the neighbour.
Upon taking his client’s instructions, he confirmed that he had been present and approached the complaint. He accepted putting himself between the complainant and the driver. This was to highlight to the neighbour that he was putting himself in a dangerous position bearing in mind the type of vehicle.
Our client denied touching the complainant at all.
Rob assessed the police evidence as being weak. Without any form of admission it seemed unlikely that it would proceed to court. In order to remove any risk that his client would go beyond his instructions when interviewed, Rob advised his client to use a prepared statement and then conduct a no comment interview.
Rob’s assessment of the case was correct because after the interview took place the police confirmed that no further action would be taken.
No comment interview where no complaint made
On this occasion following a client’s arrest, Rob was instructed to advise a suspect who had been arrested of assault and criminal damage within a domestic setting.
Before interview, Rob discovered that the police had no statement of complainant from the only witness who could support a prosecution. There was no other admissable or independent evidence.
Based on his assessment of the evidence, Rob advised his client that he ought to exercise his right to silence in interview. As a result, he made no comment replies to questions.
As no one was accusing his client of wrong doing there was no need to answer questions. Again, Rob’s client was released without any charges from the police.
Instruct a criminal law specialist to advise on a no comment interview.
These are just two examples of how instructing us at the point of police interview can benefit you and ensure that we protect your interests.
How many times have you said something like ‘I’m going to kill you’? Most of the time this will simply be something said in the heat of the moment rather than genuine threats to kill.
If, however, you make such a threat and intend that another would fear it would be carried out then you will be committing an offence of making threats to kill.
The offence is under section 16 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Even though the legislation is very old it is still a commonly used charge. The key part of the offence is that a person intend another to fear that the threat would be carried out.
Is there a defence to threats to kill?
If you make the threat in self-defence or in the prevention of crime you may have a defence of lawful excuse. Whether any threat made was reasonable in the circumstances will be a matter for the magistrates or jury.
Equally, a comment made in temper or jest, with no intent to make anyone fear it would be carried out, would not be an offence.
Evidence of previous history between the parties is admissible as tending to prove that the defendant intended his words to be taken seriously (Williams (C.I.), 84 Cr.App.R. 299, CA.)
What if the threats to kill are made to someone else?
You do not have to make the threat directly to the person, it may be through a third party.
For example, a man in prison made threats to a prison officer that he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend, he was convicted and received five years imprisonment. The threats were taken especially seriously as he had a previous conviction for the manslaughter of his wife.
What sentence can I expect?
The offence can encompass a wide range of offending so in sentencing the court will look at a variety of factors. These can include the following examples:
was there a weapon?
was it a threat in the heat of the moment?
the impact on the victim
repeated threats or a single calculated threat?
An example is a case involving threats to kill made to an arresting officer. The offender knew detail about the officer’s home life which added weight to the threats. As a result he was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.
When a weapon is present when threats are being made the offence is much more serious. An offender who threatened his former partner with a sword received five years imprisonment.
Sentences imposed can range from a community order for an offence that constitutes one threat made in the heat of the moment, through to imprisonment up to a maximum of 10 years for repeated threats or the presence of a weapon.
How can we help defend in a case of threats to kill?
As you can see, making threats to kill is a serious allegations and the law relating to defences can be complex.
As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.
Despite all of the warnings, and many reasons not to, some people end up enticed into the world of so-called ‘recreational drugs’.
There are a great many substances that might properly be categorised as ‘recreational drugs’. Popular substances include cannabis and cocaine. First use often occurs at a party. Normal inhibitions may have been diminished by alcohol or the sheer fun of the occasion. Despite the apparent short-term joys that might flow from the use of a drug, the harsh reality will be felt for some for a long time after that.
This is the darker side of drug use, as seen through the eyes of the criminal justice system. It is told through a series of case studies.
Sara’s drug driving conviction
‘Sara saw no harm in smoking a few joints of cannabis. If anything, she felt better than she had for a long time. She was never stupid enough to drink drive, but did not realise just how long cannabis would remain in her system.
But for the faulty brake light the police officer would not have pulled her over the next morning, would not have asked for a roadside drugs test, would not have arrested her and kept her in a cell for 5 hours and would not have charged her with drug driving and had her produced before a court.
But for her ignorance of the effect of drugs, she would not have been disqualified from driving for 18 months and would not have lost her job.’
Daniel’s caution for possession of ecstasy
‘If Daniel hadn’t been spotted by club security, nobody would have been any the wiser, but he was. The ejection from the club was not something that particularly bothered him, and receiving a police caution seemed like a slap on the wrist, of little consequence.
In the morning Daniel returned to his job, and normality resumed, until late Summer when taking the family to the United States for a well-earned summer holiday.
Little did he know that one simple caution for a drugs offence could have led to him being refused entry to the US and placed on the next flight home. Daniel hadn’t mentioned the nightclub incident to his family. Until now.’
Rachel’s caution for possession of cocaine
‘8 A* at GCSE, 3 A* at A Level, a first-class degree in medicine. Life was good for Rachel until she accepted a caution for possessing a tiny amount of cocaine. Rachel will never forget the arrest and police caution, not just because of how frightening and embarrassing the experience was, but because on each medical job application she completes, throughout her entire career, she will have to disclose it.’
How We Can Assist if you are arrested for recreational drugs
Regrettably, for us, stories like those of Sara, Daniel and Rachel are familiar.
If you are arrested for any offence please seek legal advice before being interviewed by the police. Minor drug offences are often dealt with by way of police caution, and it is tempting to try and get the process over with as quickly as possible.
In reality, however, despite what you may be told or think, asking for a solicitor not only costs nothing (as you qualify for legal aid) but does not delay your release from custody.
In many instances, it speeds up your release. It also means that we can advise on the best long-term options for you.
We all make mistakes, but often the biggest mistake is not taking legal advice.
Contact your nearest office for emergency legal advice
Our advice and representation in police interview if you are spoken to about recreational drugs will be free of charge. All of our office numbers are answered 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The advice will be free whether you are interviewed while under arrest or as a volunteer. You can find more about the benefit of legal advice generally here.
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.
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.
Alternatively you can use the contact form below and we will then make contact with you.
This is the response of VHS Fletchers to the consultation paper released by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) following the notification on 25 October 2017 of the closure of Newark custody suite with effect from 6 November 2017.
All Newark arrests from that date will be taken to and processed at Mansfield Custody Suite. The residents of Newark have already lost one public resource, that being the ability of the police station to process prisoners. There is a very real risk that they will lose another – detainees receiving advice from solicitors local to Newark.
The consultation document invites responses to three alternative revisions to the Newark and Mansfield Police Station Duty Solicitor Schemes. Only one of those appears to put the needs of those from Newark who are arrested first.
Since the consultation document was published there have been two important indications from the police which impact upon the proposals:
Cases that are identified as Newark cases will continue to be charged and either bailed or held to appear at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court rather than Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.
The police will continue to contact the Newark Duty Solicitor Scheme in cases which are identified as “Newark arrests” and will ensure that the Duty Solicitor Call Centre (“DSCC”) is informed in all cases where the detainee was arrested for an offence committed in Newark.
It follows from these indications that Mansfield custody suite is able to and intends to identify cases that have historically been dealt with at Newark police station. As a result, they should be able to direct those who seek the advice of a duty solicitor to a firm local to Newark.
The proposed options for changes to the scheme can be summarised as follows:
That the Newark Police Station Duty Scheme is merged with the Mansfield Police Station Duty Scheme with effect from 1 January 2018 with members of an extended Mansfield scheme covering both Mansfield and Newark police stations.
That the Newark Police Station Scheme is retained as a separate scheme and Duty Solicitors on the Newark rota will be directed by the DSCC to attend at Mansfield police station.
Newark Police Station Scheme retained as a separate scheme and firms post 1 January 2018 can elect to join either the Mansfield police station duty rota or standalone Newark scheme (if retained under option 2)
The LAA have helpfully indicated that they prefer option 1. The reason given is that options 2 and 3 are reliant upon the police being able to identify to the DSCC “Newark cases”. A more cynical view might be that the LAA and DSCC would have one less scheme to administer under option 1, resulting in an inevitable reduction in administration costs.
Fortunately, since the consultation document was published, the police have set out their intention to continue to identify Newark cases at the point of arrest and charge.
As a result, there appears to be no requirement for option 1 to be adopted unless there are ulterior motives on behalf of the LAA.
VHS Fletchers supports Option 2 for the following reasons:
This firm’s investment in Newark
When new legal aid contracts were to be awarded this firm chose to apply for a contract for a new Newark office. The closure of Newark custody suite was not anticipated. The office is staffed with two crime solicitors local to Newark – Ian Carter and Barbara McDonnell. We have since recruited a further Newark based lawyer – Legal Executive Advocate Nikki Carlisle – signalling a clear indication to continue to develop our business there.
Of course, we are in business. The rationale behind the investment that we make in training and recruitment of duty solicitors is that they provide access to new work through the duty solicitor rotas. Option 3 supports those firms who, like us, have chosen to locate their offices in Newark in order to provide legal aid services to that particular community.
Newark deserves its own duty solicitor rota
Newark-on-Trent is the largest urban area within the Newark and Sherwood District. It has a population of just over 37 000 residents. Of the three firms in Newark that currently undertaking criminal Legal Aid work, only our firm has office both in Mansfield and Newark.
Should Option 1 be adopted, Newark residents who are detained at Mansfield police station may very well be represented by a duty solicitor from a firm who only has an office in Mansfield. It is understandable that suspects will usually choose to have continuity of representation. This might be either whilst they remain on police bail, under investigation or following charge when the matter appears at court.
Prohibitive journey times
However, in seeking continuity, such clients would face a journey of 20 miles simply to see their solicitor to give instructions and take advice. By car that journey takes between 40 and 50 minutes. By public transport this time rises to 1 hour and 30 minutes for a single journey.
The same situation will of course arise in relation to residents of Mansfield who are represented by a duty solicitor who only has an office in Newark. It is true that many of those that require the services of criminal legal aid solicitors are vulnerable themselves and on a low income that would make such a journey very difficult.
It is our view that it is both unreasonable and unconscionable to expect those being investigated for criminal offences to have a return journey of three hours simply to see their solicitor. This stress and expense would be imposed on top of the emotional burden that the investigation of proceedings impose on any individual.
Local legal aid solicitors should be supported
Option 2 supports those criminal legal aid firms who have chosen to locate their offices in Newark. This is in order to provide legal aid services to that community. It would mean that the arrangements within Option 2 could commence immediately following the closure of the Newark Custody Suite. Newark based firms would not have to suffer the inevitable financial hardship of not having access to Duty Solicitor work for a period of two months.
Such a decision would be seen as supportive of a legal aid provider base that it is acknowledged is financially fragile.
Perverse consequences of merging two duty schemes
The perverse consequences of Option 1 would be to permit automatic access to Newark residents requesting the duty solicitor to firms solely based in Mansfield. Access to such Mansfield residents would be granted to firms solely based in Newark.
Whilst some firms may see there is a financial advantage in having a place on a merged duty scheme following the closure of Newark custody suite, this would be to ignore the needs of local Newark residents. Financial advantage should never be allowed to outweigh the impact on those we represent and assist who are often ill-equipped to represent themselves.
On this basis, Options 2 and 3 would be unattractive and unacceptable to clients where the duty solicitor may or may not be based geographically convenient to them.
An increase in LAA costs?
The LAA will have to budget for increased travel claims from Newark firms to Mansfield custody suite following the closure of Newark custody suite. An additional consequence is likely to be that the LAA has to fund more instances of advice and assistance in the police station. It seems likely that clients, once they discover where their duty solicitor is based, will want to transfer to a local firm. Where the duty solicitor has been instructed a second fee may be properly claimable by the second local firm nearer to a suspects home address
Clients to choose for themselves
Following the closure of Newark custody suite, if clients wish to choose a geographically distant firm then that must be a matter for them. To have a geographically distant firm inflicted upon them is a separate matter that should be avoided where possible. The risk of a reduction in access to justice must be apparent to all who consider the issue. The problem would be avoided by the adoption of Option 2.
Instruct a Newark crime solicitor
Despite the closure of Newark custody suite, the best way to ensure that you instruct a solicitor local to you if you are a Newark resident is to make sure you ask for VHS Fletchers if you are arrested and detained by the police. We offer free and independent legal advice on 01636 614013, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
If you know the police want to speak to you, contact us and we will be able to make the necessary arrangements for you to be interviewed.
Should you face proceedings at either the Magistrates’ or Crown Court then we will see you at our Newark office to take your instructions and give you expert advice.
Please use the contact form below if you wish to email your enquiry.
Every graduate remembers Freshers week well! It is your first real taste of total freedom from your parents. You have money, friends to make and a desire to prove your drinking prowess in the form of a variety of crazy drinking games just to get accepted into the rugby, rowing or hockey club.
Ten pints in and it is suddenly fun to lie in the road, rugby tackle a few passers-by for a laugh or run naked down the street.
The problem is that whilst you are out, carelessly stumbling around, CCTV cameras in city centres are watching your every move.
Arrested during Freshers Week?
Sadly, year after year, we represent students arrested, especially during Freshers week, for offences such as assault, criminal damage or causing harassment, alarm or distress in a public place, as well as possession of an illegal drug.
It is unlikely that most first offences will result in a prison sentence. The consequences, however, of the conviction on your future career may be great. It may even affect your ability to continue with your degree where the university instigate disciplinary proceedings.
This will be more likely when you are studying a vocational degree where as part of your learning, you have contact with the public. We have represented students studying medicine or nursing degrees, where their criminal conviction has brought them before the Fitness to Practice Panel of their regulatory body.
Free and independent legal advice
If you are unfortunate enough to get arrested during your degree, remember that everyone, regardless of their financial means, is entitled to free legal representation at the police station. The cost of this advice will be paid for by legal aid. This service can be accessed 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
If you are under investigation for a criminal offence or recently convicted AND your university is looking to bring proceedings against you, it is always worth contacting a solicitor to know and understand your rights and how best to proceed.
Contact a criminal law specialist
A specialist lawyer can be contacted through any of our office numbers at any time of the day or night to provide you with free and independent legal advice at the police station.
People being spoken to by the police for the first time might not think that they need a lawyer. Speaking without one would be a mistake.