Police Voluntary Interviews – Protect Yourself
19 February 2019
As the result of a change in the regulations relating to police bail in April 2017, the Police are now choosing to invite a large number of suspects in an investigation to attend what is called a ‘voluntary interview’ or what the police call a ‘caution plus 3’ interview. This negates the need for a formal arrest as a mutually suitable date and time is offered to the interviewee who is provided with exactly the same legal rights as an arrested person.
This process is hugely advantageous to both the police and suspect as it avoids detention in a police cell and there is generally very little waiting time at the police station as the interview is scheduled.
The difference is that the voluntary attendee is informed that he/she can leave at any time, although this may leave them liable to arrest at a later date if the police have sufficient grounds. Given this more relaxed arrangement, a person invited for an interview can sometimes feel less inclined to ask for a solicitor, whether it be the duty solicitor or a solicitor of choice.
The consequences of being interviewed by police without an experienced criminal solicitor can be dire. For example, many suspects have no concept of the consequence of an interview regarding an incident they might consider was nothing more than horseplay. Take the man whose former partner complained to police that he had touched her fleetingly on the bottom (6 months before she made the complaint) whilst they were attending an event together. Police invited this ‘suspect’ for a voluntary interview. He considered there was no need for legal representation as he had done nothing wrong. He was quizzed about the touch extensively and during questioning, the interviewing officer wrongly summarised what he had actually said in interview as being an admission.
He then found himself being offered a police caution for Sexual Assault, which, he was told if he refused, would lead to a criminal prosecution. A man of previous good character with a record for sexual assault not to mention a requirement to sign the Sex Offenders Register would be catastrophic for him, and his career. He had in fact denied the touching alleged vehemently throughout the interview.
A review by myself of his interview disc revealed that no admission had been made whatsoever and that the interviewing officer must have told his supervising officer that it had, in order for him to be offered a caution.
A caution cannot be offered without a clear admission to the allegation. This client had the foresight to instruct a solicitor post interview to seek advice on how he should proceed. He has been strongly advised not to accept a caution. Extensive representations were made to the Police regarding the lack of evidential and public interest criteria in this case to support a prosecution and we have asked for an investigation into why the interviewing officer misreported the content of the interview to his supervising officer.
The lesson here is always protect yourself by engaging not just a solicitor, but a pro active one, if you face a voluntary interview. However confident you are that you can manage without one, words can be twisted, and pressure can cause difficulties in articulation.
Our job is to protect you. Let us do that.