HAVE YOU BEEN ARRESTED FOR THE FIRST TIME?
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE POLICE STATION:
If the Police knock at your door, or arrest you elsewhere, the shock of being interrogated can be very distressing.
What happens at the Police Station WILL determine what happens to your case.
You should always have a lawyer present with you for a Police Station Interview.
If you or a family member are due to go to the police station in London, Surrey or Kent, please call us on freephone 0800 69 69 99 or freecall mobile 0330 440 2345 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
INITIAL CONTACT BY POLICE:
The initial contact by the police maybe by phone, or a note left at your address asking you to contact a specific officer. They might explain the nature of their enquiry. You may already know the circumstance.
The officer may try to put you at ease by saying things like: 'I'm investigating an allegation and need to hear your side of it' They often discourage you from bringing a solicitor with you saying it will only delay things.
What they may not tell you is that you will be arrested as a result of this allegation.
Contact us straight away. We will find out what we can from the officer, particularly if you are to be arrested.
We maybe able to suggest to the officer that you are not arrested and that you be interviewed under what is called a 'caution plus 3' interview. Here you will only be arrested if during the interview you reveal a criminal offence has been committed.
The solution is to never discuss anything to do with an allegation directly with a police officer without first having a lawyer there. In most cases, a lawyer of your choice can be provided on a legally aided basis for free, and a police officer will never have reason to be surprised if they hear from your lawyer and not you at first.
Occasionally, officers have been known to say to suspects that waiting for a solicitor will take longer and if they want a matter dealt with then they can go ahead without one. In some cases, it has been heard that suspects are even told they do not need a lawyer. Under no circumstances should you not have a lawyer during a police station interview, even if you believe you have nothing to hide. The police may put themselves forward as being in a neutral fact finding role, but in the context of a police interview, this misrepresents the truth. In England and Wales, the criminal law is based on an adversarial system. That means that it is the police’s goal to get a suspect arrested, charged and convicted, and the defence lawyer’s job to prevent this. On top of this, the police often face intense pressure from the media and the government to improve arrest and conviction rates for every reported crime, and this can mean that the result they are forced to aim for is not necessarily the truth, but a criminal conviction.
THE INTERVIEW PROCESS:
The first stage is called DISCLOSURE. This is when information about the allegations is provided by the police to the solicitor, without the client present. There is no duty for the police to provide before or during the interview all the information in any witness statements they have taken. In fact, well trained officers will use this to their advantage, purposely withholding information to ambush the client with new evidence, either later during the recorded interview or afterwards in court. The solicitor will try to ask questions of the interviewing officer during disclosure, but will often only be able to get limited information. With this in mind, an attitude of caution should be present in the solicitor’s advice to the client about whether to make any comment in interview at all.
The second stage of the interview process consists of the solicitor and client being allowed time in a PRIVATE CONSULTATION room in the police station to discuss what the solicitor knows about the allegations and what the client’s answer to the allegations is. This conversation is confidential and does not need to be disclosed to the police. The solicitor cannot advise the client to put forward a false story in the recorded interview with officers, but can advise the client to make no comment, and this is often a good idea. It is during this stage that the solicitor and client will decide whether the client should answer questions during the interview, give a prepared written statement, or make no comment.
The INTERVIEW itself is TAPE RECORDED and takes place with one or two officers, the defence solicitor and the suspect present. First of all, the police should warn the suspect of the right to silence, and that the contents of the interview can be used against him or her as evidence in a criminal court. This introduction is called the CAUTION, and contains the following information:
'You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention now, something which you may later rely on at Court.
Anything you do say will be recorded, and may be used in evidence against you in Court'
This should be the third time you have heard this, initially when you were arrested, then when you appeared before the Custody officer when booking you in and now before the interview commences.
What does the CAUTION mean?
It is basically split into three parts.
The first bit is simple: BASICALLY you have a RIGHT OF SILENCE ie NO COMMENT. You are not obliged to incriminate yourself.
The second part creates an exception to the right of silence.
IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING THAT MAY HELP YOUR CASE, ie an explanation such as an alibi, YOU SHOULD SAY IT IN INTERVIEW. IF YOU DON'T AND LATER GIVE THIS EXPLANATION IN COURT, A JUDGE COULD INFER TO THE JURY THAT THIS EXPLANATION HAS JUST BEEN MADE UP AND LITTLE OR NO WEIGHT CAN ATTACHED TO THIS BIT OF EVIDENCE.
The last part is simple, if you do say something in interview, as it is being tape recorded, it can and will be given in evidence.
THREE INTERVIEW OPTIONS:
The first, and for serious offences usually the most sensible, is to make NO COMMENT.
There is a possibility that the defence case may be slightly damaged as a result of making no comment.
However, the danger of worse damage being done by answering questions in an interview is often much greater.
During interview, the client and solicitor do not usually know the full details of the allegations or the exact evidence in the case, so for the client to chain him or herself down to a story at this stage can be a very bad idea. Even if the client makes a mistake in the interview, this can look like a lie later on in court, and it was all because the client was caught off guard with a question he or she didn’t expect.
Forensic evidence in serious cases is not usually ready by the time of the interview. If a client makes a comment denying his or her presence at a scene and later in the case DNA evidence comes to light which proves that person was there, then that can seriously damage the client’s case. Even if there was another reason that the client lied earlier, a lie which has been exposed can be as damaging as a confession.
In many cases, the police do not even have enough evidence to charge a suspect before the interview, but the suspect fills in the missing pieces and allows the police to charge him or her just by confirming that he was at the scene of the alleged crime. In that situation, if the client simply answered ‘no comment’ to all questions, the case may not proceed for lack of evidence. It is this type of issue that make ‘no comment’ the advice most often given by good police station solicitors.
Giving a Prepared Statement?
This is an alternative to making no comment in which a client discloses his or her defence without risking being ambushed by a police officer who throws him or her off guard with an unexpected question. This can be useful depending on the circumstances. It is preferable to answering questions as they arise in open interview, but the police can still ambush the client later in the interview with evidence they have withheld which contradicts the client’s prepared statement. This means that a prepared statement can be some protection against surprise questions from a police officer, but it is by no means always a safe option.
Answering questions as the police officer puts them to you in interview should only be considered in very few circumstances. Where the allegation is very simple, and the client’s denial is clear and very obvious, this may be a good idea. But this should be approached with extreme caution, and is not usually a good idea for situations in which there is so much as a grain of truth to the allegations and the client is hoping to plead not guilty. By putting him or herself in the interview and allowing the police to control the situation by asking the questions they choose, the client is playing a dangerous game. The police are trained in interviewing suspects, and are often very skilled at making them make mistakes which convict them in court later.
Where the evidence is absolutely overwhelming, it is sometimes a good idea for the client to answer all questions and admit what has happened. Such occasions are rare, however, because they prevent the defence from seeing if they can negotiate later down the line in court. Even where the evidence is strong, if the prosecution does not have a confession from the client in their papers when the case reaches court, they may often be prepared to do a deal to reduce the charges or the seriousness of the allegations.
How long can I be held at a police station?
The maximum period of time that a suspect can be detained at the police station is 24 hours.
This period may be extended up to a total of 36 hours if an officer of the rank of superintendent or above authorises it.
In certain circumstances the magistrates court may extend the detention time for a total period of 96 hours.
These circumstances are:
* That the detention is necessary to secure or preserve evidence or to obtain evidence by questioning
* The person is under arrest for a serious arrestable offence (this may mean, for example, robbery or a serious assault)
* That the investigation is being conducted diligently and expeditiously.
At the end of the detention time the person in police detention must be charged or released.
There are three potential outcomes of an interview at the police station.
A person can be charged (this means the decision has been made to bring them to court) and either taken to a magistrates court the next morning or released on bail to attend the magistrates court by appointment, usually within a week.
A person can also be bailed to attend again at the police station at a later date. This means they have to come back to the police station to find out if they are going to be charged or not. This is usually called being 'bailed pending further enquiries' because in the meantime the police will make further inquiries, or will wait for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide if the person is going to be charged.
No Further Action means that the case is dropped, because the prosecution do not believe that there is a strong enough case to convict. This does not mean that a charge cannot be brought later if more evidence is discovered, but in most cases it is the end of the matter.