If you are contacted by the police to attend the police station for a voluntary interview, it can be very unsettling. The police may only provide you with very limited, if any, information on what they would like to interview you about.
This is a short blog explaining the steps you should take if you are contacted by the police regarding a voluntary interview. The police may also refer to the interview as an “interview under caution” or a “caution plus 3 interview” – there is no difference.
On the face of it, a voluntary interview is a win/win situation for both sides. The suspect avoids being arrested or kept in custody and is able to attend the police station at a convenient time. This in turn also allows the police to speed up the progress in their investigation.
- You are likely to receive a phone call, letter, or simply a card through the door inviting you to make contact with the police to arrange a convenient time to attend the police station. It is important to note the police officer’s name, station, shoulder/warrant number and email address or phone number. It can be extremely difficult to track down the officer using just their surname.
- It is highly recommended at this point that you contact a solicitor immediately. The solicitor will be able to liaise with the police on your behalf to schedule the interview at a convenient date and time for you. Everybody who is interviewed under caution by the police is entitled to free and independent legal advice. It is your right and you should use it. Instructing a solicitor does not indicate that you have something to hide, nor does it make you look suspicious to the police. In these circumstances, it can only improve your situation and you will never be criticised for seeking legal advice.
- Once an interview has been scheduled, your solicitor will obtain ‘disclosure’ from the police. This means that the police should disclose information that they have about the allegation and it must be enough information for you to understand what you are alleged to have done. You may also be given an idea of the sort of evidence the police may have obtained against you. In most cases, police officers may not give disclosure until the day of the interview itself, though some may be willing to provide it in advance.
- Once disclosure is obtained, you will have a private and confidential consultation with your solicitor prior to the interview. The solicitor will explain their role to you and take you through the disclosure. You will then be invited to explain your version of events during this private consultation. Following this, you will then be advised on the law, the meaning of the police caution, and your options for the interview.
Before the interview, you will be reminded by the police of three important things:
- You have the right to free and independent legal advice.
- You are not under arrest.
- You may leave at any time.
The police caution which will be read out to you before your interview (this is why these interviews are sometimes called “Caution plus 3” interviews). The caution states “You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
The police caution is a warning and reminds you that you are being interviewed as a suspect in a criminal offence. importantly, it reminds you that you have a right to silence. It is up to you if you answer their questions or not. However if your matter proceeds to court, and you give an account at court which you did not give to the police in interview, the court may be less likely to believe what you have to say (this is called an ‘adverse inference’). Anything that you do say to the police is recorded on a CD and will be used as evidence.
Whether or not it is in your interests to answer the police questions or exercise your right to silence will depend on your individual case. You will have as long as you need with your solicitor prior to the interview to discuss this, and your solicitor will advise you on what they believe your best option is.
Voluntary police interview outcomes
After the interview, you will be free to leave. You will then be updated at a later stage as to the outcome of your matter which may be:
- You will face no further action and that is the end of the matter.
- You are to be offered an ‘out of court disposal’, for example a caution or community resolution.
- The investigation is continuing. Your solicitor will take the officer’s details and continue to chase them for updates on your behalf.
- You are going to be charged by postal requisition and will receive a court date in the post.
Having a solicitor with you in your interview can make all the difference – it is free and it is your right. If you are contacted by the police your first call should be to an experienced criminal solicitor.