If a police officer contacts you and asks you to attend the police station as a volunteer, it can be very unsettling. You may have some idea what it is about. You may have none.
This is a short guide about what to do if it happens to you.
More and more frequently, police officers are asking suspects to voluntarily attend the police station for an interview under caution (also called ‘Caution plus 3’ / ‘Caution + 3’ interviews by the police). On the face of it; this is a win/win situation for both sides. The suspect is not arrested or kept in custody, while the police are able to complete their interview and make progress with their investigation.
1) You may receive a telephone call, letter, or simply a card through the door inviting you to make contact and arrange a convenient time to go to the police station. If this happens to you, always try to make a note of the police officer’s name, station, shoulder or warrant number, or telephone number. Trying to track down an officer simply by their surname can be extremely difficult!
2) It is highly recommended that at this point you contact a solicitor immediately. The solicitor will take the officer’s details from you and liaise with the police on your behalf. They will help you to arrange a time and date for interview which is convenient for you.
3) Remember that everybody who is interviewed by the police under caution is entitled to free and independent legal advice. It is your right. You should use it! Instructing a solicitor does not mean that you have anything to hide. It does not make you look suspicious. It is the obvious choice to make in the circumstances and it can only improve your situation. You will never be criticised for seeking legal advice.
4) Once a date and time is agreed, your solicitor will speak to the police and gather a little more information about the allegation. This is called ‘disclosure’. The police should give your solicitor enough information for you to understand what it is said you have done, as well as an idea of the evidence for or against you. In most cases, police officers will not give disclosure until the day of interview itself, however they will sometimes provide it in advance.
5) You will have a private and confidential consultation with your solicitor prior to your interview. Your solicitor will explain their role to you. They will take you through the disclosure and take a note of your version of events. They will then advise you on the law, the meaning of the police caution, and on your options.
These interviews are often called ‘Caution + 3’ interviews by the police. That is because at the beginning of the interview the officer will read you the caution and remind you 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 says “you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
The police caution is a warning. Remember that this interview is not a friendly chat. You are being interviewed as a suspect in a crime. In plain English, what it means is that you have a right to silence. It is up to you if you answer their questions or not. However if the 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. Anything that you do say to the police is recorded and will be used as evidence.
6) 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 give you advice.
After the interview, you will be free to leave. You will be told one of four things:
- 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 a good solicitor.
If you would like advice or representation for a criminal matter please contact one of our specialist criminal solicitors who will be able to assist. You can contact them on 0808 252 5231 or request a call back online.