Criminal defence lawyer, David Wells explains why you should always have legal representation at a police interview under caution.
Police interview under caution
What does ‘interview under caution’ mean? Let’s first look at how you could come to be called for a police interview. A suspect who is alleged to have been involved in a criminal offence or series of offences will invariably face formal questioning by the police. There are various ways this can occur:
(i) Attendance at the police station as a voluntary attender for a voluntary interview (also referred to as ‘stand-alone’ interview or ‘caution plus 3’ interview).
It is now very common for the police to contact suspects and formally invite them to attend the police station for interview. Suspects are not under arrest and can decline if they wish, however, doing so is not advisable as it is likely to lead to formal arrest.
The police will invariably not provide an unrepresented suspect with very much information before interview and so it is important to contact a solicitor immediately so that contact can be made with the interviewing officer to find out why an interview is considered necessary. The police will often provide the solicitor with details about the alleged offence(s) before the interview itself, thereby providing an opportunity to discuss what may or may not have happened well before the interview takes place. Representation is free regardless of a suspect’s income or assets.
(ii) Interview under arrest during formal detention
Where a suspect is formally arrested, he or she will be taken to the police station and detained for questioning. Again, representation is free regardless of a suspect’s income or assets. A suspect in the police station can either choose their own lawyer or ask for a duty solicitor. If a duty solicitor is requested, the suspect can then instruct any lawyer of their choice after release to deal with the case thereafter.
Common to every interview – The ‘Police caution’
At the beginning of every interview the Police will give a suspect the formal police caution. It is a very important part of any interview and is often misunderstood and applied by the police, the courts and even some lawyers. The caution is as follows-
‘You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court, anything you do say may be given in evidence.’
What does the caution mean?
The police caution can be broken down in to three parts, the second of which being the most crucial.
- ‘You do not have to say anything… – It is the legal right of a suspect to refuse to answer any police questions. To many, this will sound strange but it is an important right. No one can be forced to incriminate themselves and so having the right to remain silent, or more commonly simply to answer ‘no comment’ to questions posed, is vital to any suspect. Whether or not to answer questions is often the most difficult issue for any lawyer to address and advise upon when assisting a client with an interview under caution. Whether or not to answer questions in interview will depend upon many factors and a suspect who is not represented may very well make the wrong decision and have to face consequences that they might not have had to face if they had the benefit of representation at the interview. This is why Wells Burcombe always advise any suspect invited to attend a police station for an interview under caution to ensure they are represented.
- …but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court – If a suspect chooses not to answer questions, or decides to answer some but not others, then it may harm a suspect’s case later, if charged and the offence or offences proceed to trial. This can be a complex issue to understand and address. There may be some perfectly proper cases where a suspect does not answer questions in interview and some cases where answering questions is really the only option. Precisely what option to take will depend on many factors too numerous to list within this short article. The danger, however, of simply saying nothing in interview is that if, at trial, a suspect then gives evidence and puts forward a defence then the court can draw an adverse inference that what is said at trial is less capable of belief because it wasn’t mentioned earlier. Again, whether the prosecution will be permitted to ask the court to draw an adverse inference will depend upon several factors too numerous to list here, but I hope anyone reading this article gets a flavour of how important it is to ensure that anyone attending for interview is represented.
- …anything you do say may be given in evidence. This simply means that the interview is recorded, visually and/or audibly, and the content of such recording can be used at a subsequent trial.
How much does a solicitor cost?
It is free to be represented at an interview under caution, regardless of your means.
Can I speak to a solicitor to get some general advice first?
Yes, just call us today and someone will give you any advice you need. Contact David Wells direct on 07939 026751, or call the Wells Burcombe offices in St Albans, Hertfordshire on 01727 840900 or West Drayton, London on 01895 449288, or email us via our contact page.