1.It is free
Regardless of your income, means or assets, and regardless of the nature of the allegation (however serious or minor) everyone is entitled to free and independent legal advice at the police station. If you ask for a solicitor to attend to assist you in a police interview, the police cannot refuse. They must either arrange a solicitor for you (the duty solicitor) or make contact with a named solicitor of your choice who is willing to act.
2.You will get to know more details about the allegation before being questioned
An unrepresented suspect at the police station will often not be told a great deal about the specific details of the offence being investigated before interview. This can be problematical for the suspect. It gives them little time and information upon which to prepare for interview. For example, if an allegation is said to have occurred some time ago, the suspect is not told about dates of the allegation until the interview itself. This can lead to them coming across as being vague or perhaps deliberately misleading quite unintentionally. Another example is when a suspect has a valid defence but does not know how to express it. Once something is said in interview it can be very difficult to repair any damage that has inadvertently been created.
Disclosure of details about the allegation before interview is one of the most important stages of the interview process. A solicitor can probe the police before any questioning commences. They can try to ascertain precisely what evidence, if any, the police have. The police can sometimes be rather evasive on pre-interview disclosure, especially if a person is unrepresented. This can have serious adverse consequences later in the process. Having a solicitor ‘test’ the strength of the case beforehand can really make the difference between a decision to charge and a decision to take no further action.
3.Having a solicitor protects your rights
The reality is that the police far prefer interviewing suspects who do not have solicitors present. They can ask whatever questions they like. They know that the vast majority of suspects will not appreciate the difference between a proper and improper question, and will not pick up on any procedural irregularities.
Police often suggest to a suspect pre-interview, that having a solicitor may delay their release. They may also imply that the suspect does not really need a solicitor as the matter is not serious. Any such statements are both somewhat improper and inaccurate, and are designed to prevent a suspect having representation.
4.Assistance in a police interview is essential
In a police interview the police have a statutory function of properly ‘investigating’ an allegation. However, sometimes cases are not approached with an open mind, just because a complaint has been made. It is often the case that interviewing officers need reminding during an interview as to whether certain questions are appropriate. A solicitor is trained to deal with this, and to protect the your rights at this stage is never more important. What is said during an interview may have very significant implications should a matter ultimately proceed to trial.
5.Protection beyond charge
Having a solicitor can provide protection to a suspect who is charged and where there is a dispute later on at court as to events which occurred during the police interview. The solicitor can give evidence at Court and reject any suggestion made by the police that something occurred in the police station when it clearly did not. A solicitor can also make representations for bail at the point of charge. This is far more likely to succeed than if a suspect is unrepresented.
Most suspects will not have the knowledge of police practice, court procedure, rules of evidence and criminal charges that a competent solicitor will possess. If you were told that you needed surgery for an injury and that you could have a professional surgeon free of charge would you do it yourself? You would most likely choose to have the surgeon. Representation in a police interview is no different. Being interviewed at a police station can be a daunting and very intimidating situation. Having the protection of a competent solicitor representing your interests at such time will assist greatly in alleviating this. It will also to ensure the best possible outcome.