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Voluntary Police Interview
Have you or a loved one been asked to attend a voluntary interview with police or another UK law enforcement agency? If so, you may be wondering exactly what this is, how it’s different to being arrested and what you need to do to protect yourself.
We see no support for those falsely accused of crimes from the authorities. In these situations, your only recourse is having the best specialist legal team to advise you. There are hundreds of online firms but only few such as this firm that responds to you rapidly and has been established for 45 years and backed by National Awards from professional bodies. Bad advice at the police station will ultimately count against you.
The first thing to note is that just because it is called a ‘voluntary’ interview, it doesn’t mean you should simply refuse to attend. Although you can say no, this could result in the police deciding to arrest you so they can carry out a standard police interview instead.
This call from the police can be the start of a nightmare, so it’s important to think carefully before attending with an inexperienced lawyer or one who is too busy to offer you an advance meeting.
When invited for a voluntary police interview, we will call the police and obtain as much disclosure where possible of the allegations. Our sole job will be to advise you on whether to answer police questions. For more on this, see our senior partners specialist article on whether to say no comment in the interview.
At JD Spicer Zeb, we can act for you under legal aid or on a full Private basis. We can do proactive work for you where necessary, and can arrange advance work and advice for you at our offices or in a virtual meeting before you even set foot in the police station. We have experience of dealing with cases with almost all police forces in England & Wales. See our Reviews from satisfied clients. Do not just choose a firm because they are local to you, choose this firm based on its reputation, experience and proven track record.
It’s also important to realise just how serious a voluntary police interview can be. If you are asked to attend a voluntary police interview, it usually means that the police suspect you of involvement in a crime. Depending on the outcome of the interview, you could find yourself arrested and charged with a crime, or summons to attend Court.
As we have been established for 45 years, we have undertaken more cases many times and more than most other firms. We can advise you on the benefits or disadvantages of talking to the police and whether to answer with no comment.
In many cases, our solicitors can provide a proactive service to get you a Police Caution rather than a charge to court. We can get the police to drop charges and take no further action after a police interview in some cases and are experts at making written representations to the prosecution (CPS) where a court attendance results. We have an excellent command of the code for Crown Prosecutors and the policies governing the test to proceed with cases concerning the evidential test for the CPS and public interest test they have to satisfy. We will remind the police and CPS when they are obliged to caution rather than charge.
This guide covers some of the most common questions people have about voluntary police interviews, but if you have been invited to a voluntary interview with police (also called an ‘interview under caution’ or a caution plus 3.), we strongly urge you to contact our team as soon as possible.
It is essential to have expert legal representation as this can help to prevent you from saying anything that could harm your defence and give you the best chance of obtaining no further action after a police interview.
If you or someone you know has been asked to attend a voluntary police interview, you can contact us 24-hours a day, seven days a week for immediate legal advice and representation.
What is a voluntary police interview?
A voluntary police interview or interview under caution is a formal conversation with police that usually takes place at a police station. You do not have to attend and you can leave at any time once the interview has begun. However, as noted above, failure to attend or attempting to leave could result in you being arrested.
While a voluntary interview might be conducted in a less formal way than an interview under arrest, police voluntary interview questions will still be recorded and anything you say can potentially be used against you in any subsequent criminal proceedings.
You have the right to a solicitor during an interview under caution and, once you have requested a solicitor, the police officers are not allowed to ask you any questions until your solicitor has arrived.
You will normally be invited to the interview in writing, with the option of two different dates to choose from. You can also suggest an alternative date if needed.
What happens at a police interview?
At the start of the interview, the police should tell you:
- The names of the officers in attendance
- That the interview is being recorded
- The purpose of the interview – including what offence is being investigated
- That you can choose to end the interview at any time
- That you do not have to say anything
- That anything you do say can be used against you in a court of law
- That you have the right to legal representation
You should be formally cautioned – if this does not happen, then anything you say during the interview may potentially be considered inadmissible as evidence by a court.
Police voluntary interview questions can cover issues such as:
- Your whereabouts at certain times
- Whether you know certain people
- Your knowledge of specific events
You have the right to breaks (normally 15 minutes every two hours) if the interview goes on for this long.
Why do police use voluntary interviews?
There are various reasons why the police may choose to use a voluntary interview including:
- The police do not feel they have sufficient grounds to suspect you of having committed a crime, so they cannot arrest you
- They may feel you will be more cooperative if you are not under arrest
- There has been significant pressure on the police in recent years to avoid having suspects be released on bail for long periods and delaying the point of arrest can help reduce the length of time a suspect is on bail
- It can be cheaper for the police than the cost of an arrest and detention
- Police do not believe that the person’s arrest is necessary at that point
Is it a bad idea to speak to police voluntarily?
Not necessarily – it is usually preferable to being arrested for a start! The key thing is to make sure you do not say anything which increases your likelihood of being arrested or charged with an offence or that undermines your defence if you are charged.
It is therefore very strongly recommended to have a specialist criminal defence lawyer with you during a police interview under caution to make sure you stay protected. If you take this precaution, attending a voluntarily police interview may be in your best interests.
What happens after a voluntary police interview?
Voluntary police interview outcomes can vary. Following a voluntary police interview under caution you could be:
- Free to go with no further action
- Arrested and charged with a criminal offence
- Released under investigation
- If you are told that you will be reported for a charge to be considered against you, you may need to supply your fingerprints, DNA sample and photograph.
- You may be requested to consent to taking part in an identification process, or voluntarily surrender items.
If you are charged with a criminal offence, you will need the very best legal representation for your case to help avoid conviction or reduce the potential penalties if conviction is unavoidable. We can provide a proactive Private service after the police interview for you to undertake key work on your behalf.
If you are questioned by the police but not charged, and are released under investigation, it is a good idea to take specialist legal advice as you may still be arrested and charged with a criminal offence at any time.
One common problem is that the police are not required to inform you if they decide to take no further action following a voluntary interview. No further action after a police interview can still often leave people feeling like they are ‘on the hook’ for an offence
Similarly, you may only find out that further action is being taken at the point when you suddenly receive a summons to attend court proceedings.
If you have been questioned by the police but not charged, an experienced criminal defence solicitor can maintain pressure on the police to make a decision and ensure you stay informed, helping to reduce any potential for worry following a voluntary interview under caution.
Do you need a lawyer for a voluntary police interview?
Yes! As we’ve hopefully made clear, there can be significant dangers involved in a police interview under caution if you do not have proper legal representation. Saying the wrong thing could easily lead to you being arrested or charged with a criminal offence. Any mistakes you make at this early stage could also be very difficult to recover from later.
For this reason, we urge you to contact our expert criminal defence solicitors as soon as possible if you or a loved one have been invited by police to an interview under caution.
Is a voluntary interview at a police station better than being arrested?
In many ways, being voluntarily interviewed by police is not that different to being interviewed under arrest. However, one key benefit is that you will not have been arrested, so you will not need to disclose the police interview if, for example, you ever need to undergo a DBS check for work.
What to do if someone under 18 is invited to a voluntary police interview
If someone under the age of 18 (or a vulnerable adult) is invited to a police interview under caution, then an appropriate adult must be present during the interview. They must also be present during an identification process or intimate searches that take place.
This appropriate adult will normally be the parent, guardian or social worker of the young person or vulnerable person.
What are my voluntary police interview rights?
Your rights related to the police interview procedure are set out in PACE Code C.
In every scenario, the police will need to obtain your consent before conducting a voluntary interview. Your rights, entitlements and safeguards should be clearly explained to you before you provide your consent.
Before the voluntary interview begins, you must also be provided with enough information to help you understand the nature of the offence and why you are being interviewed in connection with it. The police do not have to disclose their entire case, but they must provide enough information for you to be able to mount an effective defence.
Importantly, you will always have the right to legal representation. When instructed, our solicitors can provide legal representation before and during the voluntary interview.
Can you refuse to attend an interview under caution?
In short, yes, you can refuse to attend the station to answer police voluntary interview questions. However, this is not always likely to be the best approach to take.
What happens if you don’t attend a voluntary police interview?
It is important to remember that the ‘voluntary’ aspect of a voluntary police interview can be misleading. They are serious matters and will usually be conducted where the police believe that someone is linked to a crime, but they are not able to justify an arrest as they may still be building their case.
While you do not technically have to attend a voluntary interview at the police station, in some cases, refusing to attend a voluntary police interview after being prompted could lead to the police arresting you to carry out a standard police interview instead.
If you have refused to attend a police interview under caution, the police may be able to justify arresting you on the basis that it will be necessary to obtain any information they need to conduct a thorough investigation into an alleged crime.
A refusal to cooperate with an investigation may also be taken into consideration, which is why it is important to seek out legal advice urgently if you have been called in for a voluntary interview with the police.
If the police call you for questioning, and you decide to attend the interview under caution, you will be entitled to leave at any time unless you are arrested.
How long does a voluntary police interview take?
The time it takes to complete an interview under caution will vary depending on the circumstances and complexity of the case and the charges being considered by the police.
Typically, a voluntary interview should take no longer than 1-2 hours to complete, after which the police questioning procedure dictates that a decision will then be made on whether or not to make an arrest.
Can you be charged without being interviewed in the UK?
The police may have the authority to charge you with interviewing or arresting you. This would be in situations where there is sufficient evidence to justify this charging decision.
On a similar note, charging decisions that are taken without an interview taking place are usually made for minor offences, such as driving offences, where the evidence appears to be obvious and/or indisputable.
For more serious offences, the police/CPS will apply the full code test to determine whether it would be appropriate to present a charge to the criminal court. It is not always necessary for the police to conduct an interview to find that the full code test has been met.
Common mistakes to avoid when attending a voluntary police interview
Thinking you are just being interviewed as a potential witness
One of the most common errors people make is to not realise the seriousness of the situation or that they are at risk of criminal charges.
Many people fall into the trap of thinking they are being interviewed as a potential witness and police officers may not necessarily always make it clear that this is not the case. This can lead them to disclosing things that they would otherwise have kept to themselves.
Ignoring the letter inviting you to an interview
This can be tempting – either because you think you do not need to bother or because you hope the police will give up if they don’t hear from you. In reality, ignoring the letter can mean the police will simply decide to arrest you instead.
Speaking to the police voluntarily without a lawyer
We can’t stress enough what a bad decision this is! It is very easy to mistakenly say the wrong thing during a police interview, leaving yourself at risk of arrest and criminal charges. Please never speak to the police without a specialist criminal defence lawyer present as there is a strong chance you will regret it.
Contact our criminal defence lawyers today
For a free initial consultation, urgent specialist advice or immediate representation for a voluntary police interview, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
- Brent & Camden London Office: 020 7624 7771
- Manchester Office: 0161835 1638
- Birmingham Office: 0121614 3333
- City of London: 0207 624 7771 (our senior Solicitors and Partners can meet by appointment in the City)
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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