‘Just a chat’, ‘nothing to worry about’, ‘procedure’…just some of the things you could hear from the police if your accused of a criminal offence that the police would like to speak to you about.
Due to various reasons such as budget cuts, low staffing levels and closures of police custody suites, we have seen a dramatic rise in the amount of people asked to attend voluntary interviews, many of which have never had any involvement with the police, are young, vulnerable or have mental health issues. It is often more convenient for the police to bring people like this into their local police for ‘a chat’ about the allegation.
This chat will usually be a tape recorded interview which ‘may be used in evidence’ if the case was to ever go to court. It is often the case that people, feeling they have done nothing wrong will attend these interviews and speak freely with the police without obtaining free legal advice.
This was highlighted recently by the case of Nicola Bailey who found £20 on the floor and kept it. She was identified by CCTV and asked to attend one of these voluntary interviews. She attended without a solicitor and had no recollection of picking up the money. It had apparently been caught on CCTV and due to her not accepting finding the money she was taken to court where she received a conditional discharge, court costs and, more importantly a criminal record for a dishonest offence. Miss Bailey, in an interview with a national paper was reported as saying ‘I wish that I had been represented at the police station as I probably would not have ended up in this mess’.(http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/woman-nicole-bailey-kept-20-note-one-stop-burton-stoke-on-trent-criminal-record-staff-poketed-a7603576.html)
We have a long history of 24hr 365 days a year police station advice and attendances. We have helped some of the most vulnerable people in society and people accused of serious crimes. Its extremely important to me that people understand their right to have free and independent legal advice when they are being questioned by the police.
There are real benefits to all parties when people are asked to attend as a volunteer. The main one being that people wont see the inside of a custody suite or cell and it is a fairly quick and harmless process. This doesnt prevent you from having the same rights as someone who has been arrested and you should always ask for a solicitor to be present when you are interviewed.
And this is the part that really upsets us all! we are free! just the cost of a phone call (and you can usually get the police officer to make that!) Literally, in the majority of cases you don’t have to pay for a solicitor or a qualified police station representative who are normally in police stations several times a week to help you during the police interview.
Legal aid is available for everyone under investigation by the police regardless of income.
There are so many of us that will never not tire of telling all who will listen that what happens in the police station determines, on practically every occasion, how the case will run.
We all have considerable experience with police interviews and can attend as and when is convenient to yourself.
You are also more likely to be more relaxed and able to answer questions clearly if you have attended on appointment rather than be dragged from your house at 7am by a police team.
You would therefore be more equipped to deal with the questions from the police giving you a better chance of avoiding court proceedings.
If you are asked to attend a police station to speak to a police officer then please contact us so that we can attend with you.
We are free and have vast experience of defending people against criminal allegations. For me personally it is important people do not feel as if they have to go through this process on their own. In the few days it has taken me to sit down and write this I have been present at the police station and have seen three people walk into the voluntary interviews unrepresented.
If you are asked to attend a police interview as a volunteer you should:-