If an incident has happened that involves a criminal offence, you may find that you are either detained and interviewed by the police or you are invited by the police or another regulator to attend a voluntary interview regarding what has happened.

This can be a very intimidating experience; it’s important that you are aware of what is going to happen and that you get legal representation as soon as possible. This will reduce the chances that you will inadvertently make your position worse.

rradar solicitor Rupert Nevin (right) looks at what will happen during an interview under caution.

The purpose of the interview

Interviews can be conducted with a person who has been arrested and detained in Police custody or they can take place on a voluntary basis. The purpose of an interview is to question a suspect in order to obtain evidence about their suspected involvement in an offence.

The caution

The Police are required to caution a suspect at the start of the interview, regardless of whether they have been detained for questioning or have attended voluntarily.

The Police Caution is: “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”.

The Caution is extremely important as it explains a person’s right to silence during an interview and also warns a suspect about the risks involved in exercising that right, namely that a court may draw adverse inferences if they produce an explanation at court which they failed to mention during the interview.

The suspect has the right to refuse to answer any questions (“No comment”) or to refuse to answer any specific questions if the answer might incriminate them.

Young people

Anyone under the age of 18 or who is vulnerable due to their mental health must have an Appropriate Adult present during an interview. An Appropriate Adult cannot be the suspect’s solicitor and should not be a potential witness to a case.

Legal advice

Everyone interviewed by the Police is entitled to free and independent legal advice from a solicitor of their choice or from the Duty Solicitor. A solicitor of your choice may not be authorised under the scheme to undertake legal aid work and therefore it may be necessary to pay privately if you wish your own solicitor to attend the police station with you. Sometimes the costs will be covered by an insurance policy.

If you are represented by a solicitor, they will receive pre-interview disclosure. This requires the Police to disclose the nature of the offence and why you are suspected of it. The Police are not required to disclose all the evidence they have prior to an interview, particularly if to do so could prejudice the investigation.

As an alternative to answering questions, the solicitor might advise their client to submit a written statement prepared by them which can be read out for the benefit of the recording and then to answer “No comment” to any subsequent questions.

The suspect has the right to ask that the interview be suspended at any time so they can consult privately with their solicitor before continuing.

A suspect who attends voluntarily (not under arrest) has the right to terminate and leave the interview at any time, although if they do so, it is possible they might then be arrested.

At the conclusion of the interview, the suspect will be told what will happen next and told how they can obtain a copy of the recording.

Other regulators

Other regulators such as the HSE, Environment Agency, DVSA and Local Authority officers may also conduct recorded interviews under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), but do not have a power of arrest.