The experience of being interviewed under caution by the police either on a voluntary basis or whilst under arrest can be extremely daunting and stressful.
For persons who have been requested to attend for a voluntary interview there is some advantage in that they are afforded the opportunity to instruct a solicitor at an earlier stage and ensure that upon their attendance at the police station, not only are they fully prepared for interview but this also reduces the amount of time that they are at the police station.
At Olliers we are frequently instructed prior to a voluntary interview and can liaise with the police before the interview. We can obtain disclosure from them and then have a consultation in order to take a client’s full instructions. We can then agree on a strategy for the interview advising a client as to their options for the interview and the advantages and disadvantages of various strategies. We can then attend at the voluntary interview and represent during the interview.
For persons under arrest there is a temptation to proceed to interview without representation and they will often be advised (incorrectly) by the police that requesting a solicitor will result in a lengthy delay. Having spent a considerable amount of time detained in a cell they may then make a rash decision to proceed to interview unrepresented.
If they do request representation, once ready for interview, the officers will make contact with the solicitor and the only delay would be awaiting arrival. In most cases, the time taken to attend is less than 45 minutes.
Once in attendance, the solicitor will be provided with a Pre-Interview Briefing, this will either be verbal or in written format.
During a police interview multiple questions can be put to the interviewee whilst under caution. The presence of a solicitor provides both reassurance but also as the interview progresses the solicitor can intervene if necessary and is also available to provide ongoing advice throughout.
Following interview there can be a number of outcomes. The case may be finalised at the police station stage, however if the investigation is not concluded, for example an individual is released under investigation, the assistance and ongoing support and advice from the instructed solicitor is invaluable.
Throughout the investigative process the bail period is subject to reviews and a proactive approach is crucial.
For you to be prosecuted the police /Crown Prosecution Service need to be satisfied that firstly there is a realistic prospect of a conviction based upon the evidence. Secondly, a prosecution has to be in the public interest. In cases of this nature, lawyers often advise clients that following interview there is nothing that can be done until the investigation is concluded, in other words, it is a waiting game.
We disagree with this approach and prefer to take a pro-active approach. This is a crucial time for a client and there are a number of steps that can be undertaken by both client and legal team at this stage which will make a significant difference to the ultimate conclusion of the case.
The notion of pre-charge engagement between investigators and the defence is not new. The pre-charge team at Olliers is known for its proactive approach in criminal investigations. We place great emphasis on bringing cases to an early conclusion, without a client having to face the stress, trauma and cost of court proceedings. 2020 saw the move towards greater levels of pre-charge engagement between investigators (and prosecutors) and the defence. For the first time there was formal recognition of the concept of ‘pre-charge engagement.’
Further interviews may be arranged as the investigation progresses.
Once the investigation element is concluded, in all likelihood the case will then be referred to a CPS reviewing lawyer who will make the final charging decision.
As the solicitor has been present from the start and throughout the process they will be fully appraised of any updates in the prosecution case. It may also be appropriate to submit written pre-charge representations to the CPS during the decision making process.
In summary, it is always advisable to instruct a solicitor at the earliest stage possible to ensure not only that the interview is conducted properly but also that the ongoing investigation is progressed expeditiously and fairly.