A quick guide to voluntary police interviews by Joanne Tang – Criminal Defence Lawyer at Olliers Solicitors
Any person arrested and held in custody at the police station has a right to consult a Solicitor or Accredited Representative for legal advice and this also applies to volunteers.
Who is a volunteer?
Volunteers are those who attend the police station voluntarily to assist the police with an investigation and they are NOT under arrest.
Volunteers have the right to access independent legal advice and are free to leave the police station at anytime unless and until they are arrested. A police officer must inform the volunteer that they are under arrest if a decision is made to prevent him or her from leaving the police station of their own free will.
What is a voluntary police interview?
Most suspects are arrested and held in police custody for interview. In all cases the police must first decide whether an arrest is necessary for ‘a prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question’.
Sometimes the police want to speak to someone about a criminal allegation and decide that it is not necessary to arrest that person to interview them. Voluntary interviews can take place in relation to historical sexual abuse, rape or fraud allegations. The police often invite young, mentally disordered or vulnerable suspects to attend as a volunteer if they are to be interviewed.
In some cases police stations do not have the capacity to take in arrested suspects or have a designated custody suite and voluntary interviews take place instead.
Attending the police station as a volunteer does NOT prevent the police from arresting them. If this happens the police officer must take the suspect before the Custody Officer who must notify them of his/her legal rights including entitlement to free and independent legal advice whilst in custody.
Any interview will be recorded and will take place under caution meaning that it may be used in evidence at a future date.
If the police suspect you of committing a criminal offence what are the advantages of attending as a volunteer?
- It is generally in your best interests to attend.
- We can arrange the interview with the police at your convenience and ensure our attendance with you.
- It is unlikely the police will deny you access to legal advice as we will be in attendance with you.
- Facilities will be immediately available for us to be briefed by the police about the matter and to advise you thoroughly before the police interview.
- You are likely to be less pressured and much more equipped to cope with questioning than if you were in custody.
- Your decision to attend may assist a later application for bail.
What happens if you decide not to attend as a volunteer?
- You face a real risk of being arrested at the worst possible time.
- There is no guarantee of legal advice when you ask for it.
- There is a risk that the police could withhold communication from you and/or deny you access to legal advice.
- You are much more likely to be stressed and disadvantaged when interviewing finally happens.
Finally just because the police decide to interview you under caution as a volunteer does not mean that it is any less serious than if you were arrested and interviewed.
Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Criminal Defence Solicitors
Written by Joanne Tang. If you are invited to be interviewed under caution by the police please contact us on 0161 8341515 and we can arrange for one of our specialist criminal defence lawyers to attend the voluntary police interview with you.