It is becoming an increasingly common occurrence for the police to invite a suspect to attend an interview at the police station, rather than arrest them.
These interviews can be referred to under several names, including:
- An interview under caution
- A voluntary interview
- A Caution Plus 3 Interview
It is vital to get legal advice before being interviewed, even if you believe yourself to be innocent. If you have been detained by the police or asked to attend an interview, you are entitled to legal advice.
What is a Voluntary Interview?
This is an interview conducted in line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. All formal police interviews with suspects begin with the officer giving you “the caution”. The caution is:
"You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention something when questioned that you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence"
The police caution is a warning to the person being interviewed. This means that you have a right to remain silent. It is up to you if you answer their questions or not.
However, it is important to note that if this matter proceeds to court, and you give an account which you did not give to the police during the voluntary interview, then the jury may be less likely to believe your account of what happened.
Anything that you do say to the police is recorded and will be used as evidence. Therefore, it is essential that you seek always seek legal advice before any interview is conducted by the police.
What are my rights?
It is called a Caution Plus 3 interview because at the beginning of the interview the police will read you ‘the caution’ and advise you of your three rights:
- You have the right to free and independent legal advice
- You are not under arrest
- You can leave at any time
Therefore, the main difference between a voluntary interview and being interviewed whilst under arrest is that you can leave at any time.
However, it is important to remember that whilst you may leave at any time, the police may choose to formally arrest you in order to stop you from leaving.
Therefore, we recommend that you stay for the full interview to avoid being arrested.
What should I do if I have been contacted by the police?
If you have received a telephone call, letter, or simply a card through the door inviting you to make contact and arrange a convenient time to go to the police station, try to make a note of the police officer’s name, station, shoulder or warrant number, or telephone number as this will make it easier for a solicitor to track them down.
Do not speak to the police about the allegation.
Contact a solicitor immediately. We will take the officer’s details from you and speak to the police on your behalf. We will help you to arrange a time and date for an interview which is convenient for you.
We will then attend the police station with you on the day and provide you with advice. We will also keep in touch with the police and you after your interview so that you know what is happening.
Remember that a voluntary interview is not a friendly chat. You are being interviewed as a suspect in a crime.
Having a solicitor with you in your interview can make all the difference. It is free and it is your right. If you are contacted by the police your first call should be to a good solicitor.
If you are being investigated by the Environment Agency and they suspect that a criminal offence has been committed, they will request a voluntary interview. This interview will generally be arranged at a time to suit all the parties involved.
However, if the allegations being brought are serious in nature, there may be an arrest.
As with every other agency that requests a voluntary interview, we recommend that you seek legal counsel before engaging with the interviewers.
Trading Standards have certain investigative powers which allow them to conduct voluntary interviews.
This can, in some instances, lead to prosecutions (and ultimately convictions) that result in a custodial sentence.
Trading Standards Officers are employed by local authorities to investigate consumer complaints and enforce legislation, including:
- Animal welfare
- Fraudulent activity
- Consumer safety
- Trademark Infringement
- Illegal Money Lending
- Incorrect labelling
- Counterfeit goods
- Weights and measures
- Under-age sales
You should always seek expert advice before attending such an interview and remember that if you are given a caution, it is advised that you seek legal advice before any interview.
Department for Work and Pensions
If you have been contacted by the DWP to attend a voluntary interview for benefit fraud, do not ignore the letter. If you deal with the situation straight away, you have a far better chance of achieving an agreeable outcome.
Firstly, you should contact a solicitor who will be able to advise you on the law surrounding benefits as well as legal advice on how the interview will be conducted.
If you're struggling financially because your benefit isn't being paid, your solicitor will also be able to give you advice on how to continue payments or seek help from your local council.
It is important to remember that if you are found to be not guilty, you'll still need to argue that you were entitled to everything you claimed and shouldn't pay anything back.
This is called 'challenging an overpayment'. It's a separate process from proving you didn't commit benefit fraud - you must do it or else you'll be told to make repayments.
What happens after the police interview?
This will be decided by the individual case under investigation. For example, if a straightforward allegation of shoplifting is caught on CCTV and admitted in the police interview, the police will decide to make a charge immediately.
If there is no evidence in the case and no realistic prospect of a conviction, the police may decide to result in further action.
In more serious or complex cases, either the police will be required to make further investigations into the crime and/or seek guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service.
In this circumstance, if the investigation cannot be concluded straight away, then the suspect will either be released under investigation or police bailed (with or without conditions).
Initially, the police can only bail a suspect for a period of 28 days, but if certain criteria are met, this can be extended by a senior officer and then further by the courts.
Broudie Jackson Canter are here to help. Get in touch with our Crime & Prison Law Solicitors for expert advice. It's important to reach out as soon as you can after being invited to a voluntary interview so that you cans eek appropriate advice and understand your rights. Call us on 0151 227 1429, make an enquiry, or request a call back.