The issue is why do the police want to speak to you? Are you a potential witness or are you under suspicion of committing a criminal offence? If it is the latter consider the following main points:
- Don’t react unreasonably– act sensibly.
- Take the matter seriously but don’t become overwhelmed. Remember that when speaking to the police there are no “off the record” conversations, everything you say to them will be recorded or noted down.
- Exercise your right to legal advice from a Solicitor experienced in advising people under police investigation. You have rights and a Solicitor can advise you of them. A Solicitor will assist in ensuring anything you say isn’t misunderstood or misrepresented. A Solicitor’s role is to protect and advance your rights. They are there to act in your best interest.
Most people are rarely ever involved in the criminal justice system. If unexpectedly police want to speak to you, you may become very anxious and concerned, even if you feel you have nothing to hide.
Slow down, try and act as calmly as you can in the situation.
Your mind might be reeling from shock; you might just want to run down to the police station as soon as possible to clear your name but pause! Try hard not to just react or hide from the problem. You should be careful what you do say to the police as they are investigating a criminal offence. This must be taken seriously, even if you want to assist and co-operate, caution is still advisable so nothing you say can be misrepresented or misunderstood. If you’ve been asked to simply “pop” into the police station to clear the matter up remember that matters are rarely as simple as “popping” along for a chat with the police. Even if it is, there is no harm in you seeking advice from a Solicitor before you do.
BASIC RIGHT Everyone has the right to independent legal advice at the police station.
Q: “Whom should I speak to for advice?”
A: “A Solicitor.” The best person to get advice from is a Solicitor experienced in criminal law and experienced in advising in relation to police investigations. A Solicitor can advise you what the best action is to take or not to take and they will you protect you and your rights.
Q: “Will the police wonder why I’ve asked for advice – will it count against me?”
A: “No.” Asking for legal advice doesn’t mean you’re not co-operating; it simply means you are exercising a basic right and are seeking independent advice on the law, your rights and your entitlements whilst under police investigation. What a person does or does not say to the police whilst under investigation can have a major impact upon a case at a later stage if you are charged. Don’t ever underestimate how much you might need someone on your side when you’re in a police station being interviewed. If you asked most Police Officers what they would do in such a situation – their honest answer would invariably be to get advice.
Q: “What will the Solicitor do?”
A: “Advise and protect you and your rights.” Solicitors can take over and deal directly with the police in arranging what will happen next. They can try and get as much information as they can about the investigation. You will then have more information and you’ll feel reassured. If a Solicitor is dealing directly with the police as opposed to yourself, you have a level of protection and this will not count against you in the eyes of the law. Solicitors understand how your actions impact on the case going forward and will be able to give you the best advice to stop this investigation at an early stage.
Q: “What is a police interview?”
A: If the police are investigating an alleged offence they will invariably want to interview anyone suspected. This interview is under “caution”. This means it is formal and anything said can be used against you in court proceedings. The Police record all interviews. Your Solicitor can help arrange a time for this to take place. A Solicitor will also be with you during the police interview. Unless you have certain needs your Solicitor will be the only person allowed with you in the custody area of the police station. If you go to the police station alone for interview you will be offered the right to independent legal advice. You don’t always have to wait until you are at the police station to get advice. There are many advantages to having a Solicitor already identified to assist you and who is acting for you well before you get to the police station.
Q: “What is arrest?”
A: The Police might have said they intend to arrest you. Arrest means being held in custody and you are not at liberty to leave the police station. Arrest isn’t always necessary to ensure a person’s co-operation with an investigation or for them to be interviewed. The law sets out when arrest is necessary. Often there are advantages to co-operating with an investigation and being interviewed under caution but without being arrested. This is again another area your Solicitor will be mindful of and will challenge Police if they use the power to arrest when it’s not justified. If under arrest a person is entitled to:
- Independent legal advice.
- Have someone informed of his or her arrest and detention.
- Consult the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Codes of Conduct – which govern the police’s treatment of someone detained in police custody.
- Have their physical needs met.
Warning: If the criminal investigation is based on what a person has told police and you know that person DO NOT try and resolve this yourself by speaking to them or getting someone to speak to them for you – there could be serious implications for such action and will generally make the situation far worse. Again, a Solicitor can advise you how best to conduct yourself.
“What can I do next?”
If you speak to police, make a note of the Officers’ name and contact number and why they are calling. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell them that you wish to obtain legal advice. Make enquiries and find a Solicitor who specialises in criminal law to help you.