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Invited to a police interview?

There is no doubt that police interviews can be a stressful and frightening experience regardless of whether the interview is a voluntary or involuntary. Recent years have seen a marked increase in the use of voluntary interviews by the police for a range of offences, including fraud and historic sexual offences. However, despite being referred to as voluntary, these interviews are still a very serious matter. Knowing your legal position and having legal advice from the outset is therefore vital. 

What is a voluntary interview? 

A voluntary interview is a formal conversation with the police at a police station, your home or work in connection with an alleged offence where you have been invited to attend and are not under arrest. By contrast, involuntary interviews are those which are conducted once you have already been placed under arrest and are in the polices custody. 

It should be stressed that the reason that the police are inviting you for the voluntary interview is that they suspect that you have committed a crime and so these must be taken very seriously.  

Both types of interview are conducted under caution, meaning that anything said in the interview can be used against you in any subsequent court proceedings. In addition, although the interview may initially be voluntary, and you are therefore free to leave at any time, you may be arrested during the interview if the police feel that there is sufficient evidence to charge. 

Do you have to attend a police interview? 

In the case of involuntary interviews, you have no choice as to attendance (unless there is a medical reason preventing it) as you have been placed under arrest.  By contrast, you are not required to attend a voluntary interview if you are invited to one. However, failure to attend may result in the very real possibility that you will be arrested. 

What is the purpose of voluntary interviews? 

There are various reasons why the police may use this type of interview to start talking to a person of interest: 

  • They do not have enough evidence to arrest you but have suspicions that you have committed a crime 

  • The police may not feel that there is a need to arrest you at this time, but they still want further information 

  • They may feel that you will cooperate with them more fully if you are there voluntarily 

  • It reduces the pressures and costs on the police if they do not need to arrest and hold you in custody 

  • It also reduces the time that someone is held on bail if they delay the arrest 

Are there any other benefits to attending a voluntary police interview? 

Aside from avoiding the possibility that the police will arrest you to secure your attendance at an interview, attending a voluntary police interview allows you to do so on your own terms. You can arrange a time that suits you as well as ensuring that you have legal representation in advance. You are also less likely to feel stressed and under pressure as you will have had prior warning that the interview will be taking place. 

Do you need a lawyer for a voluntary police interview? 

The short answer is yes! Even though the interview is voluntary, where you are being interviewed by the police under caution you have the right to ask for a solicitor and once requested the police have to wait for them to arrive before they question you. Despite what the name might imply, such interviews are not a friendly conversation with the police and should be taken very seriously. You can be arrested as soon as you arrive for the interview. You are being interviewed as a potential suspect in a case and should therefore contact a lawyer as soon as you receive the invite. Saying the wrong thing at a voluntary interview can have catastrophic consequences in your case. A lawyer can: 

  • Advise you as to what you can expect 

  • Assist with obtaining disclosure as to the alleged offence 

  • Accompany you at the interview and advise you, where it should be remembered that anything you say may subsequently be used against you as evidence 

  • Be working on your case from that moment forward, which is helpful if the matter does proceed from this point 

Arranging legal representation with a specialist defence lawyer is therefore crucial to inform you of your rights and to ensure the very best outcome. 

What happens during and after a voluntary interview? 

During the interview the police will need to explain the purpose of the interview as well as any aims. You need to be made aware that you can leave at any point while it is still voluntary. 

There are several possibilities once you have been interviewed: 

  • The police can say that you are free to go. This does not mean that the matter is over and they could still arrest you at a later date 

  • You can be arrested during or after the interview and charged with a criminal offence if the police have gained enough evidence 

  • You can be released under investigation 

  • You can be released with bail conditions 

  • You may be requested to take part in further procedures to determine whether there is further evidence- this can be providing fingerprint, DNA or having your photograph taken. It can also involve you taking part in an identification process or surrendering stated items 

Again, having strong legal advice can ensure you get the best support throughout this experience. The police do not need to inform you if they are not proceeding with the case following the interview, which can leave you being left in a state of uncertainty without proper guidance. A good defence lawyer can keep track of the progress of your case to keep you properly updated. Similarly, you can receive a summons to attend court or be arrested at a further date and having a lawyer fully aware of the case ensures you have the best support available to you. 

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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