What happens during a police station interview and what are my rights?
Once a suspect’s detention at the police station has been authorised, the officer investigating the offence may wish to carry out an audibly recorded interview about the suspect’s alleged involvement in the offence(s).
If you are interviewed at a police station, such interviews must comply with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Detention, Treatment and Questioning of Persons by Police Officers (Code C) and the Code of Practice on Audio Recording Interviews with Suspects (Code E).
These include the basic requirement for the recording of interviews to be “carried out openly to instil confidence in its reliability as an impartial and accurate record of the interview”.
Are you fit to be interviewed?
Generally, you should not be interviewed at a police station if you appear unable to:
- appreciate the significance of questions or your answers; or
- understand what is happening because of the effects of drinks, drugs, or any illness, ailment or condition.
If you are deemed to be ‘at risk’ because your physical or mental state may render your comments at interview unreliable in subsequent court proceedings, you should usually be seen by a healthcare professional who will provide advice as to whether you are fit to be interviewed.
Can you be interviewed before receiving legal advice?
Once a suspect has been arrested and detained at a police station, they have the right to receive free and independent legal advice. Generally, if you require legal advice, you should not be interviewed before receiving it. Also, if you initially indicate that you do not require legal advice, but change your mind during the interview, the interview should be stopped. There are exceptions to this rule:
- if the police exercise their powers to delay you receiving legal advice for up to 36 hours and wish to interview you during this time;
- if a superintendent or a more senior officer reasonably believes that the delay caused by obtaining legal advice might: interfere with, or harm, evidence; cause physical harm to other people; lead to loss of, or damage to, property; lead to other suspects who have not been arrested being alerted; or hinder the recovery of property obtained in consequence of the offence;
- if the arrival of the relevant solicitor would cause unreasonable delay to the process of investigation;
- if the suspect’s chosen solicitor cannot be contacted or will not attend the police station and the suspect does not wish to consult the duty solicitor; and
- if the suspect asks for legal advice but changes his mind, and authority to interview is given by an inspector and the suspect consents to this.
You should be cautioned at the start of an interview to make you aware that, whilst you have the right to remain silent, if you do so but then raise facts at trial that you could have mentioned at interview, your silence may have an adverse effect on your defence. If an officer is asking you to account for a specific object, substance found on your person, on your clothing, otherwise in your possession or in the place you were arrested, a ‘special caution’ must be given, advising you of your position.
The interviewing officer must not try to obtain answers to questions or elicit statements from you by using oppression, for example, raising his voice. Also, appropriate breaks and rest periods should be allowed, in accordance with the requirements of Code C.