‘Just A Chat’ – The Dangers of Voluntary Interviews With Police
‘Just a chat,’ ‘nothing to worry about,’ and ‘procedure’… are just some of the things you could hear from the police if you are accused of a criminal offence that the police would like to speak to you about.
Due to various reasons such as budget cuts, low staffing levels and closures of police custody suites, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people attending voluntary interviews recently.
Many people asked to attend police interviews have never had any involvement with the police, and many are young, vulnerable or have mental health issues. It is often more convenient for the police to bring people like this to their local police for a chat’ about an allegation.
This chat will usually be a tape-recorded interview which ‘may be used in evidence’ if the case were to ever go to court. It is often the case that people, feeling they have done nothing wrong will attend these interviews and speak freely with the police without obtaining free legal advice.
The Case of Nicola Bailey
The importance of seeking legal representation in a police interview was recently highlighted in the case of Nicola Bailey. Nicola found £20 on the floor and kept it. CCTV footage identified her, and she was asked to attend a voluntary interview, which she did without a solicitor.
As she had no recollection of picking up the money, she was taken to court where she received a conditional discharge. In addition, she had to pay the court costs and, more importantly, she received a criminal record for a dishonest offence.
Miss Bailey, in an interview with a national paper, was reported as saying ‘I wish that I had been represented at the police station as I probably would not have ended up in this mess’.
Free and Independent Legal Advice
For many years, we have responded to clients, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year to provide support and advice at police station interviews.
We have helped some of the most vulnerable people in society and people accused of serious crimes. It is extremely important to us that people understand that they have a right to free and independent legal advice when the police are questioning them.
Attending Voluntary Police Interviews
There are real benefits to all parties when people are asked to attend a police station as a volunteer. The main one is that people will not likely see the inside of a custody suite or cell, and it is a quick and harmless process.
This does not prevent you from having the same rights as someone who has been arrested and you should always ask for a solicitor to be present when you are interviewed.
And this is the part that upsets us, representation at an initial police interview is completely free! All it takes is the cost of a phone call (and you can usually get the police officer to make that).
In most cases, you do not have to pay for a solicitor or a qualified police station representative who are normally in police stations several times a week to help you during the police interview.
Legal aid is available for everyone under investigation by the police regardless of income. It is also important to remember, that what happens in the police station determines, on practically every occasion, how the case will run.
We all have considerable experience with police interviews, and we are available 24/7 all year round to attend police interviews with you, at your convenience. You are also more likely to be more relaxed and able to answer questions clearly if you attend an appointment rather than be dragged from your house at 7am by a police team.
You will be better equipped to deal with the questions from the police which will give you a better chance of avoiding court proceedings.
Tips to Remember When Asked to Attend Police Interviews
If the police ask you to present yourself at a police station for an interview or to talk with a police officer, then please contact us immediately so that we can attend with you.
Our ‘police station representation’ services are free. We have many years of experience defending people against criminal allegations. You mustn't feel you have to go through this process on your own. We regularly present at the police station and so often we see people walk into the voluntary interviews unrepresented.
Legal representation is free if you attend a police interview. Here are tips that you should remember:
- Tell the police officer your intent to take legal advice (there will not be a problem with this at all).
- Contact a solicitor and arrange to attend the interview with you. There are an array of highly experienced police stations representative and solicitors who are available 24/7 to assist you.
- Keep in touch with your solicitor until the police decide on what to do. The police can often take several weeks to decide on whether you are to face prosecution and, by keeping in touch we can walk you through the entire process and ensure that you are prepared and that we have all the facts to present your case.
We are available 24/7 365 days a year – simply call us freephone 0808 196 1790.