Compliance Partner and Supervising Solicitor Daniel Weed gives his opinion on police interviews. The importance of them both for investigators and for those being accused and why it is crucial that legal advice is obtained.
“I was taught early on in my career that a case can be won or lost in an interview. I am still a firm believer in this. The police are also of the same mindset. The College of Policing states that interviewing suspects is a crucial event of the process of investigation and central to the success of the same.
Police will ask a wide range of questions in order to obtain evidence that may assist the investigation and ultimately their case at Court.
Police interviews in serious and complex investigations will be planned and prepared. The police have the upper hand because they have strategy and will keep to the plan they have prepared.
The result of this is that disclosure, prior to an interview, may omit crucial evidence. It may be so limited that the solicitor cannot properly advise as to the extent of any evidence the police may possess.
What Role Does A Solicitor Have in Police Interviews?
Solicitors and Legal Advisors must act in the best interest of the client. Their role is to identify the safest response for the client. They may advise a “no comment” interview i.e. remain silent, or to answer questions or provide a prepared statement. Many factors influence the advice given to a client, including any vulnerability issues, their ability to comprehend, cope with the ordeal of an interview and communicate to best effect, as well as the extent and evidential complexities of any disclosure provided.
The interview is a tactical arena. One of major tactics by the police is disclosure. The police will keep to their strategy. In more serious and complicated investigations, where there may be a need for multiple interviews, then the police planning and strategy may result in staged disclosure where the suspect and his lawyer will be ‘drip fed’ disclosure at certain times of the detention, usually after the conclusion of each interview.
A consultation between solicitor and client is confidential, subject to legal privilege and the solicitor is required to advise the client, clearly that includes advice as to the strengths of any evidence in the police case. With staged disclosures, this restricts the solicitors ability to do just that.
The solicitor will need to use their persuasive skills to encourage and persuade the police to provide more disclosure to that provided. Asking probative questions and not accepting what was initially disclosed will give you the best way in dealing with a staged disclosure process.
What is the Purpose of a Police Interview?
The purpose of an interview is to obtain evidence by questioning. Evidence comes from the answers to those questions and anything said may be given in evidence. The summary of an interview always forms part of the prosecution case not the defence. If as is often said by police the purpose of an interview is to give your side of story. If that were the case then why is it that the interview starts with the words, ‘you do not have to say anything’.
We must do what we can with what we have so your advisor must have their wits about them when dealing with a strategic approach. Officers may have been gathering evidence for sometime ready to execute in a way they have planned and without your knowledge.”
Daniel qualified as a solicitor over 20 years ago. Since then he has amassed a wealth of experience in defending suspects during police interviews. He is a higher rights advocate and regularly advises professionals including members of the medical and legal profession, journalists. He also represents professionals in relation to disciplinary tribunals. In 2018 he was described by the Legal 500 publication as being “very knowledgeable in relation to police law”. Want t know more about Daniel? see his profile here.