LEGAL EAGLE: Do I need to have a solicitor for police interview?

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My friend was involved in a fight which I saw. The police came and took my details and I told them I was happy to be a witness. I have now been contacted by the police who have asked me to go to the police station to be interviewed under caution. I have been told that I won’t be arrested. Do I need a solicitor?

It would appear that the Police wish to interview you as a voluntary attendee as they may suspect your involvement in an offence.

If police are to arrest anyone in the course of an investigation they have to satisfy a “necessity test”. If the test is not satisfied then the arrest and detention at the police station may be unlawful. The necessity that the police will often quote is “prompt and effective investigation of the offence” or “to obtain evidence by questioning”.

When an incident is not ongoing and when you are willing to attend the police station to be questioned, arguably these necessities do not exist and the police therefore may not be able to justify an arrest.

When you attend the police station you will not be detained, however you will be expected to remain there to be interviewed. You will be told that you are free to leave at any time but be aware that should you do so the police may then find it necessary to arrest and detain you “to obtain evidence by questioning”. Often there will be a separate voluntary attendee suite for these purposes and you would not have your photograph, DNA or finger prints taken.

If you are willing to remain and be interviewed there are a number of things you need to consider.

You are still going to be interviewed under caution and still have the right to have a solicitor present.

I would always advise that anyone being interviewed by the police, whether under arrest or on a voluntary basis exercises their right to have a solicitor present.

You can arrange to have a solicitor attend with you or you can request the duty solicitor.

Advice at the police station is independent and free and most firms have an out-of-hours service so advice can be obtained regardless of the time of day.

Even if you are not arrested criminal proceedings can still be brought against you. After interview a voluntary attendee will often be told that they have been reported for summons and this means that a decision will be made at a later date as to whether the matter would proceed to Court.