LEGAL EAGLE: ‘Police want to speak to me again’

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I was arrested for an offence about two years ago. The police bailed me to return to the police station on three occasions, but after six months they told me they would be taking no further action.

Now I have heard they want to speak to me again on a voluntary basis about the same matter. Can they do this? And could I still be prosecuted?

Much will depend on the offence that is being investigated, but in general terms the fact that you have previously been told no action is being taken against you will not be a bar to the police investigating you or a prosecution being brought in the future.

Only if the police had given you a promise or undertaking that they would definitely not prosecute you would there be some scope to challenge a prosecution.  

It is unusual for the police to reinterview someone after the passage of time, and may mean further evidence that was not previously available has now been brought to their attention.

Whether a prosecution can be brought against you depends on a number of factors, including the alleged offence.

Most prosecutions for summary-only offences – those that can only be dealt with in the magistrates’ court – must be commenced within six months of the date of the offence.

Most either way and indictable-only offences – those that can be heard either at the magistrates’ or the crown court and those that can only be dealt with at the crown court – do not have a limitation period.

However, there are a number of exceptions to each of these statements, and I’m afraid there is not space here to go through each of them.

If a prosecution is brought against you there may be some scope to argue it is an abuse of the process of the court particularly if, as a result of the delay, evidence that may have been available in your defence is now beyond your use.  

In those circumstances it would be for you to show either that you could not have a fair trial or that it was unfair to try you.

This can be very difficult to show, and would very much depend on the particular circumstances of your case.

It is my strong advice that you instruct a solicitor to advise and assist you at the police station.

Legal aid should be available for this, and if you instructed a firm of solicitors when you were last interviewed they should have retained your papers and be able to refer to them.