Understanding Voluntary Police Interviews: A Guide to Your Rights and Options [2024]

If you or someone you know has been invited to attend a voluntary police interview, it is crucial to understand what this involves, the implications of attending or not, and the importance of having legal representation. This guide aims to help you understand the process and outlines your options, ensuring you are well-informed and prepared.

Voluntary police interview

What is a Voluntary Police Interview?

A voluntary interview is a police procedure by which the police invite a person to be questioned about their involvement or alleged involvement in committing a criminal offence. Unlike an arrest, you’re not compelled to attend but if you do attend you can change your mind and leave at any time; however, your decision carries significant consequences.

Circumstances that can lead to a Voluntary Police Interview

The police could invite a person in for various reasons, including minor offences or as part of a larger investigation. Common offences for which police could conduct a voluntary interview include allegations of theft, fraud, assault, or more serious crimes where the police believe a voluntary interview is the most appropriate method to proceed in the matter.

Options to Attend or Not

Attending: While voluntary, attending is often advisable. It demonstrates cooperation and can sometimes prevent escalation to an arrest, provided you go well-prepared, ideally with legal representation.

Not Attending: You have the right to decline to attend. However, this could lead to the police deciding to arrest you to conduct the interview, especially if they consider your input crucial to their investigation.

What Could Happen if You Don’t Attend a Voluntary Police Interview

Refusing to attend could result in an arrest, making the situation more stressful and potentially more damaging to your reputation and case.

Should you have legal representation?

  1. Go Alone: Not recommended, as you might inadvertently harm your defence.
  2. With Legal Representation: Highly advised. A solicitor can guide you through the process, consider the police disclosure advise you on your options, and ensure your rights are protected throughout any voluntary interview.

What Happens After a Voluntary Police Interview

Post-interview, several outcomes are possible:

  • No Further Action: The police may decide that there is insufficient evidence and release you from the voluntary police interview without further action.
  • Caution: If you admit involvement, the matter could be resolved out of court with a caution.
  • Charge: You could be charged and required to attend court.
  • Further Investigation: The police might need more time to investigate before making a decision.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Having a criminal defence solicitor by your side is invaluable. They provide:

  • Pre-Interview Advice: Helping you understand the allegations and advising you on the police disclosure and the options open to you in the interview.
  • During the Interview: Ensuring fair treatment and advising as required.
  • Post-Interview Strategy: Advising on next steps.

Conclusion

A voluntary police interview is an important part of a criminal investigation. While the term “voluntary” suggests a choice, the implications of declining to attend a voluntary police interview can be significant. The police could choose to take the matter no further upon your refusal or they could make an arrest to secure your attendance at a police station to be interviewed under caution. Both kinds of interviews are known as PACE interviews. It is highly recommended to seek the services of and attend with a god criminal defence solicitor. Having the right representation from the outset can make a substantial difference in the outcome. They not only offer protection and guidance during the interview but also help navigate the complexities of the legal system, ensuring the best possible defence.

Remember, the aim is not just to get through the interview but to do so in a way that protects your interests and rights. In such challenging times, having expert legal support is not just an option; it’s a necessity.

If you require legal advice or representation at a voluntary police interview, please contact us today to see how we can help.

Frequently asked questions about voluntary police interviews

What does a voluntary police interview mean?

A voluntary police interview is an interview conducted by the police with a suspect who is not under arrest, allowing the individual to attend the interview at a police station or other location willingly. During this process, the person has the right to leave at any time and is not held in custody. Refusing or walking out of a voluntary interview may prompt the police to consider alternative actions. This approach facilitates a more cooperative environment for gathering information while respecting the rights and freedoms of the individual involved.

Does voluntary police interview mean there isn’t enough evidence?

No, a voluntary police interview does not necessarily mean there isn’t enough evidence. It is a method used by the police to gather information or clarify details with a suspect who is not under arrest, and the individual is free to leave at any time. The police may still have evidence but choose this approach for various reasons, including the nature of the investigation and the cooperation level of the suspect.

Can you decline a voluntary interview?

Yes, you can decline a voluntary police interview since it is not mandatory. However, it’s important to be aware that declining may lead the police to consider other legal steps, including potentially arresting you to conduct the interview under custody.

Can I get legal aid for a voluntary police interview?

Yes, you can get legal aid for a voluntary police interview. It’s advisable to seek legal representation to ensure your rights are protected during the interview process.

How serious is a voluntary interview?

A voluntary interview is serious as it involves police questioning about a matter under investigation. While not under arrest, the individual’s responses can have significant legal implications. It’s important to approach it with caution and consider taking legal advice.

What can happen after a voluntary interview?

After a voluntary interview, several outcomes are possible: the police may decide no further action is necessary, they could continue their investigation based on the information provided, or they might proceed with charges if enough evidence is gathered. The specific outcome depends on the interview’s findings and the ongoing investigation’s progress. In most cases, the police will need to ask the CPS to decide on what should happen.

Are voluntary police interviews recorded?

Yes, voluntary police interviews are recorded to ensure that there is an accurate record of questions asked, answers given and anything else that may have happened during the interview. In most cases, the recording is an audio recording. In some cases, it can be a video recording.

Do police show all evidence in interview?

No, police do not necessarily show all evidence during an interview. They may withhold certain information as part of their investigation strategy or to verify the accuracy of statements made by the interviewee. The purpose of a police interview is to ask questions about the involvement or alleged involvement in a criminal offence of the person being interviewed.

Can you be charged without being interviewed?

Yes, you can be charged without being interviewed if the police have sufficient evidence to proceed with charges without needing information from an interview.