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Police Interviews – Basic Tips

Speech is silver, silence is golden

A police interview is an important cog in the police investigation and must be approached with considered thought. It is where the police ask a suspect questions about an allegation made against them. The interview is audio visually recorded and exhibited to the police brief. After the interview, the police will either proceed to charge the suspect or release them pending further investigation. It is concerning to see people participate in a police interview without speaking with a lawyer first. In this article, I offer some basic tips on how to properly handle a police interview.

Get legal advice

You should get legal advice if you have been invited to participate in a police interview. A common mistake I see people make is they over-simplify the process by thinking they can handle a police interview without receiving advice from a lawyer. Occasionally they regret their responses afterwards. Police officers are trained investigators and regularly conduct interviews. They know how to build rapport with suspects with the hope of encouraging them to answer their questions.

Getting legal advice before participating in a police interview is beneficial for the following reasons –

  1. A lawyer can explain the process to you so you know what to expect. Do not think you can cruise your way through a police interview unscathed without some advice. It is worth remembering, the police always have the upper hand because they have spent time investigating the allegation before your interview, they may already know things about you and the interview is conducted at the police station giving them a home-ground advantage.
  2. Your lawyer will speak with the police to gather as much information about the allegations as possible. A prudent defence lawyer will speak with the police prior to your interview to understand the parameters of the allegations. This will also allow your lawyer to determine if you should prepare for a bail application depending on the potential charges.
  3. Your lawyer will arrange an appropriate time with police for your interview to occur. Ideally, you should avoid attending the police station in the afternoon, at night and on weekends because you may have to wait to apply for bail.
  4. Your lawyer will advise you if it is appropriate to answer police questions. This is a forensic decision which requires careful thought.

It is worth engaging your lawyer to attend the police station with you to make sure you do not unwittingly forfeit your rights. It will also provide you with some peace of mind to know there is someone there on your side. Although this comes at a cost, it will pay dividends should your case ever go to a contested hearing or trial.

‘No comment’ versus providing a comment

The old expression, ‘speech is silver, silence is golden’ ought to be your mantra in a police interview. Understandably, you want to respond to questions or allegations made against you, especially when the allegations are false. You may think – what is the harm? You must resist this urge so as to protect your position. The burden is on the police to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. In most instances, there is no burden on you to prove anything.

Police officers occasionally say things, such as ‘this is your one and only opportunity to explain your side of the story’ or ‘this is your chance to tell me your side of the story so I can see where the cards land’, to try to encourage people to answer their questions. This is not so. In cases where you must establish something key to your defence, such as a ‘reasonable belief’ or an ‘honest mistake’, you will have an opportunity to do this later on. The police interview is not the forum to do this. Criminal law is adversarial by nature and the police are not on your side if they consider you a suspect.

Don’t be in a rush

Alarmingly, people will say things during a police interview to simply get back home quickly. Impatience is a dangerous mind-set to have during a police interview because you may say something which is harmful to your defence later on in court.

Take your time and always be mindful of your rights.

Be polite

Even though criminal law is adversarial, you should be polite to police. You will not gain anything by being argumentative or objectionable. Your demeanour is audio-visually recorded in an interview and will be shown to the Magistrate or jury. You want to leave a good impression on the trier of fact.

These are some basic insights into police interviews. Please contact us on 9317 9712 if you or a loved one has been asked to participate in a police interview.

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