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A Guide to Voluntary Police Interviews

The number of arrests made by police in England and Wales is said to have halved in the last decade, with Home Office statistics indicating arrests dropped from 1.5 million in 2008 to 779,660 in 2017. One of the main reasons for this decrease is the rise in voluntary police interviews at police stations.

What are voluntary police interviews?

If you are asked by the police to attend a voluntary interview, sometimes referred to as an interview under caution, you are not under arrest and you do not have to consent to being interviewed. It’s important to understand that you are under caution and these “quick chats” can result in criminal proceedings being commenced. The interview will be recorded and can therefore be used as evidence. Voluntary police interviews can seem rather informal, especially when compared to arrests, but the level of seriousness should not be overlooked. For example, some individuals may not even be aware of the fact they are ‘suspects’ in criminal proceedings. Below are just a few key points to remember regarding your rights:

  • You’re not under arrest and you don’t have to consent to being interviewed – though this could work against you in the event of further investigation.
  • Before the police interviewer asks you to consent, you must be told about your rights, entitlements and safeguards.
  • You can leave at any time (unless you are arrested).
  • Simply tell the police interviewer that you want a solicitor to help you during the interview process. If you do ask for legal advice, the police interviewer is not permitted to ask you questions until you have had the chance to speak to a solicitor.
  • This phrase is one you’ll have no likely heard before, but when you’re asked questions about a suspected offence, “you do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something that you later rely on in court.”

The importance of a Solicitor or Criminal Defence Lawyer

Any interview with the police is a serious matter and it should be treated as such. No matter how friendly or informal the request from the police may be, you must remember you are held under caution, and even though you’re not technically under arrest, anything you do say can be used as evidence in court (in the event the investigation results in a prosecution). As a “volunteer” you must be told about your “rights, entitlements and safeguards that that will apply to the interview” and one of these is the right to access independent legal advice, whilst you are free to leave the police station unless you are arrested. It’s therefore very important to acquire legal representation, such as a criminal defence solicitor like Noble Solicitors. We can then attend the police interview and protect your rights if you’re accused of an offence. We’ll make you aware of your options during the interview and after, should you face further investigation.

Can an interview become an arrest?

An interview and an arrest are two separate matters. If you’re initially invited into a police station for a voluntary police interview but the decision is made to arrest you, the police officer(s) must inform the custody officer who will then inform you that you’re under arrest. When under arrest, you’re prevented from leaving the police station, however, the police can only hold you for up to 24 hours before they have to charge you with a crime or release you.

The right to refuse a voluntary police interview

You can refuse to partake as it’s a ‘voluntary’ interview, however, a refusal to attend could prompt the police to arrest you, where you will need to give a “standard interview” in custody. It’s important to note that you are entitled to independent legal advice whether you are giving a standard or voluntary interview.

Why are police opting for voluntary interviews as opposed to making arrests?

The statistics we mentioned earlier do not lie, but they do not provide a clear-cut reason behind this shift either. There may be many different reasons as to why voluntary interviews are becoming more popular. What we can say with certainty is that the decrease in arrests is not a result of crime dramatically decreasing. There has not been a major change in law to prompt this increase in voluntary interviews; however, it could be argued that there has been a major shift in police policy in recent years.

One potential reason for choosing a voluntary interview over an arrest is that police have received a complaint but do not have enough evidence to make an arrest, or perhaps it’s the simple fact that voluntary interviews are more cost effective than arrests and detention. Another possible reason is that voluntary interviews avoid many of the legal issues involved in placing someone under arrest. For example, they can be dealt with at a time and date that’s convenient to all parties, potentially resulting in a smoother process, rather than taking the potentially stressful and time-consuming route of formal custody.

What happens after the interview?

The police will either stop pursuing action against you, keep you waiting whist they proceed with their enquiries or pursue a case against you.

Voluntary Police Interviews: Learn more from Noble Solicitors

Noble Solicitors has a knowledgeable and experienced team of Criminal Defence Lawyers. We’re well versed in helping volunteers understand the information provided in preparation for their interviews. Not only will we liaise with the police to acquire disclosure in relation to the allegations, but we’ll also work with the volunteer to agree a strategy focused on minimising the chances of being prosecuted. If you’d like to learn more about us and how we can help you, please call us today on 07000 81 82 83 or email us at and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

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