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People facing a police interview may mistakenly believe that the police are interested in the truth

The prosecution process starts with a police interview. This is why it is vital that you know your rights before the interview commences.

We’ve listed below a number of recommendations to help you during the interview.

You must

  • Find out what the charges are
  • Request the use of a telephone to contact you solicitor
  • Supply the police with your name and address
  • Always ensure that you are polite
  • Dress professionally. The interview is recorded on video and you want to look your best
  • Request bail.

You must not

  • Reply to any questions. The only information you are required to give is your name and address and the registration of any car or trailer that you own
  • Make any written or spoken statements
  • Sign any document
  • Plead guilty to any crime until you have had time to speak to your solicitor
  • Become rude or offensive
  • Oppose arrest.

Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Why a police interview?

The aim of the interview is not to seek the truth. It is to gather evidence against you so that it can be used against you in a court of law. The police want you to give your account of an occurrence and then they will compare it with the accounts of other people. This is why they record your interview on video.

If you are at a police interview you are a suspect in a crime. If you were not a suspect you might be invited to the police station to make a statement. You are entitled to turn down the invitation to make a statement. A Police interview, on the other hand, is not voluntary. You must attend.

Those who face a police interview for the first time often don’t understand the process

People facing a police interview for the first time may mistakenly believe that the police are interested in the truth and that if they give an honest account of what happened they will be free to go.

Unfortunately, this is not so. The police expect you to plead not guilty. They will do everything in their power to prove that you are a liar. Remember that they are skilled at asking questions that could tie you up in knots. They may even use an honest mistake or slip of the memory to prove that you can’t be trusted.

What happens at a police interview?

If you are required at a police interview, the police may arrest you. Alternatively, they may call you and invite you to come to the police station to take part in the police interview. What route they take depends on the nature of the crime for which you are a suspect.

Arrest at work or home is embarrassing. You can avoid this if you heed the request to come into the police station for the interview. Once you have made an appointment to attend an interview it is in your own best interests to ensure that you are at the police station at the appointed time.

If you are accused of a serious crime you should try to schedule the interview for as early in the day as possible, and at all costs avoid Friday. This will ensure that you have sufficient time to apply to the court for bail should the police arrest you and refuse you bail. If you are arrested on a Friday and denied bail you might find yourself sitting in jail for the whole weekend.

How the interview starts

Your interview will start with the police explaining your rights. You have the right to a lawyer and the police will ask you whether you would like to contact yours. If you do not have a lawyer, they will supply you with the Yellow Pages so that you can find one. As you can imagine it is not easy choosing a lawyer from the yellow pages. It is therefore advisable that you have your lawyer’s number with you when you attend a police interview.

It makes sense to meet with your lawyer before you attend the interview. You should discuss whether you will make no comments or talk your way through the interview.

Take the opportunity to phone your lawyer when the police offer it to you. He can talk to the police and find out what the charges might be and whether or not you will receive bail. If the police plan to refuse bail it is helpful to have your lawyer on hand to apply to the court for bail.

During the interview the police will ask you for an account of what has happened. After that they will cross question you and compare your account with other versions of the incident. At this point the interviewee often gets hot under the collar and may say things that he or she may later regret later. Try to keep your cool.

Who attends the police interview?

You will, of course, attend as will your lawyer. The police officer bringing the charges and a second police officer who bears witness will also attend the interview.

Will I need a lawyer?

This depends on the severity and complexity of the case. The decision on whether to take a lawyer to the interview, or not, is one of economics. You must decide on this based on costs and benefits.

Can a family member come to the police interview with me?

Only if you are under 18. The police must allow only your lawyer to attend your interview, so family may not go into the interview with you. It is a good idea, however, to take someone who is not involved in the matter with you for support. They can wait outside.

“No comment” interviews

A “no comment” interview is a police interview where the interviewee says “no comment” to every question except for their name and address.

If you decide to conduct a “no comment” interview, it is essential that you respond in the same way to every question. You should not answer any question put to you. A partial “no comment” is dangerous and will be used against you in a court of law.

When you use a “no comment” interview you enforce your right to protection from self-incriminating evidence. This is a fundamental right upheld by Australian law. Police can use anything you say against you. If you make mistakes under this stressful environment the police can use those against you to prove that you are untrustworthy. The police have huge resources to prove their case in court. You do not have to add to their evidence with your own words.

The police cannot use a “no comment” interview against you. They cannot use it as an indication of guilt.

If you are doing a “no comment” interview you should not sign or mark any document.

Can I provide the police with a statement after the interview?

Although it rarely happens you may provide the police with a statement of what happened after the interview. 

How long is a police interview?

A police interview can range in time from ten or twenty minutes to several hours. For obvious reasons the “no comment” interviews are quickly over. Be prepared for a long wait before the interview. The police tend to make interviewees wait to build up stress levels. Take a magazine or book with you and try to relax.

The recording of interviews

Police record all of the interviews, so it makes sense to dress appropriately and behave well. Several people will view the recording in the future so you should do your best to make a good impression. It goes without saying that you should always treat the police politely. If you’re rude to them, you will receive similar treatment from them.

What if the police want me to plead guilty to get bail?

Obviously, the police are motivated to strengthen their case by convincing you to give them a statement. You should never plead guilty to something that you have not done just to achieve short term gains such a bail. Repeat what the police have said in the interview so that you have recorded evidence. If you have pleaded guilty make sure that the threat of no bail is on record along with the conditions for bail.

The police may not pressurise interviewees into making a statement of any kind. Unless you have it recorded, they will deny ever having made such an offer.

After the interview

The police will take your fingerprints after the interview. They may also ask you to provide DNA. If you have been granted bail you will go to the watch house where another policeman will give you an opportunity to lodge any complaints before you are released.  

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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