An informal survey of Magistrates Court cases in South Yorkshire found that as many as 70% of police interviews now take place without a solicitor.
Pressure on police workloads means that suspects are often interviewed on a voluntary basis without being arrested, and sometimes interviews take place away from the police station.
John Gibson, partner and head of the criminal law department at Howells Solicitors, said ‘We are concerned that people think because their interview takes place in their home or the back of a police car, or at the police station on a voluntary basis, it’s not serious. What we then see at court is people who are horrified to find that an answer they gave, or their failure to answer a question, is used as evidence at court and they risk a conviction, leading to a criminal record or even a prison sentence.
People should be aware that if they are interviewed under caution by a police officer they are entitled to free expert advice regardless of their income. They can ask for their own specialist solicitor or the duty solicitor.
We also find that people are concerned they will have to wait a long time for a solicitor to attend, but our legal aid contracts require us to attend within 45 minutes of being notified, whether the interview takes place at a police station or elsewhere’.
For more information and advice please contact Howells Crime Team on 0114 2496666 or the 24 hour arrest line on 07774 162757.