Law Society Scotland

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The police have phoned me up and want me to pop in to have a word with them

You need to be careful. Firstly are you a being treated as a suspect? We’ ll check that for you. If you are simply a witness then there is not a problem and you do not usually need a lawyer.

If you are to be interviewed about a crime as a suspect or are not sure then contact us urgently. We will contact the police and find out what the police wish to see you about. If you are to be interviewed as a suspect then we will go to the police station with you. Under Scots law you are entitled to legal advice before and if necessary during a S14 police interview.

Often people go to police interviews and waive their rights to see a solicitor when asked. That’s because they think they don’t need one, or its all been a misunderstanding and the police will see that, or simply they are embarrassed and don’t want to make a fuss.

People also come to regret this. Usually after the interview. There is no harm in speaking to us before going to a police interview (if you already have a lawyer then speak to them).

Even if you don’t have a chance to speak to us before then ask for us at the police station. The police must ask you if you want a lawyer notified when you are at the police station to be interviewed in relation to a suspected crime. If you ask for Ron Mackenna he will be phoned and he will speak to you. He will attend at the police station and sit with you during the interview, if necessary.

Here’s some more information if you need it

A) What will happen when I go for an interview at a police station? If you are detained under S14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act then you usually will be taken through the back of the police station – to the charge bar – and processed. This can be a strange experience if you haven’t been in a police station before. Your property will be taken from you and stored and and you will be asked a lot of questions during the processing. ITS AT THIS POINT THAT YOU WILL FIRST BE ASKED IF YOU WANT A SOLICITOR NOTIFIED. We would advise you to always say yes AND ask to speak to the solicitor. YOU do not need to know more than the solicitor’s name. Ron Mackenna Defence Lawyers are on the police duty scheme. All contact details are kept on a register. The police will contact him.

B) Is being detained a bad thing? Surprising as this may sound it is often in your interest to be detained rather than simply have an interview with a police officer on a voluntary or non-detention basis. This is because the law swings into place to protect your rights the minute detention starts. This is not simply by allowing you access to and advice from a solicitor – but because the clock also starts ticking. In most cases you can only be detained for 12 hours without charge. Though that can under certain circumstances, and with certain safeguards, be extended to 24 hours.

C) Will you advise me to make No Comment? If you ask for us to be contacted then we will give you advice on the interview. Often that advice will be to make NO COMMENT – though not in all cases. No comment does not make you look guilty. It does not mean you have something to hide. It is your right to make no comment and in almost all cases it cannot be held against you. A no comment interview is often treated as something that simply didn’t happen.

D) Will the police just stop asking as soon as I say No Comment? The answer to that is no. Many police are trained in interview techniques. They may have prepared your interview by writing out their questions in an interview plan. You won’t see that. Normally one officer takes the lead and the second chips in and asks a few questions near the end. In case anything is missed. The police may expect you to make No Comment and they will be prepared for that.

They will ask you many questions. At first the questions will seem friendly, uncontroversial, chatty. Based on my experience people who start answering these questions then find they simply cannot stop talking. It may be the case that these questions are designed to relax you or simply it may be that the police know that once people start answering some questions they very often find it hard to stop.

It is actually quite difficult to repeatedly say: No Comment. For a variety of reasons including manners; simple politeness; it seems rude not to help the police,; the fact that very rarely in life are we in a situation where we say straight to someone’s face that we are not answering their questions, and many more reasons.

It is rarely wise to think you can second guess the police, or only answer questions that suit you. For a start commenting in some parts and answering No Comment at other parts of a police interview can make it look like you were hiding something when the recording or transcript is later used in court. The police are not there to prove a crime against you. They are there to gather enough evidence to give the crown what is called a sufficiency of evidence. That can allow a case to be started against you. Sometimes simply admitting you were at such and such a place is enough to start a case against you. Even if your position is that you didn’t do anything. It is common in assault cases for people to talk about acting in self-defence not realising that simply saying you were involved may be enough to complete the evidence needed to start a prosecution. If that is the case the courts will decide whether it is self-defence. Not the police.

By the time the police come to interview you they may well have carried out a thorough investigation. They may come into the interview armed with information you know nothing about. Or could know nothing about. To attempt to answer questions that are being effectively sprung upon you is rarely a good idea. What’s more: would you really want to be involved in a prolonged memory test without having had advance warning about what you were doing on such and such a day, or days, at such and such a time. Or times. It rarely looks good if you get something wrong. For all these reasons and more relying on No Comment can be as a result of good advice. But every case is different.

4) What if you have something to say? There are circumstances when it may be wise to say something in a police interview – if that is the case we will advise you of it.

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