The conduct of interviews

The conduct of interviews is covered by Code C. The overriding principle is that all persons in custody must be dealt with expeditiously and released as soon as the need for detention has ceased to apply. Except in very limited circumstances interviews should only take place in a police station. You should always be cautioned before an interview and be reminded that you have a right to legal advice (unless the circumstances as described in that section apply). Before a detainee is interviewed the custody officer, in consultation with others, shall assess whether the detainee is fit enough to be interviewed. You should be told why you are being interviewed and the nature of the offence or further offence. At the beginning of an interview at a police station, the interviewing officer, after cautioning you, should put to you any significant statement or silence that occurred before your arrival at the police station and you should be asked to confirm, deny or add to it. A significant statement or silence is one which is capable of being used in evidence against the suspect or of giving rise to an inference under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

An accurate written record should be made of each interview - whether or not it takes place at a police station - unless the interview is tape or video recorded. You have a right to see the interview record and you should sign it only if it records exactly what you have said.

Virtually all interviews are now tape-recorded and procedures must follow the Code of Practice for tape-recording, Code E. In many cases the interview must be video-recorded in which case the police should follow the Code of Practice for video taping interviews, Code F. Less formal interviews, which are subsequently written up by police officers in their notebooks, are still quite common and you usually have no chance to check the accuracy of their notes.

There are special provisions to protect juveniles, mentally disordered and otherwise mentally vulnerable suspects during interview. The use of prolonged or oppressive questioning, or the denial of access to a solicitor, or other breaches of the Codes or PACE, which are not merely technical, may render confessions inadmissible in evidence at court. There may, in addition, be a breach of Article 3 of the Convention, which can be used as part of the argument to have the confession excluded.

The point at which questioning must cease (except in very limited circumstances) has recently been extended in the latest version of Code C. Questioning can continue until the officer in charge of the investigation:

  • Is satisfied that all questions they consider relevant to obtaining accurate and reliable information about the offence have been put to the suspect (including those which would permit an innocent explanation);
  • Has taken account of all other available evidence; and
  • Reasonably believes there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
I n any period of 24 hours a detainee must be allowed a continuous period of at least eight hours rest. This period should normally be at night.

Also there should be regular breaks in interviewing for meals and light refreshments as described in Code C.

Questioning should cease as soon as the interrogating officer believes that there is sufficient evidence for a prosecution to be brought successfully. You should then be taken before the custody officer and charged or informed that you may be prosecuted.
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