POLICE INTERVIEW, SHOULD YOU DO ONE?
If police suspect you committed a criminal offence, they will offer you the chance to take part in an interview with them. This means they will tell you about the alleged offence and ask you to comment about it. They will also ask you questions. You may think to yourself, “what harm could I do in participating in an interview with police? I will just go in and tell them my side of the story, the truth”. When charged with a criminal offence, it is not about what happened, it is what the prosecution can prove? Before you reveal to anyone what you know, wouldn’t you want to know what the prosecution can prove against you.
IS THERE ANY BENEFIT FOR ME IN DOING AN INTERVIEW WITH POLICE?
The law says when a Court sentences a person, the Court must consider any help they gave to police in investigating a criminal offence. This means, if you do an interview with police regarding a criminal offence and you tell them things about it, the Court must take this into account.
CAN I REFUSE A POLICE INTERVIEW IN QUEENSLAND?
Yes. In Queensland, no matter what anyone says to you, you do not have to take part in an interview with police. You can and should exercise your right to silence. If police ask you questions in relation to an indictable offence, the law says you DO NOT have to say anything. Do not fall into the trap of agreeing to listen to what the police have to tell you about the offence. Police will record offering you the opportunity to take part in an interview and even if you say no, they will ask you if you want to hear about what they have to say. This is a trap! We have had clients go through this and forget their right to silence and start speaking about the offence.
IF I REFUSE TO TAKE PART IN AN INTERVIEW WITH POLICE, CAN THIS BE USED AGAINST ME AT TRIAL?
In Queensland, if you refuse to participate in an interview with police this cannot be used against you at a trial. The prosecution cannot say at a trial that police offered to interview you, and you refused. This is not allowed under Queensland law!
7 RISKS OF TAKING PART IN AN INTERVIEW WITH POLICE
There are many risks in taking part in an interview with police regarding a criminal offence. We have highlighted 7 of the key things you should know before agreeing to take part in an interview.
- Any admissions you make against your own interest can be used against you by the prosecution. You can be convicted of a criminal offence based on your own admissions, and nothing more. By taking part in an interview with police only makes the job of the police easier.
- Before you take part in the interview you will have no idea what the police will ask you.
- You will have no idea how you will respond to the questions police ask you. When you respond to the questions you are asked you will be on the spot and you will not have time to prepare your answers. When you are being interviewed you have little time to think about your response. Because you are on the spot to give an answer, you will not know how you will respond. We are humans and unless you have had a lot of contact with police in your life, you will be nervous and anxious. During the interview, you will likely think to yourself, “I just want to get out of here”. As a result, you may respond quickly to questions asked of you, rather than taking your time to think about your answer. This can lead to mistakes. In our experience, persons who take part in interviews with police often later regret what they told the police. They walk away wishing they never took part in the interview. Once you say something to police during an interview, it is impossible to take it back, because you already said it. If you say something that harms you, you can bet the prosecution will use this against you. For example, they will play your interview to the jury.
- Things you say during the interview could be misinterpreted later by others (such as a jury). During the interview, what you say could be misconstrued by the prosecution and jury to your detriment. Just think about your own experience in life when you communicate with people. A person may say something to you they believe means something, but you interpret what they say to mean something different. You will be hard pressed to convince a jury what you told police in the interview meant something different to what they understand it to be.
- At the time you take part in the interview you may have no idea if the police have any evidence against you. Police interviews can happen early in the peace before the police has fully conducted their investigation. Even if the police tell you they have evidence proving you committed the offence, you will not have seen it. For example, they may tell you there is CCTV footage showing you committing the offence. But, if you watch the CCTV footage you may not identify anyone on it. You make think this would never happen, but it does.
- You may tell police things they do not know that may help them prosecute you. Remember, the prosecution must prove their case against an accused; an accused does not need to prove anything.
- You may tell police things leading to you being charged with other criminal offences. The most common situation where this happens is with drug offences. Police may search a person and locate drugs on them. The person may take part in an interview with police and tell the police about helping friends out by selling them drugs. What starts off as a simple possession charge turns into trafficking or supply charges. Had the person refused to be interviewed, the police would only have been able to charge them with possessing the dangerous drug.