What To Do In A Police Interview in Western Australia

Being called to participate in a police interview can be a very unnerving experience, especially if you haven’t been in this situation before.

If you are suspected of committing a crime, how you navigate the interview process could prove significant in any criminal case against you.

The following information was provided by Andrew Williams, a leading criminal defence lawyer in Perth, Western Australia. What you’ll learn is how a police interview is conducted, your rights during an interview and whether you should answer police questions if you are a suspect to an offence.

What is a police interview?

A police interview involves the formal questioning of the police to a suspect to an offence. A police interview is undertaken for the purpose of investigating an offence and to attain further evidence.

If you are a suspect and you participate in a record of interview with the police police interview could be used as evidence against you at trial.

Generally, police will either schedule a police interview with you requesting that you attend a police station on a particular date or they will undertake the interview following your arrest. Interviews are usually conducted by two officers who will sit across from you in a table within a special room designed for interviews.

Police will often ask you general questions about a particular incident, asking you to describe your involvement in the alleged offence before putting several targeted of specific questions to you. All of the interview is recorded, so if you were to change your story midway through an interview or make inconsistent statements, this may be used against you at trial.

After your interview, police may draft up a written statement reflecting what you have said and ask you to sign it.

Rights during a police interview

When a police interview begins one of the officers will detail your rights during the interview.

These include rights to:

  • Know what offences you are suspected to have committed and/or why you have been arrested and what you are being interviewed about;
  • Contact a friend or relative to let them know where you are;
  • Contact a lawyer to attain legal advice;
  • Have an interpreter present if needed;
  • Receive medical treatment if required;
  • A formal caution that you are not required to answer questions put to your during interview, with the exception of your name, date of birth and address, or when otherwise required by law.

It’s important that you  speak to a lawyer before participating in a police recorded interview to ensure you understand your rights. If police choose to continue with an interview without giving you the opportunity to speak to a lawyer, you should answer ‘no comment’ to the questions put to you during the interview.  Provide your name, date of birth and address to police and respond ‘no comment’ to all other questions put to you.

Although there are no strict limits on how long a police interview can last for, generally an interview should only be conducted for a ‘reasonable time’ and sufficient breaks should be provided if an interview continues for a long period.

Should you answer police questions?

Whether you should participate in a police interview depends on your individual circumstances, which a specialist criminal defence lawyer will be able to assess and advise on.

It’s important to emphasise that you have a ‘right to silence’ in Australia, meaning no future jury or Magistrate can make any ‘adverse inferences’ about you merely because you chose not to participate in a police interview.

If you are ever unsure about participating in a police interview, it is always safer to provide a ‘no comment’ interview. You can always contact police at a later date, after receiving legal advice, to provide information you think could assist in clearing your name.

During a police interview you the option to choose answer some questions put to you by police and respond ‘no comment’ to others. However, if you chose to  respond ‘no comment’ to some police questions, it is advisable to respond in the same way and answer “no comment” to all questions.

If you choose to answer some questions and not others a the recorded interview will be played in court and a Magistrate or fact finder may question why you chose to answer some questions and not others.

Speak to a lawyer first

It’s important that you speak to an experienced criminal lawyer before participating in a police interview.

A lawyer will be able to advise you on how to behave during the interview, your rights and whether a ‘no comment’ interview is the best approach.

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