When the police ask you to participate in an interview, it is important to be aware of what your rights are. These include being allowed to contact a lawyer if you want to do so and refusing to answer the police’s questions. If you are placed under arrest, you have the right to be told what offence you are being arrested for.
When police ask you for your name and address, you have to provide them. However, you do not have to tell them anything else. If you choose to participate in an interview, what you say can be used as evidence against you in court.
Before interviewing a person, the police must formally caution them. A caution involves the police reading your rights to you.
The standard Victoria Police caution is as follows:
- I must inform you that you do not have to say or do anything but anything you say or do may be given in evidence in court. Do you understand?
- I must also inform you of your following rights:
- You may communicate with or attempt to communicate with a friend or a relative to inform that person of your whereabouts.
- You may communicate with or attempt to communicate with a legal practitioner.
The caution is written on the inside of the folders Victoria Police use for each suspect. It is likely the caution will be read directly to you from the folder.
If you do not know the number of a family member or friend you want to call, you can ask the police to access your mobile phone to provide that number to you. Victoria Police do not have to help you with this but they will if you are polite and respectful.
It is crucial you call a lawyer after police read you your rights. If you do not have a lawyer, police can provide you with the contact number of a lawyer.
Recordings of interviews
If you are being interviewed for an indictable offence, Victoria Police must record the interview with you and provide you with a copy of the recording when you are released from custody. If you are not released from custody, the recording of your interview will stay with your belongings until you are able to provide it to your lawyer.
If you are being interviewed for a summary offence, such as unlawful assault or being drunk in a public place, police can ask you questions and write your answers down. This is referred to as a “Field Statement”. You will be provided with a copy of the Field Statement when you receive the brief of evidence from Victoria Police in the future.
How to Answer Questions
You will generally be interviewed by two police officers. You can choose to answer all or none of the questions asked by Victoria Police. If you choose not to answer a question, simply say “no comment”. The police should then move on to their next question.
It is always our advice that you provide a complete “no comment” interview. This means you would confirm your name, address and nothing else. You can tell the Informant on arrival at the police station that you will be making a no comment interview.
Making a no comment interview cannot be used against you later on. Victoria Police cannot refer to your refusal to answer questions to imply you are guilty or do not want to tell the truth.
Answering police questions can tie you to a position – for example, you might say that ten people were present at a party but during investigations the police find evidence which shows thirteen people were present. This may impact your believability and credibility when giving evidence to the court. Although it appears like an innocent error it can be detrimental to your matter in the future.
Remember: Do not be aggressive, difficult or rude during the interview or at the police station. There is nothing to be gained by this kind of behaviour and much to be lost. As the interview is recorded, it may be played during a contested hearing or at trial if you ultimately plead not guilty to the charge/s. Behaving badly during the interview may impact how a magistrate/jury views you and your evidence.
If you do not speak fluent English, Victoria Police must offer you access to an interpreter for the interview. At any stage, during the process, you can ask to have an interpreter available. Even in circumstances where you speak English regularly but have trouble understanding particular questions police are asking, we suggest you ask for an interpreter.
If the police refuse to provide an interpreter after you have asked, your lawyer may be able to argue later on that the evidence you gave during the interview cannot be used against you in court.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.