A guide to "No Comment" police interviews
By Dark Politricks
Being arrested isn't a whole lot of fun but it's a whole world away from doing time at her majesties pleasure, and one of the most important factors which can turn an arrest into a conviction is the police interview and how you handle it.
Being interviewed, although not much fun in itself, can be seen in a good light when taken in context to how the police work. This is because it means the Police don't have enough evidence on their own to charge with you an offence and are seeking to gather more incriminating evidence or even a confession from an interview.
The chances are that if you have been arrested for public order offenses or drunk and disorderly or other escapades leaving a nightclub you won't get interviewed.
Instead you will be given free board in the cells and a court date in the morning. The reason for this is that you have committed your crime in front of witnesses (probably police officers) and they already have enough evidence at that point to charge you with an offence.
So if you have been nicked and the police do want to conduct an interview with you there is a good chance that they don't have enough evidence at this point to charge you and they are hoping you will either confess all during the taped interview or slip up and incriminate yourself in some way that can be used against you.
I was taught the following lesson the hard way, but it's one that should be memorised especially if you believe that one day the police may come knocking on your door:
Admitting anything in interview is doing the police's job for them.
The reason why becomes very clear once you realise that there are multiple stages that someone will pass through once they have been arrested.
Once you understand the various hoops the legal process jumps through on the way to court you will see how much sense it makes to do a no comment interview even with the changes to the law passed in the much hated Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
Remember never to talk to the police until your solicitor arrives and then you can at least tell the court if asked why you gave a no comment interview that you did so on the advice of your brief.
Once arrested the police have to decide whether or not they have enough evidence to charge you with a crime. If they are interviewing you then they are looking for you to either confess to the crime or implicate yourself or others in said crime. If the police believe there is not enough evidence at this stage to proceed with then you might get let off without being charged or you might be released on police bail to return to the station at a later date.
If you are released on police bail then this means they are still looking into the crime and weighing up whether or not they have a good enough chance of prosecuting you.
This is where the Crown Prosecution Service comes in and their job is to decide whether the evidence gathered by the police is enough to mount a successful prosecution as well as deciding whether or not it is in the public interest to proceed. You can read about the guidelines that the CPS have to use when making their decision in the following document titled The Code For Crown Prosecutors.
If the CPS believe that their is insufficient evidence to mount a successful prosecution then they have the power to discontinue any existing prosecution and if you haven't been charged yet then you would be informed that no further action is to be taken (NFA) on the matter. Receiving an NFA letter through the post is almost as good as winning the lottery.
Even if the CPS do continue the prosecution you will have the chance to tell your side of the story in court either in front of a magistrate or for more severe crimes in front of a Judge and Jury.
Therefore you can see how by doing the police's job for them by talking during an interview is not in your best interest as it can give both the Police and the CPS everything they require to proceed with a prosecution.
A No Comment interview is always in your best interest.
This article has been taken from www.schnews.org.uk and is a guide to handling yourself in a police interview.
NO COMMENT - THE DEFENDANT'S GUIDE TO ARREST
If you think you might one day run the risk of being arrested, you must find out what to do in that situation. If prison, fines, "community service", etc don't appeal to you, by following this advice you can massively reduce the risk of all three. In the police station, the cops rely on people's naivety. Wise Up.
When you have been arrested:
You have to give the police your name, address and date of birth. They also have the right to take your fingerprints, photo and non-intimate body samples. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 has now removed the traditional "right to silence". However, all this means is that the police/prosecution can point out your refusal to speak to them, when the case comes to court, and the court may take this as evidence of your guilt.
The police cannot force you to speak or to give a statement, whatever they may say to you in the station.
Refusing to speak cannot be used to convict you by itself. It's yet to be seen how the police will use this change in the law, but we reckon the best policy if you want to get off is remain silent. The best place to work out a good defense is afterwards, with your solicitor or witnesses, not under pressure in the hands of the cops. If your refusal to speak comes up in court, the best defense we think is to refuse to speak until your solicitor gets there, then get them to agree to your position. You can then say you acted on legal advice. Keeping silent is still the best thing to do in police custody.
Q: What happens when I get arrested?
When you are arrested, you will be taken to a police station. You will be asked your name, address and date of birth. Your personal belongings will be taken from you. These are listed on the custody record and usually you will be asked to sign that the list is correct. You should sign immeciately below the last item, so that the cops can't add something incriminating to the list. You should also refuse to sign for something which isn't yours, or which could be incriminating. You will then be placed in a cell until the police are ready to deal with you.
Q: When can I contact a solicitor?
You should be able to ring a solicitor as soon as you've been arrested. Once at the police station it is one of the first things you should do, for two reasons:
- To have someone know where you are
- To show the cops you are not going to be a soft target; they may back off a bit
It is advisable to avoid using the duty solicitor as they are often either crap or hand in glove with the cops. It's worth finding the number of a good solicitor in your area and memorising it. The police are wary of decent solicitors. Also, avoid telling your solicitor exactly what happened; this can be sorted out later. For the time being, tell them you are refusing to speak. Your solicitor can come into the police station while the police interview you: you should refuse to be interviewed unless your solicitor is present.
Q: What is an interview?
An interview is the police questioning you about the offences they want to charge you with. The interview will usually take place in an interview room in the police station. An interview is only of benefit to the police. Remember they want to prosecute you for whatever charges they can stick on you. An interview is a no-win situation. For your benefit, the only thing to be said in an interview is "No Comment". Remember, they cannot legally force you to speak.
Q: Why do the police want me to answer questions?
If the police think they have enough evidence against you they will not need to interview you. In most public order arrests they rely on witness statements from 1 or 2 cops or bystanders, you won't even be interviewed.
The police want to convict as many people as possible because:
- They want to convict you to make it look like they're doing a good job at solving crime. The "clear up rate" is very important to the cops, they have to be seen to be doing their job. The more crimes they get convictions for, the better it looks for them.
- Police officers want promotion, to climb up the ladder of hierarchy. Coppers get promotion through the number of crimes they "solve". No copper wants to be a bobby all their life.
A "solved" crime is a conviction against somebody. You only have to look at such cases as the Birmingham Six to understand how far the police will go to get a conviction. Fitting people up to boost the "clear up rate", and at the same time removing people the cops don't like, is a widespread part of all police forces.
Q: So if the police want to interview me, it shows I could be in a good position?
Yes - they may not have enough evidence, and hope you'll implicate yourself or other people. And the easy way to stay in that good position is to refuse to be drawn into a conversation and answer "No Comment" to any questions.
Q: But what if the evidence looks like they have got something on me? Wouldn't it be best to explain away the circumstances I was arrested in, so they'll let me go?
The only evidence that matters is the evidence presented in court to the magistrate or judge. The only place to explain everything is in court. If they've decided to keep you in, no amount of explaining will get you out. If the police have enough evidence, anything you say can only add to the evidence against you. When the cops interview someone, they do all they can to confuse and intimidate you. The questions may not be related to the crime. Their aim is to soften you up, get you chatting. Don't answer a few small talk questions and them clam up when they ask you a question about the crime, it looks worse in court. To prosecute you, the police must present their evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service. A copy of the evidence will be sent to your solicitor. The evidence usually rests on very small points: this is why it's important not to give anything away in custody. If they don't have enough evidence the case could be thrown out of court or never even get to court. This is why they want you to speak. they need all the evidence they can get. One word could cause you a lot of trouble.
Q: So I've got to keep my mouth shut. What tricks can I expect the police to pull in order to make me talk?
The police try to get people to talk in many devious ways. The following are some pretty good examples, but remember they may try some other line on you.
THESE ARE THINGS THAT OFTEN CATCH PEOPLE OUT. DON'T GET CAUGHT OUT.
- "Come on now, we know it's you, your mate's in the next cell and he's told us the whole story"
If they've got the story, why do they need your confession? Playing co-accused off against each other is a common trick as you have no way of checking what another person is saying. If you are up to something dodgy with other people, work out a story and stick to it. Plus you can't be convicted just on the word of a co-accused.
- "We know it's not you, but we know you know who's done it. Come on Jane, don't be silly, tell us who did it"
The cops will use your first name to try and seem as though they're your friends. If you are young they will act in a fatherly/motherly way, etc.
- "As soon as we find out what happened you can go"
- "Look you little bastard, don't fuck us about. We've dealt with some characters, a little runt like you is nothing to us. We know you did it, you little shit, and you're going to tell us"
- "What's a nice kid like you doing messed up in a thing like this?"
They're trying to get at you.
- "We'll keep you in until you tell us"
Unless they charge you for a "serious offence" they have to release you within 24 hours. Even if you are suspected of a "serious offence" you have the right to a solicitor after 36 hours, and only a magistrate can order you to be held without charge for longer.
- "You'll be charged with something far more serious if you don't answer our questions, sonny. You're for the high jump. You're not going to see the light of day for a long time. Start answering our questions cos we're getting sick of you"
Mental intimidation. They're unlikely to charge you with a serious charge that won't stick in court. Don't panic.
- "My niece is a bit of a rebel"
- "If someone's granny gets mugged tonight it'll be your fault. Stop wasting our time by not talking"
They're trying to make you feel guilty. Don't fall for it - did you ask to be nicked and interviewed?
- Mr Nice: "Hiya, what's it all about then? Sergeant Smith says you're in a bit of trouble. He's a bit wound up with you. You tell me what happened and Smith won't bother you. He's not the best of our officers, he loses his rag every now and again. So what happened?"
Mr Nice is a devious as Mr Nasty. He or she will offer you cigarettes, a cuppa, a blanket. It's the softly-softly approach. It's bollocks. "No Comment".
- "We've been here for half an hour now and you've not said a fucking word ... look you little cunt, some of the CID boys will be down in a minute, they'll have you talking in no time. Talk now or I'll bring them in"
Keep at it , they're getting desperate. They're about to give up. You've a lot to lose by speaking.
- "Your girlfriend's outside. Do you want us to arrest her? We'll soon have her gear off for a strip search. I bet she'll tell us. You're making all this happen by being such a prick. Now talk."
They pick on your weak spots, family, friends, etc. Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four was told that his mother would be shot by the RUC unless he confessed. Cops do sometimes victimise prisoner's families, but mostly they are bluffing.
- "You're a fucking loony. Who'd want you for a mother, you daft bitch? Confess or your kids are going into care"
- "Look, we've tried to contact your solicitor, but we can't get hold of them. It's going to drag on for ages this way. Why don't you use one of our duty solicitors, and we'll soon get the situation cleared up so you can go home"
Never accept an interview without your solicitor present, and don't make a statement even if your solicitor advises you to - a good one won't.
- "You're obviously no dummy. I'll tell you what, we'll do a deal. You admit to one of the charges, and we'll recommend to the judge that you get a non-custodial sentence, because you've co-operated. How does that sound?"
They're trying to get you to do a deal. There are no deals to be made with the police. This bloke got sent down for not paying a fine. The prisoner he was handcuffed to in the prison bus did a deal with the police. He pleaded guilty to a charge after being promised a non-custodial sentence. The man trusted the police, he was a small time businessman accused of fraud. When it came to court, the judge gave him 2 years. The bloke was speechless!
- "We've been round to the address you gave us and the people there say they don't know you. We've checked up on the DSS computer and there's no sign of you. Now come on, tell us who you are. Wasting police time is a very serious offence. Now tell us who you are or you've had it"
If you've sorted out a false address with someone make sure they're reliable, and everyone in the place knows the name you're using. Stick at it, if you're confident. You can't be charged for wasting police time for not answering questions.
- "They've abolished the right to silence - you have to tell us everything now, it's the law"
As we said at the beginning, you can still say nothing. There is no obligation to tell the cops anything beyond your name, address and date of birth.
If you are nicked on very serious charges, or for serious violence to a police officer, the cops may rough you up, or use violence and torture to get a confession (true or false) out of you.
Many of the people freed after being fitted up by the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, or coming to light now in Manchester, were physically abused till they admitted to things they hadn't done.
If this happens, obviously it's your decision to speak rather than face serious injury, but remember, what you say could land you inside for a long time, even if it's not true.
Don't rely on retracting a confession in court - it's hard to back down once you've said something.
In the police station the cops rely on people's naivety. If you are sussed the chances are they'll give up on you. In these examples we have tried to show how they'll needle you to speak. That's why you have to know what to do when you're arrested. The hassle in the copshop isn't nice, but if you are on the ball, you can get off. You have to be prepared. We've had a lot of experience of the police and we simply say:
- Keep calm and cool when you are arrested. (Remember you are on their home ground).
- Get a solicitor.
- Never make a statement.
- Don't get drawn into conversations with the police.
- If they rough you up, see a doctor immediately after being released. Get a written report of all bruising and marking. Remember the officer's names and numbers if possible.
Having said nothing in the police station, you can then look at the evidence and work out your alibi, your side of the story. This is how you will get off.
- An interview is a no-win situation. You are not obliged to speak.
- If the police want to interview you, it shows you're in a good position.
- The only way to stay in that position is to refuse to be drawn into any conversation and answer "No Comment" to any questions.
Q: What can I do if one of my friends or family has been arrested?
If someone you know is arrested, there's a lot you can do to help them from the outside:
- If you know what name they are using - as soon as you think they've been arrested, ring the police station. Ask whether they are being held there and on what charges.
- Inform a decent solicitor.
- Remove anything from the arrested person's house that the police may find interesting: letters, address books, false IDs, etc in case the police raid the house.
- Take food, cigarettes, etc into the police station for your arrested friend, but DON'T go into the police station to enquire about a prisoner if you run the risk of being arrested yourself.
The police have been known to lay off a prisoner if they have visible support from outside. It's solidarity which keeps prisoners in good spirits.