Adrian's Answers: Answer 1.
What happens if I am arrested?
To be arrested can be a frightening and bewildering experience in circumstances where your liberty is suddenly taken away by the police. We say it is always best to have a lawyer with you in the police station to guide you through this difficult time.
When first arrested you should be cautioned which means the police say to you “You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
This means that anything you subsequently say to the police is likely to be recorded and will potentially be used against you if the case gets to court. That is why we advise you to always speak to a solicitor before telling your side of the story as cases can be 'won or lost' in the police station.
When you arrive at the police station you will be kept in a holding cell until booked in by the custody sergeant who has a duty in law to inform you of your legal rights - these are 1) to have someone informed of your arrest 2) to obtain free and independent legal advice 3) to have access to a copy of the police Codes of Practice. The custody sergeant will then also check that you are fit and well if necessary should refer you to see the custody nurse or doctor about any physical or mental concerns.
Once you have been booked in the police will continue to investigate the allegations against you. The length of time this takes partly depends on the complexity of the case and whether the police can gain access to relevant evidence such as witnesses or CCTV etc. The police must charge or release you within 24 hours unless the case falls into a more serious category where the police maybe permitted to hold you for longer. However any extended detention has to be regularly reviewed and a lawyer can help in making representations to the police about whether an extension to your detention is necessary.
Once the police have conducted their preliminary investigations they will want to ask you questions about what happened and this is called a police interview under caution - in other words the police will repeat the same words of the caution as they did when you were first arrested and if you choose to answer questions the DVD recording of the interview can be played in court if necessary. so the court can hear what you had to say. For the most part until the interview happens you will be kept waiting in a police cell which can be frustrating.
Sometimes the person who has been arrested is under the false impression that taking up the offer of free and independent legal advice will delay the progress of the case. This is not usually the case as we operate under strict rules as to how quickly we should attend the police station once the police are ready to interview. Similarly the right to free and independent legal advice is an ongoing right which means you can have access to a solicitor at any time for the entire duration of your stay at the police station. This means you can ask to speak to your lawyer privately by phone when they are not physically present at the station.
Once you have been interviewed the police will make a decision as to the next steps. In very serious cases or where there is a risk of further offending or harm to another person, or interference with the course of justice, the police may seek to charge you and keep you in custody until you can appear before the next available Magistrates Court. Again, a lawyer can assist you in arguing against the police decision to keep you in custody.
Sometimes the police will take no further action against you and you will be released without charge. Other times the police will refer your case the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on your case.
Alternately the police may release you pending further investigation this could be on bail (with or without conditions) or could be an open ended release under investigation, which means you may or may not hear from the police again about the same case in the future. This is often a worrying time and Tuckers Solicitors will proactively chase the police on your behalf to find out what is going on.
Clearly there can be many twists and turns to what happens from the point of your arrest until the police decide what to do about the allegations against you. Whilst we cannot determine the outcome of the case against you we can assure you that we will do our utmost to represent your best interests at the police station at all times.
Adrian Rohard is a Partner and HCA at Tuckers Kent Branch.