Do I need a solicitor if the police interview me?
10 February 2010 15:06
Q. I recently had an accident with a car when I was filtering past a line of stationary traffic and this car suddenly decided to make a U-turn without any indication.
I tried to avoid a collision but rode into the side of his car. It clearly wasn't my fault.
ow the police have contacted me and want to come to my house to take a statement, which is fair enough, but they have also told me that I don't need to have a solicitor present.
I'm a bit wary about this. Am I right to be cautious? Do I need legal representation?
Matthew Donavan, Newcastle
A. When the police speak to people about an accident they can do it one of two ways: either under caution (i.e. you are read your rights and invariably the conversation is tape recorded) or under Section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967.
As a general rule of thumb, if the police suspect that you may be guilty of a criminal offence they will interview you under caution.
This is to ensure that if you say anything that might assist in your prosecution it will be admissible in court.
But an S9 statement is simply a witness statement prepared by the police during any investigation, and the general indication is that you are a witness of the events and not a possible suspect as to a road traffic offence.
So ask the police if the statement will be under caution or under S9. If the former then seek legal representation, but if the latter then I would suggest that legal representation isn¹t necessary.
One thing to be wary of is that an interview under caution doesn¹t necessarily have to take place in the police station and on tape.
It's now quite common in minor motoring offence cases for interviews under caution to take place with one police officer only and in the suspect's home, with your response to questions being noted by the officer on a form.
I would always advise that if the police want to interview you under caution that you have legal representation present.