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Rights During Police Interrogation

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Police Interrogations

Purpose Of An Interrogation

A police interrogation or police interview is a formal process whereby the police question your knowledge about certain events, incidents or circumstances which have arisen. The process can often be subject to recording, both audio and video, as well as extensive note taking.

A police interview assists with determining your level of knowledge of a particular event so it can be determined if you had any criminal responsibility for it or played any role. For example, you may be interviewed in relation to a murder however you are only suspected to have driven the vehicle to and from the location. You may not be considered to have committed the murder, only assisted.

Ultimately, an interrogation is designed to get your version of events as to what occurred.

Types and Format of Interrogation

Police interviews do not necessarily need to occur at the police station however in many instances they do. Depending on the circumstances of what is being investigated, interrogations or interviews can take place in public settings, at your home or even inside the prison if you are already serving a sentence.

The format of the interrogation however is subject to similar principles across the board and you will be advised of your rights, including the right to have a lawyer present prior to the interview commencing. You do have the option not to participate in the process and you can refuse to answer or comment on any of the questions. Ultimately, this can cause more damage at times as silence is not always viewed favorably.

In contrast, there may be certain questions your lawyer advises you not to answer if you choose to have them present. This is to prevent self-incrimination in the process. If your lawyer is present for your interrogation and it occurs within the police station, it is likely to be subject to video recording, and audio recording so it can be used as evidence if needed. The court will often require a record of interview to assist with the chain of evidence.

Participation In An Interview

Am I Required To Participate In An Interview?

In many instances, it is not compulsory to participate in an interview, especially in circumstances where you may not be the accused and are merely a witness or acquaintance. It is usually best to seek legal advice on whether you should make a voluntary statement to police given the can of worms it can open depending on what you say.

As discussed a little above, even if you do choose to engage with the interview, you do not need to answer questions and can choose not to comment. It is important to understand that once the interview starts, everything you do choose to say will form part of the formal record. This is where your right to silence needs to be considered carefully. Statements once made can not be taken back.

Why Might I Be Asked To Participate In An Interview?

Police can ask you to participate in an interview if they hold reasonable suspicion or reasonable grounds that you are directly involved in the criminal offending or hold some knowledge about it. This is often why a family member may be interviewed to see what knowledge they hold.

If you are a witness or bystander to a criminal act you may be asked to provide a statement of what you saw or simply provide information about your knowledge of something. Expert witnesses or professionals for example may be subject to police questioning about a matter of which they hold nothing other than knowledge about, i.e. a doctor or psychologist.

Vulnerable Interviews

Statements Made By Minors

In most circumstances, police cannot question or interrogate a minor without their parent’s permission due to the vulnerability of the individual. Depending on the circumstances of course, a guardian, friend or relative can give permissions for a statement to be made.

In the case of criminal offences committed by youth, a public defence lawyer will be engaged as well as a support person or child advocate usually to help ensure that their rights are protected throughout the process. Most interviews involving children are sealed to protect their name and address and other relevant information from the general public.

Even a minor needs to have the benefit of legal advice before they answer questions from the police as they are usually less aware of the implications and consequences of their actions under criminal law. A minor can choose to remain silent same as an adult to protect from self-incrimination.

Mental Health

If an individual is required to provide a statement or be subject to interrogation and they suffer from poor mental health an evaluation may be required prior to the interview taking place. Questioning of an individual who is not of sound mind can be classed as an abuse of police powers and whatever the accused person has said can be struck from the record.

If police decide to proceed with an interview they know they should not, they risk placing their whole investigation in jeopardy.


Any type of criminal offending can be subject to interrogation. It is of no consequence whether the matter is to be heard summarily in the Magistrates Court or an indictable offence in the Supreme Court. The only difference between the two is that indictable offences are more severe in nature than summary offences.

Police powers relate to the ability to exercise police responsibilities in accordance with the law. Legislation allows police to interrogate, question, arrest and apprehend those they suspect of being engaged in or having knowledge of criminal activity.

In many instances a support person is allowed during interviews or interrogations of course for most, this is their legal representative. It depends on the purpose of the interview as to whether a support person can extend past that. You are always able to access legal advice in criminal matters and police cannot stop you from doing so. However, given an interview is a form of evidence, there is a restraint on who can be present.


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