When a criminal offence is reported to the police, the police will then set about investigating the alleged offence and make a determination about whether or not someone should be charged with committing that offence.
As part of the criminal investigation the police will often seek to interview or ask questions of the person who is alleged to have committed a crime. They will generally contact the person via telephone or attend at their home and ask them if they can speak to them about some allegations that have been put to them.
Do I have to speak with police?
If you are approached by the police at home or when you are out it is up to you whether or not you answer any questions put to you by the police. You are however, legally required to give the police your full and proper name and address as it is an offence under the Summary Offences Act (“the Act”) to give the police a false name and address.
"You are however, legally required to give the police your full and proper name and address..."
A police officer who requires you to give them your name and address is also required under the Act to identify himself or herself by showing you a copy of their police identification or by stating to you or providing to you in writing details including their surname, rank and identification number.
There are also certain circumstances in which you are required to answer a police question as to whether or not you are the driver of a motor vehicle. If in doubt it is best to ask the police officer if you are required to answer the question before you answer it.
Do I have to be advised of my rights by police?
When formally interviewing you a police officer must advise you of your rights in relation to that interview. They must explain to you that you have the right not to answer any of their questions and that any answers that you do give can and will be used against you in any criminal proceedings that may arise following the interview. Again, this means that you do not have to answer any questions unless you choose to do so.
The fact remains that the police have to prove any criminal offence against a person beyond reasonable doubt. When one person makes allegations against another person it can be difficult for the police to discharge this burden of proof.
Often our clients will be inclined to answer police questions put to them as they will want to explain their side of the story to the police in the expectation that the police will then understand what has happened from their point of view and decide not to charge them with an offence. This does occur in some cases. However in our experience it is more often the case that the police will use any information that you give to them when answering questions to prove the case against you and it is best then not to answer any of their questions without experienced legal advice and assistance.
We recommend that if the police ask to speak to you in relation to a criminal offence that you first contact our office and obtain advice from one of our experienced lawyers about the matter before you answer any police questions. That is a right you have.
It will often follow that we will then suggest that one of our lawyers attend any police interview with you to ensure that you are not persuaded to answer any questions particularly where it may not be in your best interests to do so.