Interview Under Caution – Changes. As of 2 February 2016 certain safeguards have been removed. It will now not be necessary for the police to audio record an interview under caution with suspects for minor offences when not interviewed at the police station. Code E of PACE has previously stipulated that an interview under caution of a suspect detained in relation to indictable offences must be audio recorded. Since October 2013 this principle applies to interviews which take place at a location other than a police station. This includes a voluntary interview under caution when not under arrest.
However now, if a person is not arrested and is interviewed elsewhere, no audio recording is required if the offence suspected is on the list.
• Possession of cannabis (personal use)
• Possession of khat (personal use)
• Shoplifting (Under £100)
• Criminal damage (Under £300)
• Appears to be aged 18 or over;
• Does not require an appropriate adult;
• Appears to be able to appreciate the significance of questions and their answers;
• Does not appear to be unable to understand what is happening because of the effects of alcohol, drugs or illness;
• Does not require an interpreter.
It will also be necessary to establish that the alleged offence did not result in injury to any person. That it did not involve any realistic threat of injury to any person. Nor cause any substantial financial or material loss to the private property of any individual.
These changes are intended to allow the out of court disposal of four of the most common types of indictable offences. This will allow the police to allocate resources to more serious crime. However, the audio recording of an interview under caution was introduced in the first place as a safeguard. There is now a risk that this note-taking process may not capture important comments made by the suspect. Comments which may potentially prejudice a suspect’s defence should the matter proceed to court.
There is also significant pressure on the police officer to make the correct judgement call. The judgement call in respect of the suspect’s age. As well as his understanding of English, welfare and need for an appropriate adult. This is normally reserved for a more senior and specially trained custody officer when a suspect is taken to the police station. An incorrect assessment by an officer could lead to unjust outcomes. For example, someone could end up accepting a caution for an indictable offence without fully understanding the potential implications.
A suspect will still be entitled to legal advice and will be informed of this at the time of the interview. However, is it practical for a duty solicitor to attend a supermarket for a shoplifter? Or a nightclub for a simple drugs possession? Is this likely to lead to the suspect declining this right when faced with the alternative of being taken to the police station?