Here is a funny little story from across the pond. The quick and dirty synopsis is that a man was a suspect in a brawl. During the police investigation the man provided police with pictures of his “birthday party” at a pubc, which he claimed were taken months before, that showed him with a tattoo that the man involved in the brawl did not have. The police investigated and found the pub was renovated subsequent to the brawl.
The result: convictions on assault and “perverting the course of justice” (in Canada, called obstruct justice) along with 30 months in jail.
Obviously being dishonest with the police was a huge mistake. What the man should have done was said absolutely nothing. This is advice I give potential clients who are likely going to be arrested. Anything one says to the police is going to be recorded – possibly on video. These statements then provide the prosecution with more evidence that can be used at one’s trial. One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t quote silence.
There is no obligation (except in extremely limited circumstances) to talk to the police. This applies to everyone regardless if one is actually under investigation.
Many people think by being cooperative and explaining their side of the story then the police will not charge them with anything – the reality, though, is that if the police believe they have reason to lay a charge, they will do so – it is their job. It is very rare that one will be able to talk their way out of the laying of a charge. In circumstances where cooperation may prevent an arrest, one should speak with a lawyer prior to making statements or providing information to the police.
The police are generally free to use interrogation tactics to try and get someone to give statements. While certain tactics may come under court scrutiny, do not assume that any statements given under certain conditions will not be used against a person.
The proper way to discuss and test the evidence, including any defences, is through the criminal justice system. If their is an explanation (such as a real version of the one above), then one’s lawyer can bring it to the attention of the Crown Attorney during pre-trial discussions, or if necessary, use it at trial.
The opportunity to verbally tell one’s story, although not mandatory, is always there if it is determined that doing so is in the person’s best interest. This opportunity is best taken from the witness stand before a Judge and with one’s lawyer close-by to object to certain questions if necessary. Statements given in this forum provide far greater protection than those given to police officers while under investigation.