During the start of a police investigation the officer in the case will collect certain material, which can include but is not limited to witness statements and video evidence.
When instructing a lawyer to deal with your police interview they will be provided either beforehand (upon request) or on the day with a pre interview disclosure document summarising the case against you.
There is no obligation on the investigating officer to disclose the whole evidence against a suspect prior to interview, which can include physical copies of witness statements.
The law however states that your lawyer should be provided with ‘sufficient’ disclosure to enable legal advice to be given.
This section is referred to at paragraph 11.1A in the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984 handbook.
The guidance is set out under 11ZA and describes what is ‘sufficient’ dependent on the circumstances of the case.
It should however normally include, as a minimum, a description of the facts relating to the suspected offence(s) that are known to the officer, including the time and place in question.
This aims to avoid suspects being confused or unclear as to what they are being investigated for.
If your lawyer describes a scenario whereby ‘insufficient’ disclosure is provided they are likely to advise a suspect to exercise their legal right to remain silent or to more commonly answer ‘No Comment’ to questions.
Once your legal team have been provided with disclosure they are still within their rights in acting in the suspects best interests to probe the police on this with a line of questioning of their own.
This is a tactic in an attempt to determine and consider the real strengths and weaknesses of a police case.
Furthermore in adopting this approach your legal team will also be putting themselves and more importantly you at an advantage to enable the best legal advice to be given before the commencement of interview.
What To Expect In More Serious Cases?
We do find in the more serious of cases that the investigating officer will provide very limited disclosure and can adopt a two-stage disclosure approach.
This means that during an interview the officer can suspend it at any stage dependent on whether the interview is going to plan.
They will then provide your lawyer with a further disclosure document, which could be for example be, a fingerprint lift from the scene, which they wish for you to account for.
During the pause in interview the suspect will then seek further legal advice in light of this new evidence to consider before deciding on any potential response to this.
When suspects represent themselves they will be at a serious disadvantage, as the police will divulge very little before interview in an attempt to put the evidence to you with questions that you are not otherwise prepared for.