Legal: The police have asked me to attend a voluntary interview. Should I go?

Word has reached us here at ACAB‘s top secret HQ that the Met are cordially inviting some of the folks they arrested during XR’s big London action to come in for a chat. Understandably the question on everyone’s lips is: “Should I go?”

The short answer is no. The long answer? Also, no. The only ones who stand to gain from an interview are the cops. What they are hoping is that under pressure you will accidentally say something that strengthens their case (either against you or somebody else) or, if they get really lucky, you will just straight up admit your guilt. Even if you successfully “no comment”; all of their questions (something that’s harder than it sounds), the cops can at least say they tried to question you and that you refused to answer, something which may work against you in later court proceedings (which won’t happen if you simply decline to be interviewed). It’s a lose-lose
scenario and given that you are under no obligation to attend and declining to do so cannot be held against you in court, you should just sit tight and leave the cops to their “investigating”.

This raft of rather desperate sounding letters is little more than a brazen mass fishing exercise on the part of the Met, something that no conscientious activist should go along with. The $64,000 question is therefore: why are they doing it?

While it’s impossible to say with complete certainty, the smart money says the cops have found themselves short on evidence. During the XR action some folks were interviewed, charged and placed on bail; others were simply released under investigation. Partly this was due to the strain
placed on the Met by the sheer number of arrests but it also reflected a judgement on their part about the likelihood of successful prosecution. Those that were charged tended to be people who’d already been nicked for breaching the Section 14 conditions earlier in the week, people who thus couldn’t plausibly argue that they didn’t know the conditions were in place (the standard defence to a S14 charge). The chances of securing a conviction against them were therefore that much higher. In the case of those merely “released under investigation”; the cops seemed to be operating on the assumption that they already had sufficient evidence of people’s guilt (from video footage and officers notes) and could therefore let them go without an interview. The fact the Met are now going cap in hand to suspects asking them if they wouldn’t mind awfully coming in for a chat, suggests this assumption was wrong and that the evidence is not there. Of course, if they had placed everyone on bail they could simply interview suspects at their next return date but they didn’t: they released the vast majority of folks unconditionally “under investigation” (in line with standard practice). The only way the cops could now compel people to attend an interview is if they re-arrested them, something which would require – you’ve got it – more evidence!

So, it looks like the cops may have slipped up here. Don’t give them a hand back up: ignore the letter, don’t attend the interview and live to fight another day.

Carl Spender


Image: GBC