By James Cobiac
If you have been accused of criminal conduct in South Australia, and the police or Crown seek to rely on evidence of either an admission or some other thing that they allege that you have said during an interview with Police, then it is important to consult a criminal lawyer to ensure that the Police properly complied with their statutory requirements. The police are given significant powers to enable them to investigate individuals suspected of committing crime. While it is important that they are afforded powers beyond that enjoyed by normal members of the community, it is just as important that individuals suspected of crime are protected from any abuse of those powers by the police. This includes the protection of a suspect when they are interviewed by a police officer.
When a police officer undertakes to interview a suspect they must ensure that they comply with a number of statutory requirements. If they do not, any information they gather from the person interviewed may be deemed inadmissible evidence in a Court of law. The evidence will be inadmissible due to the failure to properly exercise their powers of interview, which constitutes an abuse of the extensive powers they have been granted by the community. Whenever, a police officer interviews a suspect they must endeavor to videotape the interview if it is reasonably practicable to do so. If they cannot do this they are obligated to make an audio recording of the conversation with the suspect.
If neither of these recording methods are reasonably practicable the police must make a written record of the interview either during or as soon as practicable after the interview. This written record must then be read back to the suspect on videotape and the suspect must be given the opportunity to interrupt the reading of this record and point out any errors in its content. Where there is disagreement the police officer must record the suspect’s objection to the material in an addendum to the written record of interview. The suspect must be informed by the police officer of the suspect’s right to interrupt the reading of the written record and point out the errors of its contents. This ensures that where the interview cannot be recorded by video or audiotape every effort is made to ensure the suspect is given a fair and transparent interview.
Sometimes the police will conduct an interview with an individual and only come to suspect the individual partway through the interview. If this occurs all the obligations listed above are enlivened and must be complied with as soon as they form the reasonable suspicion in relation to the interviewee. After any interview the suspect must be informed in writing of their right to obtain a copy of the recording and have it played to their legal advisor.
We grant the police significant powers to investigate crime. Because of this it is important to hold them to a high standard and guard against any abuse of that power. Any failure to observe the above obligations may see the contents of the interview ruled by a Court as inadmissible due to a failure to properly exercise the power to interview a suspect. This can mean that, particularly in cases where there is little other evidence forming the Crown brief, a prosecution may well collapse following the exclusion of material obtained pursuant to a Record of Interview.
If you have been charged with criminal offending in South Australia, it is always advisable to consult a criminal lawyer prior to speaking with Police. If you’ve already spoken with police and believe you may have been treated unfairly or they have failed to comply with their legislative requirements call Culshaw Miller Criminal Lawyers today on 08 8464 0033, or if you have been arrested or need twenty four hour criminal law advice, 0418 421 153.