I've spent the last 24-hours at several police stations dealing with several clients. All but one of these attendances was conducted civilly by me, police and detainee alike. The only exception was this morning at West Drayton Police Station.
I was a little suspicious when a uniformed constable giving disclosure consistently claimed not to know the answers to my (fairly basic) questions, all of which could be expected to be answered in the arresting officers' note - in fact the arresting officers were the only witnesses in this case. A lack of knowledge usually means either that a PC hasn't prepared properly or is trying to hide information from you. A lack of preparation is rare since it is hard to question somebody about an offence if you don't know the basic facts of that allegation. Experienced officers who want to hide information will simply refuse to disclose key-facts. This is done in a planned way to withhold facts that can be used to test your client's account. Inexperienced officers seem to pretend a lack of knowledge on fairly basic points with no obvious plan behind it.
Another good indicator that interviewing officers are trying to play you is when the "forgetful" officer giving disclosure turns out not to be the main interviewer and a far more experienced officer shows up two seconds before the start of an interview.
These are common, although silly, games that are played up and down the country everyday. It is easy for an experienced solicitor to spot the games and to advise accordingly.
In this case, the experienced officer showed up and began a tedious display of making clear that he normally only deals with really serious robberies and violence. Not the type of "minor" offence my client was accused of committing. He also dropped in how he's about to move to the murder squad so we'd all know what a big shot he is... very tedious bigging yourself up just makes you look like a prat.
During the interview the experienced officer asked a question that had two possible meanings. My client obviously didn't understand it and nor did I. Politely I asked which of the two possible meanings the officer was getting at. Aside from stating my name at the start this was the first thing I had said in the interview. To my surprise, the officer shouted, "don't you interrupt my interview" before I had finished speaking.
If you've ever had the pleasure of reading "Police Interrogation" by former Chief Supt Wakefield you'll know that he advises a number of strategies to undermine the solicitor and make the interviewing officer the sole person to whom the suspect looks while in detention. I rather suspect that shouting at me so aggressively was just such a tactic. That's great if you're dealing with a police station newbie but not so great if the solicitor has been knocking about police stations longer than the officer and (as in my case) was at the same police station until 2am that morning, left home at 8am to return for this interview and is in no hurry to get anywhere else afterwards.
My polite request turned into a full scale argument. Police officers cannot win these arguments. I have a 3-year-old son and can play the "You did it"/"No you did it" game for hours. Eventually, the officer backed down and simply rephrased the question so that it made a little more sense. I have no idea why he was so angry about such a simple request to clarify his question.
The one thing that worries me is that if this detective constable feels happy and confident enough to shout at a solicitor in a tape recorded interview in front of a PC then how does he act toward suspects when nobody is watching?