A voluntary police interview is when a person has an interview with police officers without being arrested. This can be described as a caution plus 3 interview.
The police may ask a person to have a conversation or a chat with them in order to help them with an investigation. Sometimes the police ask parents if they would be happy for their child to “have a chat” about a particular matter. Alternatively, they may invite the child in to the police station for a ‘voluntary interview’.
Despite the terminology being used by the police, these ‘chats’ and ‘voluntary interviews’ are usually an opportunity for the police to interview the person as a suspect. The rights, entitlements and safeguards that apply to the conduct and recording of interviews with suspects are not diminished simply because the interview is arranged on a voluntary basis. The child is not under arrest and is therefore free to leave at any time, however, the police often invite people in for voluntary interviews and then go on to arrest them if they fail to attend or leave before the interview is finished.
If the police suspect the child has committed an offence they must caution them.1 They will do this at the beginning of the interview and this means that the interview can be used as evidence against the child at a later date. Volunteers are entitled to receive free legal advice2 and they should always have a lawyer, as they would if they were under arrest. A child being interviewed by the police because they are suspected of having committed an offence will still need to have an appropriate adult even if the interview is voluntary.3 See the 2018 Home Office, Law Society and Legal Aid Agency guidance on Voluntary Interviews here.