It’s Still “No Comment”
Jun 13th, 2020
- It’s Still “No Comment”
- As new people become involved it periodically becomes necessary to repeat things that every anarchist and indeed every person should know about what to do if arrested. So once again we return to the issue of the right to silence and in particular what to do when interviewed in custody. We focus specifically on this due to lack of space and because in other circumstances you have the opportunity to take advice and research at your leisure. This piece would not be possible without the co-operation of many people who have shared their experiences and shown transcripts of interviews to the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group, to spare their blushes all names have been withheld.
- Until the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 the fact that you didn’t answer questions in police interviews could not be drawn to the attention of the jury or magistrates when you were tried. Sections 34-39 of the Act modified the law to allow an “adverse inference” to be drawn if you under certain circumstances you rely on a defence that you could reasonably have mentioned when questioned. The law is complex as always but in almost all cases and any where you do not know the full legal position back to front yourself the best thing to do remains to answer “no comment” to all questions. Any good lawyer will be happy to advise you to do this which strengthens your position as you are doing it on “legal advice”. There are many other reasons that may be legitimate too, including as mentioned by the Lord Chief Justice in 1997 being …“suspicious of the police”. We sincerely hope you are. For more details the law can be read online at legislation.gov.uk, the wikipedia article on right to silence is a good starting point and for an in depth analysis see “Silence and Guilt: an assessment of case law on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994” by David Walchover.
- ..and Practice
- It may seem blindingly obvious but the police are trained in interviewing techniques and very few of us are trained in how to handle interrogation. The starting point is that you are an amateur team playing away to a professional one and the best you can hope for is a nil-nil draw by playing an uncompromising defence. Second, remember your audience, not the people in the room but the Magistrates, Judge or Jury who will decide your case. The tone of your voice will be important in how you are perceived. Avoid sounding angry or worse bored or arrogant. Now to the common tricks that will be used to break down your “no comment” easiest to deal with are threats or inducements. Tick these off inwardly as a good sign, the cops have a weak case and they’re tactics will look bad in court. Then there is the “we’ve got the evidence, so and so’s confessed and shopped you, make it easy on yourself”, lies ‘cos if they had you bang to rights they
- would have charged you already as they are in fact obliged to under PACE. Most dangerous is the verbal trickery. Intermixing uncontroversial questions with incriminating ones, “this is a copy of The Sun newspaper?”.. “Yes”..”That’s your picture on the front cover isn’t it?”…now the “no comment” sounds very weak. Hard followed by soft, “You were one of the organisers of J18 weren’t you?”…“No Comment”... “but you know who they were?”…“Well, the ones in London”. Even more sneaky are blatant lies you will want to refute “For the tape Ms A is nodding her head”. Most perilous because it comes first is the slippery slope offered before the interview starts. “Would you like a cup of water? Is the chair ok, we really should get something more comfortable, I keep telling them.” There’s nothing wrong in replying before they start the tape or even confirming your name for the tape when it’s started but
- It’s better to look a bit of a prat (it can always be explained in court as nervousness) than getting into the habit of answering questions. “I’m just doing to ask some questions to check you understand the caution. Do you have to answer my questions?”…“No”… “what might the court think if you choose not to answer the questions”… “They might see that as suspicious”. The suspect went on to give a perfect “no comment” interview but it’s now a suspicious one. Lastly don’t be clever, the right answer is not “I‘m sure they will follow the directions laid out by Lord Bingham in the case of Argent”, just “no comment”. As for the comrade who said “I’m bored of all this “no comment” thing, I’ll just name a different type of fruit each time you ask a question” we prefer to draw a discrete veil. So to sum up. Below is everything you need to remember after reading this article. Everything else was just padding to fill up the page.
- Answer “No Comment” to all questions in police interviews
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