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POLICE INTERROGATION

This is a briefing on how to handle yourself while you are being interrogated by the police, what to watch out for and how not to incriminate yourself. Please read it carefully as your freedom, and that of others, may depend on what you say.

ALWAYS DO NO COMMENT OR SILENT INTERVIEWS WHILE IN POLICE CUSTODY

Confessions (statements) are made because they are an easy way out of a tense and uncomfortable situation. The police rely heavily on confessions as without them they would find it impossible to operate. However, they are trained in the art of extracting information from people and use a variety of techniques, not always obvious, to do this. It is up to you to keep your head and not give anything away. The best way to do this is by doing no comment or silent inteveriews. Time and time again it has proven to be the easiest and most successful way of not incrimianting yourself or others. In the animal rights movement it is expected that this is the course you will take.

Below are detailed some of the techniques they will use against you. By being aware of them, you will find it much easier to avoid falling for their tricks. Yes, it is a stressful situation, but numerous activists have got through it without any problems by following the simple guideline of not talking. Even though what you might have said does not lead to a conviction, it may give them vital leads for them to go on, whether for your own situation or others. You dont know the picture they are working from, so do not give them help in anyway to fill it out.

Always make sure you have a proper solicitor with you in an interview, who is going to back you up. Do not use the duty solicitor, and brief your solicitor beforehand that you intend to do a no comment interview. Ask them to make a statement to this effect at the beginning of the interview. If they advise otherwise, be insistant.

Remember, the police to do not want to help you ever! Everything they have to say to you is for one reason only: to secure a conviction.


Credibility

The Police will attempt to put over an impression of having greater knowledge of your activities than is true; do not be fooled by this as they are looking for confirmation of their suspicions. Advantages and disadvantages of denial may be discussed, especially in the nature of, "You are going to be locked up, but...". Credibility will be increased by other officers agreeing with the officer's judgements.

Beware of statements being put to you with which you are expected to agree, e.g. "You do understand, don't you?" This will get you into a "yes mode". The interviewer wants you to say "yes" in answer to questions, in order to put you in a frame of mind where you will be less likely to lie and find it harder to stop answering your questions. If you do attempt to change out of a yes mode, then they will leap on it with increased pressure.

You may instead be subject to non threatening questions, apparently offering you comfort, this time to put you into a passive, responsive frame of mind. You may be placed under additional pressure by being isolated in your cell, and then be re-interviewed. This is to break down your resistance and may be repeated several times. Simply remember what their objective is, and do not be fooled by them.

What happens if you speak...

The interrogator will be sharp and pick up on things you might not have realized you had said. A classic pitfall of saying anything to the police is making excessive statements of truth e.g., "I swear on my mother's grave", or "There's no way I could have possibly done that". These indicate that you are lying, as do challenges by you, e.g. "If you think I've done it, then charge me and we'll sort it out in court". Bargaining ploys are another give away, e.g. "If I admit it, can I have bail?"

Saying "No Comment" likewise, may be construed to be an admission of something to hide. "I wish to maintain my right to silence" is better though this in turn will show police that you are at least 'suss', causing them to ease off, though they will not stop the interview because of it.

More pitfalls

You will be desperate to obtain information regarding your immediate future and that of others, and this is only natural. However, a weakness such as this can be exploited by the police, allowing them to prey on your insecurity. For instance, "If I had a friend who had burnt down a building, what do you think would happen to them?" This is a pretty gross example, but it is such an easy trap to fall into - why provide them a lever? Again, keeping silent avoids this situation.

Status

The interrogators' (police's) effectiveness is gently helped by their status. Look out for obvious signs such as apparent respect being given by colleagues, by appearing to be able to make things happen (like offering you a cup of tea), or by being described as "fair", "tough", "determined" etc. Watch for plain clothes officers replacing uniformed ones - the impression will be formed that the former are more important and perhaps less intimidating.

Keep in mind that the police will lie

The police will attempt to reduce the apparent advantages of denial. Denial is portrayed as pointless in the weight of evidence they suggest they have against you, e.g. "Your mate has made a full statement and dropped you right in it, so you might as well come clean". Hints may be dropped that there are witnesses, or that the police have evidence that can not be revealed yet, etc. None of this may be true at all, and since you do not know what the true situation is, stick to your guns and keep quiet.,/p>

Morale

You may experience an attempt at demoralization, e.g., "You're a very inept liar". Of course, if you say nothing they cannot use this ploy. You may also be warned that denial will have its penalties e.g., "By denying it and pleading not guilty you are turning a small case into a big one." This is also true of 'special warnings', where they emphasis the dangers of not answering particular questions when you do come before court. Don't given into it, and if necessary get your solicitor to back you up.

It may also be pointed out to you that confession will have its advantages, "Once you've got it off your chest you'll feel a whole lot better" - i.e. confession is good for you!!! The temptation to think that once you've made an admission everything will be over and done with is very strong. They may intimate that the consequences of confession may not be as bad as you imagine, "The law says that the courts have to have a very good reason to send a first time offender to prison and in your case there is no such reason." You may also be told that you are not a criminal but that you're just misguided! Simply ignore that sort of insult.

Furniture and spatical psychology

When in the interview room notice their use of furniture. The power of persuasion is greater when the interviewer removes the barrier of the desk that creates a division of "their" space and "your" space. It is common for interviewers to touch the suspect in a gesture of support and friendship. If the interviewer is on the opposite side of the table, such a gesture is limited. You best defence is to show no emotion.

The whole atmosphere inside a police station is geared towards creating an environment of stress so as to break down the suspects morale. It is easy to accept the hand of friendship in such a situation: don't!

You, as the suspect, will have your back to the door. This is done to make you feel apprehensive each time someone comes into the room. In addition, the seat for the solicitor will be out of your eye line. The interviewer will often fall silent, putting pressure on you to fill in these "pregnant pauses" - again don't.

Expressions of approval

Keep an eye on expressions of approval, both verbal and non verbal. Verbal: "That's good", "Yes, go on" and "I like that approach".... ad nauseam. Non verbal: smiling, nodding, looking at a fellow interviewer as if to say "they are right you know." These are all indications of the frame of mind of the interviewer. You may be offered compliments e.g. "You're no fool", etc. Non verbal compliments such as a little shake of the head as if to say "I admire you for saying that". The principle behind all this is to make the suspect feel good and to encourage further dialogue.

If you have experienced any of them in the past and been taken in by them then you will now see why it is vitally important to remain silent and not give them the opportunity to play games with you.

Hard man/Soft man

The interrogator(s) will alternatively offer support and aggression; either one officer playing both roles or two officers adopting one each. This is intended to break down the suspect. If the suspect is nervous, the friendly approach will be adopted, fostering a feeling of co-operative effort to 'help' the suspect out of their fix. If the suspect is confident, they will subject them to the 'masterful' approach, so that their confidence is exchanged for mild apprehension. These two approaches will be exchanged intermittently if the suspect fails to respond.

If there are two interviewers, one may be the dominant interviewer and the other a "note taker". The note taker does not take part in the questioning, but watches the reaction of the subject and supports the line of the number one interviewer.

Always request a solicitor. The interviewer may pretend they are doing you a favour by offering you such a gift; he is not - it is one of your basic rights. However, do not accept a duty solicitor as they are often dependant on the police for referrals and cannot therefore be relied upon to act in your best interest. your solicitor will offer moral support, and reduce the risks of a fabricated statement being made by the police. Maintain your right of silence even in the presence of your solicitor, whose main task is to get you away from the police station either uncharged or on police bail. You will have plenty of time to put your side of the story to the court, if and when it gets that far. You are not anwserable to the police, so do not help them to convict you.

If you hear that the police are looking for you in connection with a particular offence, here is a valuable tactic is to go to your solicitor and make a sworn statement that your are not going to make a statement to the police. Get it signed and witnessed by your solicitor and go with them to the police station. This apart from giving you an immense psychological advantage over your interrogator will also make it virtually impossible to invent a statement from you.

Prepare a psychological barrier between you and them

This can take many forms, but the main ones are hatred and distrust. These two frames of mind will make you far less susceptible to their methods of persuasion and coercion. Another one is to spot the stereotypic statements they come out with, and to observe how they use the various tactics described here. Or simply to pick a point on the wall, imagine "no comment" or some other appropriate slogan is written there, and stare at it fixedly for the entire interview. Remember what they are protecting; remember that they are there to prevent you from achieving your goal - what possible reason could you have to trust them?

Conclusion

These points are taken from a book written by an interrogator for interrogators. In spite of constant reminding of activists to "stay silent" many suspects fall into the same predictable traps. Our aim has been to show that the ploys used by the police are predetermined and well practised; that you are not the exception to the rule; but most of all with knowledge of the interrogator's games comes a massive psychological advantage to help you through your time in police custody.

We hope that we have shown you that keeping silent is your best defence.

For another article on this issue, see the "No Comment" section of the Southern Anti Bloodsports Society at http://www.sabs.org.uk/.


This article is for information purposes only; its aim is to let people to know their full rights under UK law. Nothing on these pages is absolute as the law is always changing; if in doubt contact a trusted solicitor for further advice. We do not encourage you to break the law.

Please feel free to copy and distribute these articles to fellow activists, but do not alter the text in any way. These articles are anti-copyright for non-commercial purposes. Please visit www.freebeagles.org for the latest version of our articles and to learn about the freeBEAGLES Ethical Open Document License under which this document is distributed.

If you see any errors, or we have missed any changes to the legal situation please contact us as soon as possible, at info@freebeagles.org, as wrong information can prove costly to people's freedom.

© Copyright freeB.E.A.G.L.E.S.; last updated: July 2002