Regarding Roger Smith’s column on the Cardiff Three case (see [2009] Gazette, 17 April, 6), Lord Taylor’s comments on listening to the taped interviews have for me remained the benchmark whenever I attend a client interview at a police station.

It has possibly made me more overbearing during some interviews when the same questions are put time and again. It has been interesting, however, to observe the evolution of police strategies for dealing with the interview:Despite these reservations, the police have generally become more professional and the crusading cop is less evident. Civil custody officers, while initially appearing amateurish and lacking confidence, have become a success and probably do much to mitigate confrontation.

  • Chairs and tables are bolted to the floor, apparently because clients like throwing them around the room (something I have never experienced);
  • In bolting the chairs to the floor they are positioned so that there is less possibility for eye contact or awareness of presence between the solicitor and client, and greater room for police officers to spread their feet;
  • On more than one occasion I have had a police inspector carrying out a custody review tell me that he wants a ‘proper’ interview without any of this ‘no comment’ business;
  • Where I have felt the need to interject effectively, there was a time when the officers in the case threatened to terminate the interview and report me to the custody sergeant;
  • The police often remind legal representatives that they are guests at the police station and reserve the right to exclude them if unhappy with their conduct.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 specifically designated charging decisions to custody sergeants to diffuse the risk of bias from investigating officers. This was, in many cases, taken one stage further by use of a prisoner processing unit, a body of station-based officers not connected with the investigation. This has now been taken to the ultimate degree by the deployment of Crown prosecutors to review and decide upon charging at inception within police stations. This latter development probably has less to do with the Cardiff Three and everything to do with economic and administrative streamlining.

Whatever the circumstances, police station representation is work you either love or hate. For me, every visit, however mundane, is memorable.

Leo Goatley, Solicitor-advocate, Gloucester