Thursday, 7 February 2008

Arresting Times

“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

You have heard this phrase so many times before but this will be the first time that it will have been directed at you.

I was arrested at 10:00, 31 October 2007 at Leyland Police Station - 34 days after my suspension. The time and date of my arrest had been arranged by my solicitor.

The previous week had been traumatic with many disturbed nights and I was not looking forward to the event. On the day, I felt much better; a combination of Diazepam and an acceptance that it could only get better after today. (It did not - but I hoped.)

My partner and I were at the police station at 09:30 and my solicitor arrived a few minutes later. At that time, I was unaware of the details of the accusation. I knew that the allegation was one of smacking but I did not know for certain who it was that I was supposed to have smacked nor who had reported the incident; I had presumed it to be the mother.

At 10:00, I was cautioned. The interviewing DC explained the significance of the caution; it is vital that you relate as much as you can – courts do not like new evidence that appears following an interview as it suggests guilt. She then got me to repeat the caution using my own words.

My solicitor and I were then taken through security doors to the interview room. The DC described the fact that the interview would be recorded using two tapes. She said that, at anytime, I could ask for a break and that the interview was very much under my control.

Her manner was kindly, respectful even sympathetic – a refreshing experience after a month of anguish and isolation.

The interview started at a general level and I talked about myself, my background and family. She then moved onto the day of the alleged assault and I was shocked to hear the details. The incident had been observed by a special needs assistant and not the mother. The alleged smacking had been reported to have taken place at a table in the classroom. The only contact with the child that I could recollect had been earlier in the day when I had to take her hand as she was waving it wildly as she walked around the classroom.

Despite being taken aback, I continued to relate my recollection of that day and its aftermath. I took the view that, as I knew that I had not assaulted anyone, I simply told her everything that I remembered and I let her read my statement that I had made on the day of my suspension.

I found that I relaxed into the interview; this was the first time that I had been allowed to tell someone what had happened that day and the DC was receptive and reassuring. My solicitor played no part in my interview – I looked at him a couple of times and he smiled, indicating that I was presenting my account well.

We even managed a laugh ! The key witness had added a statement that she clearly heard a ‘flesh on flesh’ sound. The DC said that she and her colleagues were impressed with this dramatic description and some funny comments were made.

After a couple of hours, the interview was concluded and my statement was prepared which I later signed and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I was then escorted into another room where my personal information was recorded. My fingerprints were taken – I had expected to end up with black fingers but they use an electronic scanner. Then my DNA was taken – a swab in my mouth – much like they do on CSI. I was then photographed – I had expected to stand against a lined chart holding a number plate but it was just a digital camera snap against a plain wall. Finally they made a written description of my appearance and asked whether I could remember what my original hair colour had been – we laughed !

That was it done – I was given a bail certificate that instructed me that I should return to the police station exactly one month later.

My solicitor and I were then escorted out through the security doors by the DC. She told me not to worry and that she did not expect to see me again but would contact me as soon as she heard any news – she added that this case should never have got this far, adding that it was investigations like this that wasted so much police resource.

My solicitor asked me how I felt about the process. I told him that this was the first time in a month that I had been treated as a human being and, in a strange way, it had been a good experience. He added “I don’t think that you could recommend it to your friends !”

So, after about three and half hours, I left the police station to find my partner patiently waiting.

My solicitor had warned me about what might happen to me when I was arrested. In addition to my experiences, he told me that I might have to spend time in a prison cell; if there was a lengthy break during my interview then they would have no other option. He also said that I might have been hand cuffed at the moment of my arrest - it depends on local police station policies.

Over what is now 5 months, the only time that I have been treated with any respect, kindness or care was during my arrest.

I extend my personal thanks to all those officers who were present during my arrest. They made me feel like a real person. Their help, reassurance and genuine concern that they afforded me was beyond anything that I had expected.

Later, I will describe the nature of the procedural prison of the LEA rules and the utter disregard that they cause. The police got it right; I can not think of an organization that has to adhere to tighter or more stringent policies and yet they succeed so well in their treatment of you as an individual.

Thankfully I did not need to use it !