RMP/SIB Interviews

Military personnel are subject to the civil law, just like any other citizen and therefore subject to all of the criminal offences that members of the public are. In addition however, they are also subject to a set of purely military offences under the Armed Forces Act 2006 which often have no equivalent in civil law.

These include offences such as, desertion, AWOL, ill treatment and of course, the ever reliable, s.19 (previously s.69 of the Army Act) Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Discipline. It is often said that if the civil law can not get to you then military law will. Military personnel therefore could find themselves being interviewed concerning allegations against them by the civilian police, Military of Defence police (MOD) or the Royal Military Police (RMP). In any of these circumstances, either at home or abroad, it is vital to obtain free legal advice as soon as possible.

Service personnel, like civilians, are entitled to a lawyer free of charge in the interview under caution. You should not hesitate to contact Christopher Hill who is an expert in military law and is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week anywhere in the world. He will give you free advice and be willing to attend in person at the police station to advise you. You should note that all costs for such an attendance will be paid by the Armed Forces Legal Aid Scheme or in a civilian police station in the UK, by the civilian Legal Aid Scheme. In relation to police station attendances there is no means test and you make no contribution what so ever.

It is important that you should never be interviewed by a police officer without a lawyer present. It is obviously sensible to insist on your rights as it is free of charge.

Being a Witness

There is sometimes confusion about the status of someone who is spoken to by the police as it is possible to be either a witness or a suspect. It is very important that if you are in that position you understand the difference in terms of your status and your rights.

Someone who is asked to be a witness in relation to an offence committed by someone else gives a written witness statement but is not interviewed on tape. They signed a declaration at the head of the statement saying that it is true to the best of their knowledge and belief and that they leave themselves liable to prosecution if they have put anything in it which is not completely true. Many people have been prosecuted in the past for very serious offences such as Perverting the Course of Justice because they have made a statement which does not contain the complete truth.

You should never become involved as a witness in a case without considering the implications and without being willing to tell the absolute truth. It should be remembered that no one is obliged to be a witness or to assist the police unless they want to. Under the law of England and Wales, you are perfectly entitled not to become involved in an incident or to refuse to give a statement in relation to something that you saw. However, it should be understood that once you have given a witness statement you are then effectively part of the judicial process and can be subpoenaed to attend court even if you are unwilling to do so. It is often the case that people give statements to the police and then forget about the matter never expecting it to go to court. They are then called forward many months later and cross examined on the content of their statement which can be an uncomfortable process.

If you want any free advice concerning the issue of being a witness then please do not hesitate to contact Christopher Hill who will be pleased to advise you.

Being a Suspect

The system operates differently if you are a “suspect” i.e. you are suspected of having committed an offence. Then you are effectively the person in the hot seat and you are entitled to three sets of rights. These are the right to silence, the right to have a solicitor present free of charge and the right to have your interview tape recorded which is what routinely happens. At the outset you may be arrested or you may be asked to go to the police station voluntarily. In either case you should insist on contact with a lawyer as a matter of urgency before any further decisions are made.

It is cruicially important that you never allow yourself to be interviewed without a solicitor present. The advice is free of charge, anywhere in the world and can be given initially over the telephone. It is possible to do serious damage to your case by being interviewed by the police without legal advice.