It can be a frightening prospect to be told that your child is to be spoken to by the police. It is important, however, that you are aware of your child’s rights and your rights.
Any child between the ages of 10 years and 17 is classed as a ‘youth’ and can be legally responsible for their actions. Any interview conducted by the Police under caution gives the child the right to free and independent legal advice, either in person at the venue of the interview, or over the telephone. Any youth to be interviewed must have an appropriate adult present. Unless you are a witness in the case it is likely the police will ask the parent to perform this role.
Many parents are reluctant to ask for legal advice for the child as they believe it suggests that the child has done something wrong. This perception will not assist the child. Police interviews are an important part of the criminal justice process, and the majority of those interviewed do not face court procedures. To help the child avoid the stress of a court appearance or a criminal conviction, it is important to get legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
An example of the importance of legal advice is the possibility of securing a community resolution. A solicitor can explain what this is and, more importantly, the consequences for the child’s future. This also applies to youth cautions.
It is also worth bearing in mind the impact of current sexual offences legislation. For example, did you know that it is a criminal offence for a child under 16 to kiss a child of the same age? How often does this occur on a daily basis? The advice of a solicitor at an early stage can help to navigate the minefield of sexual offence legislation and its impact on youths.
The recent high profile case against the premier league footballer, Adam Johnson, has highlighted how kissing a person under 16 is a criminal offence. That does not just apply to adults facing the accusation, but children as well. The police and prosecutors are given guidance as to when this type of accusation should be prosecuted. A solicitor at the interview stage can help to explain these policies and try to facilitate them being applied properly to the child.
Do not panic if you are told your child is to be interviewed by the police. It could be, as is often the case, that your child ends up being a prosecution witness rather than a defendant.
The best support you can give to your child is to get immediate legal advice. And remember, for children, it is free of charge.