Interviewing Witnesses for the Other Side
Whether or not a witness has been interviewed or called as a witness by the other side, the prosecution and defence:
- may interview each other's witnesses or prospective witnesses;
- may take statements from those witnesses; and
- must ensure that no attempt is made to persuade the witness to change his/her story.
Where it is intended to interview a witness for the other side, who has given evidence or who it is known will be giving evidence, it is wise to give notice to the other side stating:
- that the interview is required;
- the reasons for it; and
- that a representative from the other side should be present.
The right to interview defence witnesses after they have given evidence should only be exercised with the approval of a Unit Head, or designated officer.
The police should be discouraged from interviewing defence witnesses after the witnesses have given evidence.
A witness does not have to be interviewed; it is a matter for the witness, who can refuse. A witness may agree to be interviewed only at a police station, in which case this facility should be made available.
If the defence wish to interview prosecution witnesses who are police officers, they cannot object to a senior police officer being present. It is preferable if the senior officer at the interviews has no connection with the proceedings in question.
If the defence wish to interview potential defence witnesses who are police officers, it is a matter for the Chief Constable or the CPS (Unit Head or designated officer), to determine the conditions for the interviews, provided they are reasonable.
Where a formal alibi notice has been given:
- before interviewing an alibi witness the police should give the solicitor for the defence reasonable opportunity to be present; or
- if the defendant is unrepresented, it is not appropriate for the defendant to be present at the interview of the alibi witness, but the police should try and arrange for some independent person to be present.
- the solicitor present at the interview of the alibi witness is primarily an observer to lessen the risk of allegations that the police acted improperly. He/she has no right to interfere with the interview if there is no solicitor client relationship with the witness.