The issues discussed in our previous blog, “What to do When You Are Under Arrest…” all apply.
In Victoria, if the Police want to interview a minor about a crime a parent or independent person must be present, and you have an important role to play.
If you are present when your child is being interviewed you are allowed to interrupt and stop the interview at any time, tell your child not to answer a question, ask the Police to explain what they mean or stop the interview and call a lawyer. And you should not let the interview go ahead until you have spoken to a lawyer.
Before speaking to a lawyer you should obtain as much information from the Police as you can, including the investigating officer's name and rank, details of what the allegations being investigated are, who has made the allegations, and based on what evidence.
We have had parents report to us that the Police told them before the interview (off camera) that their role is to just sit there and observe but they are not allowed to answer or interrupt. This could not be further from the truth, if the investigating officer tells you something along those lines it should immediately put you on guard - that other things they might tell you such as they just want to know what happened, and if your son or daughter just answers their questions they probably won't be charged - are also not true.
In DPP v Toomalatai, the Supreme Court of Victoria agreed with the following description of what a parent or independent person’s job is when someone under 18 is being interviewed by Police:
"The role of the support person is to act as a check upon possible unfair or oppressive behaviour; to assist a child, particularly one who is timid, inarticulate, immature, or inexperienced in matters of law enforcement, who appears to be out of his or her depth, or in need of advice; and also to provide the comfort that accompanies knowledge that there is an independent person present during the interview. That role cannot be satisfactorily fulfilled if the support person is himself or herself immature, inexperienced, unfamiliar with the English language, or otherwise unsuitable for the task expected, that is, to intervene if any situation of apparent unfairness or oppression arises, and to give appropriate advice if it appears the child needs assistance in understanding his or her rights."
What does this mean?
Be active, stand up for your child if you think you need to, don’t let your kid get bullied into agreeing with something they don’t want to, stop the interview if you think you need to, don’t let the Police ask any questions until you speak to a lawyer.
Remember: You are there to protect your child and their legal rights - the Police are there to investigate an alleged crime and see if there is enough evidence to charge your child.