Coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) interview protocol

We've worked with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and other practitioner associations on a coronavirus (COVID-19) interview protocol.

This guidance aims to help investigators and prosecutors decide whether suspects should be interviewed as part of a police investigation during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The latest version of the protocol applies from 4 October 2021.

While still allowing the use of remote legal advice in certain, limited circumstances – including where the suspect is, or is believed to be, COVID-19 positive, or where the suspect’s named solicitor is self-isolating – it envisages a return to in-person attendances at police stations in most cases.

It also reinforces the need for the police to ensure custody suites are safe environments.

The guidance was first published on 1 April 2020 and is intended for use only during the coronavirus crisis. It is reviewed regularly.

The signatories continue to review the need for the protocol. We’re mindful of the fact that withdrawing the protocol can only be achieved and maintained while prevailing COVID conditions are safe to do so.  

Using exceptions during the Omicron variant

Given the rapid increase in cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, we urge members to make use of exceptions under the existing protocol, where appropriate.

Under the exemptions, remote advice may be given where:

  • the suspect is, or is believed to be, COVID-19 positive
  • the suspect’s named solicitor is self-isolating, and there are health and safety concerns in relation to the police custody suite
  • the custody officer believes – in consultation with all relevant parties – that it would not be practical, possible or desirable for a legal adviser to attend in person safely, due to exceptional reasons in an individual case

In December 2021, we met with other signatories to discuss moving to an earlier version of the joint protocol. This would enable solicitors to give remote advice, with the suspect’s consent, in cases except those involving children and vulnerable adults.

We’re very disappointed that there was no consensus to do this among all the signatories.  

Read our press release for further details

Children and vulnerable adults

From 17 May 2021 (in line with stage 3 of the government’s roadmap for reducing COVID-19 restrictions), the protocol no longer applies in cases involving suspects who are children or vulnerable adults requiring an appropriate adult. 

Using PPE

If you're visiting police stations or custody facilities, the NPCC has shared interactive guidance (PDF 3 MB) on using PPE.

The 'custody' section includes advice for legal representatives visiting detainees or custody facilities.

(If you're having trouble viewing the interactive PowerPoint on Windows 7, please try another operating system.)

Compliance with PPE requirements and remote advice if COVID positive

In June 2021, the heads of custody and chief officers of all forces were reminded of:

  • the need to ensure compliance with the personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, as set out in national NPCC guidance, and
  • the signatories' agreement that where a detainee is confirmed as being COVID positive, or strongly believed to be COVID positive, then the use of remote legal advice remains available for these detainees under the interim protocol

This reminder followed a meeting between the Law Society, other protocol signatories and deputy chief constable Nev Kemp, the NPPC lead for custody.