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My wife and I have been asked to attend an "interview under caution" by Lambeth Council (a local authority in London) regarding our daughter's lack of school attendance (both her GP and a child psychologist are of the opinion that she has an anxiety disorder).

[Under Section 444(1A) of the Education Act 1996 it is an offense if a child is absent without authorization and the parent knew about the child's absence and failed. Sanctions include a fine of up to £2500 and a prison sentence of up to 3 months]

[I am using quotes around "interview under caution" because it doesn't sound like an interview under caution from what I have read online, but these are the words used by the council's legal department in their letter to us]

We have been told that we are not allowed to bring a solicitor to this meeting: the meeting will be between the local authority, us, and the school only.

We are very concerned about what will be said at this meeting, because it appears that incorrect information has been given to the local authority by the school (e.g. that we haven't asked for a referral to child mental health services, although we have), and other information has been withheld (e.g. the private psychologist's report detailing the anxiety issues, which was sent to the school in November).

We are also concerned that, in the stressful environment of an interview under caution, my wife and I will not be able to remember facts that we later rely on in court. We are both finding this very stressful: I have been shaking uncontrollably, and both of us have been crying, both when we discuss this between ourselves and at meetings with the school.

There have been a couple of face-to-face meetings and dozens of emails between us and the school: remembering everything that we have said, and when, is going to be very difficult under "interview with caution" circumstances.

So: how can we prepare for this meeting under caution when we are not allowed a solicitor and we are both too stressed to be rational? Is there some way we can ask to see the communications between the school and the council so that at least we will know in advance what we will be accused of doing or not doing?

[We have already had a solicitor send a letter to the council attempting to correct the inaccuracies. The council responded to that letter, ignoring the evidence we supplied in it, and just re-iterated the original claims of the school (i.e. that there is no medical issue). Part of my concern is that we will turn up to the interview under caution with the medical evidence, and then there will be something else that the school has said that we are then unable to come up with a good explanation for in the stressful circumstances even though there might be one.]

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    Your solicitor should be clarifying whether it is or is not an interview under caution. If it is, you have the right to representation, so far as every general advice result goes, and if it is not, then there are likely to be a host of things you must know before you attend. – Nij Jan 8 '17 at 11:06
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    @Nij Without wishing to get into extended discussion here, we asked that and Lambeth's Legal Services stated that it was an "interview under caution" but that our solicitor could not attend ("to be attended by school and parent only"). It might not be right, but that's what we are being told to attend. I did consider a question along the lines of "dealing with UK local authorities who are ignorant of the law" but with less than a week to go we are most in need to advice as to how to deal with the interview. – user25088 Jan 8 '17 at 12:13
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    They really shouldn't be using the phrase, then, especially as a third party is attending too. They absolutely need to clarify what the meeting is, and why it has been convened. There remains a chance that you need not attend and that being penalised for it is not permitted, but that depends too much on exact circumstances, especially your willingness and ability to deal with the process. You really need your lawyer to hammer the council and anybody else who should be involved. – Nij Jan 8 '17 at 12:23
  • Hey there! I'm sorry to hear about this entire thing. This is a site that focuses on law, so most of us will be able to deal with many legal aspects of your question. In terms of preparation, we... might not be very good :P you might want to post this question again on Parenting - they will definitely be able to help you a lot as well. :) – Zizouz212 Jan 8 '17 at 17:02
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    For remembering the emails thing, it cannot be any simpler: print them and carry them with you. A little index (when each of the main points were discussed) could be helpful. – SJuan76 Jan 8 '17 at 19:09
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TL;DR: They are probably trying to scare you into an interview that leaves you without legal advice. You are under no obligation to attend the interview.

I understand that this answer may have come late. But this may serve useful for readers.

An interview under caution is when the police asks you questions in relation to an offence that you are suspected of committing. Technically, these are just called police interviews.

The relevant law is Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which provides for how these interviews may take place for them to be lawfully used as evidence in court.

The following applies to interviews:

An interview is defined as any questioning relating to a suspected offence (The law can be found here).

Any person who is being interviewed must have been given the police caution ("you have the right to remain silent, but anything you do not say but subsequently rely on may be used against you")

A person who is to be interviewed must have been informed of their right to consult a solicitor, and the opportunity to have conference with one. A person has the right to a solicitor to be present at the interview.


What you've been asked by your council appears to be an interview where they will ask questions relating to a potential offence you may or may not have committed.

It does appear that such a council may have the authority to conduct police interviews:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/60/section/67#commentary-c18898841

However, this would mean that they are also bound to the relevant provisions of the code. Therefore you do have your right to have a lawyer present etc, unless the piece of legislation that conferred this power to the council absolved them of the need to observe that part of the code, but I highly doubt this (If someone could find me the act that empowers the council in question, I could find a definitive answer)

What is probably the case is that the council wants to scare you into thinking this is a serious interview with legal consequences. This is probably not the case, they are probably just setting up an interview on the condition that no solicitor is present for the sake of learning more about your case. Of course, without a solicitor, you may accidentally say something which implicates yourself. To avoid this, consult with your solicitor to understand what the best way forward is.

In any case, unless there is a written without prejudice agreement in place (an agreement saying that anything said in the interview could not be used as evidence in court), I probably would always have a solicitor on hand.

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The only way to prepare for an interview under caution is with the help of your attorney.

Call your attorney.

  • Fascinated by the downvote. This is the right answer. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Sep 25 at 6:59
  • I suppose I should have known this is the exact answer anyone on law.SE is looking to avoid. – bdb484 Sep 25 at 13:31

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