As an alternative to arrest, English police may summon one to make an appointment at a police station for a so called voluntary interview, which is often derisively mocked in that it ironically often turns into an arrest warrant should the person fail to engage with the process.

This practice is often also called a “caution +3,” which is explained as referring to the three elements featured in the interview procedure:

  1. It takes place under formal police caution.
  2. One is entitled to legal advice for the interview.
  3. One is theoretically free to leave if one pleases, with the ironic caveat that police are then also entitled to arrest you in case they see fit to.

But how did this idiomatic term develop? Why doesn’t “caution +3” instead refer to a mnemonic reminder police are taught to recall when putting on their uniform, to be cautious in the order that they put on their bowling helmets, equipment vests, and jackets, lest those get caught and entangled with each other? Moreover, it doesn’t seem to be caution plus3, but actually caution +2, or 3 including caution, because the necessity of police caution is actually one of the three points.

Is there some old statutory source or etymological basis of the phrase caution +3?

1 Answer 1


See https://www.hja.net/expert-comments/blog/general-crime/what-to-do-if-contacted-by-the-police-for-an-interview-under-caution/

The reason it is called a caution plus 3 interview is because at the beginning of the interview the police will read you the caution ["you do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention something when questioned that you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence"] and advise you of 3 rights that you have whilst at the police station:

  • You have the right to free and independent legal advice.
  • You are not under arrest.
  • You may leave at any time.

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