POLICE have been inviting people suspected of assault, theft and sex crimes to voluntary interviews instead of first arresting them, it has emerged.
Police have been asked to explain a huge increase in the use of ‘book three’ interviews, in which suspects are invited to voluntarily attend police stations.
At Wood Street Police Station, the interviews were used 18 times in 2011 - but there have been more than 250 of the interviews at the station since the start of this year.
Figures obtained by the Express show that since February 17, 69 book three interviews were carried out at the station over assaults, 42 on theft allegations and 13 over sexual offences.
There were 45 book three interviews at Wood Street in 2009, 31 in 2010, 18 last year and 252 in total so far this year, figures released by the police show.
Yvette Cooper, Normanton MP and shadow home secretary, has asked West Yorkshire Police how many suspects were later arrested or charged.
She said: “We particularly need to know why more serious offences such as 13 incidents of sexual offence and 69 incidents of assault were dealt with this way.”
A district solicitor, who asked not to be named, claimed the interviews were used to get crime figures down. The solicitor said: ”It’s to fudge the figures.”
But police have denied this.
Solicitors are also concerned that suspects are being denied their rights after attending voluntarily, unaware they will be under caution.
The solicitor said: “Clients are led to believe it isn’t a serious matter and they don’t need a solicitor there.”
West Yorkshire Police said some minor offences were dealt with without the time and expense of going through the courts, and legislation required police to only use arrest powers where necessary. Crime recording was not affected by the manner in which an offence was dealt with.
Police said the rights of suspects were adhered to.
Supt Pat Casserly said: “The outcome of an interview by voluntary attendance is no different to that of a person under arrest.
“A case may result in a prosecution, fixed penalty notice, caution, cannabis warning, community resolution or no further action.
“Indeed, as an investigation progresses a voluntary attendance may be followed by an arrest if that is appropriate in the light of fresh information.”
Supt Casserly said voluntary attendance was determined by factors including the seriousness of the offence, profile and history of the suspect and wishes of the victim.