When I was younger I used to joke that I had a police record. When faced with a respondent to the line I had just fed them, I would replied, “Yes, Every breath you take.” In recent days, I have learnt to my cost that having a police record is no joke. I’m not talking about the odd speeding ticket although I’ve been known to collect a few of those over the years.
After my embezzlement of church funds, I was originally informed that the matter would be reported to the police authorities. When the debt was fully reimbursed immediately with the church receiving back far more money than was misappropriated, I was told that no further action was to be taken.
I began rebuilding my life as described in previous chapters of this blog. Six months after settlement I was completely shocked when the police contacted me asking to interview me in relation to a referral they had received from the church. The police officer that telephoned me arranged a time to collect me for the interview.
Having never been in this position before, I didn’t know what to expect. I was ready at the agreed time hoping for a fairly discreet visit from police. However, a large Police Riot Van pulled up outside my house ad out stepped the officer. I stepped out to greet him anticipating that we would drive straight away. The police officer said he needed to speak to me before we left and asked to enter my home. He entered and recited my rights. It was very surreal to hear those words, “I’m arresting you on suspicion of…. You have the right to remain silent....Anything you may say may be used against you….” I was stunned, I hadn’t expected this. I had been informed that the matter had been dealt with to the church’s satisfaction and no further action was to be taken. This was the last thing I imagined would happen.
The police officer then informed me he had the legal right to search and seize any evidence in the house relating to the offence. I immediately handed him a full set of personal bank statements. I asked him if he knew of the sum of money involved, to which he answered that he had not been given that piece of information so I gave him the church’s audit report. I also produced a letter from the church stating that the debt had been paid back in full. “I didn’t know about this” he said, “This throws a completely different light on the situation.” With my full co-operation in providing the required evidence, I was escorted to the Police Custody Suite for further questioning.
Everything was carried out in dignity. The arresting officer informed the custody sergeant of the allegations. The custody sergeant asked about any medical conditions and informed me of my entitlements and the procedures that would be followed whilst being held in police custody.
I sat and waited until they were ready to interview me. Other people were being brought into custody, some handcuffed, some had belts and shoelaces removed. I had been told that I may have to hand over belt/shoelaces etc but it was a decision the custody sergeant would take depending on my co-operation.
After a short wait, I was taken to an interview room where more police procedures were explained. Two tapes went into a recording machine and the interview began. I didn’t feel the need to request a lawyer’s presence and answered all questions as fully and honestly as I could admitting to the theft that had taken place. After the interview had concluded, I was taken to another room to have my photograph, fingerprints and DNA taken.
I had been surprised to see that tape cassettes were still being used to record police interviews but there was nothing old-fashioned about the fingerprint machine. Virtually every aspect and angle of my hands were captured digitally.
I was escorted back to the custody desk where I waited the outcome. The arresting officer consulted the custody officer and I was summoned over. They had decided to bail me to appear back at the police station in three months time so that further evidence could be gathered. The police needed to confirm with the church the validity of the letter I’d produced. All possible outcomes were outlined to me.
The arresting office escorted me home. He had apologised to me on the inward journey for the Riot Van explaining that it was the only vehicle available to him. As we chatted on the homeward journey, he was kind enough to say to me that “in all his years in the job, I was the nicest person he had to arrest.” I asked about making a disclosure to my employers and was advised to wait until the final outcome before I made any statement.
About two weeks later, at nine in the evening, I was sitting in my front room watching a film with my partner when we saw a plain white van stop immediately outside in the road. The driver found a space further down the road and parked the vehicle. Out stepped a different police officer who came to my house and explained that the police were prepared to issue me with a caution on this occasion. I could sign and accept the caution or I could take my chance with the juridical system. I signed, accepting the caution not really noticing the caution offence which could have been fraud, theft or something else. I just wanted an end to this sorry episode of my life and move forward. The police officer informed me that as far as they were concerned, this was now the end of the matter unless I got into further trouble. Maybe now, I could put everything behind me.