Proactive lawyers acting for those under investigation in relation to criminal allegations
What sets Olliers apart from many criminal defence firms is the proactive approach we adopt during a criminal investigation. We have an excellent reputation for representation before the criminal courts but the best possible outcome is when an investigation ends without our client being prosecuted.
We understand the stress and anxiety a criminal investigation can cause. The work we undertake for clients during this stage of the criminal process goes way beyond a police station attendance. Prior to and following an interview under caution, our team will do everything it can to minimise the likelihood of a client under investigation being charged with a criminal offence.
Throughout these pages there is repeated reference to the ‘Charging Standard’, ‘pre-charge engagement’, ‘representations against charge’, the need for a ‘realistic prospect of a conviction’ and the fact that a prosecution must be in the ‘public interest’. This is because our team of over 20 defence lawyers place huge emphasis on the pre charge stage of a case. Put simply, it is what we do.
Our pre-charge strategy
During any investigation we will always look to making successful ‘representations against charge’.
From the outset we will look at early pre-charge engagement with investigators.
We will closely scrutinise whether the ‘Charging Standard’ contained within the 2018 ‘Code for Crown Prosecutors’ is met. Wherever possible we will argue that there is not a ‘realistic prospect of a conviction’ or that a prosecution is not in the ‘public interest’ and that no further action should be taken against our client.
The police want to speak to me. What should I do?
Anyone asked to attend a police interview under caution should obtain immediate representation. We represent clients nationwide. Meticulous preparation for a police interview is crucial. There are now greater opportunities to prepare for voluntary interviews because prior notice of the interview is given and disclosure of a summary of the allegations can be provided to the defence. We will advise as to the best way of dealing with the interview whether in the form of a ‘no comment’ interview, the use of a ‘prepared statement’ or with our client answering questions.
I have been released under investigation. What happens next?
Following an interview, you may be released either on bail or ‘under investigation’. Whilst many defence lawyers adopt a passive approach to this stage, we do not. We will take stock of the situation and consider all questions put during interview. We will look at what additional steps need to be taken to rebut allegations. We will look at early pre-charge engagement with investigating officers.
We never lose sight of our endgame, which is effective representations against charge.
How do the CPS make the decision to charge someone with an offence?
The Code for Crown Prosecutors contains the Charging Standard and the Director of Public Prosecution’s Guidance on Charging 2020 sets out the requirements of investigators when submitting material to prosecutors. The defence lawyers at Olliers have a comprehensive knowledge of investigation and charging procedure ensuring the best outcomes for our clients.
What can Olliers do to prevent a prosecution?
Pre charge engagement is often the most effective means of preventing a prosecution. Pre-charge engagement refers to any voluntary engagement between parties to an investigation after the first interview under caution.
It may involve;
- Giving a suspect an opportunity to comment on further lines of enquiry
- Establishing whether a suspect can identify other lines of enquiry
- Asking a suspect whether they can provide access to digital material
- Discussing ways to overcome barriers to obtaining evidence
- Agreeing key word searches of digital material
- Obtaining a suspect’s consent to access medical records
- A suspect identifying and providing details of potential witnesses
- Clarifying whether expert or forensic evidence is agreed.
We may not always be able to make formal representations against charge; however, we will always look to provide the police or other investigators with sufficient material so as to prevent our client being charged. This may involve drawing their attention to material that supports the defence case, including the following:-
- Texts, emails and other electronic communication
- Social media activity
- Enquiries into CCTV
- Internet and other research
- Medical evidence
- Preparation of timelines and chronologies supportive of the defence
- Tracking down and speaking to witnesses who will support the defence case and subsequently invite the police to speak to these individuals.
On occasions we may draw to the attention of investigators information that sheds light on why a complaint has been made.
Click here to read more about recent examples of successful pre-charge engagement leading to no further action.
Watch Matthew Claughton explain how pre-charge engagement could benefit you:
Pre-charge engagement is the process that takes place after someone has been interviewed at a police station under caution, and rather than them just sit tight and wait for an investigation to take place, it’s open for them to instruct lawyers who can then engage with the investigators and it’s the opportunity for the defence to go on the front foot rather than do nothing and allow the prosecution or the investigators to get on with their investigation, submit a file to the crown prosecution service and for a decision to be made. So, with pre-charge engagement the defence team can approach investigators and then suggest lines of inquiry that may be useful for the defence and for the purposes of the investigation and the whole process from a defence perspective is ensure that it’s much more two-sided and that the appropriate and right decisions are made at the end of the case. What flows from effective pre-charge engagement is representations against charge and that’s where the defence will make representations to investigators and ultimately to the crown prosecution service arguing that in accordance with what’s known as the charging standard there is not either a realistic prospect of a conviction or that a prosecution is not in the public interest.
All prosecutors, whether from the crown prosecution service or other prosecuting authorities, are bound by the code for crown prosecutors and specifically the charging standard, and under the charging standard there are two tests that have to be met. Firstly, there must be a realistic prospect to the conviction, in other words the case must be strong enough, and secondly, a prosecution must be in the public interest and if those two tests are met, then a prosecution can commence. It’s the role of the defence during the pre-charge stage of the case to persuade make representations to the crown prosecution service that there is not either a realistic prospect of a conviction or that a prosecution is not in the public interest.
There’s an awful lot that can be done to prevent a prosecution. Following an interview at a police station, it’s crucial that the defence look at everything that can be done to contradict or undermine what is being alleged during the police interview, and it’s at that point once that preparation has been done, that the defence would seek to become involved in pre-charge engagement with investigators and look at all the weaknesses in the prosecution case. Once that’s done, then effective representations against charge can be made arguing that the charging standard is not met, there’s not a realistic prospect to the conviction or that the prosecution is not in the public interest.
It could be messaging between parties, it could be social media activity, it could be material in the possession of third parties such as courts, councillors, hospital medical records, school records, it could be CCTV evidence, it could be witnesses, character witnesses or witnesses to an alleged incident. The list is not exhaustive, and the message at Olliers Solicitors is if you as a suspect, have got something that you want to draw to our attention then tell us about it and we’ll make the decision as to whether it can be used on your behalf.
Bail conditions can be varied quite informally by liaison with the investigating officer, that would require consent, and if that can’t be obtained it can be done by way of an application to the courts.
Investigations can vary in length depending on the allegation under investigation, the police force investigating it and the material that needs to be looked at by the police. Wherever possible, we will do whatever we can to accelerate the process, but our ultimate objective is a successful outcome for our client which means no further action is taken against them.
Instructing Olliers following representation by a duty solicitor at the police station is the easiest thing in the world. We frequently act for clients who’ve been represented by the duty solicitor and then come to us because they want a proactive approach to their investigation.
The public funding available for this area of work is very limited and it would not allow Olliers to undertake the work that we need to do for effective pre-charge representation.
Some frequently asked questions
Yes absolutely. The duty solicitor is funded to represent you at the police station by legal aid, however, if you are looking to instruct Olliers on a privately funded basis then we can notify the duty solicitor you no longer require their services and inform the police that you have changed representation. We will deal with all of this on your behalf and it is a very easy process.
Initially a suspect can be released for a period of up to three months.The initial applicable bail period can then be extended on the authority of an inspector to six months. A second bail extension can be authorised by a Superintendent who may authorise a further extension from six to nine months.When the nine month extension by the Superintendent is about to expire and the police consider they require additional bail time, they can apply to the Magistrates Court for an extension. The Magistrates Court have the flexibility to grant exceptions up to 12, 18 or 24 months (for exceptionally complex cases only) depending on the circumstances of the case.
Contact our criminal pre-charge investigations solicitors
If you would like to discuss how we can proactively assist you in relation to your case at a pre-charge stage, contact us by telephone on 0161 834 1515, by email to email@example.com or complete the form below and we will contact you.