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 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.
‘Pre-charge engagement’ and the Director of Public Prosecution’s Guidance on Charging 2020
The concept of ‘Pre-charge engagement’ between defence lawyers is contained within the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure, which came into force on 31st December 2020. The same day also saw the publication of the ‘Director of Public Prosecution’s Guidance on Charging 2020’. Now for the first time there is formal recognition of the process for engagement between defence lawyers and investigators. There is also detailed Guidance on the way in which investigations are conducted and the manner in which material is presented to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The police want to speak to me. What should I do?
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, through the use of a ‘prepared statement’ or with our client answering all questions.
I have been released under investigation. What happens next?
Following an interview, we will look to take stock and consider all questions put to our client. This involves considering whether points not dealt with by our client in interview can be addressed in the pre-charge stage. Much is said of ‘representations against charge’. Indeed, we have published a number of features on the subject. Whilst many firms adopt a passive approach to this stage, we do not. We will look at early pre-charge engagement with investigating officers.
How do the CPS make the decision to charge someone with an offence?
Throughout an investigation, at the forefront of our minds is the Code for Crown Prosecutors, particularly the ‘charging standard’. A prosecution should only be brought if there is a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’ and it is in the public interest to prosecute. We never lose sight of this during dialogue with investigators and when making representations to either the police or other prosecuting authority.
Since the publication of the DPP’S Guidance on Charging 2020 we ensure compliance with the Guidance on the part of investigating officers at all times considering the existence of undermining material.
We rarely encounter hostility from investigators; generally they welcome a proactive approach and so they should. The 2018 Code for Crown Prosecutors and relevant sections of the Attorney General’s ‘Review of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Disclosure in the Criminal Justice System’ both make it clear that there should be greater defence involvement in this stage of the process. Click here to read more. The formal recognition of ‘pre-charge engagement’ at the end of 2020 was the final piece of this jigsaw
What can Olliers do to prevent a prosecution?
The pre-charge team at Olliers is known for its proactive approach in criminal investigations. We place great emphasis on bringing cases to an early conclusion, without a client having to face the stress, trauma and cost of court proceedings.
Pre-charge engagement refers to any voluntary engagement between parties to an investigation after the first interview under caution.
It may involve (amongst other matters):
- 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.
Case Study One
21-year-old male of good character faced allegation of date rape in which the complainant claimed to have been unconscious for ten hours. Olliers were able to prove social media activity throughout the night and downloading of an app together with text activity from the alleged victim the following day. Olliers also provided police with details of a flatmate who witnessed sexual activity. Police were also provided with a motive for the fabricated complaint. Following representations to the police, matter came to a swift conclusion without even going to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision.
Case Study Two
Young man faced allegation of sexual assault in a nightclub. It was suggested that he had assaulted a complete stranger without any earlier interaction. Olliers were able to show that alleged victim had in fact connected with the suspect on WhatsApp at the time of the incident which would have been impossible on her version of events. Olliers were also able to show that complainant’s boyfriend had unexpectedly arrived in the nightclub which gave an explanation and motive for the false allegation. No charges were brought.
Case Study Three
Client faced an allegation of historic rape based upon one incident thirty years earlier. Olliers were able to produce to the police a poem sent to the defendant by the complainant ten years previously i.e. twenty years after the alleged incident in which she admitted to her infatuation with the suspect at the time of the incident. Representations were made including a defence explanation for the allegations being made. Crown Prosecution Service took the view that there was not a realistic prospect of conviction and no charges were brought.
Case Study Four
Client was arrested and interviewed under caution in connection with historic allegations of rape. He was subsequently released under investigation pending further police enquiries. On contacting Olliers, we immediately adopted a proactive approach and established contact with both the officer in the case and the duty solicitor who had represented the client at the police station. Following detailed consideration of the police station notes, and on taking thorough instructions from our client, we drafted representations against charge on his behalf. The aim of our representations was to persuade the Crown Prosecution Service that there was ‘not a realistic prospect of conviction’ as required by the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The police investigation was ongoing for some time and we periodically liaised with the investigating officer to provide the client with updates. Having considered our representations, the police decided to take no further action against our client and the matter came to a close.
Case Study Five
Our client was arrested and interviewed under caution in relation to historic allegations of rape, sexual assault and controlling or coercive behaviour. He was subsequently released under investigation pending further police enquiries. The client contacted Olliers shortly after his arrest. Following this, we obtained the case papers from the duty solicitor who had represented him during interview. We also established contact with the investigating officer and drew their attention to some initial points about the case which would require further investigation. As the investigation developed, we drafted comprehensive representations against charge based on our client’s detailed instructions and relevant material he had provided. On considering our representations, the police decided to take no further action against our client and the matter was concluded.
Case Study Six
Our clients were directors of a payment processing company. This was a multi-jurisdictional investigation involving restraint of assets on several continents. Extensive police liaison took place, a substantial amount of exculpatory material was provided to the police. Complex and ultimately successful applications to vary and discharge restraint orders were made. Representations against charge were submitted. The matter concluded following a successful application under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 for return of items unlawfully seized by police and decision was made to take no further action against our clients.
Case Study Seven
Client E was arrested and interviewed under caution concerning allegations of rape and sexual assault. He was released under investigation as the police continued with their enquiries. Client E contacted Olliers only a few days following his arrest to request pre-charge representation. We swiftly proceeded to make contact with the investigating officer to establish a line of communication. We also quickly obtained the case papers from the duty solicitor whom represented Client E at the police station. For the following five months, we maintained contact with the investigating officer and regularly liaised with them regarding bail requirements and the progress of their investigation. After in-depth consideration of the police station notes and all of the information and instructions provided by the client, we disclosed some material to the investigating officer concerning the allegations. Following review by the police and consideration of their lines of enquiry, a decision to take no further action was reached thereby concluding the investigation.
For further information in relation to the investigative pre-charge stage of a criminal investigation see the following articles.
- Pre-charge representations
- Representations against charge
- Voluntary police interviews
- Voluntary police interviews – do I need a solicitor?
- Pre-charge engagement between the police and the defence
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.
If you are arrested for an offence but not charged, the police can place you on police bail for an initial period of 28 days. Following this, they can extend your bail for a maximum period of 3 months or 6 months in certain complex cases. Following this the police must either release you from bail or apply to the Magistrates’ Court to extend your bail.
Contact our criminal 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.