The vast majority of investigations in the UK are conducted by the police. When a suspect is arrested or subject to a voluntary interview they are interviewed “under caution”. The caution is a warning to the suspect that what they do or don’t say during the interview, may have an impact on their case.
The wording of the caution is as follows:
“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
The solicitor’s role in interview
A solicitor’s role at the interview is to carefully advise a suspect as to what to say, if anything. The advice depends on numerous factors including the strength of the evidence, what is disclosed and whether or not the suspect has any mental health disorders.
Having a competent solicitor at the interview is essential to achieve the best possible outcome for the case. Sometimes putting an account forward is preferable, other times saying nothing is best. The disadvantage of a formal interview is that although there will be disclosure of the nature of the allegation you do not know in advance what the questions will be.
Trading standards interviews
Other governmental agencies use the same approach. This includes regulatory bodies of all kinds including trading standards, environmental agencies and other bodies. Formal interviews, like police interviews, can be undertaken by these bodies.
Alternatively they can interview someone by way of cautionable correspondence. This is a mechanism whereby the agency sends to a letter to a suspect with a list of questions they want answers to, with a caution similar to that above. In essence it is an interview by correspondence.
Benefits of instructing a solicitor for interview
The main advantage of this approach is that you get to see the questions in advance of answering and time can be spent giving a considered response. Again, advice should be taken in relation to the response as any answers to the questions can be relied upon as evidence against the suspect.
The drawback of this process is that a poorly drafted response can help convict a suspect when there may be no evidence of their involvement in the allegation. For example, if a suspect accepts his involvement in a project and that he made decisions (that led to the commission of an offence) then he could implicate himself in that. This is exactly what happened in the Health and Safety case of R v Chargot.
So in conclusion this process can be advantageous so long as good legal advice from a specialist solicitor is sought and taken by a suspect when considering a response.
Toby Wilbraham – Regulatory Solicitor
If you require advice in relation to a potential trading standards interview please contact Toby Wilbraham at Olliers Solicitors by telephone on 0161 8341515, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to send us a message.