A reminder of the importance of securing legal advice, assistance and representation in advance of attending an interview under caution came from an unlikely source this week.
In BBC Radio 4's The Archers, the Environment Agency (EA) commenced an investigation into the contamination of the River Am. They start by testing the run offs and drains from Home Farm. Brian Aldridge tells his wife there is no need to panic because the EA are testing all the relevant land that borders the river. It isn’t long however before the EA turn up at Home Farm and invite Brian to attend the Agency office building. Brian attends within an hour of the request and is interviewed under caution without legal representation. The source of the contamination is coming from his farm and could result in his or his company’s prosecution. By the end of the week, the EA have telephoned Brian and invited him to attend a second interview under caution, this time he tells his wife he is determined to make sure he has a ‘good criminal solicitor’ representing him.
Brian’s decision to instruct a solicitor to provide him with legal advice and assistance for the second interview is a sensible one but is it too little, too late? Has he damaged his position by not receiving legal advice and assistance earlier?
As soon as it became apparent to Brian that he was not merely attending a meeting with the EA but an interview under caution, he should have insisted on the interview being postponed so he could seek legal advice and assistance immediately. The EA were duty bound to agree to that request. He had no obligation to attend the initial interview without first obtaining legal advice and assistance.
An interview under caution is an interview governed by Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and is ‘the questioning of a person regarding his involvement, or suspected involvement, in a criminal offence or offences’. The interview is recorded.
The purpose of any interview is not only to give the interviewee the opportunity to put forward a defence but also so the investigators can gather further evidence against the interviewee and/or the company he represents.
PACE dictates that the investigator must give the interviewee enough information to make sure the allegation is understood. Often securing legal representation at an early stage can result in the provision of a great deal more disclosure than would have otherwise been provided to an unrepresented interviewee. Furthermore, the legally represented interviewee will be better prepared having been advised on the structure of the interview and the investigators' likely aims and objectives.
The decision to participate in any interview under caution should not be taken lightly. It is not always in the best interests of the interviewee to participate or indeed to answer any questions but if the interviewee chooses to attend the interview, with the input of a solicitor, he can minimise the chance of feeling ambushed in interview.
Has Brian has made a mistake by not insisting on the first interview being postponed for him to secure legal representation? Only time will tell. Securing the services of ‘a good criminal solicitor’ at an early stage will result in an interviewee being better prepared following a request by a crown agency for an interview under caution.
For further help or advice, please contact a member of our Crime & Regulatory team.