Any interview with an investigator – whether internal, with a regulator, the police or with prosecution authority lawyers – is daunting and stressful, whatever your situation.
Our team of experts have attended hundreds of different types of interviews with the police, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority, HMRC and other investigatory authorities, as well as ‘in house’ with company lawyers and corporate investigators.
We know how to assess the situation, advise you and what strategy to deploy – from arrest through to post-interview advice.
Interviews in criminal investigations can take a number of forms – voluntary, compulsory or ‘under caution’ (possibly whilst under arrest) – and can include an internal interview with an employer. It is essential that anyone called for interview seeks specialist legal advice as early as possible.
Interviews of any nature should not be under-estimated as there are serious ramifications that can flow from them – both for an individual and a corporate. One risk is that an unrepresented person thinks they will ‘improve’ their situation by appearing to be helpful and agreeing to a quick interview. A hasty interview whilst unprepared can inadvertently worsen the position.
Every interview is different and the advice we give is bespoke and unique to our client, the situation, their status, the evidence, the level of seriousness and the suspected offence.
In every interview, whether you are compelled to answer questions or not, preparation is fundamental. You cannot be over prepared and the last thing you want is to be under-prepared.
Many clients under-estimate the amount of preparation time required and the seriousness of the situation in terms of the level of risk and the ramifications when interviewed.
Typically in fraud or financial crime interviews, detailed questions are asked in relation to events that may have occurred years ago and in relation to emails, texts, instant message, conversations, events, document that have long disappeared from short term memory. Interviews can take place over days – not hours. We typically go through a process with clients to help them refresh their memory with documentary material if it is available.
When answering questions in interviews you cannot lie or mislead. However, interviews under caution, are different because a person may if they wish ‘exercise their right to silence’. Interviews under caution are conducted when there are grounds to suspect the interviewee may have committed a criminal offence. The situation is serious as it can lead to individuals being charged and at worst convicted of a criminal offence.
The right to silence is a fundamental right that is provided to preserve the right against self-incrimination. We assess the situation very carefully and provide strategic advice to clients to help them deal with an interview under caution. It may be that we advise you to exercise your right to silence if it is an option and make ‘no comment’.
Compulsory or compelled interviews are where a person is required by law to answer the questions – and if they refuse the risk is there may be a penalty of at worst imprisonment. With compelled interviews it is very important to seek legal advice to assist you with the process and prepare for the interview.
We cannot overstate how important it is to seek specialist advice if you are called for interview of any nature. We are recommended by company lawyers to act as ‘independent legal advisors’ if employees or senior executives are being interviewed.
As well as focussing on the interview we assemble a team from our experts in business crime, regulatory and employment to provide tailored advice and de-risk the situation. If the interview is overseas then we recommend trusted international lawyers to co-counsel with us.
We can discuss the funding options, the proposed scope of work and budget with you. Depending on the situation, you should check whether you have any legal expenses insurance (for example under professional indemnity, Directors’ & Officers’ or household insurance policies) or consider whether a third party, such as an employer, will contribute to your legal fees (eg under an indemnity).