Interviews under caution are among the most common ways that investigating authorities collect information from a suspect. An interview under caution is one in which the subject is advised that they are not obligated to answer any questions, but that anything they say may later be used in evidence should the investigation result in court proceedings. The name ‘interview under caution’ is used to differentiate these interviews from ‘compelled interviews’, where a subject may have a legal obligation to answer certain questions.
There are several organisations in the UK that are empowered to conduct interviews in this way, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and, perhaps most prominently, the police. This means that interviews under caution may be used in a range of investigations into different types of activity.
As such, it can be difficult to know what to expect when you are invited to attend an interview - both from the conversation itself, and in the aftermath. Legal representation is vital during these types of interviews, whether you are suspected of a crime or attending as a witness, and an expert solicitor can help you to determine the potential outcomes based on your specific circumstances.
To help you understand the potential routes an investigation can take from the point that you are invited to attend an interview, the expert Criminal Defence team at JMW Solicitors has written this guide on the reasons investigating authorities may conduct interviews and what to expect afterwards. For bespoke advice or legal representation during an investigation, contact us today.
An interview under caution is usually just a piece of a larger investigation. The way that things move forward from there is determined by more than just what happens during the interview itself. It will also be affected by your role in the wider investigation, the aims of the relevant authority, and other evidence that may be uncovered. It can also depend upon written representations made to the investigators following the interview; a formal process referred to as pre-charge engagement.
As such, it is impossible to tell you what will happen next without detailed knowledge of your circumstances. However, there are several possibilities that you may expect and prepare for.
If the authority conducting the investigation determines that there is insufficient evidence to proceed, or it is not in the public interest to pursue the case, they may decide to take no further action. This means you will not be charged or prosecuted. It is also possible that the investigation may continue to move forward but that you will have no further role in it, especially if you are interviewed as a witness. A decision not to proceed can be reviewed if further evidence subsequently comes to light.
You may be invited for further interviews as the investigation continues to unfold. These may be under caution, or compelled interviews. In the latter cases, you have a legal obligation to attend and to provide certain information, although this excludes some types of privileged information. This applies whether you are participating in the investigation as a witness or involved as a suspect.
If the interview results in a decision that no charges will arise, the investigators might still ask you to become a prosecution witness. In this case, the answers given during the interview form the basis of a witness statement. The decision to become a prosecution witness is an important step and the investigators will not always fully explain the implications. You should seek legal advice before accepting the invitation.
There are many UK authorities that are empowered to conduct interviews under caution. These include:
Depending on the nature of the investigation, multiple agencies may be collaborating to gather information, and each has different powers when it comes to collecting evidence. Whether this is the case or not, you may give evidence that is not relevant to the existing investigation, but that may be of interest to another investigative authority.
The result of this may be that a new investigation is opened or that you are asked to attend an interview with a different agency or regulatory body. Alternatively, some interviews are conducted where investigators from more than one authority attend. For example, the police are sometimes accompanied by an HMRC or Border Force officer. The referral practices are much more widespread than they used to be, so care must be taken when answering questions in circumstances where other agencies may have an interest.
If you are interviewed by the police, they may decide to issue you with a caution. A caution is not a conviction and does not mean you have been charged with a crime, but it is recorded on your criminal record and can be considered in future legal proceedings. This may be a conditional caution, which has conditions attached that you must meet, such as a requirement to attend a rehabilitation course.
You may be charged with a criminal offence at the end of a police interview, whether you attended voluntarily or under arrest. This can result in several outcomes, the first of which is that you may be kept in custody until the next available court hearing. Alternatively, you may be released on bail, which will often have conditions attached that you must meet before a court date can be arranged. You may be given a summons (or receive one through the post) requiring you to attend a court hearing at a later date.
The most important thing you can do to prepare for an interview under caution is to speak to a solicitor, as they will be able to discuss the circumstances of your case, advise you on how best to answer the questions you will be asked, and evaluate what the likely outcomes of the process will be. They can also obtain information from investigators prior to interview. If you are likely to have to attend a court hearing, they can also provide legal representation, help you to gather evidence, and mount your defence.
Even if you have already been interviewed, it is not too late to discuss the case with a solicitor and learn about how they can help you. The expert criminal defence team at JMW Solicitors has a broad range of experience in interviews with the police and other authorities, which means we have a strong sense of what to expect and how best to build your defence. Our aim is to make sure you are treated fairly during an investigation, that all the legal requirements for collecting evidence are met, and that your rights are protected at all times.