Defence Engagement during a Police Investigation
What is pre-charge engagement?
Pre-charge engagement is the voluntary communication between a suspect and the police, following the first police interview, but before a suspect is formally charged with any offences. This is a voluntary process so should you or your defence team choose to not engage, it would not be held against you should your case proceed.
Paragraph 3.4 of the code for crown prosecutors does encourage pre-charge engagement, and highlights that it may impact on the CPS decision as to any charges being authorised. Pre charge engagement can involve many things including, but not limited to:
- Providing the suspect the opportunity to identify any lines of enquiry;
- Asking if there is any relevant digital media the suspect is aware of, and providing access to it if necessary;
- Agreeing any key word searches of digital media on behalf of the suspect;
- The suspect granting the police access to their medical records;
- The suspect identifying and providing the information for any potential witnesses.
It may be appropriate to carry out pre-charge engagement whenever it may assist the investigation, this can take place regardless of whether you answered questions put to you at first interview.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits of pre-charge engagement both to the suspect and to the criminal justice system. The main benefit for most suspects is that they can highlight lines of enquiry to the police that may disprove an allegation made against them. Engagement may also influence a prosecutor’s decision to charge, thus avoiding a case from progressing any further.
Further, earlier engagement may lead to the investigation length being shortened which in turn may lower the anxiety and uncertainty that surrounds the period of investigation. This may also reduce the relevant costs of representation to yourself as a suspect.
In late 2021, our Head of Criminal Defence, Jacqui Callan, was instructed in relation to an allegation of rape. This allegation had already been under investigation for some time, as our client instructed us after his initial police interview, during which he had the duty solicitor representing him.
The client was initially released on conditional bail. He found the investigation stage difficult, as he worked with one of the witnesses that he was precluded from contacting whilst on bail and as such had his shift pattern altered, as to not be in breach. After several months on bail, the client was then released under investigation. After we were instructed, we engaged with the police throughout the investigation and provided our client with updates as to the progress of the investigation. We submitted the names and contact information of relevant witnesses that were present at the time of the alleged offence. We also took further witness statements that we submitted to the police. Our action led to the investigation being concluded with a decision of ‘no further action’ (which means that the allegations were dropped against him) within 6 months from our initial instruction.
How can our criminal defence team help?
Our criminal defence solicitors are extremely experienced in representing clients throughout a police investigation and will, wherever appropriate, engage with the police to seek the best possible outcome for you.
Are you or someone you know currently under police investigation? If so, get in contact with us for more information on how we can assist