In the main, serious offences are investigated by the Police. However, there are a number of alternative investigative agencies, such as the UK Border Agency, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), and for nationwide serious crime – such as large scale drug smuggling or people trafficking – there is the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Criminal investigations will usually involve an arrest and a series of PACE interviews under caution, in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). If you find yourself in this position, and have been arrested and/or interviewed under caution, it is important to appreciate that you are a suspect in an investigation. As a suspect you are entitled to independent legal advice and representation throughout this process including during your PACE interviews under caution. This stage of the investigation is very important because it can have a huge impact on the decision of whether or not to prosecute you.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can get through this stage of the process without proper, formal legal advice and assistance. Advice and assistance at this stage is critical for two reasons, as follows. First, with the right preparation before you are interviewed (or re-interviewed), and with the right assistance in gathering evidence in your defence, it is often possible to persuade the authorities to abandon the case against you, thereby avoiding prosecution. Secondly, if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being prosecuted, then what you have said, or not said, during your PACE interviews under caution will be heard as evidence by the court that tries you. It is therefore imperative that you present your case to the investigators as forcefully and persuasively as you can, and fully in the knowledge that everything you say in interview is likely to be heard at a later date by the jury or magistrates who decide whether or not you are guilty. You are unlikely to achieve this without good legal advice.
Following the culmination of the investigation, the evidence gathered will be sent to the prosecuting body,which in the vast majority of cases in the English criminal courts is usually the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), although there are some other prosecuting bodies as well.
The CPS (or other prosecuting body) will assess the evidence gathered by the investigation team and then make a decision on whether or not to authorise a charge. Once you have been charged you will then face criminal proceedings before either a Magistrates’ Court or in the Crown Court.
Following charge, you will be given a court date and either granted bail, which means you will retain your freedom but may be subject to bail conditions, or remanded in custody to prison.
If you are remanded in custody you will be entitled to a bail application. We can ensure that experienced counsel attends court, and presents an application, to the judge on your behalf. This may be done in open court but is often done ‘in chambers’ and referred to as ‘a judge in chambers’ bail application.
Even if you choose to plead guilty to the allegations you face, you will still need to be represented at your sentencing hearing. We can arrange for experienced counsel to mitigate powerfully on your behalf, and to seek to persuade the court to pass the least serious sentence possible.
In both the Magistrates’ and the Crown Court, if you plead not guilty then your case will proceed to a trial. Once you are informed that you are to face criminal trial, the reality is that you will probably feel overwhelmed, and that the whole experience will be daunting and traumatic. You will need a great deal of support, that we can provide, and you will need the input of an experienced trial advocate. We can find you a Barrister who can assist with every aspect of the trial process, from the law and procedure, to evidence, and tactical considerations. We will arrange for experienced trial counsel to assist you with matters such as the drafting of your defence statement, the admissibility of evidence, the drafting of written skeleton arguments for the court, interview editing proposals, dealing with hearsay applications and/or bad character applications, potential abuse of process arguments, obtaining statements from defence witnesses, obtaining documents in support of your defence, and gathering evidence generally, issues relating to expert witnesses, helping you to prepare to give evidence and working with you to prepare cross examination of the prosecution witnesses.