FAQ Criminal Law

What should I do if the police have contacted me and want to interview me?

We often receive telephone calls from individuals who have been contacted by the police stating that they are required to attend interviews under caution or face arrest. You are entitled to free and independent legal representation in respect of such interviews and any periods of detention. If you find yourself in this situation, please do let us know at the earliest possible convenience for us to assist and arrange for one of our representatives to attend the interview to represent you. If you are arrested, you simply need to request SMQ Legal Services at the station (or ask for one of our representatives, normally Suezanne King or Heulwen Everton) and we will be contacted about your arrest and will be able to assist you.

We have representatives who attend the police station at all hours of the day and night to assist clients in custody. It is a common mistake that requesting legal advice can ‘hold up’ or delay the process and extend the amount of time that someone can expect to remain in detention. In fact, we are generally able to attend Abingdon police station within 15-20 minutes after being notified that an interview will take place.

 

Please remember that it is those who feel that they are innocent that require legal representation the most. We are available 24/7 to provide advice and assistance in respect of criminal matters. Should such an issue arise, please do contact us on our emergency 24/7 line: 07585610063.

Do I need to pay for representation at the police station?

Everyone who is interviewed under caution is entitled to free and independent legal advice. This is provided under Legal Aid funding.

Should your case proceed to Court, you may be entitled to legal aid funding so long as you satisfy the ‘Interests of Justice’ test and ‘Financial Eligibility’ criteria.

Please contact us for further information about legal aid in criminal matters.

Do I have to answer police questions?

In one word, no. Anyone being questioned by the police has a right to silence.  There are risks attached to either staying silent or to giving an account to the police.  This is why it is vital that you have a legal representative attend at the police station to represent you so that you can get the best advice possible as to how you should deal with police questioning in your specific matter.

Can the Police search my premises?

The police can search premises in a number of different situations.  A search is lawful, for example, where a Magistrates Court has issued a warrant justifying such a search.  The police can also lawfully search premises where a person has been arrested and where a police inspector is of the view that there are grounds to believe that items relevant to the offence under investigation or to any other offence might be found at the premises.  The police can also search premises where a person has been arrested or where an arrest is made where a person has been seen to leave the premises.

How long can I be detained in custody?

The police have initial powers to detain someone at a police station for up to 24 hours after the person’s arrival at the police station.  In cases that could end up before a Crown Court where a charge is brought, a police superintendent can authorise detention at the Police Station for up to 36 hours and, thereafter a Magistrates’ Court can authorise detention to a maximum of 96 hours (i.e. 4 days).  Much longer detention can be authorised where a person is detained under the Terrorism Acts.

I have been charged with an offence – what do I do now?

Please contact us as soon as possible to let us know what time and date you are to appear at Court. If suitable, we will arrange an initial meeting with you at our office to discuss the matter. The sooner we know the better prepared you – and we – will be. Do not leave it until the last minute to contact us.

Will my case be heard at the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court?

Some cases can only ever be dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court.  Equally, some very serious offences can only ever be dealt with at the Crown Court.  There are a large number of offences which fall between these two extremes and which could be dealt with at either Court.  These are called “either way” offences.  The Magistrates’ can decide to allocate either way cases to the Crown Court but, where the Magistrates say that they are happy to deal with the case themselves, you can still choose to have your case sent to the Crown Court.  We can advise you about the advantages and disadvantages of either course.

I have received a summons for a road traffic offence – what should I do?

Please contact us immediately to give us the details of your scheduled Court appearance.  We can give you some initial advice and arrange a meeting at our office if suitable and make the necessary arrangements to represent you at Court.

What are Confiscation proceedings?

Confiscation Proceedings can be brought under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 or in some circumstances via the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and Drugs Trafficking Act 1994.

The provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) are extremely powerful and can have tragic consequences, not just for defendants, but also very often for their spouses, business partners, parents and children.

The initial stages of the confiscation procedure will start following a conviction for a relevant offence, such as money laundering, fraud and drug offences.

Prior to the Court making a Confiscation Order, a great deal of work must be undertaken to minimise the damage to your assets.

Prior to a Confiscation Order being made, various statements will need to be filed. To develop the most robust case, extensive evidence usually needs to be obtained and detailed statements need to be prepared.

The state has never had such wide-ranging and formidable powers to tackle the proceeds of crime, both pre and post-conviction. In many cases, defendants face a confiscation or restraint order when a prosecution is highly unlikely.

Without expert advice, defendants are at a real risk of an order based upon “hidden assets” that may not even exist. We act for defendants and third parties in these matters. Our solicitors also have extensive experienced acting on matters involving the Serious Fraud Office, as well as the CPS.

We believe it is absolutely vital for clients to seek expert professional advice at the earliest stage, as it can have a hugely beneficial effect on the ultimate outcome of a case. Should you find yourself facing Confiscation Proceedings, please do contact us to discuss the matter urgently.

What is the Serious Fraud Office?

The Serious Fraud Office investigates only the largest and most complex allegations of Fraud. As a result, it routinely operates on the boundaries of the existing criminal law and often its prosecutions break new ground in the field.

As the principal regulator dealing with complex business crime, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has specialist powers under the Criminal Justice Act 1987 to investigate and prosecute serious and complex fraud.

Cases are vetted by the SFO to establish if they meet certain criteria. These include the value of the alleged loss, whether the case has a significant international dimension, and whether highly specialist knowledge is required to investigate and prosecute. Where the SFO does not take on a particular case, specialist police fraud squads, the National Crime Agency, or the Crown Prosecution Service may also become involved.

It is important to obtain expert legal advice as early as possible. It is in the investigation stage where the attitudes of the investigators are yet to crystalise that important questions might be resolved in favour of the suspect and the shape of the overall investigation influenced to their advantage. That SFO investigations can have a novel or complicated factual background can be an advantage; such cases exist in the “grey areas” of the law, as yet undeveloped and this often provides the defence with the opportunity to argue that the conduct complained of is insufficient to constitute a criminal offence.

The nature of the SFO’s work ensures that it has been given additional, wide ranging investigative powers. This in turn requires specialist knowledge on the part of defence solicitors. We have been involved in a number of significant SFO investigations over recent years, can assist you with all aspects of such a case. Should you find yourself the target of an SFO investigation, please do contact us at your earliest convenience.