If you are reading this article, you may very well be one of the many thousands of people who, having been interviewed by the police under caution, have found yourself in a state of limbo having been what is termed as “ released under investigation”. What does this mean? Well, this effectively means that the investigation is ongoing and that you will be notified ‘at some point’ of the outcome of the investigation.
Being released under investigation is now sadly very commonly used by the police investigating alleged criminal conduct. Suspects can find their lives somewhat on hold, not knowing what is happening, when property is going to be returned, when they can speak to loved ones and family members who are connected to the investigation (directly or indirectly) and most importantly of when they can return back to normal life, hopefully with the matter behind them. During this difficult time, it is important not to simply live in hope that the police will be carrying out an effective and timely investigation. It is important to instruct lawyers who will be in very regular contact with the police to keep you updated as to what is happening, to ensure that they are making progress and to question the need to retain the personal belongings of suspects such as mobile phones, computers, cars and the like. This is how Wells Burcombe approach such cases.
Prior to 3rd April 2017 when the Policing and Crime Act 2017 came in to force, where there was insufficient evidence to charge a suspect following police interview and where further enquiries were considered necessary, a suspect would routinely be released on bail with a specified date and time to return to the police station, being known as “bailed to return. This allowed all parties to have some level of understanding that the investigation would be progressing and for a suspect, there could be some expectation that a decision would be made by the time he or she returned to the police station. The police had not always completed their enquiries, for a variety of reasons, and so on occasions return dates would be extended. But however disappointing this would be, at least a suspect had a sense of knowing that at some point a decision would be made regarding charge or not to charge.
Over the years, a combination of both significant cuts in police resources and the reporting of a number of high profile arrests have attracted much adverse publicity to the way in which the police investigate suspects. It gradually became an ever-increasing concern for suspects that they found themselves on bail for many months and sometimes years, being given repeated bail to return dates and with no real evidence that progress in the investigation had been made.
Something had to be done. That something came in the form of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 which came in to force on the 3rd April 2017. This Act brought in changes to the way the Police deal with suspects who have been arrested and where there is a need further investigation. The Act sets out certain time limits for the police to carry out investigations, and it is because of these time limits that the police have tried to circumvent the legislation by releasing suspects under investigation rather than releasing them on formal police bail (see article on the changes to police bail).
The best way to summarise the impact of the Act and how Wells Burcombe can help you is to answer some of the commonly raised questions:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I have been released under investigation, what does this mean?
A: Your release from police custody under investigation means that you are not on police bail. There is no requirement to attend again at a police station. However, the police investigation is ongoing and at some point a decision will be made. You might be required to attend again for interview, you might be charged or summonsed to attend court, or no further action will be taken. You will have been given a notice when released from the police station which sets out some further guidance on what it means to be released under investigation. This information will include –
- “inappropriate contact with anyone linked to your case, either directly or indirectly, through a third party or social media, may constitute a criminal offence”
- The notice will mention serious criminal offences of Witness Intimidation and tell you that you could face “up to 5 years in prison” or perverting the course of justice, in which case you could face up to “life imprisonment”.
It is not always clear what you can and cannot do. If there is any doubt about this, please do contact Wells Burcombe Solicitors and we can help.
Q: If contacted by the police, what should I do?
A: You should contact us immediately. You can call us 24 hours a day on 07592 034170 and speak to one of our criminal defence solicitors. If you are arrested and taken to a police station you should ask the custody sergeant to contact us.
Q: How long will the investigation take?
A: It is very difficult to say how long a police investigation will take. This will depend on the type of offence. Wells Burcombe fully appreciate the impact of simply being released and not knowing in what capacity, when and how the case will develop. Wells Burcombe have a policy that involves keeping in touch with clients under investigation and if instructed to do so, making regular enquiries of the police to see what is happening in any particular case.
Q: The police have seized my property; can I get this back?
A: Items should only be seized and retained by the police if they are of evidential relevance to the investigation. Wells Burcombe will challenge the police if instructed to do so with a view to having items returned immediately, or at the very least when the police have completed any enquiry requiring any item of property to remain in their possession. Keeping in contact with the police to establish what is happening with any particular case allows us to question why it is the police need to hold on to items of property and to make sure that the items are not being withheld for longer than absolutely necessary.
Q: What happens when the investigation ends?
A: The police can either charge you with one of more offences (which can result in you been notified by post – ‘a postal requisition – see article on postal requisitions), or alternatively write to you and formally notify you that the investigation has ended (no further action).
Q: I don’t want the solicitor who attended with me in interview, what can I do?
A: There is no restriction on you changing lawyers after you have been interviewed. You simply need to notify the old Solicitors that you have instructed new Solicitors. If you decide to instruct Wells Burcombe in these circumstances then we shall write to the old Solicitors, obtain your file and then invite you in to attend the office to discuss your case and how best to move forward. We can also offer a free initial no obligation consultation either by telephone, Skype or via facetime. We will review the case with you and advise you on the evidence and procedure.