Released under investigation – What can and should be done?
Suspects leaving the police station after interview are increasing being 'released under investigation' rather than bailed to return. Historically, if a suspect was released for further enquiries or for a decision to be made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), suspects would be given a specific time and date in the future to return. Although bail dates were sometimes extended, suspects were given a date and had a little comfort knowing that by a certain date they would expect some news on the future of the case. There were undoubtedly certain cases, predominantly high profile ones, where suspects found themselves endlessly and repeatedly bailed by the police on the premise that further enquires were to be made.
It was, and is, entirely unfair that a suspect has to wait for months and months not knowing the outcome of an allegation which has been made against them. The mere fact of being the subject of an investigation can have a devastating impact on personal reputations, family and work life, especially when bail conditions are imposed restricting liberty and movement.
It wasn't long ago that the police were given 6 months to complete investigations for suspects on 'police bail' and make a decision. You would have thought this would have resolved a very big problem within the criminal justice system, certainly from a suspects point of view.
Regrettably, the police have now been able to legitimately circumvent this , and instead of bailing a suspect on 'police bail' with a date and time to return, the police now more commonly 'release' a suspect 'under investigation'. This is effectively an open ended release. There is no given expectation by the police when they hope to complete their enquiries, and hence no date in the diary to plan toward. It's simply a case of 'we'll let you know when we know.' As such, suspects are left in limbo. Reputations can be shattered, relationships can breakdown, livelihoods can be lost, as can friends and acquaintances.
So what can and should be done if you are currently 'released under investigation?'
Ensure you are properly represented.
Unless you had your own solicitor with you at the police station, chances are that either you had the duty solicitor or you proceeded to be questioned without a solicitor at all. If ever there was a time to get a solicitor, and the right one, it is now.
Make an appointment to go and see your chosen solicitor
You could be released under investigation for months. You will have a lot of questions that need to be answered, and you should not wait until a decision is made before you raise them. Some, if not all, of the issues you are thinking about are likely to be crucial to your defence.
Don't rely on the police to help prove you are innocent
Defence lawyers always tell clients two things:
- The police and prosecution always have to prove to a court, if you are charged, that you are guilty. You do not need to prove you are innocent.
- When carrying out an investigation, the police must, under the prevailing legislation and the relevant codes of practice, pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry, meaning that they must make an enquiry if they believe it will both point toward guilt as well as point toward innocence.
These two established principles are all well and good but the reality is that you must never rely on the police to do their job as thoroughly as you would wish them to. Even though a suspect or defendant doesn't need to prove he or she is innocent, it is absolutely the right thing to look to obtain as much supporting evidence yourself and not rely on the police to do so.
Instructing the right solicitor early on in the investigative process means that you can assess yourself whether enquiries need to be made to help preserve evidence, obtain witness statements, obtain crucial exhibits and the like. I have taken over so many cases where the original lawyers have not either actively chased the police to ensure that crucial evidence is obtained or where no assistance at all has been offered to the suspect to obtain vital evidence which has subsequently been lost or can no longer be obtained for other reasons. CCTV is the best example of this. A suspect might say in interview 'go and check the CCTV, it will show I am innocent.' The police are so under-resourced and under-staffed that often by the time any enquiry is made the CCTV evidence has been lost or erased. The loss of such evidence can really make the difference between being charged or not charged, or the difference between being acquitted or convicted.
If you are currently released under investigating and you'd like to know if or how we can assist in your case, with a view to helping maintain your reputation, please do contact us. Wells Burcombe represent client's interests across the UK.