Investigations under caution
As a road transport business (supplying transport services to others or using your own transport as part of your business) you must of course ensure you comply with all relevant laws that will include those relating to: vehicle safety, health and safety, drivers’ hours, driver licensing, road tax and road user levies, safety of vehicles, Construction & Use regulations, overloading, operator licensing etc.
All responsible businesses set out to obey the law. But, an accident or incident or a roadside investigation or a routine visit from any enforcement agency may lead to a request for an interview under caution if it is suspected an offence has been committed. This may come from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Environment Agency, the police or other agencies.
This is something that needs to be taken very seriously and, to achieve the best outcome, advice should be taken before any interview in every case.
"You do not have to say anything; But it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court; Anything you do say may be given in evidence."
(Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984)
We can advise you about interviews and be present at any interview with you.
After any request to attend an interview we can advise:
- if you are actually obliged to attend or should attend the interview
- whether you should provide a written statement at the interview
- whether you should provide a written statement instead of an interview
- about the consequences of giving information in any interview
- about obtaining pre-interview disclosure from the enforcement agency
- about negotiating a non-court outcome for you e.g. warning letter or caution (a formal warning after admitting an offence).
Many attend interviews unrepresented on the basis of ‘we have not done anything wrong so why do we need a lawyer?’ but advice should be taken in all cases.
What happens at the interview stage has significant consequences for a case. In some cases it can and does lead to unnecessary and avoidable prosecution and conviction. A badly managed interview where the necessary information is not provided can be damaging. Every request for interview has to be considered on its own merits.
It may be thought that it is an unnecessary expense to incur legal costs to deal with interviews under caution. In fact investment in legal advice can lead to huge savings in costs and the avoidance of court hearings. If you are prosecuted and acquitted you cannot recover your defence costs at all if you trade as a limited company and an individual can only recover a small amount, if any at all. So, lack of advice and representation can be a significant false economy.
In many cases an interview with a limited company will be requested and a director will speak on its behalf. However, directors may be asked to attend for interview separately in their personal capacity. This is where it is alleged they may personally have committed offences by permitting an offence or by being neglectful. Such requests for interview also need to be considered very carefully.
Fighting ‘on two fronts’: most transport businesses must also consider another factor when dealing with requests for an interview: the Operator’s Licence. If DVSA or the police conduct any interview its content may be forwarded with any papers to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner for consideration of disciplinary action even if no court case follows. Indeed, it is very commonplace for DVSA not to prosecute but instead simply lodge its file with the Traffic Commissioner that can lead to a Public Inquiry in due course. Accordingly, a business invited to such interviews needs to understand the consequences in relation to possible prosecution and/or Traffic Commissioner action.
For advice and representation in relation to all road transport-related matters please contact Tim Ridyard and Tim Norris in our specialist team.