Related Sector: Investigations

Earlier this week, the CPS and NPCC provided guidance to assist all of those who are currently investigating and are required to complete PACE Interviews during the time of social distancing. The spread of Covid-19 and its effect on working Investigators will require careful consideration of what new offences are introduced into the system and how those offences are investigated and progressed.

This guidance is intended to assist investigators and prosecutors in deciding whether suspects should be interviewed as part of an investigation during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is intended for use only during the period of the Covid-19 crisis.

Click here to view the protocol.

Interviews and reasonable lines of enquiry

The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 provides that investigators must pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry, including those which point towards and away from the suspect. In most cases “reasonable lines of enquiry” will require an interview. An interview is generally a reasonable line of enquiry because without it:

  • The suspect does not have a proper opportunity to provide a full account.
  • Common defences including self-defence and reasonable excuse are not addressed.
  • A guilty plea may be anticipated wrongly and anticipating a plea generally is more difficult.
  • The opportunity to draw an adverse inference from silence is lost.
  • Without admissions in interview, points to prove will need to be addressed through other evidence thus increasing the burden on investigators.
  • The opportunity to address potential defences by further investigation, and to investigate reasonable lines of enquiry which point away from the suspect, are lost.

However, it is recognised that for public health reasons interviews may need to be postponed or even dispensed with.  If there is a genuine and pressing need for an interview with all parties present it must be carried out in accordance with government advice on precautionary behaviour, including social distancing.  

Government guidance on social distancing will affect interviews with suspects regardless of where they are taking place, these interviews may also involve the presence of other third parties ie solicitors, legal representatives, appropriate adults and interpreters. The attendance of such parties may be necessary and will need to be considered at the planning stage.

Where a decision to interview under PACE code C has been taken, the following procedures should be undertaken and are set out in order of preference:

  1. Completely virtual interview – all parties dial in to a Custody Laptop with Interviewers in interview room recording and suspect in separate room.
  2. Partial virtual interview – Interviewers and Interviewee in interview room, Legal Rep appears via a video link.
  3. All parties physically required due to the serious nature of the case – all persons will be issued with the appropriate PPE and given instructions on how to use this.

We would envisage the vast majority of interviews undertaken by Bond Solon clients would fall within the first two options.

Bond Solon are currently delivering all training programmes using our existing virtual classroom facility. In the instance that Bond Solon can offer any assistance regarding our entire interviewing training portfolio or any other aspects, please do contact us on 0207 549 2 549 or info@bondsolon.com

This article was first published on 9 April 2020.


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