Being a victim of crime can be a shocking, painful and often confusing time. Notwithstanding the often substantial financial implications of being a victim of an offence, this often feels deeply personal, and the natural response is to seek justice against those who have wronged you. We are seeing a substantial increase in private prosecutions, but many victims would still like the police and state to prosecute on their behalf.
However, in the current climate of stretched resources, understandably varying policing priorities, and the increasingly complex nature of investigations, particularly fraud, there are many instances where the police may be unable to assist. This can be despite the fact that it would appear there is strong evidence of guilt - given the unprecedented challenges facing the UK and the resources and time required to obtain, analyse and prepare a substantial fraud, means that these cases are often not proceeded with.
AnotherDay regularly assist individuals and organisations with gathering evidence, to assist a police investigation and prosecution. We have found that creating a comprehensive evidential package, ensuring this is compliant with all the relevant legislation, and conducted independently and impartially, gives a much better chance of the case being taken by the police and proceeded with.
So, if you are a victim of crime, and you wish the matter to be investigated by the police, what should you do?
We would always advocate reporting the matter to the police as soon as an offence has been identified. Increasingly these matters are reported online or via Action Fraud, but ensuring this is reported and logged in the system is always a sensible starting point. However, a police response can take time, and there is no guarantee that the matter will be investigated and prosecuted by state bodies.
With a criminal investigation, speed is of the essence; as time passes, evidence and stolen funds can disappear or dissipate, and witness testimony becomes less valuable when obtained weeks and months after the event. Consideration should therefore be made to seize all available evidence as soon as possible, balanced against ensuring that this does not compromise any police response.
Early engagement with specialist investigators and law firms from the outset should be considered. Experienced former detectives will be able to advise on the correct investigative strategy from the outset, placing themselves in the shoes of the police and guiding you on what should be done. This can include lines of enquiry that should be considered, witnesses who would provide statements, what documentary and other exhibits would be needed, and guidance on how to manage unused material to adhere to disclosure obligations.
At AnotherDay, we regularly support clients who have been victims of crime, assisting them in gathering the material to pass to the police. We always ensure that we have liaised with the relevant law enforcement agency prior to any engagement, to ensure that we are not jeopardising any ongoing or pending enquiry, or duplicating work.
Should we then conduct a criminal investigation, this would be conducted in exactly the same way that the police would conduct their enquiries, and the material generated would be the same whether this is to be used by the police or in a private prosecution. The evidence gathering process is totally open, fair and transparent, we ensure that we adhere to all the legal obligations around admissibility of evidence and the management of unused material, and as the duty of the investigator would be to the court, we investigate all reasonable lines of enquiry that lead both towards and away from guilt.
Careful consideration must also be given to any covert investigation, such as surveillance, particularly if there is an active or potential police investigation. Should covert work be done, effectively at the behest of the police even if conducted without their knowledge, then there may be issues surrounding RIPA and admissibility of evidence. Expert advise should always be sought in these cases.
In most cases, ensuring that the evidence is gathered correctly, and with the leave of the police, will generate a comprehensive evidential package. This can then be used in private prosecutions, or passed to the police. While there is no guarantee that the case will be taken on by law enforcement, having a substantial amount of the preliminary work completed, in a format that the police can use and vouch for its integrity, will go a significant way towards assisting a state-led prosecution.
Even if the case is not progressed by the police, the material can be used in a private prosecution if the victim wishes. AnotherDay are there to guide any victims of crime on the best way to proceed, whatever the case.