15 May 2017 / by Crime/ in
S2 Criminal Justice Act 1987 (‘CJA’) Interviews
The recently published Law Society Practice Note, Representing Clients at s2 CJA Interviews, provides defence lawyers with welcome clarification of their professional obligations and duties, when representing clients who have been compelled to provide information and/or documentation in response to a s2 CJA notice. The core of the practice note (which followed consultation with various defence representative agencies) emphasises the fact that your professional duties as defined by the SRA Codes of Conduct cannot be overridden by the operational guidance. Specifically in giving the undertakings required by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), practitioners are reminded of “the need to ensure that any agreements entered into with the SFO do not compromise their ability to comply with their professional conduct obligations, whether at the time of the agreement or in the future”.
The practice note provides comprehensive guidance as to the factors that the practitioner should take into account when considering the following issues:
– The conditions under which a lawyer will be allowed to attend an interview.
– The ambit of any undertakings given to the SFO as a condition of attendance.
– The extent to which a potential conflict of interest could inhibit one’s attendance at an interview.
– Restrictions on the distribution, copying, storage and return of documents provided by the SFO in relation to the interview.
The use of compulsory powers by the SFO has become increasingly aggressive and widespread in recent years. The operational guidance reflected an entrenched scepticism of defence lawyers and a desire to restrict their involvement in the investigative process. The practice note will provide a useful tool in countering overly prescriptive use of the operational guidance. As others have commented, persons required to attend s2 interviews not infrequently find themselves the subject of prosecution. It is imperative that they should receive clear advice about their legal rights in what is often a hostile and complex process.