Agreeing to a law enforcement agency’s or professional regulator’s request to assist in an investigation as a witness is not always a straightforward process.
Whilst many people’s first instinct will be to cooperate with the relevant agency, some may fear that doing so could have negative personal ramifications.
There have been numerous cases of people agreeing to become witnesses who have afterwards regretted it. In some of these matters, the individuals agreed to become witnesses before they were made fully aware either of all the relevant facts in the case, or the long-term consequences of their agreement to help.
Anyone asked to assist as a witness in a serious criminal or regulatory inquiry is advised to take professional legal advice before agreeing to do so.
Being asked to become a witness to a criminal or regulatory investigation can place an individual on the horns of more than one difficult ethical dilemma.
While the person may want to help the authority, they suspect that doing so could compromise a close friend or professional associate.
Then there is the fear that, by agreeing to help, a witness may compromise his or her own career and wellbeing. This could be due to the negative reception their decision to become a witness may receive, or from any reputational damage from being publicly associated with a high-profile criminal matter.
In some circumstances, even people at the periphery of an investigation can sustain adverse publicity which can have a drastic impact on a witness’s personal and professional life.
Another possible problem with giving witness evidence is the prospect that, in doing so, the individual’s status may change from witness to suspect.
Guarding against this requires effective engagement with regulators and law enforcement in the early stages of the investigation to ensure they set clear parameters for their inquiries, and to gauge the potential future admissibility of evidence or a change of status.
One of the most common issues faced by potential witness is a lack of facts on which to base their decision.
Enforcement agencies, such as the police, are generally reluctant to share sensitive information which may form part of criminal or civil proceedings. Some of this information, however, could prove essential in determining how intelligence or evidence from a potential witness may be deployed in future proceedings, and that any relevant material can be obtained before an interview to enable you to make informed decisions about the extent of assistance you are willing to give.
Depending on the nature of the matter, specialist lawyers are able to provide expert analysis of disclosed material that enables a potential witness to be fully appraised of the impact of their actions.
Hickman & Rose has extensive experience providing expert advice to potential witnesses. Our lawyers are able to equip clients with the ability to anticipate the impact of giving evidence so that they can make the right decision for them based on all the available information.
Hickman & Rose’s specialist criminal and regulatory lawyers have widely drawn experience of helping witnesses to navigate a justice system which is fraught with complexity whilst guarding their own rights.
We can be by your side in your dealings with law enforcement and investigative bodies to ensure that none of their powers are deployed excessively, and to ensure that the agencies themselves cooperate with you to enable you to give your best account.
Hickman & Rose specialises in analysing material disclosed by enforcement bodies ahead of interview. Having access to this material along with our analysis of it enables our clients to enter a dialogue with enforcement agencies with their eyes open to the legal implications.