Being named a suspect in a criminal investigation can be a life altering experience, no matter the nature of the allegation or how the case eventually concludes. This is true for many people, but is especially the case for high profile individuals and others whose professions make them particularly susceptible to reputational damage.
Well known individuals such as celebrities, politicians and entrepreneurs are, in effect, personal ‘brands’ for whom being publicly connected to a criminal matter can have immediate and catastrophic professional repercussions. Sometimes the damage suffered is out of proportion to the alleged wrongdoing.
Hickman & Rose has developed a niche specialism representing these clients. The firm’s lawyers have a suite of skills that can be deployed to protect individuals from unmerited reputational damage.
Whilst some criminal allegations are likely to result in limited reputational damage, certain categories of crime are particularly damaging, no matter whether the allegation is subsequently disproved or not. This is certainly true for those accused of sexual offences.
Recent years have seen a slew of public figures accused of sexual offences which have never been proven. Respectable people have suffered serious reputational damage. In some cases this damage has contributed to tragedy.
Anyone who suspects they may be particularly vulnerable to collateral reputational harm from any criminal allegation is advised to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible.
Although the initial steps in any investigation or proceedings will always depend on the circumstances of the specific case, often the primary consideration is to do everything possible to ensure an unmerited investigation ends swiftly.
In cases where an investigation is in its earliest stage this can involve explaining to the police why their inquiries are unmerited. It may also involve persuading the CPS that the matter is neither in the public interest nor is likely to result in conviction. More information here.
For some less serious offences, a suspect may seek an out of court disposal by which they admit some liability in return for which the matter does not proceed further. Depending on the circumstances, this tactic can help contain reputational damage but may also have downsides.
A key concern in reputationally damaging matters is often to exercise some control over the way information about the case is made public.
Hickman & Rose has developed successful strategies designed to prevent information about a high profile suspect being made public. We have also have a network of specialist media and reputation lawyers – and PR experts – with whom we develop integrated strategies to stop and contain damaging media reporting.
In some cases, a particular pinch point for a suspect being identified is the police interview. This can be the moment when photographers obtain pictures of a well known individual attending the police station. Or it can be when a civilian police worker or a member of public spots the individual and make this knowledge public.
We have achieved significant success in persuading investigating police officers to conduct interviews in a discreet location and not to release information to the media. As a result of tactics such as this, we have helped high profile clients to avoid negative publicity. Several clients investigated during Operation Yewtree and similar subsequent investigations have never been publicly named.
Hickman & Rose’s team of criminal defence experts has long experience acting for individuals and organisations with high public profiles in the areas of finance, industry, sports, media, entertainment and politics.
The firm’s clients include some of the most recognised people in the world. The fact that their connection to criminal allegations are not in the public domain is testament to our success in this area.
We act immediately, discretely and effectively to ensure our clients’ reputations are protected.