On 28 February 2019 the Serious Fraud Office updated its guidance on dealing with requests for lawyers to accompany individuals interviewed under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act. Previously an interviewee could be accompanied by one lawyer only. The updated guidance allows an additional legal representative to attend the interview for the sole purpose of taking notes. This does not permit the recording or transcribing of the interview.
The guidance states that an interviewee's lawyer will be allowed to attend the interview if the case controller believes it likely they will assist the purpose of the interview and/or investigation, or that they will provide essential assistance to the interviewee by way of legal advice or pastoral support.
The SFO's sensible new approach, which allows a second lawyer to attend for the purposes of taking notes, is to be welcomed and will provide several benefits to witnesses and suspects interviewed by the SFO.
- The interviewee's primary legal adviser will be relieved of the burden of taking notes and simultaneously advising their client. Interviews under Section 2 must be conducted with great care to ensure that they are carried out fairly. The updated guidance can only add to the fairness of the process.
- The interviewee's legal team will have a detailed record of the interview immediately and will no longer have to wait for the SFO to release its transcript of the interview.
- The interviewee's legal team will now have the opportunity to check the SFO's transcript against more detailed notes.
The SFO's revised guidance can be found at: