27/10/2021

Pre-trial Investigations Set the Course for Criminal Procedures – Prepare for Investigations with This Checklist

Companies and organisations may face situations in which a company or people working for them become the subject of a pre-trial investigation conducted by the police. Sometimes you can anticipate pre-trial investigations based on preceding authority processes, but most often the first a company’s management hears about an investigation is when the police contact you to schedule interviews with the management or employees. It is worth preparing for these surprising situations in advance by drafting clear instructions. The significance of a well-handled pre-trial investigation cannot be emphasised enough.

Checklist for Pre-trial Investigations – Bring in an Attorney from the Start

To a large extent, the handling of the pre-trial investigation sets the course for the following criminal procedure. At best, organisations or companies can avoid mistakes that can be difficult to remedy later on in the process. The framework of a criminal procedure is locked in in the pre-trial investigation. Waiting until the prosecutor has pressed changes to plan a defence handicaps the defendant once the criminal trial begins. An attorney specialised in criminal procedures can anticipate and help plan for later stages of the proceedings.

A pre-trial investigation could concern, for example, an accident at the workplace or suspected offences such as environmental offences, abuses of inside information, misuse of trade secrets, various financial offences or other business offences. Below is a checklist of instructions that apply to pre-trial investigations regardless of the nature of the suspected offence:

  • Hire an attorney as soon as you find out about the pre-trial investigation.
  • Bring your attorney with you to police interviews. If necessary, help the company’s management and employees find an attorney.
  • Prepare for the police interview. Before the police interview, it is important to talk with and review the case with an attorney. It is also important that the person being interviewed knows their rights along with what to expect at the interview.
  • It is a good idea to review the material to be submitted to the police with a lawyer before the interview. Any material submitted will be included in the record of the pre-trial investigation.
  • A good attorney should be active in the pre-trial investigation, inquire about the stage of the case, engage in necessary dialogue with the police and assess whether it is necessary to request that the police take investigative measures in the case.
  • It is always worth giving a final statement.
  • Be prepared for publicity and give thought to how to communicate about the case inside your company. Communications should be handled centrally: determine your main message in advance and, in more demanding cases, consider whether you need a more extensive communications plan. Remember to take into account the confidentiality obligations applicable to pre-trial investigations when planning communications.

A Professionally Drafted Final Statement Can Spare You from Charges

Once the police have completed their work, the pre-trial investigation material, i.e. the records of the police interviews and other material collected during the investigation, are sent to the parties for a final statement. This is the first time that a suspect can review the pre-trial investigation material in full as well as the police interview records of the other parties in the case. At this stage, it is very important to state a position on the pre-trial investigation material and submit a final statement.

In a final statement addressed to the prosecutor, the attorney states a position on the legal aspects and evidence of the case and provides grounds for not bringing charges. At best, the prosecutor will decide to not bring charges, and the company and its private respondents will avoid a trial. Even if the prosecutor does decide to bring charges, a professionally drafted final statement improves the chances of success in the coming trial.

Corporate Fines on the Rise

When an offence has taken place in the operations of a company, suspicion falls on the people who acted on behalf of and/or are in certain positions in the company. Despite this, the company may be subject to a claim for a corporate fine. A clear trend over the past few years has been that prosecutors make corporate fine claims more often and that the amounts of the fines claimed have grown significantly. This highlights the importance of a well-handled pre-trial investigation.

Castrén & Snellman offers a Criminal Procedures and Investigations service that handles criminal procedures in business from pre-trial investigations to criminal trials.