An interview under caution is an interview that is conducted in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (sometimes referred to as a PACE interview). This means that at the start of the interview, you will be cautioned.
Local authorities have the power to regulate houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) within their areas with the aim of safeguarding tenants. Failure to licence a HMO or failure to comply with the HMO management regulations can lead to criminal prosecutions and substantial fines. If the council are investigating whether an offence has been committed, they may require you to attend an interview under caution. It is important that you seek legal advice if you have received an invite to an interview under to ensure that you know the best way to approach the interview.
Why have you been invited to the interview?
Although this will be on a case by case basis, the council will usually invite a landlord to an interview under caution if they believe that the landlord has committed or is involved in committing an offence. They may not have sufficient evidence to prosecute the landlord and so need to obtain this evidence via an interview. Alternatively, they may simply wish to discuss their concerns with you to establish the best course of action to take (i.e. to decide whether to prosecute you or issue a lesser sanction).
Do you have to attend the interview?
An interview under caution with the local authority is voluntary, therefore you do not have to attend. Whether or not you attend the interview will have to be considered carefully and will depend upon the circumstances of the case. For example, if you fail to attend, the local authority may proceed to a more serious sanction (for example, a prosecution) than they would have done had you attended the interview and engaged with them. Alternatively, if you attend the interview and answer the questions in full, you may provide the local authority with the evidence that they need to pursue a prosecution. For these reasons, it is important that you seek legal advice before making a decision as to whether to attend the interview.
What will happen if you do attend?
The interview will be conducted in a room with at least two council officers. The council will have a tape recorder and two tapes/discs will be unsealed in your presence and inserted into the recorder. The recorder will be started and you will be formally cautioned, at which point the council will begin asking you questions. At the end of the interview, one of the recordings will be sealed, and the other recording will be used for the purposes of preparing a transcript. You are free to leave and stop the interview at any time, and you are entitled to have a legal representative with you.
There are various approaches that can be taken when attending an interview under caution. It may be that you answer all questions in full and provide an explanation that either satisfies the officer that no offence has been committed. It may be that you exercise your right to silence and choose not to answer the questions. The best approach to take will depend upon the circumstances of the case.
How can we help?
In the first instance, we can provide you with specialist advice in relation to whether it is in your best interests to attend an interview under caution with a local authority and if so, the best approach to take with the interview to ensure that your interests are protected (for example, whether to answer all questions in full or whether to answer ‘no comment’). The interview is one of the most important stages of an investigation and therefore it is a good opportunity to influence the course of the investigation to your benefit.
We can also represent and support you at the interview itself. You are entitled to have a solicitor present during the course of the interview, who will ensure that the questioning is conducted fairly, and that your rights are upheld. Your solicitor can intervene if the interview is not being conducted fairly, and they can answer any questions that you might have during the course of the interview.
Our specialist lawyers have experience in advising and assisting landlords with interviews under caution. Our experience allows us to provide clear and strategic advice at all stages to help minimise this impact upon you. If you require advice or support in relation to any of the above, you should seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible in order to protect your interests.
For a confidential no obligation discussion with a member of our team, please contact us on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form.