Representing clients, be they individuals or corporate, in regulatory matters may require a different skill set and approach to normal criminal proceedings. Getting legal advice at the very earliest stage is of great importance. The earlier we are instructed, the greater the prospects of using negotiation and agreements to prevent the matter reaching the courts.
Each case is different and our approach to your case will be tailored by the particular facts and circumstances of the alleged offence or regulatory breach. Sometimes careful negotiation or placation may be the way forward, whilst in others, the submission of robust representations might achieve the objective. As an example, we recently dealt with a corporate client alleged to have committed offences under s.7 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act. Our client came to us after they had already been interviewed under caution. In this case, representations were submitted to the head of the Local Authority legal department pointing out numerous procedural issues and flagrant breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which resulted in the proceedings being discontinued.
Cases going to trial need thorough and detailed investigation and preparation. We won’t shy away from raising legal arguments were the case provides scope to do so. Even if our advice is that guilty pleas are appropriate, we will do our outmost to secure the best outcome. As an example, in a Local Authority prosecution brought on behalf of a Fire and Rescue Service, having gone through the claim for prosecution costs, we were able to embarrass the authority into reducing the claimed amount by a sufficient amount to effectively pay the defence fees. We may have been guilty of the overuse of the word ‘really’.
As with all of our service, we offer a free initial consultation and ‘agreed fees’ for each stage of our work.
Some of the more common regulatory offences:
Prosecution under the Environment Act, 1990 and Environmental Protection Act 1995 can be brought by both local authorities and the Environment Agency. Such prosecutions can relate to both environmental incidents such as the discharge of pollutants into watercourses and the failure to dispose of commercial waste appropriately or indeed as a result of actions of third parties.
In recent years such offences have attracted higher sentences, and this is particularly so where the defendant is a corporate body. Such prosecutions will often be accompanied by an allocation for a confiscation order under the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Fire and Rescue authority investigations can not only result in prosecution but where the action falls short of a court appearance, the fire service is also under an obligation where a Prohibition or Enforcement Notice has been served, to alert any relevant licensing authority. This obligation under Article 42 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 can lead to the licensing authority reviewing any premises licence.
The regulatory requirements being placed on private landlords and the number of potential offences that it is possible to commit are growing annually. The provisions of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 relating to ‘banning orders’ on conviction for certain offences come into force on the 6th April 2018. This comes quickly on the heals of the provisions preventing properties with an EPC of E or lower being let. Unless a landlord keeps abreast of legal developments, it is very easy for them to ‘inadvertently’ breach regulations.
Food & Hygiene Regulations
Not surprisingly, the preparation and sale of food is another area of heavy regulation. Prosecutions can be brought under the Food Safety and Hygiene (Regulations) 2013 and the Food Safety Act 1990. Fines can reach eye watering figures and even in those cases where the infringement has been relatively minor, reputational damage can end a successful business.