Our advice to anyone facing an IHAT interview.

Think you might be arrested for questioning?

 There are a number of current investigations that may affect serving and former members of the armed forces. These include the Bloody Sunday investigation by the PSNI, NI historical inquiries and the legacy inquests, Iraq historical allegations (IHAT) and more recently Op Northmoor (investigating Afghanistan allegations). Investigation procedures and legal aid schemes will differ depending on which matter is being investigated, but free advice is available for all.

Whilst the investigating police force may just invite you to call for questioning by appointment when they are ready, it is also likely they may wish to arrest and search you. The search will then allow them to look for other material that might assist them to build a case against you or others. The effect of an arrest and search before questioning should not be discounted as it gives the police a potential psychological advantage. The detained person suffers all the effects of “Shock of Capture” that pre-deployment Conduct after Capture lessons taught!

The search will then look for any material that may be relevant to their lines of inquiry but will also look for anything else that may incriminate you or others. For example, former servicemen have been known to have the odd piece of “buckshee” or souvenir material stored at home. If that were to be weapon parts or ammunition that would be a serious offence and charges would usually be brought for illegal possession. Similar issues might arise if any classified material had been unlawfully retained.

It is routine during a police search to seize all electronic storage media which will then be subjected to a speculative inspection by technical staff. Mobile telephones, iPads, laptops, desktops, USB sticks, external hard drives, XBox/Gameboy devices, DVD and CDs will all be seized and removed for examination. The examination could take months and you will not get the items back until any investigation is complete, some people get round this by storing a backup “offsite” or online in the cloud.

As well as searching for relevant material relating to any historical incident this electronic investigation will normally also run a speculative search for keywords, illegal images, known file names and site locations often found in other types of police investigations. Such images and file can often be found on a hard disk during a technical investigation by specialist software even if the file had been deleted.

If emails discussing the matters under investigation are located they will be extracted, examined and analysed for content and exploitation of the other addressees.

If you have notes, documents and emails that you believe you need to retain as you consider that they may be important and relevant to establishing your defence to any alleged wrongdoing then I suggest you do the following with it:

Prepare a file or folder and mark it prominently as follows “THIS FOLDER CONTAINS LEGALLY PRIVILIGED MATERIAL STORED AND HELD ON THE ADVICE OF MY SOLICITOR FOR THE PREPARATION OF MY DEFENCE TO CONTEMPLATED CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS.”

Place all the relevant materials within the file/folder.

Whilst the file/folder may be seized during any search the marking should cause the police to seek legal advice and for certain steps to be taken with it. If nothing else, it will serve to establish a proper reason for retention if the matter is challenged.

Conduct after Capture.

If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and you have the right to free legal advice. It is possible that you might be held incommunicado where other search and seizure raids are taking place simultaneously so that tipping-off between individuals can not occur. You will be taken to a Custody Centre with interview facilities.

Exercise your rights. The police will ask you if you want a specific lawyer or the duty solicitor. You should give them my name, they will then call me. I can give initial advice over the telephone but will then move to the police station to assist you. Although you can discuss basic administrative matters with the Custody Officer you should answer no questions about your former service/unit or any matters relating to the matters under investigation until I am with you. I will then guide you through the interview procedures and be with you throughout.

If you are invited to attend for an interview by appointment, get the name and telephone number of the police officer. Inform him that I am acting for you and that you will get me to call him about arrangements. We will meet before the interview and again I will advise and attend throughout.

If you are concerned that you may be facing investigation or require any advice and guidance about any of these investigations feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We have lawyers who specialise in this area who can assist.

Hilary Meredith