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Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, The Farmers’ Weekly Business Clinic experts can help.
Here, Alex Madden, Planning and Environment Manager at Thrings, looks at what to do if you receive a summons for a bail interview.
See also: Business Clinic: what rights does the right of passage confer?
Q: I received a letter from the Environment Agency (EA) requesting a bail interview regarding a suspected pollution incident on my property. Should I attend, should I attend and what should I know/do before the meeting?
A: Receiving an invitation for a bail interview (otherwise known as a Pace interview) from a regulatory body can be, understandably, an anxious time.
Such an interview is often a formal evidence-gathering exercise by the regulator to assist in its investigations and, in particular, to determine whether a violation has occurred.
There are different options available at this stage and it is imperative to choose the right one as this can shape the nature of the EI investigation.
For this reason, you should seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Although it is not mandatory to attend such an interview, establishing a cooperative tone at an early stage with the EA could pay off as the investigation develops.
Additionally, it is often an opportunity to present your version of events, outline any defenses that may be available and the mitigating circumstances surrounding the incident.
A prudent step at this point is to open a chain of communication with the EA and request pre-interview disclosure of the EA’s evidence, which, in turn, will allow you to understand the strength of his file and specifically the matters under investigation. .
In some cases, the option of submitting a paced statement instead of attending the interview may be appropriate.
The advantage here is that you are in control of the information provided and can avoid the anxiety caused by attending an official interview with Pace.
Interview “without comment”
There is also the option of a “no comment” interview which can help avoid self-incrimination, although it is important to seek legal advice on this option, which may have unintended consequences should the EA take formal action.
It is also important to remember that not all violations will necessarily result in criminal prosecution by EA.
The “civil penalties” regime applies to certain offences, including the pollution of a watercourse.
This route avoids a court hearing and the cost and negative publicity associated with it.
Among the various civil penalties available, one option is to ask the EA to accept an enforcement undertaking.
This involves you entering into an agreement with EA to, among other things, remedy any environmental damage, commit to put in place measures to prevent future incidents and make a contribution to an environmental charity such as a river trust .
Legal protection insurance cover
It is also advisable to quickly check your insurance policies, to see if there is coverage for legal fees or remediation costs.
While an investigation of this type can cause serious disruption to businesses, taking early legal advice can ensure you proceed on the right footing and give you the best chance of avoiding lawsuits.
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