What is regulatory law?
Your business is subject to many rules and regulations. These rules include health and safety rules, product safety rules, financial rules, professional rules and computer and internet rules. The list of regulations that your business has to comply with is endless. Behind these rules are regulators who investigate potential breaches. Regulatory law is therefore related to an investigation by any of the regulators who monitor the rules that your business is subject to.
What powers do regulators have?
In England and Wales, regulatory bodies have wide-ranging powers. These include the power to enter your business premises, investigate your business and premises, taking samples and photographs, requiring you to produce information, as well as issuing enforcement notices and initiating prosecutions. Some regulatory bodies also have the power to issue a formal caution. It is worth remembering that inspectors and regulatory bodies often do not conduct fair and even-handed investigations.
When should I take legal advice?
If you find yourself in a position where you or your business is being investigated, you should ensure that you take legal advice as early as possible. Those who carry out investigations on behalf of regulators are highly trained and skilled. It is therefore vital that you seek legal advice on how to deal with such an investigation at as early a stage as possible.
What can happen following an investigation?
Regulators have the power to initiate a prosecution against your company if they believe the evidence is strong enough. If you are informed that you or your company is to be prosecuted, you should ensure that you take legal advice immediately. There are other avenues open to regulators which fall short of prosecutions. Some regulators do have the power to issue an enforcement notice which demands that your business puts particular measures in place. For example, the HSE can issue what is known as an “Improvement Notice”, which would require your company to put in place particular health and safety measures.
If you or your company do find yourselves in a position where a prosecution in Court is taking place, there are a wide range of sentencing options available to the Court. These include fines, imprisonment, Compensation Orders, Directors Disqualification Orders, Costs Orders, and Publicity Orders.
How can I prepare for an investigation?
Investigations are often stressful and difficult times. At Chadwick Lawrence we have developed a policy to help prepare you for an investigation by a regulator. This policy is free of charge; please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a Criticial Incident Policy which will help you prepare for an investigation by a regulator.
I have insurance and I am being investigated by a regulator. Can I choose to instruct my own lawyer?
If you or your business is investigated by a regulator, often one of the first steps that you will take is to inform your insurer. You have the right to insist to your insurer that you would like to appoint your own solicitor to represent you, both during the investigation and prosecution. Insurers will often resist attempts by the policy holder to choose their own lawyer and insist that in order for the policy holder to gain the benefit of a legal expenses insurance policy they should use their own panel lawyers. You do not have to use a panel solicitor. You may have taken specialist advice from your solicitor, and you should not be afraid to exercise your freedom of choice to select your own solicitor when dealing with your insurer.