The heightened focus on probity and governance means increasingly bodies delivering public services are required to commission investigations into a wide range of issues including: allegations of mismanagement; fraud; bullying; data management; data loss; internal assurance processes; and wider cultural issues. Further, the importance of accountability and the drive for transparency increasingly means that organisations need not only to investigate matters of concern and take appropriate remedial action, but also consider publication (whether in full or summary form) of the findings of the investigation.
In order to safeguard the position of other parties (whether employees or external contractors) whose interests may potentially be prejudiced by the sharing or publication of investigation findings, it is vital that investigation processes are robust and that there is clarity around the remit and intended use of the information gathered and the investigation report itself. Such prejudice can, in turn, result in costly defamation and information law liabilities for the party publishing the report. It is therefore essential to ensure at the outset that there are appropriate safeguards around the planning, conduct, and potential publication, of investigations in order to mitigate these risks as far as possible.
We have extensive experience of high profile investigations both in terms of carrying out the investigation ourselves and advising clients on their own investigations and those conducted by independent investigators.
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Examples of our work include:
- Advice on discloseability of investigation documentation
- Advice on data protection responsibilities in connection with the investigation
- Advice on contractual arrangements, and indemnities, with independent investigators
- Drafting Terms of Reference and setting the scope of the investigation
- Carrying out large scale investigations
- Advice on the inter-relationship with parallel investigations by other bodies and disciplinary investigations
- Advice on the investigation procedure and methodology
- Advising on defamation and information law risks relating to publication
- Colchester Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust - we advised Colchester Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust on the commissioning and publication of an independent investigation in relation to irregularities cancer waiting time data.
- Advising a large Midlands Council in a long-running, substantial investigation concerning a number of matters involving senior personnel within the Council and including aspects of procurement law, data protection and contract law. The matter involved interviewing senior Council Officers, Councillors and the suspended officers. Our investigation spanned a wide range of issues including compliance with: (a) Public Contracts Regulations 2006; (b) Contract Standing Orders; (c) Codes of Conduct; and (d); the Data Protection Act. Our investigation included: (a) the analysis of the diversion of several million pounds of Council funds to a third party financial organisation; (b) conflict of interest issues; (c) matters of financial probity and due diligence; (d) expenses irregularities; (d) investigation into employment issues and allegations of gross misconduct; and (e) third party contractor misconduct.
- Completing a comprehensive investigation for a Registered Provider of Social Housing following a health and safety incident during which a child fell from an upper floor window. The investigation involved reviewing a significant amount of documentation, including policies, procedures and contracts with third parties. Interviews were conducted with a number of employees and external contractors and a comprehensive investigation report produced, highlighting the areas of weakness in the client's control systems. We also advised on managing press interest. As a result of our investigation, a senior manager was dismissed, which was dealt with by our Employment law colleagues.
- Operation Yewtree - we are instructed by three NHS Trusts to advise upon and oversee their internal investigations into historical allegations relating to Jimmy Savile. These allegations were passed on to the Department of Health by the Metropolitan Police via Operation Yewtree who then required individual investigations by all affected NHS Trusts. Our work has involved advising clients upon the terms of reference for their investigations, advising on the investigation process itself, and reviewing various drafts of reports. We are required to give legal sign-off to all the reports.
- Advising a national charity on their internal investigations into historical allegations relating to Jimmy Savile. These allegations were passed on to the Department of Education by the Metropolitan Police via Operation Yewtree who then required individual investigations by all affected children's centres.
- Southwark Council - Bevan Brittan were asked to do an urgent investigation into the release of confidential information about the inadvertent release of confidential information by officers at Southwark Council relating to the Elephant and Castle regeneration scheme, one of the very largest regeneration schemes being undertaken in the UK. The matter received intense local interest, as the story was run in the Evening Standard and other newspapers and was of great political significance to the Council. The investigation involved not only an assessment of how the documents had been made public but also looked at the procurement practices of the Council, the Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations and the internal workings of the authority.
- Baby P - conducting an investigation on behalf of a Strategic Health Authority (“SHA”) into whistleblowing allegations relating to child care services in North London including the Baby P case. This involved establishing the full extent of the allegations, interviewing all relevant witnesses and preparing the final report for submission to the SHA Board.
- Deaths in Custody - working with the Prison and Probation Ombudsman's department as part of their investigations into deaths in custody. In particular, we have assisted with their investigations and taken part in their interviews with witnesses. We regularly participate in investigations leading up to inquests into deaths in custody.
- The Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry - representing Avon Health Authority in Sir Ian Kennedy's Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry into children’s heart surgery. This role involved management of an extensive disclosure exercise, working on detailed witness statements, and co-operating with patient lobbying groups.
- Investigations into local authority officers and councillors – we have led numerous inquiries and investigations into the conduct of members and officers.
- Serious Case Reviews – we peer review Serious Case Review reports commissioned by local Safeguarding Boards and Homicide and Mental Health Homicide Reviews.