Well I don’t really know whether to tell you about my first day back at work after my enforced incommunicado. Or about my experience after that fateful night!
But I suppose I ought to reflect on what followed the police raid.
After being unceremoniously bundled into a Black Maria, I was taken to Paddington Green Police Station. Entering that station I suddenly came out in a cold sweat. I thought they only interviewed – or should that be interrogated – terror suspects there! My mind started racing about what Utilico might be into. We haven’t been involved in money laundering for an arms race have we?
Anyway I was put in a cell – on my own – where I just had to wait for hours. I had no idea where anyone else was. I was told at the beginning that I would be seen as soon as possible. When I politely asked how long that might be, the Police Constable escorting me just smirked and shrugged his shoulders.
How the time dragged whilst I was in there. Of course various things had been taken from me – like my Blackberry, my personal phone and my wallet. I didn’t even know the time as I rarely wear a watch these days. My head started banging from all the alcohol I’d consumed and I was desperate for a drink of water.
I didn’t really think about what might happen next which of course I should have done.
So when they eventually came to collect me and took me to a room for questioning I didn’t know what to do or to say. I didn’t know what my rights were. Clearly I’ve wasted a lot of my life watching crime dramas. They all kept flashing through my head. But all they have done is confuse me about what it might really be like. Should I be expecting a True Detective or Homeland type conspiracy? Or was it more like Sherlock? Or Broadchurch? Or would it be more old school like the Bill? Or even Heartbeat? Or would I be subjected to psychological pressure like Cracker? Would it be a woman like Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect? I’m pretty sure that would kill my admiration for Helen Mirren!
Did I need a lawyer there? Was I entitled to one? There were two police officers there – a man and a woman. They introduced themselves as Detective Inspector Kat Aspertion and Detective Sergeant Ian Quest. She did look a bit like Helen Mirren! I asked them whether I should have a lawyer present. They asked me whether I needed one…did I have anything to hide?… I was only helping them with their inquiries….. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…. They were sure I wanted this over quickly and could get home…getting a lawyer there would delay things unnecessarily.
I thought about this and decided I did want someone there. They offered me a duty solicitor.
It was at this moment that it suddenly dawned on me what that risk bloke from Head Office in Basel was banging on about when he talked about risk management and contingency planning and reputation management. I should know what to do in a situation like this and how best to protect the company’s interests. But I didn’t!
But I do remember, being company secretary, who Utilico’s lawyers are – Fastbuck Made. So I decide to ask to ring them and see what they advised.
It transpired later that of course that is the first thing Alec Smart, our Chief Executive, had done. Fastbuck Made had in fact been trying to insist that they represent everyone and had already sent a team of lawyers down. So there would have been no delay.
So anyway, there I was – suddenly accompanied by a lawyer from Fastbuck Made called Eve Asion.
Before I knew it I was bundled into another room. A very scary looking Police Constable was watching over me. I tried to make a few pleasantries – a bit of small talk – but he just stared at me like I was something the cat had dragged in. I decided that bit was more tortuous than spending hours in a police cell. At least I was on my own in there.
What seemed like an age later, someone came to the door and the PC went out. Eve Asion came in. She told me that they had lots of questions to put to me about what I did or didn’t know about certain contracts and dealings of Utilico. I started to blubber all sorts of things out to her. She just looked at me in a very deadpan way and said: “Ian, just shut up for a moment. Here is our strategy. You simply say ‘no comment’ to every single question.” I wasn’t happy with that and said that I thought silence wasn’t permissible anymore. She told me that it was – but that it can make it more awkward if things ever came to court. But that she was there to make sure that didn’t happen. And in the unlikely event it did, we could make sure the defence was robust and that the prosecution couldn’t use things that had been pressured out of the likes of me, or said without thought.
All of this really scared me but I thought I had better go along with it. After all, we paid Fastbuck Made a huge amount of money so they must know best. I did however ask what would happen if I said ‘no comment’ to every question. She said they would probably release me and allow me to come back in a day or so to give a witness statement – which we could prepare in advance.
We then went back into the room with the DI and the DS. The interview went something like this:
DI Kat Aspertion : This interview is being taped under the Police & Criminal Evidence Act…blah blah blah…for the benefit of the tape can you confirm that your name is Ian Different and you are Company Secretay of Utilico?
Me: No comment
Eve Asion: No Ian you can answer that question.
DI Kat Aspertion : I do hope this isn’t going to be a course that the interview will follow. Can you recall being present at a meeting of Utlico’s Board on 5 September 2010?
Me: No comment
DI Kat Aspertion : Can you recall that at this meeting Utilico was discussing its bid for a government contract…blah blah blah…
Me: No comment
DI Kat Aspertion : Do you recall at or around this meeting anyone discussing bribes or inside information…blah blah blah…
Me: No comment
This game of ping pong went on for quite some time. Then DI Kat Aspertion said; “This is getting us nowhere. You can go home but you must go nowhere near any of Utilico’s premises and must not make any contact with anyone from, or connected to, Utilico. You will be accompanied by a police officer who will remove from your home any communication devices. You will be recalled for interview again in a few days and we expect some answers.”
I started to mutter something about surely I could speak to my lawyer and how could I contact my family and friends if I don’t have a phone and so on. DI Kat Aspertion just pointed out that was my look out and she would see me soon.
With that I was out of there. I had to sign a few forms and was escorted home as she said. Eve Asion just told me she would be in touch. “But how?” I asked “if I can’t communicate”. She said: “Don’t go anywhere. Get some sleep. We will send a car over tomorrow.”
When I got home, it was late the next day – a full 24 hours had passed since the raid. Truly the longest day of my life so far!