Dawn Raids and Searches

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Dawn Raids and Searches

A ‘dawn raid’ is the unannounced attendance by an investigating authority at the premises of a company or firm or even a residential address. The purpose of the attendance (frequently by multiple investigating officers) is to carry out a search to identify and seize evidentially relevant documentation or other important material.  This could include electronically stored material such as on mobile phones and tablets. Crucially, a ‘dawn raid’ can only be carried out under the authority of a document known as a Search Warrant.

Many authorities have the power to apply for a search warrant to carry out a ‘dawn raid’. This includes the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as well as the police. They apply for search warrants and conduct ‘dawn raids’ where they suspect that criminal offences have been committed. A Dawn Raid will typically signal the start of an investigation which could end in criminal proceedings.

Such inspections are unsettling and unpleasant and it is important that you and your business handle the situation properly so as to aid the successful resolution of the case.

Here at Hodge Jones and Allen we have enormous experience of advising in investigations which commence in this way. We can help you by advising your business and are able to assist you immediately once a raid commences.

Experienced Analytical Lawyers

The investigating officers will attend with the search warrant. This document will set out the remit of their investigation and the nature of the items that they are looking for. The search should not go beyond the scope set out in this document. It is vital that we are contacted so that we may advise on this and assist you in your cooperation with the process. The officials conducting the search may have different powers depending on the search warrant, and the purpose of their attendance. It is really important that legal advice is obtained swiftly from experienced, analytical lawyers on this point.

If you are subject to a dawn raid at your home or business premises, there are key points to remember:

  1. Speak to the officer in charge of the dawn raid to obtain a copy of the search warrant setting out the purpose and reason for their attendance and establishing which premises they are entitled to search.
  2. Immediately seek our legal advice. We can advise on the validity of the search.
  3. Make a contemporaneous note of all your dealings and ensure the investigating officers do the same. We can also speak to the officer in charge of the investigation and negotiate on your behalf.
  4. Request a delay to the search to ensure that any search and conduct of investigating officers is supervised by a specialist lawyer from the financial crime team from Hodge, Jones & Allen Solicitors. This may not be granted, and if the search commences ensure the officials are supervised and a note taken of items dealt with.
  5. Seek to ensure only items which come within the direct scope of the authorised search are seized and only from premises that the authorisation allows a search of. Make representations and make a note of response.
  6. Seek to ensure that documents that should not be seized are not considered or seized. This includes documents that contain legal advice to you which are protected by “Legal Professional Privilege.

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Why Hodge Jones & Allen?

We are experienced in these investigations and know how different investigators work, what material they may be looking for and the consequences for your business. We can attend during the raid to protect your interests and that of your company. We are only too aware of the potentially damaging consequences for the business when certain items are retained by the investigators. We can make representations as to whether items are seized or copied.

Limiting Adverse Consequences

We will aim to ensure proper consideration is given to the needs of the business and that actions by investigating authorities are proportionate and sensible. A dawn raid is worrying and potentially damaging. We can assist you in managing the adverse consequences to the business in the event of an unannounced attendance of this kind. In this way you can be confident matters are dealt with properly, limiting any damage to your business and professional standing.

Assisting you every step of the way

It is important to remember a dawn raid will likely be only the first step in a long process. We can assist you through every stage, working to ensure the best possible outcome. We can support you or your business once items are seized. We can seek return of items and in relevant cases apply for return. We have enormous experience of successfully intervening in investigations, presenting supporting evidence and making submissions with a view to diverting the matter from further proceedings.


Should the worst happen, and proceedings are taken following a dawn raid – alleging either criminal offences or regulatory irregularity – then you can be reassured that we have unparalleled ability to defend your matter ably and robustly. We have enormous experience in successfully defending allegations of all sorts of financial irregularity.

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