Top Tips For Managing A Dawn Raid


Top Tips For Managing A Dawn Raid

Although it is challenging to prepare for a dawn raid as ‘surprise’ is a vital part of the process, there are several things you can do if you suspect your organisation may be subject to a dawn raid. You can also take positive steps whilst investigators are on-site to minimise the raid’s impact.

What is a dawn raid?

A dawn raid is a powerful tool in a watchdog’s armoury. Enforcement bodies will swoop in unannounced on a business or residential home in order to remove documents and other evidence that may be useful in an investigation or prosecution.

Who has the authority to conduct a dawn raid?

The following authorities have the power to undertake a dawn raid:


• Police

• National Crime Agency (NCA)

• Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA)

• Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

• Serious Fraud Office (SFO)

• Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

Taking a dawn raid seriously is vital, as it is only carried out in cases where serious criminality is reasonably suspected. Examples of matters that could result in a dawn raid include:

• The HMRC believes a director of your company has committed fraud.

• The CMA suspects one of your employees has accepted bribes, resulting in your business obtaining a commercial advantage.

Is a warrant needed to conduct a dawn raid?

A dawn raid cannot be conducted without a warrant issued by the High Court. When checking the warrant, make sure it states:

• The location in which the raid is being carried out.

• The names of the investigating officers entering the building.

• Dawn raid procedure rules.

• The scope of the raiding authority’s powers.

The warrant must be shown by investigating officers, and the scope of the raid must be explained.

Is it possible to prepare for a dawn raid?

The entire point of a dawn raid is that you will not know it is happening until investigators walk into your reception. Therefore, all companies, especially large, multi-national organisations with overseas branches and agents, should have a plan in place in case of a dawn raid.

Taking the following actions will limit the negative impact of a dawn raid. However, the first and foremost rule is never to attempt to hinder an investigating officer or refuse their entry. This could lead to criminal charges.

• Educate your receptionists – they will be the first point of contact. They should be trained to be polite and to alert the response team (see below). However, they should not offer any information to the investigators or sign any documents.

• Appoint a dawn raid response team - they will shadow the inspectors as they search the premises, recording what documents are being studied and seized. A response team, usually an in-house or external solicitor with experience in business crime and regulatory investigations, must be in place to lead the team.

Ensure each dawn raid response team member understands what they are responsible for, how to cooperate with inspectors, and what actions by inspectors should be referred to the team leader during the raid.

Who should make up a dawn raid response team?

In addition to the team leader, a dawn raid response team should include members of the C-suite, such as the Chief Information Officer (CIO), the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the Compliance Officer, and someone from your internal communications department, i.e. your Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

Can I delay the inspection team until my Solicitor arrives?

If your dawn raid team leader is an external solicitor, requesting that the inspectors wait until they arrive is wise. The inspectors do not have to wait, and they may refuse, especially if the warrant is valid only for a short period. If your solicitor is on their way, offer to get the legal team on the phone to liaise with the inspectors.

If the inspection team insist on beginning their remit immediately, your dawn raid response team should accompany them and take notes.

What happens if I or my staff start deleting documents and files during the dawn raid?

This is a criminal offence. Ensure an email goes out to all employees (marked confidential) letting them know the inspectors are conducting an investigation and absolutely no files or documents should be destroyed or deleted until further notice.

A dawn raid can last a few days. If seals are left on computers or doors, do not interfere with them, as this can be classed as a criminal act, and you could face severe fines.

How can an external solicitor assist in a dawn raid?

Your legal team will ensure:

• The search warrant and remit are legal, and the inspectors remain within its scope when searching the premises and seizing documents.

• Copies of all requested documents/files are taken.

• The cross-checking of the examined documents/files against the warrant.

• Documents/files being examined and/or seized are not legally privileged.

• Notes are taken of everything said in meetings.

• You know what to do after the raid is over.

Wrapping up

Ensuring you have a trained team in place to deal with authorities if a dawn raid happens is an essential element of responsible business planning. Part of this is having an experienced legal team advising and representing you to ensure the investigators act lawfully and within the scope of their powers.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please call us on 0300 3732424.