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What is a dawn raid?

A ‘dawn raid’ is an unannounced visit, usually to the business but possibly also to your home.
Officers will usually arrive at the beginning of the day, when businesses are least prepared and
capable of responding and can involve and search of your filing cabinet, your computer systems or
even your car.

What to do in a dawn raid?

1) Investigators at the door

Remain calm. You are legally obligated to co-operate, so politely ask the Investigators to wait for a
short period in a document-free room while you get organised.

• The investigators should give you a copy of their mandate. This document contains critical
information about the purpose and scope of the investigation and needs to go to your
lawyer immediately. Carefully review this document to understand the powers of the team
and the scope of the investigation.
• Implement your dawn raid procedures.
• Assemble support for handling the investigation and introduce them to the investigators.
They should include “shadowers”, and IT representative and administrative support.
• Each investigator would need to be accompanied by an employee familiar with the dawn
raid procedure. It is important to have an IT representative, accounts and legal support in
the ‘dawn raid response’ team.
• Assign work buddies who will inform their colleagues through telephone of the raid.
• All staff should be reminded of their obligation to co-operate. They should also be warned
not to be hostile or obstruct the investigation, not to destroy documents and not to tell
anyone outside the company about the raid.
• Brief and agree with the Investigators on the procedures to be used during the raid. In
particular, agree on a process to make sure that you make a duplicate copy for the company
of each document/email copied by the Investigators. Likewise, agree on a process for
handling disputed documents.
2) Shadowing

Each Investigator must be accompanied at all times.

In general, Investigators have wide powers to;

• Search the premises

• Copy relevant documents (whether hard copy or electronic)
• Ask for explanations of facts or documents
• Seal premises/rooms

Shadowers should:

• Make a careful note of everything (within reason) done by the Investigators. In particular,
note down key questions asked, answers given and search terms used.
• Make a duplicate copy of each document/ email copied by Investigators (after it has been
labelled by the Investigators). Ask for a copy of the list of documents kept by the
Investigators including the reference numbers.
• Do not allow the investigators to image computers unless the mandate allows for this.
• Verify each document for privileged and relevance. Investigators should not make a copy of
documents that is not relevant to the scope of the investigation (but note the Investigators
will make a final decision on relevance).
• Do not volunteer any documents or information that is not requested. Questions which
relate to specific documents can be answered on the spot. But answers should remain
factual and to the point. Ask the Investigators to clarify where the questions is not clear and
do not speculate or expand beyond answering the question. Where questions are more
wide-ranging in scope, or if they are potentially incriminating, ask to defer to a later point in
the raid when a lawyer can be present. The lawyer should take a careful note and you should
ask for a copy of the note made by the Investigators.
• Ask the Investigators to note formally in their minutes specific points or objections you wish
to raise, for example if you wish to reserve your position on a point of relevance. Ask for a
copy of these minutes. Ensure you also take a preserve your own notes on these points.
• Remain polite and co-operative. Do not hamper the Investigators in their task beyond the
exercise of your legitimate rights. Counsel can help you in this respect. Try to agree on a
proper way of interacting with your Investigators.