Michael Hafen helps clients to protect their brand or reputation and manage risk when there is a fatality or serious injury that results in an investigation.
Michael specialises in the defence of civil/criminal litigation arising from regulatory breaches, including health and safety, healthcare, trading standards and environmental breaches. He works closely with clients as soon as an incident happens, from taking statements and managing initial interactions with the regulator to advising during PACE interviews under caution, including areas such as Corporate and Gross Negligence Manslaughter.
Michael guides clients throughout the difficult process and works with them to understand the implications of varying courses of action. He focuses on managing risk, averting investigations and avoiding prosecution. This includes collaborating with clients before an accident even occurs - Michael understands that prevention is better than cure and regularly uses his expertise to advise on effective policies and practices to prevent issues from arising.
If prosecution does follow, Michael is a proactive defence litigator with a proven track record. He is committed to helping clients to develop strategies to achieve the best possible outcome when facing prosecution and to limit the financial and reputational impact that an investigation and any prosecution may have both on the corporate entity and individual senior management. He frequently represents clients at hearings and inquiries, including Coroner Inquests.
Michael also has significant experience in criminal/civil road traffic accident matters, including death by dangerous or careless driving, DVSA (formerly VOSA) prosecutions, and Public Inquiries before the Traffic Commissioner. He is an expert in cases involving employed drivers charged with criminal offences while driving in the course of their employment.
The work Michael does is extraordinarily real. The incidents that he deals with affect businesses and people, often with severe consequences for all concerned. He and his team recognise that they are a critical point purchase - clients generally come to them because they need us, not because they want us.
Michael is able to sensitively guide clients through incredibly difficult situations and achieve the best possible result depending upon their individual circumstances. More often than not, clients are undergoing extreme stress and emotion when they come to him. They are often dealing with the personal, as well as legal, implications of an incident and may be completely unexperienced in the legal processes involved in an investigation. Being able to hold their hand and build a relationship of trust with them through the process, and see them out the other side, is a great experience.
There is also often an element to his work of creating a level playing field. Interviews under caution, for example, are stressful situations, where the people on the other side of the table are highly experienced in what they do and can be very intimidating. Michael ensures that clients have an even playing field when faced with these sort of situations and is not afraid to push back on behalf of his clients.
Michael is frequently representing clients who are still in shock that they are in this position. For example he was recently instructed to represent two highways inspectors, who examined an 'accident black spot' road several days before a fatal accident, when they were bought in for a police interview under caution (with the Crown Prosecution Service considering a negligent manslaughter charge). He ensured that experienced murder detectives were not in a position to intimidate his clients into any form of admission despite a conserted effort by them to do so given the individual circumstances of the fatality in question. Therefore, Michael can make a real difference to clients by showing that someone is behind them, knows the procedure and is fighting for the best possible outcome.
Michael is regularly instructed by a full range of corporate entities, and individuals within corporate entities, who require assistance with managing their regulatory risk or minimising exposure in criminal investigations. Sector clients include care and housing providers, manufacturing and engineering companies, transport and automotive companies, and principal contractors involved in building and construction.
Representing major construction clients with onsite fatalities including immediate aftermath assistance, dealing with provision of information to investigating officers, attending interviews under caution and advising through all stages of a prosecution to obtain acquittal or the best possible mitigation for the client.
Successfully dealing with a number of Appeals of Improvement Notices served by the HSE on a major aggregate clients, including some with potentially far-reaching consequences on the working methods used in the industry.
Providing specialist transport regulatory compliance advice to companies across a range of industries including driving hours, tachograph, construction and use breaches, traffic commissioner public inquiries and death by dangerous/careless driving prosecutions.
Successfully defending prosecutions involving diabetics suffering hypoglycaemic attacks while driving in the course of their employment.
Achieving a significant acquittal in a prosecution arising out of a night time fatality involving a driver, in the course of his employment, striking and killing a pedestrian on a country road. The case involved the admission of evidence from a leading US expert regarding the brain's perception and analysis of images at night.
Successfully assisting with prosecutions against company senior management for speeding fines and use of mobile telephones while driving, with a risk of obligatory disqualification under the penalty points systems.
Acting for a well-known leisure company following two separate fatalities at two of its nightclubs. Michael advised on the inquest hearings at both and in one of the cases, represented the client at an interview under caution which resulted in criminal proceedings. He worked closely with the client to ensure a detailed Plea in Mitigation, minimising publicity and protecting the reputation of the client and brand of the nightclub.
Advising a food production client under investigation by the HSE following an employee sustaining amputated fingers whilst cleaning out a production machine, including working closely with the client's in-house counsel and health and safety team in the provision of information to the HSE regarding safety systems and procedures in place.
Assisting companies in relation to environmental spillage cases. One recent example involved a household resurfacing company in respect of a serious and complex multi-party pollution incident. Michael attended with the client an interview under caution with the Environment Agency and through to Crown Court trial and secured an absolute discharge and avoidance of fines and costs in excess of £100,000.