Tuesday 6 October 2009

How Rules Protect Rights

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 sets out the rules relating to the arrest and detention of individuals. It sets out when a police officer can arrest (s24); what must be done when the arrest is being effected (s28); requires that the person must be taken to a police station as soon as possible (s30); and sets out the duties of the custody offer (ss38,39) - and reviews regular reviews of the decision to detain (s40).

When studying police powers it is worth constructing a table of rights with the following columns

When Right Applies
Description of Right/Power
Relevant section of PACE / Code
Type of Offence
Level of authority

These rights are important - not because of some vague idea of 'fairness', but to reduce the danger of unsafe convictions. There have been a number of miscarriages of justice in the past which would have been avoided if the procedural safeguards of PACE had been in place. A famous example is that of Timothy Evans. Ludovic Kennedy argues in his book "10 Rillington Place" that the interrogation of Evans was worded by the investigating officers and carried out over the course of late evening and early morning hours to the physical and emotional detriment of the accused, a man in a highly emotional state at the time. He was convicted and hanged for the murders which were actually committed by a serial killer.