Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 3

Supplementary note by the Association of Chief Police Officers

LETTER TO THE CLERK OF THE COMMITTEE

  1.  Thank you very much for allowing the Association of Chief Police Officers to present our oral evidence to your Committee on 25 January 2000.

  2.  Due to certain time constraints, I understand that some areas were unable to be fully explored, and we therefore ask that you additionally consider the below points, (some of which were not fully available until after we stood before you).

    —  The Forensic Science Service together with those that administer the "Catchem" National database for child murders, have reported that there are possibly as many as 10 current serious offences that fit the criteria, (ie offender/s has been acquitted, followed by significant new forensic evidence proving his culpability).

    —  According to records held by the National Crime Faculty, at Bramshill Police College, there are currently 35 murder investigations where the offender/s have been acquitted, and the Police investigation is subsequently closed. (It is extremely unusual for a serious police investigation to "close its file" in such circumstances unless the SI0 is content that the individual acquitted is the offender).

    —  A recent case in Northampton illustrates many of the difficulties articulated in our presentation. A racially motivated attack took place in February 1999 with a white adult severely injuring an Asian adult with a Stanley knife. The blood soaked jacket belonging to the offender was sent off to the FSS, but due to delay at the Indictable only pilot site, the trial judge excluded all the Forensic material (good argument for allowing the Prosecution to appeal against such decisions).

  The three eye witnesses refused to attend and give evidence due to suspected intimidation by the aggrieved and family. (Good argument for changing the convoluted Tainted Acquittal procedures).

  The trial judge, in the absence of Forensic evidence, and key witnesses, ordered the Jury to acquit.

  What if a new witness were now to come forward in relation to this offence? It surely cannot be in the interests of justice to allow this offender, in the above described circumstances, to remain unconvicted. (Argument to change the double jeopardy rule).

  It may well be that Mr Stinchcombe MP is aware of this case, given its location.

Q.  What scientific breakthroughs are anticipated?

   A. DNA has been used in Courts since the late 80s. The techniques that were available then however, have changed dramatically. Now that the FSS have developed new methods such as STL and the revolutionary LCN procedures that allow for an individual profile to be identified from a single cell, the floodgates have been opened.

  The FSS tell us that they have a significant backlog of crime scene marks for serious offences, which they are now pursuing using the new technology. They have recently commenced a distinct Cold Case Review Service specifically to review all undetected serious crimes, and are clearly having a great deal of success.

  Recent cases include:

  The "Beauty in the Bath" case in Merseyside. Murdered 16 years ago—John Taft convicted due to new FSS techniques.

  The 22-year-old murder in Bradford of Mrs Mary Gregson. New FSS techniques have identified the profile of the killer.

  The murder of a 17 year old teenager near Portsmouth in 1992, John Corcoran convicted of murder in December 1999, after new FSS techniques.

  In addition to DNA, one has to bear in mind other possible grounds for fresh viable new evidence:

    —  The reluctant witness.

    —  The unknown or unavailable witness.

    —  Earprints.

    —  Facial mapping.

    —  Footprints.

    —  Corneal images.

    —  Voice identification.

Q.  Would a change to the Double Jeopardy rule (getting a second bite at the cherry), make police enquiries more lackadaisical?

   A. We believe not.

   Having given this issue considerable further thought, and consulted with our colleagues, we now believe that a total exclusion on pursuing a second trial, caused by (to a greater or lesser extent) a perceived lack of due diligence by the Police, be it actual or otherwise, needs to be re-considered.

  Given the current proposals and caveats it seems likely that such high profile murder investigations as the Ripper Enquiry and the Lawrence case, would not have their applications to the High Court granted, to commence a re-trial based on fresh, viable, new evidence.

  In order to maintain the public's trust and confidence in our Criminal Justice System in such circumstances, we believe that where minor deficiencies are found within an initial police investigation, the High Court are able to retain a discretion to grant the prosecution's application, (based on a thorough overall, objective assessment).

   Having canvassed Police Forces throughout the country, I have found that witness intimidation, and to a lesser extent Juror intimidation, is still an issue, particularly in large conurbations such as Merseyside and Manchester. The unrealistic pre-requisite for the Police to convict the intimidator/s has led to the Police being singularly unable to pursue this section of the CPIA.

   The defendant is frequently presented as a witness under false colours. It is a principle of law that the previous conduct of witnesses is always material as indicative of a lack of respect for the law. For no logical reason this rule does not apply to defendants.

  The effect of the autre fois acquit principle, and the Connelly and Sambasivam decisions is that the defendant has little to fear from perjury. In thousands of contested cases, thousands of defendants are acquitted. Almost none are subsequently charged with perjury.

  The effect of these two rules has unfortunate consequences for justice—the defendant, as witness, can conceal his proven dishonesty and lie on oath with impunity. A reversal of both these rules would be greatly in the interests of truth. We employ juries to exercise common-sense judgement. In the common-sense world jurors assess what they are told according to the credibility of the teller, and the context of the telling

  The prosecution "get wind" of the defence case already past the eleventh hour. Without defence disclosure they have no opportunity to check out the defence case. This compounds the opportunity for the defendant to offer tainted evidence.

  The prosecution have no right of appeal, except by way of the Attorney General's reference on a point of law. There is something basically unfair when acquittals occur and cannot be corrected. If it is a question of law that touches upon the admissibility of evidence, there should be an opportunity to appeal the decision between pre-trial hearing and the case being tried. If it is through wrong direction of the jury, there should be an easier procedure for correcting the law, even if the defendant's acquittal might stand.

Graham Haycock

Detective Superintendent ACPO Secretariat

3 February 2000


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 8 June 2000