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
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
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 agoJohn Taft convicted due to new FSS
The 22-year-old murder in Bradford of Mrs Mary
Gregson. New FSS techniques have identified the profile of the
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 unknown or unavailable witness.
Q. Would a change to the Double Jeopardy rule
(getting a second bite at the cherry), make police enquiries more
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,
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 justicethe 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.
Detective Superintendent ACPO Secretariat
3 February 2000