PACE legislation

A further issue pertains to the quality of the advice on offer. Research has shown that up to 75% of solicitors attending police stations are not sufficiently qualified to offer appropriate advice. Further issues have also arisen with regard to the availability of legal advice available to detainees. Although legal aid is made available to all suspects, research has shown that duty solicitors may fail to attend the police station, instead offering advice over the telephone.

One case where this was found to have adversely impacted a detainee was the case of R v Hussain and Hussain , where the assistance provided to the suspects by the duty solicitor was deemed, “wholly inadequate”. The way in which suspects are interrogated and questioned forms a crucial part of PACE legislation. Section. 76 of deals with the way in which confessions are attained and/or information extracted from suspects and it considers evidence that was obtained via oppression to be inadmissible.

The exact meaning of the word oppression was defined in the case of R vs. Fulling (1987) as being the dictionary definition of oppression: “… the exercise of power or authority in a burdensome, harsh or wrongful manner; against or cruel treatment of suspects, inferiors or the imposition of unreasonable or unjust burdens”. Despite this provision in PACE there is some evidence that the police continue to use oppression during their interrogation procedures and thus may not always conduct investigations in a fair manner.

Several cases can be cited as examples of where confessions that have thought to have been obtained by oppression have been disregarded from the evidence. One such example of this can be found in the case of R vs. Jasper (1994) where a suspect was told that he would have to remain in custody until the point at which he provided the police with information that met their needs and thus put an end to the investigation.

In this case the court ruled that a retrial was necessary as the information obtained via the interview had been obtained via oppression and should be excluded from the trial. A further example can be found in the case of R vs. Barry (1991) where the client was offered bail on the provision that he provided the interviewing officers with the information that they required. The court ruled this information to be inadmissible as it was extracted via a bribe and may not necessarily be reflective of the truth.

In both of these cases it appears that, even though the laws of PACE were not applied properly in the first account, they can successfully protect suspects from convictions based upon such interrogation. Here we see PACE working to correct injustices as opposed to preventing them. This, however, is surely not the intention of the act and is not ideal as there may be cases where innocent parties have been convicted and do not appeal and similarly there may also be cases whereby guilty parties are acquitted as a result of police failure to follow law.

Furthermore, there are cases that demonstrate that the application of PACE may not always be timely enough to prevent serious miscarriages of justice. One of the most famous of these is the case of R vs. Paris, Abdullah and Miller (The Cardiff Three) who were convicted in 1991 of the murder of a prostitute and served 4 years of a life sentence. During their appeal hearing it was revealed that they had been bullied and hectored over a period of 13 hours and that the quality of representation provided by Miller’s solicitor had been less than satisfactory.

The court thus ruled that their confessions were inadmissible as a result of the manner in which they have been obtained: “Short of physical violence, it is hard to conceive a more hostile and intimidating approach to a suspect”. . In this case, although the laws of PACE did eventually secure justice for the accused (the real perpetrator of the crime was finally apprehended 11 years later), but the fact that they had already lost four years of their life to prison sentences entails that, in the first instance, PACE had failed in its objectives to deliver just systems of interrogation.

A key requirement  is for Interviewing Officers to keep accurate and honest records of their conversations with suspects. This record should be verbatim where possible and recorded during the interview itself. However, this is not always possible and the accuracy of records has since created a number of admissibility issues. One of the key causes of this is attributed to verballing; situations where the notes made by the police officers are not endorsed in writing by the accused.

In the case of R v Keenan (1989). The appellant claimed that the records produced by the police were not contemporaneous and were thus in breach of the PACE act. Lord Mustill ruled in his favour, citing Code C as being specifically designed to prevent such verballing. As a result of many of the failings of Code C to ensure that police interrogation and investigation procedures are conducted in a fair and reliable manner Codes E and F were subsequently introduced. These are detailed further below.