The Police and Criminal Evidence Act Paper Example

The due process safeguards under PACE 1984 provided for suspects' who are either juvenile, mentally disordered, vulnerable or in need of medical attention at the police station, frequently aren't enforced. Where a suspect is found to be a juvenile or mentally disordered, PACE Code C 3. 15 stipulates that 'a custody officer must, as soon as practicable'1 ask an appropriate adult to come to the station and see the suspect.

Palmer identifies that due to, 'their lack of training in mental health issues'2 custody officers commonly fail to identify suspects' with such ailments. This type of police working practice leads to vulnerable suspects' being interviewed without appropriate adults present. This is demonstrated by the study carried out by Nemitz and Bean 1994, in which a large portion of the police officers were unsure as to who constituted a vulnerable suspect.  

Time restraints placed upon the length of police custody, often encourage police officers to interview suspects whom they consider to have mild mental disorders, without appropriate adults; Palmers emphasizes that to avoid time delays officers, 'simply go ahead'4 with interviews, as appropriate adults often take time to arrive at the station. Suspects who arrive at the station in need of medical assistance commonly do not receive it. Sanders et al assert that only a few suspects receive the medical attention they need from doctors5.

Palmer affirms this viewpoint arguing that police officers habitually believe that they have a sufficient knowledge of certain mental conditions and choose not to call a police surgeon for, 'a second opinion'6 this is demonstrated the study carried out by Gudjonsson et al in which at least 8 percent of the suspects were vulnerable, however the police only identified the need for 1 in four percent of the cases studied. 7 Furthermore it is commonplace for police surgeons to lack sufficient skill and experience when dealing with suspects.

Laing outlines the tragic case of Travers Clarke, a paranoid schizophrenic who was wrongfully diagnosed as mentally stable by a police surgeon. Twelve hours after he was released from custody he set himself on fire, and later died of his injuries in hospital. 8 Bucke et al however highlight that police surgeons often encounter, suspects who deny the consumption of drugs, resulting in their condition wrongly being diagnosed. 9 Code C 3. 16, however is generally enforced on behalf of juvenile suspects as they are easily identifiable.

Secondly some custody officers believe that the requirement for an appropriate adult under the Code C solely applies to them as outlined by Hodgson10. Although the requirement to contact an appropriate adult is generally enforced for juvenile suspects, the police commonly fail to ensure that the person who fulfils the role is sufficiently suitable. Hodgson demonstrates that a parent of the juvenile suspect will typically act as an appropriate adult; Hodgson highlights however that parents can become, 'overawed by the authority of the police'11 rendering their presence as unsupportive to the suspect.

In addition he argues that due to the brief description of the appropriate adult role in Code C, those who fulfil it lack a clear understanding of what they are required to do when performing it. 12 Dissuading suspects to ask for legal advice is a typical trait of Cop Culture. Code C 3. 113 stipulates that a suspect should be informed of their right to legal advice, by a custody officer. Sanders et al outline that police officers often read, 'rights quickly and incomprehensibly and/or incompletely'14 leaving suspects uninformed of these rights.

Validly Skinns asserts that police often tell suspects that requesting legal advice will prolong their detention in custody. 15 These tactics wrongfully prohibit suspects from enforcing the safeguards available under Code C 6. 4. In addition, since 2008 all publically funded requests for legal advice were routed through the Defence Solicitor Call Centre (CDS) as outlined by Skinns,16 and it has been evidenced by Pascoe et al that in 2005, 22 percent of calls made by CDS to police stations were not taken by police officers.

This resulted in suspects effectively being denied legal advice due to the stations no- cooperation with CDS. However the police still withhold the power under PACE s. 58, to interview suspects' 'if legal advice has been requested but not yet received. If a senior officer has reasonable grounds for believing a delay will involve serious harm'17, to evidence or persons they are allowed to interview the suspect without a legal advisor. This is also permitted under Code C 6. 6 in relation to vulnerable suspects, and juveniles, police are also permitted to carry out a 'safety interview' without an appropriate adult present.

18 When suspects successfully obtain legal advice, police working practices often hinder the quality of advice which suspects receive. The Code C 3. 1(ii) asserts that a suspect has the right to consult privately with a solicitor however this is not always enforced at every police station. Lord Taylor in the case of R v Derby Magistrates' Court, ex parte B [1996] stated the importance of this safeguard by emphasising that a '… man must be able to consult his lawyer in confidence, since otherwise he might hold back half the truth…

'19 Pattendenn et al assert that due to a lack of 'privacy' when consulting a legal advisor on the telephone suspects have been inhibited from being able '… to talk frankly… ' with legal advisors often resulting in '… empty advice…. '20 This is evidenced by the case of R (on the application of M& La Rose) v Metropolitan Commissioner of Police [2001] within which Poole J outlined that the clients legal advisor limited him to yes/no answers. 21 This was evidenced by the study carried out by Sanders et al. 22

Although these findings evidence breaches of Code C, Police depending on the circumstances retain the authority to overhear suspects' conversations with their legal advisors for two reasons; firstly Code C guidance note 6J states that a suspect has the right to private legal advice unless this is 'impractical because of the design and layout of the custody area or the location of telephones'23 and secondly Pattendenn et al outline that under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) police with authorisation can legally 'eavesdrop'24 on suspects conversations with legal advisors.

Although cop culture and police working practices largely account for the failures which render the due process safeguards under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 presentational, the Courts also play an active role in whether or not these safeguards are upheld or breached. Hodgson argues that the enforcement of the provisions which are provided to regulate 'police interrogations and appropriate adult schemes [depend] in part upon the [C]ourts' response to breaches of the provisions…

'25 This is exampled in cases in which the suspect has been induced to confess, or the suspects' statement is not written accurately at the time of the interview, resulting in their statement being recorded incorrectly. Code C 11. 7- 8 stipulates that 'where a conducted interview of a suspect has not been audio recorded at the station… a verbatim record or adequate, summary must be written down… '26 The suspect is then required to read and sign the statement, but as Sanders and Young highlight, people often do not read what they sign27, whilst what was recorded could be inaccurate.

In cases whereby the interview has been tape-recorded, the tapes are rarely listened to by defence lawyers28, rendering this safeguard as irrelevant. In the case of Dunn29, the police claimed that while reading through the suspect's statement he had confessed. The suspect and his legal advisor asserted that the there had been no confession given in the interview, but the evidence was still upheld in Court. This demonstrates the way in which the Courts' response to the breaches of PACE 1984 safeguards, impacts upon whether they are upheld.

The Courts have however consistently ensured that where an appropriate adult should have been present, the evidence is dismissed against the suspect. This is exampled by the case of Morse and others in which all the evidence held against the suspect was dismissed due to an appropriate adult not being present. 30 This is also demonstrated by the case of Aspinall31 in which the suspect was interviewed without an appropriate adult. The evidence acquired against the suspect was then subsequently dismissed on appeal, as there was no appropriate adult present during the interview.

Hodgson argues however that the Courts' are becoming more reluctant to exclude evidence; in reference to the case of W and other's32 the Courts' held that a mother who was 'psychotic… suffering from some intellectual deficit [and] paranoid'33 was a sufficient appropriate adult for her daughter as these delusions 'only applied to her neighbours. '34 This demonstrates that the Courts impart are encouraging the breaches of these safeguards by the police as they are not fully upholding the provisions.

Skinns also highlights, in relation to police officers failing to identify vulnerable suspects or those with mental disorders that the police are expected to contain high volumes of crime with few 'resources. '35 This is strengthened by Palmer who outlines that custody areas generally are very busy areas, in which a custody officer may spend up to 'two or three minutes with a suspect'36, and cannot reasonably be expected identify mental disorders in such a small space of time.

This can also be linked to suspects not being able to speak with their legal advisors privately; this demonstrates that the working practices of the police cannot wholly be responsible for the failure to implement these safeguards. Public spending cuts are partly to blame. In conclusion, although there are a few minor factors which prevent the due process safeguards under PACE 1984 being enforced it is well evidenced that the police working practices and cop culture have lead to them being significantly hindered and effectively denied to suspects at police stations across Britain.