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Our View: Recorded police interrogations are long overdue

interrogation room, police interrogation, Stasi

It defies belief that the law which would make it mandatory for police to record the questioning and taking of statements from suspects and witnesses in criminal cases, has been gathering dust in the legislature for four years. The law proposal was tabled in 2020, but different government departments are still discussing the details of its implementation.

The issue of recording interrogation sessions emerged in 2019 after the police forced a teenage British woman, who was being interrogated for seven hours without a lawyer present, to retract her claim that she had been gang raped. There was no recording of the interrogation raising concerns that the teenager had been intimidated into changing her account by police officers. Defence lawyers raised this grossly unfair treatment in the court case and in the appeal against the district court ruling.

The fact is that when there is no recording the police interrogators are free to abuse their power, intimidate and terrorise a suspect until a confession is secured. This is why it is imperative to record the questioning/statement of a suspect, even if there is a lawyer present. Apart from protecting the suspect, a recording also provides prosecutors with concrete proof of what was said, making it more difficult for a suspect to change their version of events during the trial.

Why, after four years since the decision to use recordings was made, has nothing been done? Is it really so difficult to set up a small camera in a police interrogation cell to record everything that is said? And if the force cannot afford cameras or officers are incapable of using them, surely, they could have invested in voice recording equipment, which is cheaper, and easier to operate. That would have been an acceptable solution if the operation of camera technology was not within the capabilities of officers.

The delay could only be attributed to the unwillingness of the police command to introduce a tool that is used in most states in which there is rule of law, transparency and respect for the rights of suspects.

Why would the police command object to the recording of statements or interrogations? Does it want to protect officers that resort to unorthodox questioning techniques?

Does it not want its work to be scrutinised, because a recording of an interrogation session would be different from what the investigating officer chooses to write down? Perhaps there are fears that the way the police conduct an interrogation could be used against them when a case appears in court. This should not be a concern when the correct procedure is followed.

If anything, the police command should be introducing measures that ensure officers follow correct procedures during interrogation of suspects, not preventing them.

The recording of interrogation sessions and statements in criminal cases should have been introduced a long time ago. The legislature should no longer accept the delaying tactics of the police and approve the relevant low now.

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