I would like your opinion on something. If I told you that the IPCC did not understand the basic concepts of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act would you be shocked? What we are talking about here is the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the organisation tasked with investigating complaints against the police and they don’t even understand the overarching principles by which the police are governed when it comes to dealing with prisoners and investigation of offences. Hard to believe? Read on!
The case I have been informed about and seen documents pertaining to involves an officer involved in an incident where he was convicted of assault. The circumstances are immaterial but suffice to say the officer was sacked but remains upbeat that he will ultimately win an appeal. However, significant mistakes were made by the investigating force which have been subject of a complaint because those serious mistakes formed part of the reason that our former colleague was convicted. One of the mistakes was that, following arrest and interview, the CPS informed the investigating officers that there was enough evidence to charge. What then happened was that our former colleague returned on bail, after this decision was made by the CPS, was further interviewed for a total of four hours and then charged. He was kept in custody for about 6 hours. The content of this interview after a decision to charge had been communicated was used in the trial and ultimate conviction.
Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states:
11.6 The interview or further interview of a person about an offence with which that person has not been charged or for which they have not been informed they may be prosecuted, must cease when:
(a) the officer in charge of the investigation is satisfied all the questions they consider relevant to obtaining accurate and reliable information about the offence have been put to the suspect, this includes allowing the suspect an opportunity to give an innocent explanation and asking questions to test if the explanation is accurate and reliable, e.g. to clear up ambiguities or clarify what the suspect said;
(b) the officer in charge of the investigation has taken account of any other available evidence; and
(c) the officer in charge of the investigation, or in the case of a detained suspect, the custody officer, see paragraph 16.1, reasonably believes there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for that offence. See Note 11B.
The important bit is paragraph (c) which means that when “there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction” a charge should follow.
Paragraph 16.1 of the code further states:
16.1 When the officer in charge of the investigation reasonably believes there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for the offence (see paragraph 11.6), they shall without delay, and subject to the following qualification, inform the custody officer who will be responsible for considering whether the detainee should be charged. See Notes 11B and 16A. When a person is detained in respect of more than one offence it is permissible to delay informing the custody officer until the above conditions are satisfied in respect of all the offences, but see paragraph 11.6. If the detainee is a juvenile, mentally disordered or otherwise mentally vulnerable, any resulting action shall be taken in the presence of the appropriate adult if they are present at the time.
This is self-explanatory. When there is sufficient evident to obtain a realistic chance of conviction then the question should stop and a charge follow. Correct me if I am wrong but when the CPS state that someone should be charged then clearly there is is enough evidence to convict. So, surely, the interview that followed on the return on bail was a breach of PACE ~ a significant and possibly fatal flaw in the process which would mean our colleague would have his conviction overturned. One more to add to the growing list of failures in this case. He would be allowed another day in court which would allow him to clear his name now a proper investigation by his defence team is presented as evidence.
However, in the world of the IPCC this is not a breach. I will let their investigator explain:
In terms of PACE Code C, I do not consider that the excerpt you have provided indicates a breach of PACE. The general essence of the excerpt provided is that an OIC must feel that they have insufficient evidence to charge or prosecute. I do not feel that possession of CPS advice to charge necessarily indicates that the OIC believed that there was sufficient information to charge; all this indicates is that the CPS felt the was sufficient evidence to charge, and this does not necessarily reflect the belief of the OIC. With regards to whether or not this interview would make your conviction unsafe, this is not something I can comment on. However, I do not feel that PACE Code C has been breached as described.
There you go. According to the IPCC, it doesn’t matter what the CPS thinks, it doesn’t matter what the law says, you can make it up as you go along!