Film sparks police inquiry

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AN INQUIRY has been launched by West Midlands Police into apparent breaches by a detective inspector of safeguards governing the care of suspects, which were filmed during the making of a television documentary.

The alleged breaches, filmed by Yorkshire Television for a First Tuesday documentary to be broadcast next week, are likely to increase concern among lawyers about the extent to which the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, known as Pace, is observed.

During the inquiry into the force's disbanded Serious Crime Squad, many instances of alleged breaches of Pace, which was introduced to provide greater care for suspects being interrogated, came to light.

The documentary, filmed at Belgrave Road police station in Birmingham, was designed to examine interview techniques, particularly the use of video recording of interrogations. In one instance, a man is arrested after attacking police officers when accused of assaulting a woman; the man was already on bail on rape charges. The detective inspector is filmed attempting to strike a deal over bail with him to recover two police radios which he snatched when resisting arrest.

The detective is filmed telling a colleague that in return for the man being allowed to make a telephone call to arrange for the radios' return, they will not oppose bail. The custody sergeant, a position created under Pace to monitor treatment of suspects, does not make a note of the interview.

In a second instance, at the end of a tape-recorded interview, the detective enters into unrecorded negotiations with a man suspected of a number of burglary offences to try to persuade him to plead guilty to two and have a large number 'taken into account'. The unrecorded interview is not distinguished on the custody record, which also fails to record the detective's name.

Michael McConville, professor of law at Warwick University, says in the films that in both instances the police action was 'flatly contradictory' to the Pace code of practice.

Richard Adams, deputy chief constable of the West Midlands, said last night that the force's discipline department had been asked to conduct an inquiry. He stressed that neither interview had formed part of court proceedings.