Law Report: Confessions from hostile interviews inadmissible: Regina v Miller, Paris and Abdullahi - Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Lord Taylor of Gosforth, Lord Chief Justice, Mr Justice Popplewell and Mr Justice Laws), 16 December 1992.

If police officers, when interviewing suspects, adopt hostile and intimidating techniques which render the interviews oppressive and confessions obtained unreliable, the court has no discretion but has to exclude the confessions. A solicitor who is present during police interviews should responsibly and courageously discharge his function to intervene when improper questions are put. Police officers may be criticised for their interrogation techniques even if the solicitor has not intervened.

The Court of Appeal gave reasons for allowing on 10 December appeals by the three appellants against their convictions for murder.

The appellants were convicted on 20 November 1990 of murdering a prostitute in Cardiff. Police interviews of Miller were central to the Crown's case against the appellants. Miller was interviewed by the police over five days, for some 13 hours. All the interviews were tape-recorded on 19 tapes. His previous solicitor was present from the third interview onwards.

Miller denied both participation and presence at the murder scene well over 300 times on tapes 1 to 7. In tapes 8 and 9 he began to accept he was present, and eventually he made three admissions that he stabbed the victim.

Miller appealed on the grounds that the interviews were oppressive and the whole course of questions was such as to render his admissions unreliable and inadmissible under section 76(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Michael Mansfield QC and Nicholas Blake (Birnberg & Co), none of whom appeared below, for Miller; Gerard Elias QC and Jocelyn Gibbs (Leo Abse & Cohen, Cardiff) for Paris; Roger Backhouse QC and Ian Pritchard-Witts (Bernard de Maid & Co, Cardiff) for Abdullahi.

LORD TAYLOR CJ, giving the judgment of the court, said that three points on section 76(2) required emphasis.

First, the issue of the admissibility of a confession having been raised by the defence, the burden of proving beyond reasonable doubt that the confession was not obtained by oppression or was not unreliable was on the Crown. Secondly, what mattered was how the confession was obtained, not whether or not it might have been true. Thirdly, unless the prosecution discharged the burden of proof, the judge was bound as a matter of law to exclude the admissions. His decision was not discretionary.

The court had read the transcripts of the tapes and heard a number of them played in open court. On hearing tape 7, each member of the court was horrified. Miller was bullied and hectored. Short of physical violence, it was hard to conceive of a more hostile and intimidating approach by officers to a suspect. It was impossible to convey on the printed page the pace, force and menace of the officer's delivery. The solicitor present appeared to have been gravely at fault for sitting passively through that travesty of an interview.

Having considered the tenor and length of the interviews taken as a whole, the court was of the opinion that they would have been oppressive and confessions obtained in consequence of them would have been unreliable even with a suspect of normal mental capacity. In fact there was evidence that Miller was on the borderline of mental handicap. Although the trial judge was invited to listen to part of tape 7, the bullying and shouting part was not played to him.

The Crown did not and could not discharge the burden on them to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the confessions were not obtained by oppression or by interviews which were likely to render them unreliable. The interviews ought not to have been admitted in evidence.

The interviews were central to the Crown's case against Miller and were wrongly admitted. What remained could not safely support a conviction in his case. Therefore Miller's appeal was allowed. The effect of that conclusion was that the verdicts in relation to Paris and Abdullahi could not be regarded as safe and satisfactory.

In the circumstances of the case the apparent failure of the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to prevent evidence obtained by oppression and impropriety from being admitted did not indicate flaws in those provisions. They did indicate a combination of human errors.

The police officers adopted techniques of interrogation which were wholly contrary to the spirit and in many instances the letter of the codes laid down under the Act. Those responsible for police training and discipline must take all necessary steps to see that guidelines were followed.

The solicitor who sat in on the interviews seemed to have done that and little else. Guidelines for solicitors published by the Law Society provided that a solicitor might need to intervene if the questions were oppressive, threatening or insulting; that a solicitor should intervene if the officer was not asking questions but only making comments or if the questions were improper or improperly put; and that the solicitor should advise the suspect of his right to remain silent if improprieties remained uncorrected or continued.

A solicitor fulfilling the exacting duty of assisting a suspect during interviews should follow the guidelines and discharge his function responsibly and courageously. Otherwise his presence might actually render disservice.

If the officers took the view that unless and until the solicitor intervened they could not be criticised for going too far, they were wrong. Finally, it was most regrettable that the worst example of the police excesses was not played in full to the trial judge before he ruled on admissibility.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone