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

News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall has become the eighth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing
tv
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
i100
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
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

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin