Imbert urges end to court 'combat'

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Indy Politics
Widespread reforms to end the 'gladiatorial combat' of the criminal justice system and replace it with a search for the truth were called for yesterday by Sir Peter Imbert, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Sir Peter, speaking at the conference, called for the introduction of rigorous pre-trial reviews and the right to comment on the silence of defendants, whose rights were now more safeguarded by the video recording of interviews. He urged the Royal Commission on the Criminal Justice System to consider full advance disclosure of the defence case in criminal trials.

In the first six months of last year, the Metropolitan Police Robbery Squad was involved in eight trials in which alibi was an issue; in none of these was an alibi served within the time limit and in six it was given just prior to the trial, in two no notice was given at all. In each case, the evidence was allowed by the court.

Without the disclosure of the defence case, the truth of assertions could not be tested and the trial process became unbalanced. 'Failure to do so must attract comment, just as failure to disclose on the part of the prosecution would lead to a successful appeal.'

He also called for stricter rules to prevent late changes of counsel and a form of pre-trial plea bargaining to prevent suspects pleading guilty at the last minute.

Lord Williams QC, the chairman of the Bar Council called for greater safeguards for confession evidence, a wider role for the Crown Prosecution Service in supervising police inquiries and a body to investigate miscarriages of justice.