RUC chief wants tougher laws: Annesley says criminal process is heavily loaded in favour of the accused

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SIR HUGH Annesley, Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, yesterday called for a battery of new laws in Northern Ireland, arguing that the criminal process was heavily loaded in favour of the accused, writes David McKittrick.

Setting out a shopping list of seven items designed, in his terms, to redress the balance, he said the proposals were already being considered at a high level within the Government.

Sir Hugh, whose ideas were opposed by nationalist and civil liberties sources, said the current state of the law meant that a large number of people who should have been convicted of criminal offences were 'wandering free around Northern Ireland'.

Outlining his proposals at a Belfast press conference, Sir Hugh called for an end to the right to silence for people being questioned about crime. He believed that, in carefully defined circumstances, a refusal to answer questions should be an offence. He wanted accomplice evidence to be more readily admissible in court, and said courts should be told of previous terrorist convictions.

He also proposed that the burden of proof, in defined circumstances, should shift from the prosecution to the accused. Evidence of an intelligence nature, including telephone taps, should be admissible in defined circumstances, and there should be significant revision of the discovery process.

The ideas were criticised. Seamus Mallon MP, justice spokesman for the Social Democratic and Labour Party, described Sir Hugh's demands as an alarming and frightening litany of panic proposals which pointed to an inability to address the real security problems. Sinn Fein said such measures would overturn fundamental legal principles and 'bring in internment by the back door'.