Senior officers hail report as 'excellent'

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CHIEF constables yesterday gave an enthusiastic welcome to the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, which they said would be applauded by officers of all ranks.

John Hoddinott, Chief Constable of Hampshire and chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' crime committee, said the report was excellent. 'The police service is ready and will welcome change. We also are ready to assist in developing the recommendations into legislation or guidelines.'

Speaking to chief officers and local authority leaders in Birmingham, he said that among the recommendations most welcomed by the police service were those urging the Government to create a computerised national fingerprint service, install video recording in all custody suites, and impose rules on the disclosure of unused prosecution material to the defence.

The service also welcomed the ending of the 'ambush defence', the obligation on the defence to give reasons when requesting disclosure of police sources and measures to prevent bullying and time-wasting by lawyers. The creation of an authority to investigate miscarriages of justice was 'eminently sensible'.

Mr Hoddinott said the service was conscious of arguments from civil liberty groups that proposals to set up a data base of the DNA profiles of convicted persons could infringe individual rights, but he added: 'Perhaps we should ask whose rights they are talking about - the rights of a rape victim, an abused child, or the rights of ordinary citizens who should be able to walk the streets without being treated as the prey of the criminal minority in society. Remember, DNA can be proof of guilt or innocence, and it is independently verifiable.'

The fact that the commission had refrained from recommending that only corroborative confessions would be admissible was also welcomed.

'There will always be the exceptional case where corroboration is not possible, but the police accept that it will be rare for a prosecution to proceed in the absence of some other evidence against the accused.'

Mr Hoddinott said the service supported the need for better training and supervision, but was concerned at how this would be reconciled with the recommendations of the Sheehy Inquiry into police pay and responsibility. That report recommended the service shed about 5,000 posts in middle and junior management levels. 'I need more well-trained, well-motivated sergeants to guide and lead junior staff - not less.'