Video use may be increased

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The Independent Online
The police are considering expanding the use of video recordings of interviews with suspects which can later be presented in court, writes Jason Bennetto.

Video taping of cases involving serious crimes may become routine under the proposals being examined by a Home Office working party.

The move is aimed at preventing police using violence or intimidation to obtain confessions, such as in the Bridgewater case where three men were released from prison after serving 18 years for a murder they did not commit. Police chiefs believe it will also help counter false allegations against officers.

Four police forces in England and Wales - Kent, the Metropolitan Police, West Mercia and the West Midlands - and forces in Scotland, have carried out a number of pilot projects using videos. Cameras have also been fitted in some police stations and prisoner transporter vans in London.

All police interviews are tape recorded at the moment, but suspects sometimes claim that officers were silently making threatening gestures.

David Maclean, a Home Office minister, commenting on the use of video recordings, said: "It's not done routinely ... we've got to look in England at how it could be used in court in proper cases." The police have been running technical studies into the idea for the last 18 months, Mr Maclean told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Pilot schemes involving the Crown Prosecution Service and the Lord Chancellor's Department are now expected to go ahead in seven or eight areas.

"It could be the case in future that we want to video record all interviews, just the same as they do a tape recording now," he said. A suspect could object to the video being shown, but the judge would make the final decision.

Nigel Pascoe QC, chairman of the Bar Council's public affairs committee, who has used a video in one trial, welcomed the development as a "safeguard for a defendant in custody". However, he warned it would be expensive to introduce video taping nationwide. David Phillips, secretary of the Association of Chief Police Officer's crime committee and the Chief Constable of Kent, added: "We believe video recording would [give] courts the chance to see not just what was said, but the way in which it was said, or silence exercised."

But Jim Nichol, solicitor for the Bridgewater Three, opposed the move, saying it could lead to experienced police officers using suspects' body language to implicate them.

Andreas Whittam Smith,

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