Letter: Importance of the right to silence

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Sir: As a retired and pensioned police inspector, I found Sir Peter Imbert's comments on the right of silence to be nave ('Imbert urges end to court combat', 14 October). Albert Camus said:

The innocent is the person who explains nothing.

Sir Peter does not appear to accept that sentiment, though he should be aware of the truth in it.

Policemen exercise a right to silence when they are being investigated regarding criminal and disciplinary matters. I applaud them doing so, but I find it hypocritical when on other occasions they point the finger at others who exercise the same right.

Occasionally, I have been asked what I would do if I were accused and innocent. Without any apologies, I answer that I would remain silent for fear that my defence might be sabotaged. This is the very reason policemen exercise the right. There have been many reported cases to show that they, like me, know that sadly there are a minority of policemen who, when making investigations, are not averse to do what is colloquially known as 'fitting up', 'setting up', 'planting' or 'swinging' the evidence.

A demonstration took place in Grosvenor Square, central London, about 1960. Some youths were walking near the periphery and had no part nor interest in the incident. This did not prevent them from being arrested for possessing offensive weapons.

One youth was alleged to have had a half house brick in his pocket. Subsequently it was shown that there were no signs of brick dust in the pocket (a brick continually releases brick dust). The youth had remained silent on this point, not by design but through ignorance, and the question arises: if he had not remained silent on this point, would further evidence have been planted to show that the brick had been in the pocket? The CID officers were eventually imprisoned for perversion of justice.

It ill becomes Sir Peter to imply that silence is synonymous with guilt.

He will be doing justice a service by explaining to the public that his main concern in this field is to instil discipline to prevent malpractices. He should recognise that to deprive people, often innocent, of a safeguard enshrined in the Judges' Rules, will make it easier for those so minded to manipulate evidence to sabotage a proper defence.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN THOMPSON

Newport,

Gwent

14 October

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