Letter: Little justice in a ban on the right of silence

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The Independent Online
Sir: Stephen Goodwin's report of the Lord Chief Justice's contribution in the debate on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill ('Lord Chief Justice weighs in for defence', 24 May), prompts me to write as a solicitor who regularly both prosecutes and defends (in the magistrates' courts, where the vast bulk of the crimes which concern the public are dealt with). I have attended police stations on behalf of suspects for 20 years.

The 'right of silence' arguments in Parliament and Earl Ferrers' prospects of later amendments seem to have little to do with finding the truth in criminal matters. Those who are guilty and wish to confess, do so now. Experienced and sophisticated criminals (often good liars), work out their stories in advance; no doubt they will continue to do so. The inadequate, the inarticulate, children and others with nervous dispositions who are innocent, are likely to say almost anything.

Removal of the 'right of silence' on arrest and in a police station will produce more people telling lies. After which, those against whom there is no direct evidence are liable to be prosecuted. Inevitably those will include a number of the innocent.

These changes will not assist, and they are not designed, to find the truth. They will result in an increase in convictions. Whether of the guilty or the innocent no one can be sure. Where is 'justice' in this Bill? Only in the title I think.

Yours faithfully,

GAVIN McKENZIE

Shrewsbury, Shropshire

24 May

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