Letter: No point in talking when cautioned by police

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The Independent Online
Sir: As James Fenton argues ('Innocent until proven silent', 22 August), the new police caution fails to protect the innocent. It also fails to help convict the guilty, and promises to be a nightmare for arresting officers.

The old caution, in effect, advised a suspect to remain silent, but the new caution advises him to talk. But what is he to say? If he admits an offence, this constitutes an uncorroborated confession, which is not admissible as evidence. If he lies, then that wastes police time. If he is innocent, the chances are he has nothing useful to contribute. What is the point of advising him to start talking?

Having advised a subject to talk, the police are obliged not only to listen, but to provide facilities for accurately recording the suspect's words. However, cautions are often issued when no such facilities are available. Will there be one caution for use on the streets, another for use in the station? Apparently not. Will arresting officers who are physically unable to take down a suspect's words be later accused of suppressing evidence? What happens if the officer omits part of this unwieldy recitation? We shall see.

Yours sincerely,

RHODRI POWELL

Guildford

23 August

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