LETTERS: Tapes are a legal safeguard

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The Independent Online
From Mr Christopher Witts

Sir: I sympathise with the sentiments behind Marguerite Evers' and Alan Bullion's letters about selling evidence for profit in cases such as Frederick West's (23 October), but there are wider aspects which they ignore.

Firstly, a fundamental rule of Pace [the Police and Criminal Evidence Act] is that the police must provide interviewees with duplicate tapes. If the tapes were to come with a complete ban on publication, a vital safeguard would be destroyed. Usually, there would be nothing to prevent the individual from recounting the interview at a later date. If the interviewee died, it would make no material difference except that his rights to the tapes would pass to his estate.

In the event of the interviewee dying in suspicious circumstances during the interview, or at least while in custody, your columns would be full of questions about the nature of the questioning if publication of the tapes were lawfully prevented.

Secondly, if the material takes on a commercial value and the Official Solicitor ignores it, no doubt any innocent defendants, whose financial interests he is there to protect, would have a right of action against him and they, too, might be calling for his removal from office.

Perhaps we may all take some comfort from the fact that we do have sub judice rules which at least protect us from some of the travesties of justice transmitted to us from across the Atlantic.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher Witts

Malmesbury, Wiltshire

23 October