Letter: Wrong toremove this right

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I AM surprised that Alan Watkins, with his legal qualifications, should appear tohave nodded over the right to silence (10 October).

Mr Howard is not proposing to abolish it - he can't. He intends to allow the prosecution and the judge to draw attention to failure to reply to questions asked by the police. At present, only about 6 per cent of those arrested do not respond to questioning - and of them, two-thirds are convicted in any event.

So, the first point is that changing the rules will make little or no difference to the numbers convicted - rightly or not is, unfortunately, another matter these days - contrary to what the Home Secretary pretends for political purposes.

Second, the change is still a violation of an importantprinciple, and is in practice just as likely to lead to an increase of police pressure on suspects, as it will be easier to try and extract a confession from a bird in the hand than to ensure that the right bird has been taken from the bush.

What would bereasonable is to require the defence to disclose in good time an outline of the case they propose to put. But that should only happen after the accused has received proper legal advice.

Nothing will be achieved by imposing the new presumption that 'the innocent have nothing to hide' in the immediate aftermath of arrest.

Harvey R Cole

Winchester

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