Criminal Procedure Code: Tilting the law in their own favour

Some of the proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) make me wonder just how far this government will go to tilt the playing field in their own favour, even when it means compromising on the fundamental rights that people in many other developed countries enjoy.

Some of the proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) make me wonder just how far this government will go to tilt the playing field in their own favour, even when it means compromising on the fundamental rights that people in many other developed countries enjoy. The CPC is the law which governs how the police should handle persons accused of crimes, among other things.

Clause 258 of the new CPC allows for statements from accused persons to be admitted as evidence in court even if the accused was not told that he was not obliged to make the statement, that the statements could be used against him, or if the recording officer did not fully comply with the rules governing the way statements are collected.

In the US, police officers are obliged to issue the Miranda warning when they arrest suspects and before they are interrogated. The Miranda warning will be familiar to many who watch a lot of American TV. It reads: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you…”

Clause 258 renders it completely unnecessary for our police to inform suspects of such rights. As far as the government is concerned, they only need to show that the statement from the accused was not made as the result of a threat, inducement or promise. However they have turned down proposals to videotape all interrogations, despite the ease of doing so with today’s digital technology.

It is amazing that the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) could baldly say that “there’s no incentive for police officers to practise deception”. How did they reach the conclusion that there wouldn’t be such an incentive, when everything is our system is skewed towards securing fast convictions? MinLaw’s argument is that we have “one of the most highly admired police forces in the world”! That is truly a non sequitur argument — it just doesn’t follow.

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Shoddy interrogation methods

I am very concerned about reports that a police officer interrogating a murder suspect suggested scenarios to the accused about how he allegedly murdered his wife.

When the accused lawyer asked him why he was then able to provide details of the alleged murder in his police statements, the accused said the investigating officer had asked him “would it have happened this way or would it have happened that way?” when he could not answer her questions.

“I told her between the two, this looks okay, you can take this, and I wanted to be out of the place as soon as possible because of the coldness,” said the accused.

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