Justice needs to be seen to be done
The truth of the situation appears to be coming out of the woodwork. The police were asked for how many days they would like to have pre-charge and they said "up to 90". Blair then picked on this as a totem with which to batter the opposition.
The real problem is that it is the wrong question
. The right question is what changes should be made to the criminal justice system be that legislation or guidelines to deal with maintaining both justice and security.
I have been working on this with people in Birmingham and went to a meeting with Andy Hayman of the Met. The basic point is that someone should be charged as soon as possible on an evidenced basis then remanded into custody.
Following discussion with senior police officers in London and Birmingham as well as lawyers it appears that the issues are as follows.
- There is a question as to what the standard of proof for charging is. It is not thought by the police that there is an issue here.
- There is a question as to the standard of proof for remanding into custody. There does not appear to be an issue here.
- At the moment intercept evidence cannot be used. There could be changes made to home office guidance to facilitate this, but it would have to have a lower evidential value as there could not be a facility to chase the links to it.
- A different caution is used pre-charge and post charge. The post charge one does not include the element which is "But it may harm your defence if you do not mention now something which you later rely on in court" Changing this should not be an issue. It appears to be an issue for the police.
- The PACE code may need to be modified slightly to facilitate post-charge interview, which is already allowed.
- There needs to be more forensic capacity.
None of the above areas for potential change cause substantial difficulties with civil liberties, but they do increase the number of tools in the police toolkit.
The error the government made was to ignore the need for justice to be seen to be done as well as done.