KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – A proposed new law Parliament sent to a Select Committee last week, if enacted, will allow police to record their interviews of persons suspected of committing serious criminal offences.
The Interviewing of Suspects for Serious Crimes Act, 2012 is expected to tie up loopholes that skilful lawyers used to help accused person evade convictions, according to Minister of Legal Affair, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, a lawyer.
“After they (suspects) have had their caution, you videotape and audiotape them,” Gonsalves said at a press briefing on Monday.
He said that with recorded interviews of suspects, accused persons and cops would be protected against each party accusing the other of attributing to each other what the respective party did not say or denying having said what was actually said.
“So it’s a good balance. And we have a lot of safeguards in it,” he said.
Gonsalves also defended himself against persons who accused him of being a dictator when his government recalled the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in 2006. “I said ‘but I am not taking away any fundamental rights from anybody. I’m just trying to make sure the law is streamlined.’”
He added that the new law would make this country the first in the Caribbean to electronically record interview of suspects. According to him, Daniel Sutor, the British consultant on the new law, says that such provision do not exist even in the United Kingdom.
“And I always told persons don’t pay attention to these individuals who running up and down, getting on as though the world is going to come to an end, [saying] rights are going to be abrogated. Nothing like that has happened.
“We’re just trying to streamline the situation to make sure that some people don’t use a set of high technicality, where there is confusion, to spring people but to set a process in chain where we can now do these interviews.”
Gonsalves said that police officers would be trained properly to use the new equipment but added that not every police station would have fitted with it.
“You are going to have [cameras] in the roof of the building, 360 degrees, so that everybody inside of the room, you would be able to pick up as you are doing the recording.”
He said the new law would make specific provisions to allow the acceptance of video and audio evidence in court.