Evidence based

PUBLISHED: 14:36 10 January 2008 | UPDATED: 12:45 06 May 2010

SIR, — Having read Mr Johnny Burrow s letter (Herts Advertiser, December 27) I again feel obliged to respond. I must first state that I am not seeking to defend the police complaints system which Mr Burrows chose to attack in his first letter. He made som

SIR, - Having read Mr Johnny Burrow's letter (Herts Advertiser, December 27) I again feel obliged to respond.

I must first state that I am not seeking to defend the police complaints system which Mr Burrows chose to attack in his first letter. He made some serious allegations against the police who investigate their colleagues namely:

1.) That they "pressured" complainants into retracting their complaints.

2.) They lie to complainants by promising to deal with the matter internally without any intention to do so or by misrepresenting the likely outcome.

I merely asked Mr Burrows, who accused the police of "institutional bias", to provide your readers with some evidence to support his accusations.

I was therefore surprised to read his response which contains no evidence of this practice taking place on the scale he was suggesting. He merely hypothesises as in his first letter as to the possible reasons for the high amount of unsubstantiated complaints (90 per cent). His first letter even includes the words "in my view" before he goes on to denigrate the practices of the police complaints department.

I don't have the evidence to answer this question any more than Mr Burrows appears to have but I don't necessarily claim my opinions are factual or evidential.

Having said that I would like to venture an opinion if I may: To support a complaint against police, one would need some supporting evidence - perhaps most complaints are as weak in this regard as Mr Burrow's argument.

I would also like to address some further inaccuracies in his second letter:

Mr Burrows is incorrect when he states nobody would know if a police officer had complaints against him. Every time a police officer is involved in a prosecution there is a statutory obligation (CPIA 1996) for the prosecution to pass on to the defence this information if it "undermines the prosecution" or "assists the defence"; furthermore an officer can be questioned about this under oath.

On his other point, acquittals are not passed on to prospective employers. Mr Burrows appears not to like the idea that police would keep details of historic (unsuccessful) prosecutions. I can give one example of where a man who had been acquitted of five previous rape allegations had this information used against him in a sixth prosecution when he tried to run the same defence again.

The present Government has recognised the importance of introducing "relevant information" held by the police into criminal prosecutions. This is through several "gateways" as defined in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. This has encouraged defendants to plead guilty rather than opt for trial - at great public expense - as they cannot pretend anymore to be "angels" to their peers.

For example would Mr Burrows like the police to expunge all information concerning those "acquitted" in the private prosecution of the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence? You know, I don't think even he would.

JOHN HUTCHINSON,

Willow Crescent, St Albans.

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