Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Terror Cases 'Put at Risk' by Met's Medical Overhaul

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Terror Cases 'Put at Risk' by Met's Medical Overhaul

Article excerpt

Byline: MARTIN BENTHAM

THE prosecution of terror suspects and hundreds of other alleged criminals could be undermined because of Met changes to the medical care provided for detainees, the Government's terrorism watchdog warned today.

Lord Carlile of Berriew, the independent monitor of counter-terrorism legislation, said he feared the reforms could lead to vital evidence being ruled inadmissible in court and damage the police's ability to question suspects properly.

He also warned that the overhaul which is being opposed by the majority of the Met's existing doctors could harm the treatment of detainees and also result in worse care for crime victims and injured police officers.

Medical experts also hit out, accusing the Met of "losing its marbles", and claimed the changes, which are due to come into effect next week, would bring "chaos" and leave police stations without adequate healthcare provision.

The row centres on a decision by the Met to introduce a new contract for about 150 "forensic medical examiners", who currently carry out health checks on detainees brought into custody to ensure that they are fit to be questioned.

The Met, which insists that it will continue to have fully trained medical examiners available wherever necessary, is aiming to ensure that the doctors are deployed more effectively.

The doctors, who are currently independent rather than direct employees of the Met, warn, however, that the new contract will undermine their autonomy and give police unacceptable control over their activities, as well as potential widespread access to patients' medical details.

They also fear that the reforms could jeopardise the ability of the doctors to give independent evidence in court and to certify that a detainee had not been subject to physical or mental duress during arrest or interview.

Up to three-quarters of the existing examiners, who are specially trained to assess detainees, have refused to sign and will stop working from next week. …

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