Byline: KEN ROBINSON
THE tragic and senseless murder of Tim Robinson, my son, contributed to unprecedented public outrage at the number of muggings, mobile phone thefts and car-jackings which have made daily life unsafe in London and throughout Britain.
As the Government responded with the Safer Streets campaign, friends ventured that this belated action to put more police on the beat was the answer to the problem.
After the past nine months of learning more, I know the problem is much wider. There are many hurdles that prevent the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts from catching and convicting criminals.
Excessive concern for human rights, political correctness and hypersensitivity over ethnic minorities has produced a mass of complex laws, rules and codes of practice. In the aftermath of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, police are expected to go softly on "stop and search" activities, constrained by new rules devised so as not to alienate communities.
Suspects cannot generally be confronted without specific information even if they are known offenders.
Lawlessness is liberated. At what stage are the human rights of the whole community threatened by timid procedures and over-sensitivity about potential troublemakers?
Legal aid should, I feel, be provided only to prove the truth of a defendant's statements and possible involvement in a crime. Yet often defence lawyers frustrate the very purpose of justice by using the complex rules and a variety of tricks to protect their client, lining their own pockets in the process. Civil libertarians resisted police powers to detain and question suspects for 24 or 36 hours.
These powers should have helped, but the complex regulations can be used to free guilty clients by preventing enough time for adequate investigation and questioning.
The time limit starts when a suspect is apprehended, but three or four hours will usually pass before they are at the appropriate police station, the paperwork is done and the process begins in earnest.
Then the suspect asks for legal representation, which may take several hours to arrive if it suits the solicitor's purpose.
The suspect then consults, has statutory breaks and sleep periods, and police questioning may be stopped by demands that the client must be spoken to privately, or is tired, or ill.
Time often runs out and the suspect has to be freed. Should not all the time police are pretovented from questioning the detainee be excluded from the time limit?
Visual identification of suspects is often difficult to prove. Identity parades are costly and difficult to manage. Solicitors often object to the similar individuals assembled for the parade. They may even use spoiling tactics, such as confronting witnesses with the suspect. We are paying for such abuses of legal aid.
EVIDENCE is essential for all convictions, and often this is crucially dependent on witnesses. In Tim's case, his murderer and accomplice both had a long string of previous convictions; yet these were only the tip of the iceberg of their criminal activities. The police simply did not previously have enough evidence to convict them on many suspected offences.
Coming forward as a witness is a duty, but more recognition must be given to how thankless, worrying and disruptive this can be, even the fear of retribution in more serious cases. …