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Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for raising the matter in this amendment. The thrust of his amendment is entirely acceptable to the Government. Indeed, we are very grateful to him for bringing it forward. I can be brief in reply because the noble and learned Lord explained the genesis of the judicial examination procedure and pointed out that it was designed, for example, to elicit alibis or give an opportunity to the accused to put forward an alibi. Obviously, it must have been envisaged that that should be investigated. For my part, I accept that that is entirely right.

The noble and learned Lord mentioned a particular case—and there are probably others—where what I would regard as the appropriate duty has not been fulfilled. It is entirely helpful in working out the system of judicial examination that the quid pro quo, so to speak, on the part of the procurator fiscal should be put on the face of the statute. So I am entirely happy in following the general thrust of the amendment. It seems to me that, as the noble and learned Lord envisaged, it might very well be a provision which would show to the accused person the advantage of taking that opportunity to put forward at an early stage an alibi which could be investigated and as a result the charge might be withdrawn. That, of course, would not always be so.

I do not feel able to accept the full detail of the provision as regards the duty which is envisaged on the part of the prosecutor to disclose in all cases the full results of the investigation. I should want to look a little more closely at that matter. I fully accept that, if the investigation discovers evidence or material that may be of assistance to the accused, the procurator fiscal should consider himself—he should already do so—under a duty to make such evidence or material known to the defence. Procurators fiscal are given general instructions to that effect.

There may be cases where no evidence is found or where in revealing a particular matter—for example, the fact that supposed witnesses in support of the alibi had indicated that they had been put under pressure by the accused—danger to witnesses might result if the full nature of the investigation were revealed. I feel that a blanket duty of this kind would not be acceptable.

However, as I said, I am entirely happy with the general thrust. If the noble and learned Lord is prepared to withdraw his amendment on this occasion I shall undertake in due course to bring forward an amendment along similar lines when we have had a further chance to examine the matter.

Lord McCluskey: I am happy to accept the reply of the Lord Advocate on that point. I am conscious of the fact that when I put in the final part of the sentence,

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I was going too far. In Scotland we do not want to end up with the situation where "statutory" means that a solemn duty is laid upon the Lord Advocate or his staff to disclose everything that an investigation reveals.

It is difficult to draw a line, particularly in a statute. Where we can avoid the need for that in Scotland lies in the fact that it is the tradition for the Lord Advocate, the Crown Office, to act as Ministers of justice. I believe that we will be able to found upon that. The Lord Advocate may consider couching his amendment in terms of a duty on the procurator fiscal to disclose such results of the investigation as appear to him to be reasonable and proper in all the circumstances. I have no doubt that some such formulation would meet my concerns. I am happy that the Government are willing in principle to accept the point and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 20:

Before Clause 11, insert the following new clause:

("Video recording of police Interviews with suspects

.—(1) In any solemn criminal proceedings there shall, where practicable, be available to the defence and to the prosecution, a video record of the police interviews with the accused.
(2) The video record shall be—
(a) recorded on standard equipment approved for the purpose; and
(b) sealed by two officers upon completion of the interviews and signed by the same two officers who declare that the video record has not been damaged or tampered with.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 20 seeks to bring into focus the question of the tape recording of suspects or accused persons in police stations. It is tabled bearing in mind that in 1988 an experiment began on tape recording—not video recording—in police stations. The Criminal Justice Act 1980 allowed the police to detain people for up to six hours while they were being questioned. However, the second report of the Thomson Committee said that interrogation of suspects in police stations must be recorded on tape. I do not know how far that experiment has gone. The last figures with which I was provided were that in 1991-92 the procurator fiscal received 15,060 tapes from the police. That is a mere fraction of the reported cases, which numbered nearly 900,000 in 1991, and it was supposed to be a rolling programme of recording interviews of suspects in police custody.

The then Secretary of State for Scotland, Malcolm Rifkind, said at that time in 1980,

    "The Government's view quite firmly and quite clearly is that, if the tape recording experiments which are presently being conducted in Dundee and Falkirk are shown to produce no insuperable difficulties, it is our firm intention to implement these proposals at the earliest opportunity".

He went on to say that he did not see the question of resources as being of any significance in implementing the question of tape recording. That was in 1980 and refers to sound tape recording. The amendment seeks to obtain information from the Government as to what facilities are available in police stations throughout

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Scotland to interview people on video tape in serious cases. I am informed that out of 569 police stations in Scotland—on the question of sound tape recording pure and simple—only 129 stations actually possessed the facility to record an interview between the police and the suspect.

Amendment No. 20 is in the nature of a probing amendment to ask the Government—I do not expect an instant answer this evening but certainly between now and the Report stage of the Bill—to inform the Chamber of the state of play in relation to the question of facilities, first, for sound tape recording and, secondly, for video tape recording within police stations in Scotland. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour: If the Government are seriously considering this amendment, perhaps I can once again make a small appeal. I ask that clauses covering roughly the same subject be put together. Amendment No. 20, introducing this clause, should perhaps be attached to Clause 20, which deals with video surveillance and recordings.

While I am on my feet perhaps I can ask whether, with today's advances in technology, in the case of a police interview about which the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, spoke, we are necessarily using the right word. I may be entirely wrong, but there is also the question of cassettes with audio recordings as well as video recordings, which is vision recording. That should perhaps be considered in the legislation. I know that I am on dangerous ground and I am not awfully well up on these subjects. However, that is what I wanted to say.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: To whichever matter one attaches Amendment No. 20, it is clearly a probing amendment. Though I cannot give the noble Lord the detail for which he asks in relation to the numbers of police stations and so forth, I am happy to write to him between now and Report. However, Members of the Committee who are involved in criminal trials will be aware, certainly in solemn procedure, that it has become very much the case that tape recordings are available of police interviews. They are extremely helpful in eliminating from trials much sterile discussion which used to take place as to what was or was not said at the time of an interview. That has been generally beneficial to the conduct of prosecutions and the interests of justice in Scotland.

It is of course the case that not all police stations possess such recording facilities; it is not necessary that all should. However, it is necessary that equipment should be available in various areas of the country where it can be used conveniently.

With regard to video recording, in one sense that seems to be the logical development, and the position is that technology has now advanced sufficiently to allow for interviews to be recorded on video cassettes. They provide a further benefit in that they may portray the demeanour of the suspect and the interviewers. To that extent they allow a clearer assessment to be made of the fairness of the interviews.

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The use of video recording equipment at such interviews is a recent development. A pilot exercise was carried out in one Scottish police force over a period of six months. The conclusions from that exercise—it was a limited one—suggested that video recording provided additional safeguards, both to the suspect and to the police. It also had one further benefit; that is, it helped senior officers to see how the interviewers conducted the questioning and so forth, enabling them to help improve standards in that way. Where video recordings have been made, and where they are to be used, they have been made available to the defence and the prosecution.

As far as we can see, there is no need to put any arrangements on a statutory basis. We think that we should examine further, in the light of the experience so far, what the benefits would be of the wider use of video recording. For that reason we envisage that we may wish to commission a wider investigation than has been possible so far to assess exactly the value of the benefits obtained from the use of video recording.

I therefore say to the noble Lord that I shall write to him with the details. I can assure him that the matter of the possible introduction of video recording is one which is being considered.

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