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Police Interrogations (Mentally Handicapped Persons)

Volume 887: debated on Thursday 6 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied about the admissibility before the courts of statements made by mentally handicapped adults and children during police interrogation.

We have no reason to think that the law of evidence is unsatisfactory in this respect.

That is a very disappointing answer. Is not my hon. Friend aware that ever since the Timothy Evans case there have been some disquieting cases of this kind, including the Confait case, which involved one of my constituents and which my hon. Friend is now considering? Is he aware that in recent years judges have been using their discretion to exclude evidence less and less? Will he seek to smile upon the Bill which I introduced into Parliament yesterday, provided that suitable adjustments are made to it?

I always do my best to smile on any representations which my hon. Friend makes to me, including that which he has mentioned. All I can say about his concern over this aspect of the law of evidence is that he has pointed to the protection which already exists, namely that the judge can exclude evidence or a confession which he thinks has not been acquired voluntarily. However, I do not think that it is necessary to extend the range of the law of evidence at present.