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Police Interviews (Tape Recording)

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 6 February 1980

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4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the progress of the trial use of tape recorders in police stations in Scotland.

The experiment has begun. Police officers are being trained on the equipment provided. Necessary building alterations to police stations have almost been completed, and guidelines have been drawn up for the conduct and monitoring of the experiment. The recording of actual interrogations of suspects will commence shortly.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. However, in view of the importance that the Thompson committee gave to the linking of proposed police powers of detention with the tape-recording of any proceedings within police stations, before this House considers the criminal justice Bill will some sort of report be laid before Parliament so that hon. Members can assess how important it is to have these matters tape-recorded?

We shall certainly try to give such information as it becomes available on the success of the experiment. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the implementation of tape-recording, if the experiment proves successful, will not require legislation. Therefore, it is not absolutely essential that it be included in the Bill.

Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will not implement the increased police powers of detention, and the interrogation that would follow from them, until tape-recording in police stations is available? Will he recall that in connection with that, the present Solicitor-General for Scotland, then acting on the Opposition Front Bench on the previous Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, gave some favourable notice to the suggestion that that part of the new Bill, if and when it becomes law, should not be implemented until tape-recording is available?

We are also anxious to see whether these tape-recording experiments will work, but I cannot give that particular assurance to the hon. Gentleman. The question of detention and the question of tape-recording are two separate issues. We shall consider each on its own merits. We hope that both will be implemented if the experiment proves to be a success.