HC Deb 02 April 1987 vol 113 cc1199-200
1. Mr. Michael Forsyth

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what impact he expects the tape recordings of police interviews with suspects to have on the efficiency of the police; and whether he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

Experience of two years of field trials suggests that tape recording will offer a number of benefits to the police. These include savings in police time through a reduction in the average length of interviews with suspects and a reduction in the number of occasions on which police evidence is called into question in the courts. It was also noted that during the field trials the number of confessions obtained was larger for taped cases than for untaped cases. The intention is now to introduce tape recording nationwide, with complete national coverage by 1991.

Mr. Forsyth

Will my hon. Friend confirm that resources will be made available to the police to provide the necessary interview rooms and to meet the requirements of extra transcribing staff, and so on? Will he also confirm that the number of pleas of guilty has increased in the areas in which the project has been monitored?

Mr. Hogg

A total budget of £7 million has been allocated in grant-aid, to be spread over five years between 1986 and 1991. The present evidence— it relates to justices' courts—is that pleas of guilty have increased by 2 per cent.

Mr. Lawrence

Is my hon. Friend aware that all practitioners at the criminal Bar would congratulate the Government on taking this important step for the improvement of justice? It will greatly assist justice in two ways. First, it will speed criminal trials and make sure that waiting lists are shorter. Secondly, it will substantially improve the morale of the police, who will no longer be subjected to cross-examination on the allegation that they are dishonest, when they are not.

Mr. Hogg

My hon. and learned Friend is right in all that he said. We have noticed that there is a substantial reduction in the length of trials, due at least in part to the fact that police interview evidence is not challenged as much as it used to be when untaped evidence was available.