HC Deb 02 February 1998 vol 305 c716
15. Mr. Hanson

If he will ensure that revised guidelines are issued to police forces with regard to the retention of vehicle evidence in car accident investigations.[24626]

Mr. Michael

The Home Office issued general guidance to forces on the disclosure provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, which includes the length of time material obtained in a criminal investigation should be retained. The retention of vehicle evidence is an operational matter, but we are discussing with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service the implications of recent court decisions, including the Regina v. Beckford judgment on the retention of vehicle evidence.

Mr. Hanson

Is my hon. Friend aware of the tragic case of my constituent Sarah Burton? She was killed in a car crash and the case went to court, but it collapsed because the police had destroyed the car that was needed in evidence. Although it is an operational matter for chief police officers, will my hon. Friend ensure that they introduce guidelines to ensure that cases such as Regina v. Beckford, and Sarah Burton, do not happen again?

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend has brought an important matter to the House. Indeed, it is partly as a result of a letter that he wrote to me that we have decided to look afresh at the issue. As he rightly said, these are operational decisions for chief constables, but we need to consider the implications. That is why we are discussing the matter with ACPO and the CPS.