Criminal defence practitioners have branded police plans to use body cameras to interview suspects at crime scenes as a ‘cost-cutting exercise too far’.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for body-worn video, chief constable Andy Marsh, said on its website that the Home Office had agreed in principle to allow the council to pilot the use of body cameras to interview suspects of certain offences in places other than police stations.
‘I think this will lead to swifter, fairer and, more importantly, cheaper justice,’ Marsh said.
However, Zoe Gascoyne, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, said the move ‘should be opposed by all’ as it was one step towards ‘stripping the public of their basic rights and is a cost-cutting exercise too far’.
Where police officers suspected an offence had been committed, Gascoyne said it was ‘essential’ they gathered evidence prior to conducting any interview.
‘It is also essential that the suspect is given their legal rights and offered advice from a solicitor,’ she said.
‘Even with the most minor offences there may be issues which aren’t evident at the scene which make a body-cam interview totally inappropriate.’
Issues include any sort of condition that may necessitate the requirement for an appropriate adult, Gascoyne said.
A spokesperson for the NPCC told the Gazette the pilot was an ‘agreement in principle’ and that further details had not been agreed.
Gascoyne said: ‘At a time when the criminal justice system has been cut to the bone, to suggest that “cheaper justice” is more important than conducting a fair and proper investigation is worrying.’