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High Court sets limits on the use of police interview working tapes

On 3rd March 2016 the High Court ruled that police interview tapes of persons detained under the Terrorism Act can only be used in certain circumstances: for criminal or civil proceedings and for the purpose of investigating a complaint of ill treatment in relation to the interview itself.  The tapes cannot be used to progress other cases or to inform future investigations.

The applicant, Conal Corbitt was arrested on 7th May 2015 in connection with the discovery of a bomb hidden at the junction of Brompton Park and Crumlin Road.  Following his detention under the Terrorism Act he refused to answer any questions during interview by police.  Further to a request made by his solicitor, the PSNI refused to give an undertaking that the applicant’s voice during interview would not be used in any other investigations.  The applicant continued to remain silent at interview and was charged with offences under the Terrorism Act 2000.

He judicially reviewed the decision seeking a declaration that the PSNI’s policy of recording and retaining suspects’ voices was unlawful.  The challenge related to the code of practice about audio recordings of those detained under the Terrorism Act.

The Lord Chief Justice stated that, ‘The body of the Code of Practice is silent on the extent of the use of the working tape which can be made by police.  The context set by the provisions on tape destruction point towards the working copy only being used for matters connected to the investigation in respect of which the interview was conducted.  That interpretation also guards against arbitrary use.’

You may access the case summary here and a report from the Belfast Telegraph here.

Criminal Law, Northern Ireland High Court