Thames Valley Police are trialling a ‘no interview’ scheme where suspected shoplifters are charged if video of them is available
Image - Police Officer in Control Room
A police force has stopped questioning suspected thieves if it has CCTV footage of their alleged crime in a new cost-cutting measure
The force tested out the policy in Abingdon, in Oxfordshire, and it resulted in 35 people being charged, The Mail on Sunday reported after seeing internal documents. A police report said: ‘The Abingdon custody “no interview” trial has now been rolled out across the force with the successes of the original scheme being reproduced, in time savings and positive outcomes.’ Another police study added the scheme did not have a detrimental effect on successful prosecutions and the early guilty plea rate was good.
But some lawyers were concerned the policy could contravene police procedure laws and possibly jeopardise prosecutions. Barrister Simon McKay said: ‘The interview is an opportunity for the police to identify reasonable lines of inquiry, including those that may point away from the suspect – a critical aspect of the investigation of crime and a valuable safeguard for those accused of crime. In the wake of a series of near-misses, a policy of this nature undermines the spirit of the disclosure regime and is an affront to principles of a fair trial enshrined in English and European human rights law.’
Thames Valley Police defended the scheme, which reportedly saved them £2,310 so far, and said it was perfectly legal. A spokesperson said: ‘The Abingdon Custody Pilot is linked in with Op Retail which is our approach to shoplifting. ‘In order to enable officers to move straight to charge a suspect rather than arrest and interview there is a very clear set of criteria that need to be met.
The key one being overwhelming evidence, so for example CCTV evidence of sufficient detail and quality. ‘If all of the criteria are met the officer can charge, and produce a file for court. ‘This approach is being adopted by our other custody suites but is limited to shoplifting offences.’ Thames Valley Police, which operates in Theresa May’s Maidenhead constituency, was forced to cut £99 million from its budget in the past eight years. The austerity will continue until at least 2020, with the force hoping save another £14m.
Published 5th February 2018
Last updated 5th February 2018