The Home Office has begun a consultation looking at whether to extend regulations permitting the use of police body cameras to include video recording of suspects when conducting interviews away from a police station. This would allow interviews to be held at crime scenes.
Body cameras: a brief history
Body cameras worn by police officers are a relatively new innovation to frontline policing and are used to capture evidence. Although years of trials preceded their introduction, they have been in mainstream use only since 2016. Introduced with the aim of securing speedier justice for victims of crime, their use is hedged with rules and restrictions.
The reason for the proposed changes
The thinking behind the consultation stems from the need to utilise police officers more efficiently. Effectively, this means ensuring they can spend as much time on frontline police duties as needed. Permitting the interviewing of suspects at crime scenes is thought likely to reduce the time and expense of unnecessary travel to and from police stations, which in large areas of the country are increasingly widely spaced.
Body cameras: activation and use
A body worn camera is worn on the front of an officer’s uniform. It is activated manually, with a red light showing when it is in operation. Officers activating their devices are also obliged to inform members of the public as soon as this is practical. Once back in its charging station at the police station, any footage uploads automatically onto a secure police server, with footage deleted after 31 days if officers do not submit a formal request to retain it for evidential purposes. At the end of 2017, it is estimated that police forces in England and Wales will have deployed 60,000 body-worn cameras, which are available from manufacturers such as www.pinnacleresponse.com.
Protecting suspects’ rights
Suspects’ rights when being arrested or questioned by the police are set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
The proposed regulations now under consultation aim to ensure the continued protection of suspects’ rights; for example, all interviews with suspects will have to be recorded only when a working audio device is in place. Furthermore, the new regulations introduce greater clarity around when a suspect requires the presence of an appropriate adult for independent support, and also when a solicitor must be present.