Rebecca has been found guilty in the court of public opinion. She has had her life turned upside down, and she has a lot of work ahead of her to rebuild her life. I wish her all the best.
This case demonstrates how careful we police officers have to be when arresting someone. For most police officers, an arrest is a daily occurrence. The general approach is that if we have reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed, we will arrest the suspect to prevent the investigation being hampered by loss or disruption of evidence, or disappearance of the suspect, and to allow a prompt and effective investigation of the offence and conduct of the person (SOCPA '05 s110(1)(5)...there are other criteria).
|This pic satisfies two of my favourite|
pastimes; annoying law peeps, and cats that think
they do jobs
- Do i really need to arrest this person? or can we arrest by appointment once we have investigated in more detail.
- How likely are they to do a runner? we must not presume everyone is going to run. We should only arrest to prevent disappearance when there is positive evidence that the person is likely to do that.
- Have we secured all the evidence we require?
- If not, how possible or likely is it that the suspect will tamper with it? again, we must not take the view that our suspects are by default going to tamper with evidence. Where there is positive evidence to suggest they will, then the arrest is necessary on grounds of evidence loss.
- Can we secure a prompt and effective investigation in a less invasive manner? It can be quicker for everyone involved to arrest the suspect. The process may be quicker for both the police and the suspect, but speed shouldn't always be our goal...our goal should be minimising the effect on those who are innocent until proven guilty. In some cases i would much rather see slower investigations that have less impact on the suspect.
The police service is unlike no other. When mistakes are made, we learn from them. Rebecca Leighton's case needs to be subject to an internal enquiry, because i do believe that long established police and CPs procedures have let her down.
Update: I realise i didn't go into the issue of pre-trial press disclosure as i wanted to focus on the necessity criteria. Pre-trial press disclosure is something that will have to be legislated for, but necessity criteria interpretation is a culture that can be changed through training. I think a combination of the two is what we need.