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Criminal practices


The police in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are taught to use the Judges’ Rules as a guide when collecting and presenting evidence in criminal matters. These rules originated in England and were produced by the Lord Chief Justice on the request of the Chief Constable of Birmingham. They were superseded by Code C of PACE to make criminal practices more efficient in England. With the abolition of PACE, the police are required to find the guidance of sections 76 and 78 of PACE from the Common Law. However, the Evidence Act (Cap.158) and the Police Act (Cap. 280) provide some guidance for police work.{{more}}

What are the Judges’ Rules?

According to Lord Goddard C.J. in Reg. v May (1952) Cr. App. R. 91 and 93 “there are certain rules known as the Judges’ Rules which are not rules of law but rules of practice drawn up for the guidance of police officers; and if a statement has been made in circumstances not in accordance with the Rules, in law that statement is not made in admissible if it is a voluntary statement, although in its discretion the court can always refuse to admit it if the court thinks there has been a breach of the Rules.” The Judges rules do not have the force of law but there must be strict compliance. Non observance could cause valuable evidence to be discarded.

These Rules have as their object to assist the officer “to understand and appreciate the rules governing the gathering of evidence and to ensure that the officer is technically sound in presenting the evidence obtained”. The Judges’ Rules consist of five principles, six rules and seven directions. Of importance are the duties to inform a person of his rights to an attorney and to caution the person if that person appears to be a person of interest in the matter.

The Police Act (Cap. 280)

This Act deals with and among other things the issue of questioning (Section 86 of Booklet 1, Cap 280 of the Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) is captioned “Questioning prisoners”. Asking relevant questions is an important aspect of police work. The police must be able to extract the truth without violating the rights of the person under investigation.

According to section 86 (1) “when a member of the Force is endeavouring to discover the author of a crime, there is no objection to his putting questions in respect thereof to any person or persons, whether suspected or not, from whom he thinks useful information may be obtained”. Subsection (2) requires him/ her to caution such person before asking any questions or any further questions as the case may if he makes up his mind to charge a person with a crime. The caution administered is spelt out in the law as follows: “Do you wish to say anything in answer to the charge? You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence “. Unlike Code C it does not have the warning about silence or refusal to speak.

Sub-section (7) requires the statement to be taken down in writing and signed by the person making it after it has been read to him and he has been invited to make any corrections he may wish. The statement shall also be certified and signed by the person who writes down the information

In concluding, even though the trial court and the Privy Council, applying different guidelines, concluded that the confessions in Thompson v the Queen were admissible, rules similar to Code C that are relevant to our situation, could enhance the work of police investigations.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]