The Tools of the Trade

Every occupation has its tools of the trade and these are the ones used by the police. If they haven’t got the powers they need then they have always been very good at falling back on bluff.

Background

The history of police powers to stop, search and arrest is like a potted history of social development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Before the nineteenth century London was the only large city in England; most of the population lived in small towns and villages.  Everyone knew everyone else and strangers stood out, automatically raising suspicions if they were poor.  Every subject had a duty under the common law to join in the ‘hue and cry’.  Powers to detain were very limited, much more a matter of might than right; the only real constraint was the law of habeas corpus, the requirement that anyone detaining someone else had to justify it to a judge if called upon to do so, a core concept of English law but at the time really only available to the wealthy or the well connected.

Things began to change in the nineteenth century. Britain had been more or less continually at war with France until 1815.  After every major war there was always the serious problem of dealing with the soldiers and sailors, many mutilated or crippled, who had been summarily discharged back into the community, usually flooding the labour market at a time of low demand.  The Napoleonic Wars were no exception to this and in the 1820s England was infested with ‘rogues and vagabonds’ wandering the countryside, surviving by begging and stealing.  The Vagrancy Act 1824, a very early example of ‘nimbyism’, gave local constables and magistrates extensive powers to ensure that these poor souls moved on to someone else’s patch (and Poor Law provision) on pain of being arrested and locked up.  Then came the establishment of the Metropolitan Police in 1829.  That force was given what were seen as extensive powers to stop, search and arrest under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.  The combination of the Vagrancy Act and this Act gave rise to the notorious ’sus’ issues of the 1970s and 1980s; the Metropolitan Police Act gave police powers to stop and search persons reasonably suspected of carrying stolen goods and the Vagrancy Act created the offence of ‘being a suspected person loitering to commit a felony [later ‘an arrestable offence’]’, one of the very few provisions in English law where the suspected intention to commit a crime, evidenced by an act that was less than an attempt, was enough to create criminal liability.

For any crime writer who would like to consider mixing the genre with history this is an era well worth considering. Society was in the midst of massive change as it became industrialized and urbanized.  The ruling classes were still worried that the effects of the two revolutions, the American and French, would spread to Britain, a fear compounded by the demands of the Chartists for democratic reform.  There was no standing army and the imposition of order depended on an unreliable mixture of the magistracy, such local government as existed, the local militia were imprisoned for failing to put down a mob which went on to burn out a large section of the city.

There were more firearms and deadly weapons around than today. The war had led to large amounts being manufactured and every gentleman, and many who thought themselves such, felt entitled to carry a sword and a pistol, especially when travelling.  Such police as existed outside London would be armed with pistol and cutlass as a matter of routine, especially if patrolling at night; and of course, in the absence of any professional detectives (the CID was not properly established in the Met until the 1860s), there was more scope for amateurs to become legitimately involved in crime detection.

As the nineteenth century progressed Britain rapidly changed from being a rural, quasi-feudal society into an urbanized, industrial one. The social and legislative developments ran in parallel with that change.  By the 1980s every community had its own police force (albeit of very variable quality) and much of the criminal common law had been codified into statute.  In the course of doing this each Act created its own particular police powers of stop, search and arrest.  When I joined the police in 1970 the state of the law was such that a major part of police training was the rote learning of a whole compendium of powers, each with its own particular limitations.  A power of arrest for ‘misdemeanours’, for example, could only be used between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and a multiplicity of powers of arrest could only be carried out by an officer – sometimes in uniform, sometimes not – where he or she found the offender committing the offence.

In the late 1960s, Roy Jenkins, almost certainly the greatest reforming Home Secretary, set up the Law Commission to reform and codify the law. Its recommendations concerning police powers of arrest were enacted in the Criminal Law Act 1967.  This created ‘arrestable offences’ (serious offences for which you could be imprisoned for five years or more) and greatly simplified and extended police powers of arrest.  In 2005 the powers were further simplified and extended by the Serious and Organized Crime Act 2005.  The power of arrest created by this Act is such that only a very stupid or very unimaginative police officer would not be able to interpret the circumstances before him or her so as to warrant arrest.

Stop and search however remained a dog’s dinner until the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). The difficulties faced by the police are exemplified by the fact that until 1984 people could be searched for drugs and stolen goods but not for weapons, and a search warrant could be obtained for just about anything except to find a body where murder was suspected!  This latter circumstance gave rise to a comment which aptly demonstrates the attitude of both the judiciary and politicians towards the police in terms of carrying out their duties despite rather than with the assistance of the law.  In Ghanni v. Jones, a case of suspected murder where the police could not find the body and the law did not provide for a search warrant to be issued in the circumstances, Lord Denning said:

The police have to get the permission of the householder to enter if they can; or, if not, do it by stealth or by force. Somehow they seem to manage.  No decent person refuses them permission.  If he does he is probably implicated in some way or other.  So the police risk an action for trespass.  It is not much risk.

In other words it is acceptable to the police not just to find a way around the law but to actually break it provided it is for the greater good. The same situation applied until 2000 concerning bugging the houses of major criminals and terrorists where police had to commit criminal acts (damage) and civil torts (trespass) in order to get the job done simply because politicians found the issue too hot to handle.

Powers to stop and search were codified and rationalized by PACE so that in essence officers can carry out a search if they reasonably suspect that a person has articles unlawfully obtained or is carrying an offensive weapon. These powers have been massively extended by the Terrorism Acts (too many to cover in detail), where a person may be stopped and searched in any ‘designated area’ if the officer believes it is expedient in the prevention of acts of terrorism – reasonable suspicion is no longer needed.

In summary, from a writer’s point of view, police after 1984 have general powers to stop, search and arrest based on reasonable suspicion in terms of the general law and extensive powers in designated areas where acts of terrorism are anticipated after 2000. The rate of change is anti-terrorism legislation is such that anyone writing on the issue is advised to carry out specific research at the time of writing if they believe that accuracy on this point is essential to the plot.

Stop and Search

The power to stop and search on reasonable suspicion is one of the most powerful preventive and detective weapons in the police armoury. A significant number of major criminals, including the Black Panther and the Yorkshire Ripper, were detected and arrested by uniformed patrol officers using this power, initially because they ‘didn’t like the look of them’.  Today forces try to make best use of patrol by developing intelligence packages focused on target criminals.  These are people with a known criminal record the police suspect of being currently active.  Patrol officers then check them out on sight in order to identify:

  • any vehicles they are using or have access to
  • their associates
  • where they are currently living
  • current girlfriends (the targets are usually male and girlfriends / wives make excellent informants, usually for reasons of revenge)
  • whether they have money or are broke.

If a target comes into the frame in an inquiry the investigator then has a head-start on some of his movements, transport, possible informants etc.

This information used to be kept in a card index system by someone called the Collator, now the Local Intelligence Officer (LIO). Nowadays forces have computerized systems and filtration processes to ensure that the information input is verified and politically correct – entries on the card system often had much greater entertainment than intelligence value.

The use of this power leads to the ‘catch 22’ of profiling. An analysis of crimes will often lead to the conclusion that a particular section of the (usually young male) population is engaged in a particular crime (e.g. young whites in car theft, young blacks in street robbery).  The briefings to officers in these circumstances must make it clear that, as well as matching the profile, the person stopped and searched must have done something which gives the officer reasonable suspicion that he is in possession of something (Such as drugs or a weapon) illegally.  As far as terrorism is concerned the need for reasonable suspicion disappears and it is much more likely that people will be stopped, questioned and searched merely on the basis of the profile, thus further alienating the very people who may be able to provide intelligence and support.

The power to stop and search is regulated by Code of Practice A of PACE. In essence this requires that:

  • police action (other than in the case of terrorism) be based on reasonable suspicion
  • the person be treated with as much dignity as is possible in the circumstances
  • the person be given reasons for the stop before any search is carried out
  • a written record of the reasons be given when the search is completed.

This also applies to ‘field interrogations’ – stop and question – although both the main political parties are now calling for this requirement to be dropped. Throughout my career I have been struck by the irony of the fact that every call by politicians that the police be freed from bureaucracy is always matched by those same politicians requiring, in knee-jerking response to an incident, that more and more information be formally recorded in order to cover their backs.  I have no doubt that the current review being carried out by Sir Ronnie Flanagan will lead to the same outcome.

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

It is worth dealing here with the issue of evidence which the police have obtained illegally – for example as a result of a search for which there was no adequate reason or no power. The term for this is ‘fruit of the poisoned tree’.  Although English and US criminal law are both based on the English Common Law, practice in England is profoundly different from that in the USA.  There, the citizen’s rights under its written constitution have led the courts to rule that any evidence which has not been obtained following ‘due process’ will be ruled inadmissible.  This is now so firmly established that the District Attorney will not even try to argue it in, no matter how critical it is to the issue of guilt.

In England and Wales this is not the case. Evidence is considered on its own merits and the issue of how it was obtained is usually regarded as irrelevant.  The defence will inevitably try to have it ruled inadmissible but they are almost always unsuccessful.  The more critical the issue is to proving the case against the defendant, the less likely it is that it will be found to be inadmissible.  The major exception to this is where a person is induced by a police officer to commit a crime.  If the court considers that the crime would not have been committed had the officer not encouraged or induced the defendant, then it will acquit.  An example of this is a drugs buy.  It is appropriate for an officer to approach someone suspected of being a trafficker and offer to buy.  On the other hand if the officer induces someone who is not already engaged in trafficking to obtain drugs, the court will almost certainly take the view that the crime would not have been committed had the officer not prompted it and the defendant will be acquitted.

Arrest and Detention

The most straightforward way of thinking through the arrest process is to see it as one of escalation of police interest as follows:

 

Witness Someone who can provide either evidence about, or intelligence which may lead to identifying, an offender
General suspect Someone who cannot be eliminated from the inquiry at this time (as you can see, this is a negative test as the investigator will want to keep all options open)
Specific suspect Someone against whom there is some evidence, albeit weak, but whom it is worthwhile either investigating further or eliminating
Detained suspect Someone against whom there is significant evidence and whom it is worth arresting so as to interrogate them and search their home, place of work etc. for forensic or documentary evidence (this will often be an associate of the actual offender who on questioning informs on them to save their own neck)
Charged prisoner Someone against whom there is enough evidence to make a conviction likely and whom the police would prefer to keep in custody while they pursue their final inquiries.

 

A person may move in and out of the first four categories as the evidence available to the investigator changes. Under PACE a person may only be detained for a limited time before being charged (see below) and it is now common practice for police to develop as much of the case as possible before arrest as long as the investigator is confident that the suspect is unlikely to make a bolt for it.

Before 1984 police could detain suspects without charge for up to five days. This came as a shock to my law lecturer when I read law in 1975.  He thought, as did most of the legal profession not engaged in the criminal law, that they could only detain for up to twenty-four hours.  At that time the issue was governed by the Magistrates Court Act which stated that the suspect should be charged and brought before the court ‘as soon as is practicable’.  In serious cases dealing with professional criminals (at that time usually armed robbers or gangsters working vice and extortion rackets) the practice was to arrest the gangster and leave him to ‘sweat’ for a couple of days.  On the second or third day his family and friends would find out that he was in police custody and would try to locate him.  He would usually be questioned on the third day.  Since he had been held incommunicado the suspect had no idea who else had been arrested or what they might have said so was often anxious to ensure that he did not carry the can alone (the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ – say nothing and hope everyone else does, or get in first and do a deal).  By day four the family had usually instructed a solicitor who would be denied access as a matter of routine.   On day five the solicitor would apply to the court for a writ of habeas corpus which meant that the police had to justify the detention to the court.  At this point there was usually enough evidence to charge the prisoner with something.

All that changed with PACE and its codes of practice. The Act and its code are quite technical, very repetitive and thus very boring.  They were intended to put suspects back where everyone thought they had been all along and codified what was recognized as best practice.  For the writer, the essence is:

  • A person can only be detained by police without charge for up to thirty-six hours; the first twenty-four on the authority of an inspector, the remaining twelve on the authority of a superintendent
  • The police can apply to a magistrate for further detention of three days. This is relatively rare and police must show solid grounds for it. In most cases it is done with the co-operation of the suspect, often where extensive searches are necessary, such as to find a body
  • Anyone detained must be able to tell someone that they have been detained and must be given access to a solicitor and legal advice as soon as they are detained unless there are pressing reason for not doing so. Access can be denied if a superintendent has reasonable grounds to believe that it would:
    1. lead to: interference with, or harm to, evidence connected with an indictable offence, or interference with, or physical harm to, other people
    2. lead to alerting other people suspected of having committed an indictable offence but not yet arrested for it
    3. hinder the recovery of property obtained in consequence of the commission of such an offence.
  • A detainee must be given access to the codes of practice and writing materials
  • If the suspect is disadvantaged in any way through physical or mental handicap, before they can be interviewed steps must be taken to balance the handicap, such as by providing an interpreter or ensuring that they are accompanied by a responsible adult who can safeguard their interests
  • Juveniles must be accompanied by a responsible adult while they are interviewed
  • Searches can only be made by members of the same sex and any strip search must be limited to the removal of clothing. Any attempt to look in any body orifice (e.g. for drugs) is defined as an intimate search which needs the authority of an inspector and must be carried out by a medical practitioner
  • If an interview is carried out disregarding the safeguards it will probably be rendered inadmissible.

The Caution

Until 1994 no ‘adverse inference’ could be drawn from a suspect’s refusal to answer questions, even if they were directed at issues about which the suspect had unique or sole knowledge. This left the suspect free to concoct a story later that fitted the facts, known to the police.  The only exception to this was alibi, an assertion that they were somewhere else at the time of the offence.  Notice of this had to be given to the prosecution so that it could be tested before the trial began.  Now the suspect no longer has an unbridled right to silence and the prosecution can point out at any subsequent trial that the defendant had had an opportunity to put their case at the time of their arrest but that they did not take it up and that they can draw any inferences or conclusions from that failure.  The wording of the caution now is, ‘You do not have to say anything.  But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court.  Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’

A suspect must be cautioned as soon as the police officer has ‘grounds to suspect [him/her] of an offence’. Failure to do so when there are reasonable grounds for suspicion can make anything the suspect then says liable to be ruled inadmissible.  This creates a number of interesting scenarios for the crime writer:

  • If the investigator has reasonable grounds but for tactical reasons does not want to disclose them (a situation that occurs all too often in real life) there is the tension created by the risk that the suspect says something useful but then clams up once cautioned, considerably reducing the value of the admission
  • The investigator may only want intelligence, and rely on that to lead to more substantial evidence, such as knowledge of where a weapon can be found
  • The investigator may be willing to risk it in the hope that once a suspect has made an admission they will not be able to go back on it (emotionally they may be relieved to have got it out). This happens surprisingly often in real life but rarely if a lawyer is present.

There is a concept of ‘helping police with their inquiries’, when someone stays for an extended time at the station answering questions. The key issue is that he or she must be doing so voluntarily.  It often happens with some minor player who is hoping that co-operation will mean that their part in the crime will not be pursued.  The test of whether or not someone is ‘under arrest’ does not depend on some formulaic use of words.  It depends on the mind of the investigator.  If at any point during a ‘voluntary’ interview the investigator stops the interviewee leaving the room then that person is under arrest from that point on, whether or not anything is said.  When this is combined with the fact that a person can only be detained for a limited amount of time it is easy to see how important this issue is for investigators.  For that reason the investigator will formally arrest a suspect, sometimes mid-interview, in order to ensure that the courts do not explore this point and rule that the moment of arrest occurred earlier.  This can be very important where the interview takes place after a suspect has responded to bail.  If someone has been arrested and interviewed on an earlier occasion and detained for say six hours, if they are rearrested the investigator only has eighteen hours left.

There are two other reasons for making the arrest formally. First, it really does take people’s breath away, especially if they are not professional criminals, and are otherwise respectable members of the community – the more respectable, the more of a shock.  This can lead them into saying or doing things in the heat of the moment which are useful to the investigator’s case.  Secondly, it gives the investigator control.  A formal arrest will always be accompanied by physically taking control, e.g. by taking the person by the arm.  Again psychologically this works for the investigator even with hardened criminals, although I hope that we do not in time develop the US pattern of routinely putting everybody in handcuffs and chains.

Searching Premises After Arrest

Every time a celebrity, senior government official or politician is arrested at home in a dawn raid there is an uproar in the press and questions asked about the outrageous way the police have acted, usually accompanied by the comment that they could have just asked them to come to the station – being respectable members of the community they would have complied. The outrage conveniently ignores the fact that these people have been arrested because they are suspected of committing a criminal offence and the police have enough evidence to support the arrest.  The police response is inevitably either to remain silent or to say that they have used standard operating procedures.  The ‘dawn raid’ is standard police practice and experience over the years has proved it to be very effective – that is why they do it.

Arresting someone at home or at their place of work is an effective tactic, as it brings with it a number of ancillary advantages. The arrest invariably surprises the suspect, and when people are off balance they say things they otherwise might not.  The arrest gives the investigator control of the interview process, where and when it will happen and how long the suspect will be kept in custody.  There is also a power under PACE to search the premises where the arrest is made, making it less likely that the suspect can get rid of any incriminating evidence.  An invitation to attend the police station not only removes these advantages, it tells the person that he or she is a suspect and what he or she is suspected of.  About the only thing it does not do is give the suspect a list of the evidence that the police hope to find on the premises.

Once someone is arrested an inspector can authorize the search of other premises related to the suspect. If necessary this can all be prepared in advance so that the searches are carried out very soon after arrest without the need to get a search warrant.  These powers are particularly important where the police suspect that evidence is stored on computers, as is the case with terrorism, paedophilia or obstruction of justice.  In these cases it is vital that the computers are seized before the suspect has a chance to wipe, corrupt or destroy the hard disc.  It is harder than people think to completely wipe a file off the disc.  Even if it is deleted and then deleted from the ‘deleted files’ file, the information is usually still on the disc and can be removed by an expert or an expert system.

The Interview

I use this word, as it is the one used in the PACE codes of practice, but from the viewpoint of the participants a better word would be interrogation. Interview implies a meeting of equals with some joint purpose.  Interrogation makes it clear that one party is questioning the other to find out what he or she knows.  This describes the police purpose with everyone from friendly witness to hostile suspect – to find out what they know or what they are willing to lie about.  Most interrogations now take place in the presence of a lawyer and a tape recorder.

Contrary to myth, tape recording was welcomed by the majority of police officers. It is quicker and more accurate than notes and allows the questioner to move matters on at a pace that gives the suspect less opportunity to realize where the interrogation is going.  Most police officers would have preferred to have gone straight to videoing the interview but this was resisted by lawyers, partly because it would have meant that they would have had to watch the full interview – they prefer reading a transcript or part of the transcript as it saves them time – and partly because defence lawyers did not like the fact that juries would see the manner and attitude of the suspect, not just hear the words.  A ‘no comment’ said with a sneer and a knowing smile would be interpreted very differently from one accompanied by a nervous twitch in the direction of the accompanying lawyer.

The Role of the Lawyer

The lawyer’s job in the interview is to advise the suspect on how to reply to questions; what he or she cannot do is answer the questions on the suspect’s behalf. If a lawyer persists in doing this he or she can be excluded, although the suspect should be offered the opportunity to consult another lawyer before the interview can proceed.

Now that the prosecution can make use of the fact that the defendant failed to answer questions the investigator may want to put questions to the suspect even if it is likely that there will be no comment, as the failure to answer can become a part of the case against him or her. But they can only go so far in this.  They cannot do a Paxman and ask the same question nineteen times, nor can they continue to ask questions if it may be considered oppressive or if the prejudicial effect of a failure to answer outweighs its evidential value.

In a surprising number of cases the outcome desired by both the police officer and the lawyer will be the same. If there is a strong case against the suspect it is often in their best interests to make a full and frank admission and to take up as little of the court’s time as possible with the facts of the case, leaving the lawyer as much room as possible to put forward any mitigation.  The court also takes a benevolent view towards prisoners who do not subject their victims to the ordeal of going through the trial process.  In writing fiction, however, the lawyer presents a very good opportunity to create tension and conflict.  Like any other group in society there are good and bad lawyers with good and bad intentions.  Some of the tricks they use to reduce the time the police have to question their clients include:

  • deliberately arriving late
  • taking an inordinately long time to be briefed by the client
  • agreeing to represent more than one of the suspects, so only one can be interviewed at a time.

It has been known for lawyers to be in cahoots with the criminals they represent and to act as conduits for the suspect either to warn other members of the gang or to ensure that steps are taken to dispose of stolen property or evidence. Bent lawyers are a particularly difficult group of people for police to handle, since they are entitled to consult their clients in private and can raise privilege on almost all the documentation in their offices.  They are technically ‘officers of the court’, and judges are reluctant to endorse or authorize action against them.  On the other hand, it is necessary to point out that a number of inadequate detectives blame their failures unfairly on the lawyers who are only doing their job in representing their clients effectively.

Most police questioning in real life would be very boring to write about. The officers know what they must prove and take a suspect through all the issues relevant to the offence, usually following a prepared template.  A lot of the evidence elicited is essentially negative in nature.  For example I once questioned a man arrested for living on immoral earnings (he ran a string of prostitutes working West End clubs) for most of the day.  He denied the charge throughout but the purpose of the interview was to show that he had no legal sources of income which could sustain his lifestyle.  He lived in a luxury flat in Maida Vale, owned a top-of-the-range Mercedes and had wardrobes full of expensive clothes – all apparently on the £5,000 a year that his minicab firm produced.  At the end of the session he thought he had done well in never having admitted the offence.  He did not look quite so comfortable at trial, as the interview had effectively cut off any chance of producing any other evidence of income.

The investigator seeks either to close down future defences or to find a lie. One of the best examples I have come across in looking for the lie involved one of the best detectives I have worked with – Roger Hoy, a uniformed sergeant in Dorking, Surrey.  We had had a series of nighttime garage breaks, where the burglars then set fire to the garages, eliminating any forensics.  The gang (we knew from sightings that there were at least three of them) had caused about £250,000 worth of damage.  They worked a part of the town that contained very high-value properties.  Roger persuaded his team to stake out the area – not easy as it was one of the coldest Februaries I’ve known.  At the end of the first week’s stake-out they almost caught the gang but they seemed to go magically to earth.

From this Roger deduced that they lived in the area and he doggedly worked his way around all the houses containing any young men between the ages of eighteen and thirty. At one garage a top for an MG sports car had been stolen so Roger also looked for anyone who owned an MG.  eventually he found a lad who had owned an MG sports car but had sold it.  Most people would have given up here, especially since Roger was doing much of the work in his own time, but he persisted.  He found the dealer in Croydon to whom the car had been sold and went to see him.  The dealer said that he had since sold the car, but on being pushed by Roger he did say that it had had two hoods.  Roger then went to see the lad, who worked in a local estate agent, and raised the issue of the car hood.  The lad said that he had sold the car with just one hood.  The lie.  As soon as he was arrested he admitted all the offences and put the other two in the frame.  All of them were of previous good character so even if we had had found fingerprints we would have had nothing with which to compare them.

One element in fictional interrogation which is also true to life is the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine. It is particularly useful where the suspect has had no experience of police or the criminal process.  It is rather a waste of time with professional criminals in terms of producing admissions but it can be useful if the investigator only seeks intelligence, as this may be gained by way of threat or inducement, both of which would be fatal to the evidential value of any admissions made.

There is little doubt that PACE and its developments have meant that the British police are probably the most restricted in the developed world in terms of detention times and questioning techniques. This has arisen out of the fact that the police in England and Wales have developed their processes under the English Common Law without the political influences that are part and parcel of the US approach, or the supervision of the investigating magistrate which is usually part of the continental systems, most of which are based on the Napoleonic Code (see Chapter 10 for more detail).  PACE however does not cover everything and it is surprising how effective old techniques are such as putting prisoners in adjoining cells and then listening in on their conversation, or putting a police officer in a cell with the prisoner, posing as another prisoner.  These approaches are especially useful in finding intelligence rather than evidence.

When the investigator has sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction he must take the prisoner before the custody officer to be formally charged. If the prisoner is suspected of a number of offences the investigator can delay doing this until there is sufficient evidence on all the charges.  The timing of the decision to charge is very important as the suspect cannot be questioned after being charged unless the interview is necessary:

  • to prevent or minimize harm or loss to some other person, or to the public
  • to clear up an ambiguity in a previous answer or statement
  • in the interests of justice for the detainee to have put to them, and have opportunity to comment on, information concerning the offence which has come to light since they were charged or informed they might be prosecuted.

Implications for the Writer

By now you will realize that if writers follow all the rules they will write some very turgid prose, full of technical language. Here, as elsewhere, the golden rule is not to get involved in the technicalities unless your story demands it.  That said, I think that any crime writer who wishes the story to be credible should bear the following in mind:

  • The time that anyone can be detained is very limited so do not keep a suspect locked up for too long
  • By all means have the investigator interview the suspect without a lawyer but know that it is unlikely to happen and at least think about providing a good reason for it, such as arrogance or time constraints
  • In real life police will always prefer to interview a suspect at a police station – it’s their territory and the threat of possible arrest is much more real
  • Some of the provisions of the law can assist the writer in providing tension and conflict. These might include interference of the lawyer, the involvement of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), a hysterical parent or a difficult and unco-operative social worker.

 

©Queen Victoria

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