It should be that the law applies to all equally, but it doesn't. Too often we see the police and those within the judiciary get away with doing wrong. In the UK there appears to be a prevalent perception, or rather a misconception under which many people labour, and that is that the police and the judiciary do not make mistakes or do not do so deliberately. That those who enforce the law are actually above it, simply because they work within it. I am constantly amazed by how much the police get away with. Just look at the Menendes shooting or the Stephen Lawrence case – or if you want to go further back, look at those very high profile miscarriages of justice like the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and so on. In each of those cases no police officers were ever prosecuted, even though they had fabricated confessions, beat the accused into giving false confessions and deliberately put innocent people in prison.
And it is not only infamous cases of miscarriages of justice that highlight police failings, miscarriages continue to this day; occurring because the police and even the courts are allowed to ignored vital pieces of information that begin in the police station. The system is not perfect but it does little to prevent miscarriages of justice happening in the first place.
Why does this idea matter?
It's vitally important and not least because it is a massive blight on our liberty which must not be taken away on every whim or fancy, especially by people who consider arrest, charge and conviction as 'another slab of meat in the slammer' in their daily lives. The police must be forced to acknowledge that they are not above the law even as they are its enforcers, and should use their powers with the knowledge that if they do wrong; abuse the trust that is placed in them wrongly, they will face the consequences just like everyone else. They must not be allowed to get away with it because there is a culture of 'we were doing our job to the best of our ability' within the police that allows them to avoid any sort of conviction or serious discipline.
In many instances when it has been shown and even proven that the police failed and sometimes deliberately, no action has been taken. That is the wrong signal to send – no wonder the police act with impunity and arrogance.
PACE was introduced to give defendants rights from police abuses, but all too often those abuses continue, even today. I have known many people arrested and charged without legal advice or a solicitor being present at interview. This is a most fundamental right which is curbed by the police informing the interviewee that he is only helping the police or that the interview is a mere formality, or even that waiting for the solicitor would just mean more hours waiting in cells.
And so it goes on, with endless reasons why a person should listen to them and not take advice from lawyers. It should no longer be allowed. No person, whether given a choice or not to have legal representation, should be interviewed without a solicitor present. If they are interviewed without legal advice, the statement must be made inadmissable as evidence, whether it corroborates with evidence or not. For too long now, the police and judiciary have colluded in a game of 'get 'em because they'll never get us', with little or no interest as to how this might affect the individuals lives, the ruin and destruction it does cause.
In addition the IPCC, which is supposed to 'investigate' police failings, is a complete waste of time and money. Not least because those that run it are ex-police officers. How can an organisation be considered 'independent' when that very independence is compromised by former colleagues who will think twice before concluding against their fellow officers? It is absurd to claim the IPCC is independent of the police it investigates. In order for it to be independent ex-police officers should not be employed by it; then perhaps the public can have confidence in their conclusions.
More should be done to preserve the integrity of the laws we have – beginning with making all equal under it.