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Top judge backs police body cams



Lord chief justice says police cameras generate more accurate and vivid evidence

Body cameras worn by police can produce court evidence that is both “more accurate” and “more vivid”, the most senior judge in England and Wales has said, strongly backing the technology’s further use.

In his annual press conference, the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, described the use of body-worn video cameras as “one of the great successes” of technology in criminal justice.

“Like everything new, people were a bit worried about them but actually being able to record the evidence of someone within a relatively short time, sometimes within minutes of an event having occurred, you (a) get a more accurate account and (b) a more vivid account,” he said.

Lord Thomas was speaking after police chiefs gave the go-ahead in principle for police officers equipped with body cameras to interview suspects at the scene of minor crimes rather than at the police station.

“This will lead to swifter, fairer and, more importantly, cheaper justice,” said chief constable Andy Marsh, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for body-worn video.

Cost-cutting exercise

However, defence solicitors raised concerns about the decision. Zoe Gascoyne, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, told the Law Society Gazette that the move "should be opposed by all’ as it was one step towards ‘stripping the public of their basic rights and is a cost-cutting exercise too far".

Where police officers suspected an offence had been committed, Gascoyne said it was "essential" they gathered evidence prior to conducting any interview. "It is also essential that the suspect is given their legal rights and offered advice from a solicitor," she said.

"Even with the most minor offences there may be issues which aren’t evident at the scene which make a body cam interview totally inappropriate," Gascoyne said.

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