18-09-2014 07:30

Judicial aberrations
and the role of
videoconferencing.

Last week it was in the news that two Americans had been released after 30 years in prison, when results of a DNA investigation showed they were innocent. It seems that they signed a confession under duress during an investigation 30 years previously. Unfortunately such things don’t only happen in America. In the Netherlands suspects have also confessed unjustly under interrogation because they were put under pressure at the time, for example during the so-called Zaandam fitting-room murder (where an innocent man was initially sentenced to 12 years), and the Schiedam park murder (where it took four years for it to become apparent that the man sentenced for the crime could not have done it). To prevent such miscarriages, in 2008 the Dutch police decided to introduce teleconferencing as a resource during interrogations.

As a result of an investigation into these judicial aberrations, the Dutch police accepted the recommendation that they introduce (video) recordings of all police interrogations as standard, for cases liable to a term of 8 years or more. This enables the judge, the public prosecutor and the police to ensure that the correct procedures have been observed, while at the same time making it more difficult to put pressure on suspects and witnesses to issue false statements.

The Netherlands Police have equipped all interrogation rooms in the country identically, so that all Dutch police officers must work in the same way. All police stations in the Netherlands now have an audio recording room as standard, while also working with a special room containing three video cameras. In an adjacent room colleagues or behavioural experts can observe and if necessary, can send a message to the officer using instant messaging. Interrogations can also be viewed again later, for instance by the public prosecutor.

Read more about the application of video by the Dutch police in the reference case.




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