Thursday, January 26, 2006
Some of you may remember the little storm in the teacup that occurred a few months back when an RTA victim, describing the offending driver, used the word 'fat'.
Story was here - http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/men/news/s/177/177713_pcs_warning_for_mum_who_said_fat.html
Now, all this hoo-haa could have been avoided quite simply taking the statement as normal, but using quotation marks for "offending" words (see what I did there? Clever innit!), so as to completely exonerate the officer from committing the offence of "causing eyebrows to be raised".
Generally speaking, when taking statments, police officers will run through with the person what's going to go into the statement BEFORE writing it, get the story chronologically and factually correct and relevant, then write it. There's a good reason for this. If an officer wrote down exactly what the person says, the result would be out of sequence and would look something like this:
"I was walking down the road at 2300 hours when I was approached by a male, who struck me on the head in an unprovoked attack. I got up and ran after the male, who made off towards Smith Street. The force of the punch caused me to fall to the ground. I didn't suffer any injuries. I cannot describe the male at all. Actually it might have been Smith Street, I can't remember - might have been John Street".
Another way of doing it would be to write down EXACTLY what the person giving the statement is saying, verbatim, to completely ensure no paraphrasing using the officer's own terminology has occurred.
Sometimes an officer may doubt what the person is saying, but they have to include it anyway, as the statement is a sworn declaration of facts according to the person in whose name it is. This is illustrated by a conversation I remember having with particularly unfortunate gentlemen about an incident that was being statemented:
"What was the height of the men who attacked you?"
"You definately sure they were 4"2?"
"Do you know how high 4"2 actually is? Bear in mind that this WILL be going in your statement which will be read out in court"
"Fair enough. Ok, so which Hobbit landed the first punch?"
This was followed by the equally bizarre conversation as to how long the attack lasted:
"So how long did the attack last for, from start to finish?"
"About 15 minutes"
"Are you sure?"
"So you were attacked for 15 minutes non-stop by three 4"2 males who punched and kicked you in the head repeatedly, and all you've got by way of injuries is slight bruising to the left cheekbone?"
"That's how it went"
"Have you ever been cross-examined before?"
"It'll be... an experience for you"
Many statements also require the inclusion of "Turnbull Rules", derived from the case of R v Turnbull. These are usually tacked on to the end and include answers to:
How long did the witness have the accused under observation?
At what distance?
In what light?
Was the observation impeded in any way, as for example by passing traffic or a press of people? Had the witness ever seen the accused before?
If only occasionally, had he any special reason for remembering the accused?
How long elapsed between the original observation and the subsequent identification to the police?
I've yet to statement anyone who observed the accused for five seconds six miles away in the darkness through a telescope in heavy traffic for the first time.
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I've never found one, yet the number of statements I see with it in are beyond counting.
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