Police call for change in law on detention of suspects

Tayside Police HQ

Police officers are calling for an increase in the amount of time they are given to question suspects under the influence of drink or drugs.

Forces in Scotland are currently limited to six hours of questioning before they have to charge a suspect.  The Tayside branch of the Scottish Police Federation claim that in an increasing number of cases the detention limit is too short.  They said the issue was affecting police work on an “almost daily” basis.

The six-hour detention rule is unique within the UK to Scottish police.

It is regarded by officers as a vital tool in criminal investigations, but even when a suspect is unable to be questioned, the six-hour time clock rule remains in place. At the Scottish Police Federation conference in Aviemore, members from Tayside will argue there should be an extension of the time restriction if a doctor or nurse assesses that the suspect is unfit to be interviewed because of intoxication or other medical reason.

In their motion, the Tayside Federation argues this can hamper investigations. It claims: “Almost daily we have persons being detained or arrested who are heavily under the influence of drugs, this is mirrored in custody suites throughout Scotland. “At present there are no legislative provisions available to police officers to deal with such situations and often enquiries are hampered and unable to proceed until the person is deemed fit for interview.

“A change to legislation would not only benefit any such criminal investigation but would also be in the interests/ rights of any suspect who falls into this category.” The six-hour detention rule has been subjected to legal challenge under European human rights legislation, and the Scottish government is awaiting the outcome of a case from Turkey involving detention without legal representation.  A spokesman said the Scottish government was reviewing a number of issues concerning detention.

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