West Law Report

Evidence elicited in safety interviews is admissible

From The TimesMay 8, 2008

Evidence elicited in safety interviews is admissible
Court of Appeal, Criminal Division

Published May 8, 2008

Regina v Ibrahim and Others

Before Sir Igor Judge, President, Mr Justice Forbes and Mr Justice Mackay

Judgment April 23, 2008

Evidence obtained during safety interviews held with a defendant in the absence of his solicitor was admissible at his subsequent trial subject to the ordinary principles governing a fair trial and excluding unfair evidence.

The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, so held when refusing applications by Muktar Said Ibrahim, Yassin Omar, Hussein Osman (aka Hamdi) and Ramzi Mohamed, for leave to appeal against their convictions on July 9, 2007, at Woolwich Crown Court (Mr Justice Fulford and a jury) of conspiracy to murder, for which they were sentenced on July 11, 2007, to life imprisonment with minimum terms of 40 years.

Mr George Carter-Stephenson QC and Mr Ali Naseem Bajwa for Ibrahim; Mr Michael Wolkind, QC and Mr Stephen Vullo for Omar; Mr James Lewis, QC and Mr James O’Keefe for Osman; Mr Mark Milliken Smith, QC and Miss Frida Hussain for Mohamed, all defence counsel assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals; Mr Nigel Sweeney, QC, Mr Max Hill and Miss Alison Morgan for the Crown.

THE PRESIDENT, giving the reserved judgment of the court, said that on July 21, 2005, bombs were detonated in the London Underground transport system and on a bus in Hackney but the main charges failed to explode. The bombers made their escapes.

The immediate objective of the investigation by the police was directed to protecting the public from any further violent incidents by finding and detaining the bombers. The four defendants were arrested, together with 14 other individuals suspected of terrorism offences.

A police superintendent directed that, in accordance with paragraph 8 of Schedule 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000, interviews with the defendants to secure public safety should take place in the absence of their solicitors.

In safety interviews, a suspect would be interviewed to obtain information which might help the police to protect life and prevent serious damage to property.

At the trial of the defendants, and on their appeals, the question arose whether the results of such interviews could be used as evidence against them. It was clear that the admission of safety interviews or their fruits in evidence at a subsequent trial, was not precluded by the legislative structure.

At the safety interviews, the defendants had made demonstrably untrue assertions which failed to suggest the defences, later advanced at trial, that the bombs were hoaxes. The judge had ruled that it was clear beyond doubt that the defendants were not misled or deceived as to the underlying purpose of the interviews, the possible consequences of answering questions or the potential risks of not revealing elements of their defence.

He also said that it was sometimes necessary for a suspect to have the assistance of a lawyer before he could understand and describe a complicated defence, but that was not the instant case.

Access to lawyers had been denied for a relatively short period and in no case for more than eight hours. Their Lordships could find nothing to support the conclusion that the judge’s decision to admit the interviews in evidence at trial was in any way flawed.

Solicitors: Crown Prosecution Service.

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