Videotaping initiative by police a big leap forward

I laud the pilot programme initiated by the police to test the feasibility of videotaping interviews with suspects ("Police to try out videotaping interviews with suspects"; last Thursday).

This move would go a long way towards providing greater transparency and clarity to a suspect's statement. For now, I hope the initiative goes through and gradually involves a wider spectrum of cases.

We have in place a professional police force that has honed successful interviewing techniques over the years.

However, there are occasions when the defence counsel contests the circumstances under which a statement was taken.

Videotaping the interviews should effectively eliminate any dispute with regard to the conditions a suspect was subjected to and serves to strengthen the prosecution's case, if necessary.

Given that statements tend tobe lengthy and are usually not audio-taped, there remains a slim chance that the statement recorder might have left out certain points during note-taking, leading to further contention in the courts.

Videotaping interviews is a big leap forward, as this allows all parties involved to review and scrutinise the statements repeatedly and come to a logical and measured conclusion.

The downside to this initiative is the possibility of a longer hearing, as the videotapes constitute additional evidence that needs to be judiciously examined by the courts, as rightly pointed out by lawyer and MP Vikram Nair.

However, I believe what is of foremost importance is the need to reduce any likelihood of wrongful conviction.

It is crucial that initiatives like this be embraced by all parties and that the legal community should continually provide suggestions to lessen the possibility of an unfair conviction.

The last thing we want to do is incarcerate an innocent man.

Matthew Kwan Kai En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2015, with the headline 'Videotaping initiative by police a big leap forward'. Print Edition | Subscribe