Police failures are too recent to ignore

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I cannot in a short letter respond to all the points made by your correspondents. If I appear before the Holyrood justice committee, I can give more detail, but briefly: I have no general complaint against the police in the UK. They are as good as any and better than most.

It’s possible – as Chief Constable Steve House asserts – that only “a small number of officers… let us all down” (Letters, 17 January).

But it is not “us” that’s important: it’s the perversion of justice that is important. There have been too many examples of police, notably detectives, distorting evidence and causing injustice.

One example is too many, if it persuades a court to send an innocent citizen to jail. If things have improved recently, they had to.

The Chief Constable suggests that my examples of serious police failures are “outdated”. Really?

Jimmy Savile led a charmed criminal life until he died in October 2011. Sir Cyril Smith, a close friend of the police, died in September 2010: his sexual crimes went back more than 40 years.

How about the police involvement in the “monstering” of the innocent Christopher Jefferies in December 2010, following his arrest and imprisonment for the murder of Joanna Yeates?

The Hillsborough tragedy has yet to see the police admit the massive, mendacious cover-up.

The abysmal failure of senior policemen to investigate the phone hacking collage of crimes and offences is very recent – and would never have come to light but for the tenacity of the Guardian reporter Nick Davis and his full report on 5 July, 2011.

The webgate scandal is ongoing. Is that not recent enough? Come off it, Sir Stephen! The notorious English cases are said to be “not relevant”. But why?

And just because it took years to bring certain officers to trial, should we ignore the “Cardiff Three”, who went to prison on wholly fabricated evidence?

Was there not an outcry in Northern Ireland when the Director of Public Prosecutions suggested dropping further criminal investigations into the activities of those, including members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who led to the commission or concealment of serious crimes? “Noble cause corruption” knows no borders within the UK. Those who think otherwise are in denial. I had reasons for not detailing Scottish cases.

Is police wrongdoing relevant to corroboration?

Of course it is. The need to find corroboration – “from an independent and reliable source” – is a real restraint on the temptation to “improve” the evidence, as it is sometimes euphemistically termed: jurors are traditionally suspicious of corroborative evidence that comes from “confessions” allegedly made privately to the police.

The letter from the Rape Crisis Centre (17 January) is as offensive as it is silly. I am not in the least “nostalgic” for the previous definition of rape.

I simply pointed out that that change in the definition of rape might result in creating new problems with proof in some cases. If corroboration disappears, the number of rape cases that fail after trial will rise. It is already high in cases where there is corroboration.

As for “mendacious” women: of course there are some. An authoritative review of research into “false” allegations of rape or child molestation found estimates ranging from 1.6 to 90 per cent – though I have little faith in the higher estimates, or the definitions of “false”.

I strongly support the recent, and vitally important, change in the culture of prosecution authorities in all such cases: a change championed by Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, and dramatically strengthened by the Jimmy Savile revelations.

(Lord) John McCluskey