Bar backs status quo on police evidence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 1999, 12:00am

A proposal to revamp the procedure for admitting confession statements in criminal proceedings has met strong resistance.

Despite claims the existing procedure requires extra time and resources, the Law Reform Commission has failed to win backing from the Bar Association and legislators at a Legco panel.

At present, a confession taken by police cannot be put before the jury without the judge's consent.

The commission has proposed three reform options: Granting the court discretion to direct the question of admissibility be dealt with in the presence of the jury; The above plus a lowering of the standard of proof for determining voluntariness to that of civil proceedings (on a balance of probabilities) rather than the existing criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt); and Making the determination of the issue a matter for the jury in all cases.

But the Bar Association said the status quo should be maintained. It said the commission should explore additional safeguards on proper procedure before trial rather than 'trying to take away existing fundamental rights of defendants'.

'There would be a great temptation by the investigating officers to force out or fabricate confessions,' the Bar submitted in a paper.

Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun, a solicitor, said he found the high number of confession statements taken by police from High Court defendants 'very alarming'.

Statistics provided by police showed 515 confession statements were taken from 542 defendants in 1997.

Among the 346 confession statements taken where the interviews were not recorded on video, 115 were challenged in the High Court and 40 were ruled inadmissible.