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Parliament: Police Interrogation: Speech Impaired

Ann Winterton (Congleton, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what instructions are issued on the procedure and protocol which a police officer must follow in (a) questioning and (b) physically taking hold of a person with a speech impediment observed to be under the influence of neither drugs nor alcohol, when the officer cannot understand what the suspect is saying.

Tony McNulty (Minister of State (Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing), Home Office; Harrow East, Labour)

holding answer 24 April 2008

The Code of Practice for the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers (Code C) issued under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, provides that if a person appears to be blind, seriously visually impaired, deaf, unable to read or speak or has difficulty orally because of a speech impediment they shall be treated as such while in police detention. A person with speech difficulties must not be interviewed in the absence of an interpreter unless they agree in writing to being interviewed without one. Where there is doubt about the speaking ability of a parent or guardian attending as an appropriate adult, an interpreter should also be called unless they agree in writing to the interview being proceeding without one.

Comment from Alison:
Whilst this question is not specifically about deaf people, the Minister's reply is interesting. Firstly, I'm not sure why intoxicated people are being compared to deaf people. For those under the influence of alcohol, the crux of the matter is around mental functioning, and not speech per se. Speech in this instance can only be used as an indicative measure, with regards to a person's mental lucidity. When the Minister does refer to deaf people, he goes onto state that an interpreter should be present, "unless they agree in writing to being interviewed without one". Whilst a line needs to be drawn somewhere, its still a bit catch 22. What happens if official forms aren't clear, thus the suspect or interviewee is unsure what they are signing? Are all deaf people assertive enough, and is there an opportunity to change one's mind as an interview progresses? i.e. they thought they would manage, but it turns out not. The form that is signed, is it clear that a u-turn is acceptable at any time (given you're on the police's territory here, and perhaps a bit more difficult to be assertive)?

They Work For You

Comments (2)

This item in Code C of PACE has been written since 1984, or in a later revision since then. Code C refers to all 'interviews' including defendants, witnesses and victims; they may all refuse the presence of communication support for whatever reason. If the interviewee is not aware due to lack of mental function (alcohol, as mentioned above), then they will have difficult to offer this written consent: and an interpreter will be booked as defined in Code C: 3.12.

Also, to place this code in context: Deaf people are considered as vulnerable adults and therefore will also require an appropriate adult who is responsible for the welfare of the defendant (Code C: 13.6).

Thanks John. I have to wonder how many Deaf people are even aware of this, where's the material in BSL?

I know interpreters have a policy input into this area, however, are Deaf people consulted when revisions happen?

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