20 August 1888
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.
SIR, - In your issue of Saturday, the 18th Inst., it is reported that Mr. Hannay, the learned Magistrate of Marlborough-street Police-court objected to the manner in which Detective-Sergeant Greet proceeded to interrogate a person prior to arrest. The point is a most important one, and to the mind of the ordinary police officer it certainly reads like a general denunciation of the practice of interrogation. A remark was also made by the solicitor for the defence that "it was like the French style of doing business."
After a little experience in police matters, I should say that, in the interests of justice, and for the swifter and more complete unravelment of crime, it seems a pity that we cannot have a little more of the "French style of doing business"; the catalogue of undiscovered crimes would perhaps be a somewhat smaller one if a leaf were taken from the "French" book. Police officers are much hampered by individual magisterial opinion like this, but according to higher authorities the detective who keeps strictly within the law need have no fear.
In "The Manual of Criminal Law," edited by Mr. Howard Vincent (late Director of Criminal Investigation) under the heading of "Determination of Arrest," it is stated "when once the mind of an officer is made up to arrest a delinquent, he must not be asked any questions without a strict caution that the answer may be used against him; but, as was stated in effect by the late Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, at the Central Criminal Court on July 16, 1870, if you ask a man questions with an honest intention to elicit the truth, and to ascertain whether there are grounds for apprehending him, it is quite a different thing to asking questions with a foregone intention to arrest." Now it is distinctly stated in evidence that the first thing the officer did was to caution him. After this caution, and having no distinct intention to arrest, he was surely entitled to interrogate.
Further, Sir Harry Hawkins, in his valuable introduction to the manual above quoted, says:- "When a crime has been committed, and you are engaged in endeavouring to discover the author of it, there is no objection to your making enquiries, or putting questions to, any person from whom you think you can obtain information; it is your duty to discover the criminal if you can, and to do this you must make such enquiries, and if in the course of them you should chance to interrogate, and to receive answers, they are nevertheless admissible in evidence, and may be used against him." The conduct of the officer proves that he had no foregone intention to arrest before the questions were put, as it is stated that he retired and consulted Mr. Jay before the arrest took place. Sergeant Greet is one of our few capable investigators and I am glad to see that he is not afraid to use the delicate weapon of interrogation. - Yours, &c., ANOTHER P.-S.