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Cover Sanders & Young's Criminal Justice

6. Non-interrogatory evidence and covert policing  

Ed Cape

This chapter examines the main types of non-interrogatory evidence gathered through criminal justice processes. First we look at witness and identification evidence; like the interviewing of suspects, this is not as straightforward as it might appear. We then move onto entry of premises (eg suspects’ homes, places of work, etc), search of those places and seizure of ‘suspicious’ goods discovered by searches. Whereas most entry and search is known to the suspects and/or owners of the premises concerned, ‘covert’ policing is, by definition, not made known to the subjects of the policing. Covert policing takes many forms: eg, surveillance, ‘undercover’ policing, use of informers, interception of communications. Finally we examine scientific evidence which, like witness evidence, is far from straightforward. There are many problems common to all these types of information-gathering. These include the fragility and ambiguity of what often appears solid and objective; the way they erode human rights; the effect of ‘police culture’ on what is gathered and how it is interpreted; and the lack of accountability for what is done and how it is done.