Tuesday, December 19, 2006

2nd arrest in Ipswich, but do police have time to prevent 6th murder..?

As police made a second arrest early this morning in the Ipswich murder investigation, they were already forced to think about how long they can hold the first suspect they arrested yesterday.

Suffolk Police announced this morning that a 48-year-old man was arrested at 5am this morning on suspicion of murdering all five young women

As the clocked reached 24-hours after the arrest of the first suspect, it was necessary under current law for a superintendent to review the case and give permission to allow detectives to continue to hold him for another 12 hours.

Supermarket worker Tom Stephens - a former special constable - can now be held until Tuesday night before being charged or released.

If they wish to detain him beyond this evening, they will have to apply to magistrates who could authorise his detention for a maximum total arrest time of 96 hours.

It is to be hoped that this is sufficient time for police to gather the evidence necessary if they wish to bring formal charges, or to satisfy themselves that the suspect is not the murderer before being forced to release him.

Ninety-six hours does not seem over-long when you consider modern-day investigation techniques such as looking into computer records and possible DNA tests.

It would be unthinkable if police were forced to release a suspect in these circumstances, only for there to be a sixth victim sometime later.


Anonymous said...

An odd case. The police have reportedly stated that they are only 50% sure that Mr Stephens is the culprit. It seemed inevitable that he would be arrested after his lengthy interview to the BBC and newspapers. He certainly is an attention seeker and seems a very lonely man. The police of course have always indicated that two people could be responsible for the murders. Is the arrest this morning significant therefore as Mr Stephens remains in custody?

You are right Phil about the legal limit for retaining individuals in custody without charge. I do not know when this law was introduced but it no longer seems appropriate for serious criminal cases. How on earth can the police obtain evidence to charge a person with 5 murders in such a short time. Even charging someone with one murder as a holding charge must be difficult within the time frame and when so many witnesses to these crimes lead such chaotic lives. As you say, it takes time for DNA and computer analysis never mind witness statements. In addition "no comment" interviews on serious charges appear to be the norm. Mr Stephens does present as a talkative man so I am hoping he is cooperating in interview. Whatever the rights and wrongs it would be extremely difficult to change the law - look at the difficulties in the House over the introduction of terrorism legislation when police require international assistance as well as complicated forensic evidence to lay a charge. Human rights matter and those held in custody must be protected. I think they are as they are legally represented, video/audio taped etc etc. I sometimes think that our legislators (so many lawyers on all sides!) sometimes forget that we too look to them for protection!!!

fairdealphil said...


thanks for your comments.

as i am the lead member of Lincolnshire Police Authority for custody visiting, you'll not be surprised that i totally agree with you that human rights of those in custody must be protected.

but as you say, investigating five murders is the biggest ever inquiry mounted by Suffolk Police and they should not be rushed into decisions because of the 96 hour rule.

Let's hope it doesn't come to that.