Challenging A Police Officer’s Evidence
a case study by Steve Williams, motoring law specialist
One of the toughest challenges facing a defence lawyer is cross examining a police officer. They are trained to give evidence, the courts generally believe them and they are well prepared – usually!
This week I had a case where the officer wasn’t as well prepared as he should have been.
My client was facing a speeding charge. He denied it and said the police officers who followed him in an unmarked car were mistaken. His word against two police officers? This wasn’t going to be easy.
The odds got a little more even when one officer didn’t turn up. The other officer appeared a little, erm laid back? He had his statement in front of him but it seemed he hadn’t bothered reading it.
He described to the court in great detail how he was in the car as a passenger, with his colleague who followed a speeding car. He described how he leant across and watched the speedo as his colleague caught up with and kept a steady distance between him and the ‘speeding’ car. His evidence was short and he looked confident, maybe even a little smug as he sat down – job done.
I stood up and asked him how certain he was of the facts? It was a long time ago, after all.
“100% certain” came the expected reply.
I asked him to show me in detail how he was able to see the speedo as a passenger. He went into great detail about how you are able to lean across in a BMW and see the speedo – he even did a little demonstration for us – nothing if not helpful!
I asked him if he specifically remembered doing that on this occasion. He did.
“Are you certain?” I asked.
Yes, once again he was 100% certain.
“Hmmm” I said. “Let’s look at your statement, Officer and see what that says”
Reading from the statement I reminded him of what he wrote on the day: “I was driving an unmarked police car…”
“Driving, officer!” I exclaimed. “Not a passenger – now I am confused because you told me you were 100% certain.”
My turn to sit down with that smug look on my face.