Shelby’s essay question – Are the police adequately trained in order to investigate serious cases such as murder?


The police are required to following a variety of polices and procedures which are in place to ensure all cases are run adequately, fairly and with the up most attention to detail. These polices include The Criminal procedures Act of 1996 and the police and criminal evidence act of 1984. If they do not correctly follow the polices and procedures set out, they could risk jeopardising a case or releasing a dangerous offender into society without punishment.

If the police make even the smallest mistake in a case due to not following the training, policies and procedures set out, detrimental issues could be caused. It is vital to an investigators job role to ensure they keep up with all changes and amendments to legislation in order to ensure they are properly trained and knowledgeable.

In this report I will discuss the use of two very important Acts in police investigation; the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Criminal Procedures and investigations Act 1996 and will discuss their role in criminal investigation. I will then discuss the changes that have taken place in criminal investigation such as the introduction of HOLMES and the development of forensics aiding the police in their investigations.

Criminal procedures and investigations Act 1996

The Criminal Procedures and investigations Act 1996 is in place to ensure that all those involved in proceedings penal conduct criminal investigations properly and that those guilty of these criminal offences be justly punished. ‘This code of practice is issued under Part II of the criminal procedure and investigations Act 1996. It sets out the manner in which police officers are to record, retain and reveal to the prosecutor material obtained in a criminal investigation and which may be relevant to the investigation and related matters’ (Criminal Procedure and investigations act 1996, Section 23 (1))

This code is in place to be used by police officers who are conducting a case in order to ascertain whether or not a person is guilty of an offence. The police officer directly in charge of a specific investigation is referred to as the Officer in the case or the OIC and must follow this code at all times. The code further outlines, the functions of the investigator and also confirms that those aiding in the investigation such as a chief officer or deputy disclosure officers must also follow the policies and procedures outlined.

The code goes on to explain how evidence and information should be retained, how long it can be retained, how a case or investigation should be prepared and how information should be recorded. It also outlines the role of the prosecution in both Magistrate and Crown court cases, for example, the disclosure of the unused material to the defence in a crown court case and the disclosure of all information that may assist the defence to be shared within the given timescale in which the defence will issue a response within 14 days.

The police are required to the follow this code in order to ensure that all cases are run smoothly and fairly by allowing the Defence what they need to provide the Defendant with a fair trial.


Police and criminal evidence act 1984

The police and criminal evidence act of 1984, also known as PACE, is in place to ensure the police are aware of their rights as police officers and enforcers of the law but to also ensure they are aware of the rights and freedoms of the public. This includes the powers of Stop and arrest and the powers of search.

The Act outlines tests such as the necessity test which are required to be followed by police officers in order to ensure the safety of the public, the officers themselves and any investigations which are underway, about to begin or coming to an end.

If the police breach a section of PACE, the investigations could be seriously damaged which could result in a dangerous offender being released into the community with the potential to offend again. Breaches such as the improper appropriation of evidence or the illegal entering of a property in order to obtain evidence, otherwise in accordance with a court issued warrant.

Recent changes to Police investigation and the Yorkshire Ripper

Peter Sutcliffe, a now infamous serial killer, triggered a six-year investigation before his identification and arrest back between 1970-1980. This investigation has been criticised by many and sparked a public inquiry into the changes required to be made to the investigation process of homicides. In the time of the Yorkshire Ripper, the criminal justice system was riddled with miscarriages of justice and corruption, this triggered changes in the investigation method which are still used today.

A report written by the Sophie Pike and published by SAGE explains and evaluates the changes in the investigation process of Homicides from the 1980’s to present. This report involved many interviews with police officers, stactical research and the examination of past case files.

The study identified many issues with the investigation conducted by the Yorkshire police between 1975 and 1981 when investigating the murders of 13 women and the attack on 7 victims. Peter Sutcliffe was able to hide under the police’s radar for over 6 years before being identified and arrested due to the failures in the police investigation. An inquiry was led by Sir Lawrence Byford who found that there were serious problems with the way in which investigations were being carried out such as how information was being managed and the police failing to follow up on lines of enquiries.

Due to this inquiry, two major changes to criminal investigation. There were the introduction of the Home Office Large Enquiry system (HOLMES) which allows the police to store all lines of enquiry and information in major cases such as murders. It then allows for links between this information to be created. The second influential change was the introduction of the Major incident room standardised administrative procedures (MIRSAP). This was a document created in order to set out the administrative procedures that are to be followed by the Major incident room, which is where all investigations of a serious nature are directed.

Another big change as stated by Peter Stelfox, was the introduction and development of forensics. A great aid to police investigation was and still is the development of forensic methods such as GPS tracking of phones and other devices, DNA analysis and the development of identification methods such ID parades and VIPER.

Decision making

Decision making is one of the most important jobs of a police officer and criminal investigator. It can be the difference between following a line of enquiry and calling it a dead end. The difference between arresting a suspect, or thinking the individual isn’t a suspect at all.

If we think back to the days of Ronnie and Reggie Kray or the Peaky Blinders gang, a lot was different. The police were understaffed and often paid off by large gangs to turn a blind eye to the serious crime going on thus showing bad decision making. Decision making is not necessarily something that can be taught; however, it is an aspect that can be developed with an understanding of the necessary policies and procedures such as PACE which are outlined by the government.

A study conducted by Judith Anderson looked at the decision making of the police when under force such as in a murder investigation or a kidnap investigation. Judith brought light the fact that many are concerned with the decisions required to be made by police officers when under pressure, stress and force by superiors and the public. Prior research found that psychological and physiological stress and shape the outcome of an investigation both negatively and positively.

Judith took a randomised pool of 80 officers and trained them to apply techniques to enhance psychological and psychological control when in stressful critical incidents. The results showed that the intervention group displayed significantly better and controlled psychological and psychological decision making thus indicating that further research into methods such as these needs to take place.

Decision making is vital in the job role of a police officer and criminal investigator and further training such as that given by Judith could translate into potentially lifesaving decision making for both the police and citizens of society.


The police do not have an easy job, investigating a crime, identifying the offender from, what can often be, very limited evidence and ensuring they are punished appropriately. This is a job that needs diligence, an eye for detail and most of all the knowledge and understanding of the legal system. It is very easy to assume that an offender has gotten away or gone under the radar due to bad decision making, however, what needs to be remembered is that police officers are human too. They are capable of mistakes and they are capable of learning from them.

As the research of Peter Stelfox and Sophie Pike show, our criminal investigations process is ever changing and ever improving. Everyday police officers are learning from their mistakes and finding ways to improve their investigative methods such as the introduction of HOLMES.

Whilst it is clear that over the years investigative techniques have changed and developed, one thing that isn’t clear is how these changes are being implemented amongst todays police forces. Are training sessions being given? Are the police being given adequate training as to how to use the PACE guidelines?

The question ‘are the police adequately trained to investigate serious crimes such as murder’ is one that cannot have a single yes or no answer, it is a question that requires further enquiries such as, what training is being given to the police in the classroom before qualification? Or what exams are being taken by the police in order to test their knowledge of Acts such as the criminal procedures and investigations act 1996?

By Shelby Keppel



Criminal Procedure and investigations Act 1996, C. 1. Available at [Online] hhtps:// [Last Accessed 29th January 2020]

Anderson. J (2016) A Training Method to Improve Police Use of Force Decision Making: A Randomized Controlled Trial [ [PDF Online] Available at [Last Accessed 31st January 2020]


Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Available at [Online] -evidence-act-11984-pace-codes-of-practice [Last Accessed 31st January 2020]

Pike S. (2016) An exploration of the changes to the police investigation of homicide in England and Wales from the 1980’s to the present: a qualitive research study. SAGE research methods cases [PDF Online] Available at; [Last Accessed 31st January 2020]


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