Evidence obtained during torture legal?

The UK in its wisdom, has decided that just because information has been aquired “under duress” doesnt mean that it should not be admissable in court. ( http://makeashorterlink.com/?N6E442666)

Article three of the Human Rights Act says “no one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. If my memory serves me well - didnt the uk sign the this act?

Another one of our basic human rights disappears into the fog known as the war against terrorism.

Anyone want to defend this - a Labour MP maybe - i know some of you read this forum.

There’s not a direct connection between those two though. It will still not be legal to torture someone, it’s just that the information gained through it won’t be invalid by default. Of course this could encourage law enforcement to submit suspects to “duress” (ie: beat the snot out of them), but they would (or maybe I should say could) still be prosecuted for THAT, even if the evidence gained was used.

A simmilar thing is the case with unwarranted searches. In US, if the search is unwarranted, whatever found there isn’t admissable. In Sweden for example, it is (but we also have a much more lenient set of rules toward searches so we’re not as protective of that specific right in the first place).

Anyway, my point was (is) just that the basic human right is still there, even though this law could perhaps work as an incentive to break that right.

Actually a careful reading of the article makes it clear that they are talking about torture that others might commit. That is they are interested in using information obtained from detainees even if they might have been tortured not by their own officers, but by US officials.

The big problem is that information gathered during torture is of little worth in a court of law. People will say anything to stop the torture, so it is of little use.

Telemark makes a good point about confessions. But how about the location of tangible evidence? Like- “where did you hide the bodies?”. If the suspect answers correctly, I don’t see why that information should not be admissable. Of course, the act of torture itself is illegal, and whoever does it needs to be punished.

But let’s take this as an example. We have a serial killer, and he rapes, tortures and kills little girls. There is reason to suspect his most recent victem is still alive- but not for long unless her location is known. A cop loses his temper, and beats the crap out of the smug bastard until he tells the cop where she is hidden. Why should that evidence be illegal?

Now- in case you say "well then, all cops with just ‘lose their temper’- I need to include a proviso that our hot-tempered PO needs to also lose his job over this, and face criminal charges. Few Cops will do this if it means their job. But woudl we, as a society, want that killer back out in the streets as the physical evidence thus garnered is now inadmissable?

The U.S. has taken “exclusionary evidence” farther than any other society in history. We have the doctrine of the “fruit of the poisoned tree” – i.e., that no good can come from a bad act.

It may be extreme…but I believe that history supports us in this.

Yes, one can come up with extreme (and unlikely) circumstances in which torture is a useful tool to serve justice – DrDeth’s example, for instance – but one can come up with opposing examples that are 100 times more likely, in which the police (or vigilante citizenry) would be tempted to use illegal force to compel evidence from a suspect.

DrDeth notes that the police officer in such a case should face criminal charges – but wouldn’t the circumstances of his crime be brought to the attention of the jury trying him? We already suffer from the temptation to excuse wrongdoing in a good cause via jury nullification.

The laws we have, while perhaps extreme, were crafted to address real sins, not imaginary ones. We’ve lived under bad cops, corrupt D.A.s, and crooked mayors, and, frankly, I fear them more. I fear “Dirty Harry” more than I fear the weird punk who puts kids into death traps…because there are a thousand times more of the former than the latter.


But you see- the problem with excluding such evidence is that the Police Officer who obtained such evidence is not punished. Society- Trinopus, me, the entire US SDMB- is punished by allowing the perp to commit more crimes upon us.

I think that if the evidence is obtained illegally, then it shoudl be able to be used- but those that did the illegal act of obtaining it should be punished in a befiting manner.

I do fear the “rogue” cop as much as Trinopus- but would he not be more deterred by losing his oh-so-precious badge & gun, than by the annoyance of watching his “perp” 'walk"? That’s a mighty small deterrance.

I do agree with Trinopus that some juries might “nullify” a rogue cops crimes- but in the extreme example I gave, I would understand if they did so. I might also- AS LONG I WAS SURE HE COULD NO LONGER WEAR A BADGE.

Let’s not punish “the people” for eating of “the fruit of the poisoned tree”- let’s punish those who planted the seeds.

If someone were beating me, I probably confess to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.

I can’t help but think of a case that happened in my home twon. A child was molested, and blamed Mr. X. Subsequently, it was discovered that Mr. X was innocent, and the child had lied to protect the real perpetrator.

Had the family of the child beaten a “confession” out of Mr. X, and the courts ruled that it was admissable, Mr. X might be in prison right now for a crime he did not commit, and the real molestor would be free to harm other children.

As frustrating as it may be to see instances were a clearly guilty defendant walk away on a “technicality,” those protections are there for a very important reason. They’re there to protect the rights of the innocent.

Well, not really. It is also true that the US government uses technicalities in the law to circumvent the spirit of the law. So, technically speaking, Guantanamo is subject to US jurisdiction for some purposes but not for others and the US government can take advantage of that quirk to deny people some pretty basic human rights. Maybe it is illegal for US government officials to torture someone but they just turn that someone over to a friendly government who will gladly do the torturing. In many aspects the hands of the US government are quite a bit dirtier than most or all European governments.

The real salt of the issue is this: what if they had taken the hot tongs to Mr. X, and he confessed to other crimes – including telling them where to find the buried bodies of his murder victims.

As sick as it might seem, and as violently contrasting to “common sense,” I say that he must not be prosecuted for those other crimes. You can’t go around compelling people to testify against themselves…even when they are, in fact, guilty!

It opens the way to “fishing expeditions” and the like. It also rewards false reporting of crimes. (i.e., if I think my neighbor is guilty of burglary…I might report a violent fight going on in his home, so that the police will come and search the place…)

I don’t disagree that our rules mean that guilty people go free.

I only say that it’s a price I’m willing to pay, in order that innocent people aren’t put to “the question.”


The thing is, every argument for the use of evidence obtained via torture on whatever technicality is simply an argument for the use of torture to obtain evidence. You can parse it any way you like, that’s still what it is. And I’m not buying it for a minute.

All this relates to the actions of Pakistan in Terrorist central.

The military there does not want to fight India mainly because of the terrorists at home might cause more unrest. In fact one of the reasons of the coup was so they won’t have to fight India. The current government has to engage the terrorists in the most terrorist-friendly areas in the world.

The other governments recognize the situation that Pakistan is in, and that they have to break a few rules to maintain a semblance of order and capture the few they can. So evidence from that government is allowed by other governments, whatever means Pakistan obtained that info.

They had an idea to bankroll the mujadeen’s activities in Afghanistan so they can fight the USSR, and forget about Pakistan/Indian conflict. Now it is backfiring.

I’m pretty sure I read somewhere (am I inspiring confidence yet?) that under the relevant international law (I’m guessing a UN convention), sending someone to be tortured in another nation is every bit as illegal as getting the electrodes out yourself - this doesn’t really speak to US law though.