Generally speaking can one count on the words coming out of a British police officer in uniforms mouth as truthful? Under what circumstances is it permitted not to be? Is there any special circumstances or authorizations that are required for them to be permitted to lie? If so, what are these?

3 Answers 3


It seems to not be allowed for a UK police to lie.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 makes it illegal for the police to mislead a suspect in order to make them believe that the police have evidence which they do not or that the evidence they have is stronger than it is, or that there is a possibility of leniency (for example in return for ‘cooperation’) where none exists.

Realistically, there is no reason that a police officer might lie to a suspect during interview.

Also see from innocenceproject.org:

The law does not allow lying to suspects, under any circumstances.


Further to @Daxelarne's accurate answer

An undercover officer (UCO), authorised under section 29 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), by the very nature of the role can lie - but only insofar as to create what's called a "personal or other relationship" (i.e. a covert relationship).

Although a UCO may have additional authority for "criminal conduct" under section 29B they cannot, for example, lie to entrap a suspect in to committing a crime they would not otherwise do.

Similarly, but to a lesser extent, covert surveillance officers carrying out "Directed Surveillance" under section 28 RIPA may occasionally lie to maintain their cover but not to the extent that creates a covert relationship. For example, Q: "Are you following me?" A: "Don't be daft, I'm looking for my lost dog. Goodbye"


See Irina Khasin, Honesty Is the Best Policy: A Case for the Limitation of Deceptive Police Interrogation Practices in the United States, 42 Vanderbilt Law Review 1029 (2021).

Pages 1031-3

          In Europe, police officers pursue confessions with equal zeal but employ different means to achieve the desired end.6 The modern framework for police interrogations in England, established by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 (PACE), focuses on the search for truth by seeking reliable confessions through the use of fair police practices.7 Rather than leaving the courts to delve into the emotional state of every defendant who challenges a confession, English law establishes a uniform standard for the police to follow when conducting interrogations.8 To determine the admissibility of confession evidence, the English courts consider whether police officers have complied with PACE guidelines.9
          While some trickery by the police may be permissible under the provisions of PACE, English courts have held that the intentional misrepresentation of evidence is unfair and violates the law.'10 Because this type of police deception compromises the veracity of a suspect's statements, English judges routinely exclude any confessions gained through deception as unreliable.11 Although research suggests that the use of fabricated evidence is rare in English interrogations,12 PACE enforces the prohibition by requiring the police to record every interview.13 Even a violation of the recording requirement itself can result in the exclusion of a confession from trial.14
          Although commentators have criticized deceptive police practices for decades,15 American jurisprudence continues to overlook what English courts have long recognized: deceptive police practices yield false confessions and, thus, wrongful convictions.16 Confessions gained through police deception are often factually inaccurate and untrustworthy.17 English law limits the use of these deceptive practices by establishing clear rules for the police to follow and empowering courts to enforce those rules.'8 PACE artfully balances police and prosecutorial interests with the fair and reliable administration of justice. 19 In evaluating the need for reform in American police interrogation policy, English law provides a valuable model for comparison.

Pages 1051-3

          Courts considering the admissibility of confessions evidence evaluate police conduct for compliance with PACE section 76 and 78.189 The cornerstones of the law governing police interrogation are reliability and fairness. PACE section 76 provides:

If, in any proceedings where the prosecution proposes to give in evidence a confession made by an accused person, it is represented to the court that the confession was or may have been obtained

(a) by oppression of the person who made it; or

(b) in consequence of anything said or done which was likely, in the circumstances existing at the time, to render unreliable any confession which might be made by him in consequence thereof, the court shall not allow the confession to be given in evidence against him except in so far as the prosecution proves to the court beyond reasonable doubt that the confession (notwithstanding that it may be true) was not obtained as aforesaid.

Applying PACE section 76, courts consider the words or actions that induced such confession to determine whether the confession made by the particular suspect is likely to be unreliable. 190 Questioning that might be acceptable in the interrogation of an average suspect may still cast doubt as to the reliability of admissions made by a particularly vulnerable or inexperienced suspect, such as a child. 191 Section 76 permits judges to exercise considerable discretion in excluding confessions on the basis of reliability. 192 Section 78 further develops the courts' power to bar confessions by allowing judges to exercise discretion in excluding evidence that would otherwise be admissible on the basis that it would be unfair to offer the evidence as proof in a criminal trial.193 In English courts, the function of the judge is to protect the fairness of the proceedings. 194 Because each case will turn on its relevant facts, the government has been reluctant to fetter individual judges' discretion by drawing bright line restrictions.195
          Courts in England routinely exclude confession evidence obtained unfairly by some deceit or trick played on the suspect. 196 Even before the enactment of PACE, English common law granted courts the discretion to exclude confession evidence if the police made misrepresentations to persuade a suspect to make the incriminating statements. 197 Since PACE was enacted, defendants usually challenge evidence obtained as a result of a trick as "unfair" under PACE section 78.198 If the defendant can show that the police acted in bad faith by making a deliberately deceitful representation, the court likely will exclude the confession from evidence. 199 In R v. Mason, the Court of Appeal excluded a confession for such a bad faith misrepresentation by a police officer.200 With no direct evidence to connect the suspect to the crime, the police officer falsely told the defendant and his solicitor that they had found the suspect's fingerprints at the scene of the crime. 201 After being presented with this false evidence during his interrogation, the defendant confessed to the crime. 202 The Court of Appeal held that the deceit perpetrated on the defendant and his solicitor was reprehensible and impacted the fairness of the trial. 203 As the confession was the only definitive evidence linking the defendant to the crime, the conviction was overturned.204
          Although express deception by the police during the interrogation of a suspect is generally prohibited in England, the courts have found that some types of police deception do not warrant the exclusion of confession evidence.205 For example, the English "courts have exhibited a considerable degree of tolerance of surreptitious tape-recording by ... the police."206 In Bailey, the police had failed to obtain confessions from two suspects through ordinary questioning; as a result, the police placed the two suspects in a bugged cell in an effort to record incriminating statements.207 Before doing so, the officers acted out a deceptive charade to lull the suspects into a false sense of security.208 The police officers suggested to the suspects that they should have been placed in separate cells, but an uncooperative custody officer had placed them in the cell together.209 Assuming that their conversation would be private, the suspects made incriminating remarks.210 The court found that the use of deception was "merely a detail," refusing to exclude the admissions from evidence at trial.211

  1. Aldert Vrij, "We Will Protect Your Wife and Child, But Only If You Confess" Police Interrogations in England and the Netherlands, in ADVERSARIAL VERSUS INQUISITORIAL JUSTICE: PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS, supra note 5, at 55, 56.
  3. Id.
  4. Id. at 7.
  5. See Vrij, supra note 6, at 56 (stating that it is implied that evidence obtained by deceit and trickery cannot be admitted into evidence in courts in England).
  6. See generally id. at 55-79 (discussing interrogation procedures in England).
  7. PETER MIRFIELD, SILENCE, CONFESSIONS AND IMPROPERLY OBTAINED EVIDENCE 11 (1997) (explaining that evidence indicates that the use of manipulative techniques has declined since the enactment of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act); Slobogin, supra note 5, at 43.
  8. Code of Practice on Audio Recording Interviews with Suspects (Code E), 3.1 (promulgated under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, c. 60, § 67, pt. VI (Eng.)) [hereinafter Code E].
  9. See Slobogin, supra note 5, at 43.
  10. See, e.g., Magid, supra note 3, at 1169-70 (describing the criticism of commentators and the popular press of the false confessions that arise from the use of deceptive interrogation techniques); Margaret Paris, Trust, Lies, and Interrogation, 3 VA. J. SOC. POL'Y & L. 3, 9 (1996) (advocating the prohibition of any lies during questioning); Welsh S. White, False Confessions and the Constitution: Safeguards Against Untrustworthy Confessions, 32 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 105, 111, 148 (1997) (advocating substantial limits on deception by proposing that police be prohibited from presenting false forensic evidence).
  11. White, supra note 15, at 111.
  12. Id.
  13. See SPRACK, supra note 7, at 4-7 (describing how PACE develops a framework for the exercise of police powers and how it is enforced).
  14. See id. (noting that PACE sets out the framework for the exercise of police powers, accounts for the public interest and provides enforcement methods for courts).
  1. See id. at 29 (describing the framework set out by Sections 76 and 78).
  2. Id.
  3. Id.; cf. MIRFIELD, supra note 12, at 283 ("[T]he mental handicap of the accused may properly be considered . . . for the purposes of section 76(2)(b)."). The leading case is R v. Everett. See Case Comment, Reliability of Confession-Mental Condition of Suspect: R v. Everett, 1988 CRIM. L. REV. 826 (Eng.).
  4. Confession and Breaches of Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) (U.K.), http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/confession_and_breaches_of_police_and_criminal_evidence_act/ (last visited Mar. 24, 2009).
  5. Id.
  6. Id.
  7. Id.
  8. See Richard Stone, Exclusion of Evidence Under Section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act: Practice and Principles, 3 WEB J. CURRENT LEGAL ISSUES, § 11. 1 (1995), http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/articles3/stone3.html; cf. R v. Houghton, (1978) 68 Crim. App. 197, 206 (Eng.) ("Evidence would operate unfairly against an accused if it had been obtained in an oppressive manner by force or against the wishes of an accused person or by a trick or by conduct of which the Crown ought not to take advantage.") (citations omitted); MIRFIELD, supra note 12, at 12 (recognizing the "emerging consensus in official circles" that the kind of tactics "advocated by Inbau, Reid, and Buckley, as well as being arguably unethical, is also inimical to the gathering of reliable confession evidence").
  9. MIRFIELD, supra note 12, at 199.
  10. Id. at 205-09.
  11. Id. at 206.
  12. R v. Mason, (1988) 1 W.L.R. 139, 144 (Eng.).
  13. Id. at 142.
  14. Id.
  15. Id. at 144.
  16. Id.
  17. MIRFIELD, supra note 12, at 207.
  18. Id. at 208.
  19. R v. Bailey, (1993) 3 All E.R. 513, 514 (Eng.).
  20. Id.
  21. Id.
  22. Id.
  23. Id.

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