The mother of murder victim Becky Godden-Edwards needs 100,000 signatures on a petition to the Home Office to trigger a parliamentary debate on changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984.
With a stall set up at Asda Walmart in North Swindon, Karen Edwards, pictured by Richard Wintle of Calyx, is hoping to raise the profile of her campaign which she believes will prevent other families being deprived of justice and closure over their missing loved ones.
Commenting on the petition’s progress Karen said: “The people of Swindon have been so supportive and we already have thousands of signatures, but we need so many more to make the MPs listen.”
In October 2012 Swindon taxi driver Christopher Halliwell was convicted of the murder of Sian O’Callaghan and sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, evidence of a confession by Halliwell to Becky’s murder was ruled inadmissible by the court on the basis of a breach of PACE by the senior investigating police officer.
Explaining the situation Karen said: “The senior detective was Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, who has a degree in criminology and who had built up a rapport with Halliwell. He secured Halliwell’s confession to Sian’s murder under the conditions of an urgent interview without a lawyer present. But when Halliwell then proceeded to tell Mr Fulcher about the whereabouts of Becky’s body he did it without being formally cautioned, meaning that the confession was thrown out by the judge as inadmissible.”
D.I. Fulcher was dismissed from his post for breaching the rules that set out what police officers have to do during the arrest procedure and now awaits a decision by a nationwide panel of police officers and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Defending the detective’s actions Karen said: “If he hadn’t done what he did I would never have got Becky back to give her a proper resting place instead of being in a lonely field. If Mr Fulcher had taken Halliwell into the station and given him access to a lawyer Halliwell would never have said anything, and neither Becky’s nor Sian’s body would have been recovered.
“PACE needs to be more flexible in how police officers are able to deal with suspects, and the law needs to be better balanced to protect the human rights not just of the perpetrator but also of the victim and their family.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions In the House of Commons on Wednesday 18 September South Swindon MP Robert Buckland addressed the issue to Prime Minister David Cameron: “The person responsible for the murder of Becky Godden-Edwards, whose mother is my constituent, has not been brought to justice because of evidence excluded as part of the court process.
“Would my Right Honourable friend join my cause for a review of Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act so that terrible situations like this cannot happen in future?”
In response Mr Cameron said “I will look very carefully at what my Right Honourable friend has raised, the specific case he mentions and also the issue of the PACE Act. It is always important that all information that possibly can be put in front of the court is put in front of the court so it can reach the correct decision.”
Sign the petition in person at Asda Walmart, at the Tawny Owl pub or online on the Justice for Becky e-petition.
Photos copyright Richard Wintle of Calyx