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Towards audio-visual reports in criminal law cases?

Professor of Criminal Law Marc Kessler proposes starting an experiment in criminal law cases: replacing parts of police interview reports with an audio-visual recording. His inaugural lecture is on 28 October 2016.

Modernisation of Code of Criminal Procedure

The Code of Criminal Procedure is currently being updated. Professor Kessler is closely involved in this project: besides his chair at Leiden Law School, he also works as a Senior Adviser to the Central Legal Department at the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Professor Marc Kessler

Keeping up with developments in information and communication technology

‘Part of the update process involves looking at how the Code of Criminal Procedure can be adjusted to stay in line with developments in the field of information and communication technology,’ Kessler comments. ‘Now, for example, police officers are required to write a complete report of every interview. But increasingly an audio-visual recording is made of an interview. These recordings are intended to be a check on the written report. One might ask whether it is not possible to replace parts of these written reports with the recording.’

Reduce workload

A primary aim of the experiment is to improve the quality of the interview reports. Kessler: ‘And in the process you can see whether the workload would be reduced as a result. It would also be necessary to ensure that the Public Prosecutor, the defence and the judges could all easily watch the recording.’


Kessler: ‘What I propose is an experiment where only a short summary is given of the interview, after which reference is made to the relevant parts of the audio-visual recording of the interview.’ To avoid taking steps that go too far, Kessler would prefer to experiment first and then at a later stage - on the basis of the results of the experiment - see whether an ‘audio-visual report’ could be included in the new Code of Criminal Procedure.

  • In more serious criminal cases it is standard practice for a recording to be made of the police interview. Recordings provide a more complete picture than a written report which provides the main points or a summary of the main points of the interview.
  • To be able to easily refer to the relevant fragments of the recording in the summary of the interview, metadata and an index have to be added to the recordings. This is to ensure that it is possible in the report to click on a link that provides the correct fragment of the recording. The fragments can then replace the written parts of the interview that deal with what the suspect or witness said. In the long term this can make a big difference in the workload required to produce reports of police interviews.  A digital file would be the ideal place to set up such a system.

Which cases?

Kessler believes that the experiment should be applied in both criminal cases settled out of court (with  a penalty order, for example) and criminal cases that come before the court.  However, it would also be possible just to focus on out-of-court settlements.


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