WA Police are about to start using the term “suspect” as standard practice despite it being at the centre of a multimillion-dollar defamation claim.
Officers have been told to stop describing someone implicated in a crime as a “person of interest” and use the term suspect.
It comes amid the defamation trial of Lloyd Rayney. Then Det-Sen. Sgt Jack Lee claimed Mr Rayney was the “prime” and “only” suspect in his wife Corryn’s murder, remarks Mr Rayney says damaged his legal career and reputation. He was found not guilty of murder.
A WA Police spokeswoman said the change was not prompted by the Rayney case but was made to adopt terms consistent with legislation and contemporary investigative practices.
“There was no one case that triggered the instruction, nor a particular public strategy about the timing of the broadcast to officers,” she said.
The term “person of interest” is not in the Criminal Investigation Act, legislation police have used since 2006.
The Act uses “suspect” to define a person “suspected of having committed an offence, whether or not he or she has been charged with the offence”.
But internally police were calling potential offenders “a person of interest” until they became an arrested suspect or were ruled out of an inquiry.
A review found there had been issues with using terms not in the Act.