Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Home Office proposal: new power of arrest for ongoing protests

Summary: The police asked for new powers to arrest habitual protesters, the Home Office says: yes!

Details: The Home Office has been looking at streamlining and harmonising some of the provisions of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984; the primary legislation dealing with police powers, including searches, arrests and detention.

The aim of their review is supposedly to encourage "views and comments from the public, stakeholders and practitioners on PACE and its application to 21st century policing. This is the final phase of the consultation process and sets out specific recommendations for change aimed at reducing bureaucracy, freeing up officer time, whilst increasing accountability and raising public confidence and awareness."

Hidden within the government's many proposals is a promise to:

Expand the current necessity criteria to deal with so-called 'ongoing offences'
Which is elaborated as:

Clarifying the necessity criteria

7.13 The criteria in section 24(5) PACE, excluding the need to investigate, are similar to those in section 38 PACE (detention after charge). Both focus on the need to prevent harm or to protect other persons or property. The necessity criteria on arrest is not sufficiently clear when dealing with the prevention of injury and loss of/damage to property to deal with continuing offences; and certain types of antisocial behaviour and low-level disorder, including non-compliance with directions designed to prevent the consequences of such behaviour.

7.14 The relationship between the routine powers to take, check and retain fingerprints and DNA of arrested persons at the station and the necessity criteria would also benefit from clarification.

For example, the necessity criteria would be satisfied if the effective investigation of the offence requires taking and comparing fingerprints and DNA for evidence or where it is reasonably believed that fingerprints would resolve a properly founded doubt as to the arrested person's identity.

However, the criteria are not meant to support arrest solely for the purposes of routinely taking fingerprints and DNA to add to the national databases.

7.15 We propose to clarify the application of necessity criteria by:

* Providing a more straightforward connection between the effect of the suspect's behaviour on others and the need to arrest to prevent that effect. An example might be, where the constable reasonably believes that a person present is likely to fear for the safety of themselves and/or their property and that the suspect's arrest is necessary to allay that fear; and

* Making it clear that the taking of fingerprints and DNA to carry out a speculative search & collect biometric data is not sufficient grounds on its own to make an arrest.


But what do they mean by "low-level disorder"? Why SOCPA s132 of course!

Background, from the DCR Bill Joint Committee's First Report:

73. The Metropolitan Police Service has stated that police powers of arrest in relation to SOCPA were inadequate:

"the MPS has dealt with a number of individuals who have chosen to deliberately commit offences under SOCPA. A power of arrest has existed in some of these cases, an example being where a protestor refused to provide any details. However, the MPS is increasingly having to deal with those who choose to protest in the SOCPA area in situations where a power of arrest does not exist and despite being formally reported for an offence, they continue to commit that offence. In those cases, the MPS is powerless to prevent a continuance of the offence and those committing the offence continue to break the law, so undermining it. The MPS believes that a power to arrest should exist to prevent individuals continuing to commit an offence after they have been formally reported for it. This could be achieved by an amendment to s24(5) PACE [the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984]."


76. We note the differences of opinion about the adequacy of police powers of arrest. We welcome the commitment by the Home Office Minister to remove any "confusion" as part of the review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 that is being carried out by the Home Office. Had we been given further time for our inquiry, we might have obtained further evidence that would have enabled us to provide a more useful assessment of the adequacy of existing powers.

Related evidence to the committee:

1 comment:

Mark said...

ECLN Call Out

See Vid to promote Saturday October 11th at

It has been suggested 1pm at New Scotland Yard and we could possibly then do a march at 3 to Parly Square? Couldn't this tie in well with grievance about extra police powers, and database extension now proposed?

Be good to get everyone on board for this..

Freedom Not Fear London/UK 2008