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Police Powers

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Adam Wilson

Police Powers

The powers of the police, concerning stop and search, are contained within sections one to seven of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), and Code A of the Code of Practices under PACE. The powers of arrest are also illustrated under PACE 1984 (section 24), however, amended by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) 2005. Also contained under PACE 1984, are the rights in detaining a suspect and the treatment and questioning of suspects – both illustrated under Code C. All of these aspects of police powers must be taken into consideration when determining the legalities of the actions of the police in Rollo’s scenario.

The first procedure to be taken into account in this scenario is stop and search. This procedure is governed by sections one to seven of PACE 1984, and ultimately allows police to stop and search people and vehicles in a public place. The statute defines a public place as: “a place to which the public have access, but which is not a dwelling”. A dwelling can extend a public place to: a pub car park and even private gardens, as long as the police has good reason for believing that the suspect does not live at that address. Police must have ‘reasonable suspicion’ to conduct a stop and search. Under code A of PACE 1984, it states that this can never be based on: personal appearance or previous convictions. In Rollo’s scenario, the constable acted unreasonably, as she only approached Rollo because of his past record of stop and searches.

Section two of PACE 1984 provides statutory safeguards in relation to stop and search. The police officer must: give his/her name, the name of the police station to which he/she is attached, the object of the search and the grounds for making the search. The case of Osman v DPP (1999) illustrates that a search will be unlawful if an officer fails to follow this procedure. In Rollo’s scenario, the constables actions will have been unlawful as she simply said, “okay Rollo, you know the routine”, instead of going through the lawful procedure.

After the stop and search procedure, the police office will then decide whether they have reasonable grounds to arrest the suspect. Under SOCPA 2005 a police officer has the rights to arrest without a warrant. In Rollo’s scenario the constable had reasonable grounds to believe that the purse was stolen and therefore was lawful in her actions of arresting Rollo.

The powers of arrest are illustrated under code C of PACE 1984. Once arrested and taken to the nearest designated police station, the suspect will be taken before the custody officer, who listens to the arresting officers evidence and then tells the suspect the three main legal rights; these are: the right to legal advice – illustrated in the case of R v Samuel (1988), the right to have somebody informed of the arrest – usually a family member, and finally, the right to consult the codes of practice – the legislation under which the arrest has been made. Once been offered these legal rights the custody officer must make the suspect sign to confirm that this has been done. It is lawful to hold a suspect for twenty-four hours in custody, without charge. Once the twenty-four hours is up, authorization from a senior police officer is required to extend the custody to thirty-six hours. In Rollo’s scenario, he was unlawfully refused contact of a solicitor and held in custody for forty-eight hours, which is double the amount of time he should have been there. Rollo’s request to speak to his grandmother was refused; the police are in their rights to refuse a suspect to speak to somebody, if they believe that this could potentially interfere with any witnesses or evidence.

Finally, suspects also have more basic rights, such as, rights to sleep, eat and drink. Rollo was given these rights and then released of conditional bail. The conditional bail is reasonable as banning Rollo from the shopping centre could ultimately prevent interference with witnesses and any evidence.

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