The search of Arnold - Police stop and search powers.

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The search of Arnold


A police officer is given the power to stop and search a person under section 1(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, where it states that a constable may search “any person or vehicle, anything which is in or on a vehicle, for stolen or prohibited articles or any articles to which subsection (8A) below applies”. A police officer can also be given the power to randomly search people under s.60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, without the need for reasonable suspicion. To consider whether the stop and search was lawful, I will begin by determining whether the statutory requirements were fulfilled for a s.1 PACE search, then the alternative means of searching Arnold, and finally questions over the legality of the search in other aspects of the law.

S.1 Pace Search

The first issue which we must deal with is where the section 1 search takes place. Under section 1 of PACE, it specifies that a search may take place where the “public has access” or “any other place to which people have ready access at the time”, but is not the suspect’s garden. In this case it is in The Shires shopping centre in Leicester; this suggests that it complied with s.1(1) and 1(4) of PACE, unless the police officer took him to a part of the shopping centre which was not open to the public. However, this isn’t specified in the information given to us, so we can assume that this was not the case.

A fundamental requirement for a stop and search to be lawful is the need for “reasonable grounds” for suspicion that a person is carrying stolen or prohibited articles, or any articles to which subsection (8A) in section 1 PACE applies. “Reasonable grounds” are not defined in the statutory provisions of PACE, but are expanded upon in PACE Code A. This states that reasonable suspicion cannot be based on stereotypes or generalisations; it must be supported by intelligence, facts, or information. A police officer can also stop and search a person if they think that someone is in innocent possession of stolen or prohibited articles, although there would be no power of arrest. Reasonable suspicion can also exist without specific information, based on a generalisation stemming from the behaviour of a person, e.g. if somebody is on the street at night looking as though they are trying to hide something. This, however, is vague. Looking at case law does little to help us obtain a complete definition of “reasonable suspicion”, or the boundaries between the levels of suspicion. On the one hand, as shown in King v Gardner, a high threshold of suspicion was needed. However, in cases such as Shaaban Bin Hussien v Chong Fook Kam, reasonable suspicion can be of a much lower standard than the evidence needed to prove a prima facie case, and in Lodwick v Sanders a similar low threshold of suspicion is allowed. Some commentators, such as Hart, have identified two elements in legal rules; the “core” meaning, and the “penumbra of uncertainty”. The cases above indicate that there certainly is a wide penumbra of uncertainty about behaviour which constitutes “reasonable suspicion”, which arguably allows the courts to be flexible with their decisions in this area. In this case, we are not told details about Arnold’s behaviour, so assuming that he is stopped with no real cause for suspicion, the officer would be seen to be going against the guidelines in the Codes of Practice for reasonable suspicion. There is also no power for the constable to detain or search Arnold to find reason for suspicion, as this must already be present before any action begins. This might be seen to be happening when “the constable asks Arnold whether he has been shoplifting”, to which he replies no, and the constable proceeds to search him. Failing to observe the Codes of Practice is not, however, a criminal or civil offence unless it would be under normal circumstances, but would be admissible as evidence. It is well-established that failing to observe the principles in Code A could mean that the use of stop and search may be drawn into question. Therefore, in this case, if we are to believe that Arnold did nothing to encourage the officer into suspecting him, then the constable will not have fulfilled the requirements for “reasonable suspicion”, which following the precedent of Black v DPP, would render the stop and search unlawful. If, however, Arnold’s behaviour appeared to be suspicious, then it would not be so straightforward deciding whether it would render the stop and search illegal, due to conflicting case law over the thresholds of suspicion, and the wide “penumbra of uncertainty” of reasonable suspicion.

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The officer must be searching for particular objects: stolen or prohibited articles. In this case, the officer seems to be searching for stolen items, as he suspects Arnold of shoplifting, although he doesn’t directly say what it is he is searching for. The officer can only ask for an outer coat, jacket, or gloves to be removed, although pockets can be searched if it is related to an offence where the item could be slipped into the pocket, but the search cannot go any further than that. In Arnold’s case, the constable searches his pockets but nothing more, which, ...

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5 Stars. An excellent essay on PACE.