Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Osborne: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, as do my local police officers. They said that the individual who will be detained will probably not be alone but in the company of friends and associates who will stand around the CSO, exerting great pressure on that individual.

Norman Baker: That is exactly right. I understand and support the Government's entirely honourable motives, which are to deal with antisocial situations and low-level crime, which is currently not addressed. However, the Government are being unfair to put CSOs in situations in which they could be surrounded by boisterous individuals and have to hold the situation for half an hour without even the certainty that a police officer would attend within that time. CSOs would not have the same depth of training as police officers to deal with such a situation and they will not have further powers required to handle the situation. They will be exposed to vulnerable situations, such as a Friday night in a town centre. We should not put people in such situations.

Mr. Challen: Perhaps we will hear from the Minister that the issue of training will be taken care of. The hon. Member for Lewes assumes that a CSO will immediately launch into a 30-minute detention in every case regardless of its circumstances. That should be compared with the current actions of the police. If a single police constable recognises a serious situation, he or she is unlikely to enter that situation and put him or herself at risk. The constable would call up a response team, and the call would probably trigger a fairly fast response. I imagine that the same thing would happen in this case and in case of a citizen's arrest. We are making a lot out of not very much.

Norman Baker: I can only respond by repeating points that I have already made. I am happy to recognise that CSOs will receive training. However, they will not and cannot receive the same depth of training as the police. They will not be trained as well as the police.

I painted a scenario in which a CSO would not immediately charge into immediate detention for 30 minutes, but in which that would be the cumulative effect. I do not think that CSOs will go into a situation and say, ''Right, you'll be detained for 30 minutes.'' However, a situation may occur in which detention is the logical conclusion. A CSO will consider that that happens when a situation gets out of hand and is particularly stressful, but not if it is low key. CSOs will try to detain if the situation is potentially dangerous. I repeat that I believe that that will put them in a difficult situation that is unfair and exposes them unnecessarily.

Amendment No. 42 relates to the power of CSOs to issue fixed penalty notices. One issue relates to section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, which is about wasting police time. That is extraordinary, and I hope that I have read the provision correctly—the Minister

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will tell me if I am wrong. Does the provision apply to wasting a CSO's time? Does the definition of ''police'' include other people?

A range of issues have been exhausted during discussion of previous amendments but, clearly, the power that the Government wish to give to CSOs—

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It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Stevenson, Mr. George (Chairman)
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Borrow, Mr.
Brooke, Annette
Challen, Mr.
Denham, Mr.
Follett, Barbara
Gillan, Mrs.
Hawkins, Mr.
Heppell, Mr.
Hermon, Lady
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr.
Mercer, Patrick
Munn, Ms
Osborne, Mr. George
Paice, Mr.
Prentice, Bridget
Stinchcombe, Mr.
Stoate, Dr.

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