Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Denham: My hon. Friend misunderstands me. Of course, very little time will be freed up by substituting detention officers for police officers on the five occasions a year when intimate searches are made. The question is whether a police officer has always to be available in case a police station is unlucky enough to have to conduct one of those searches. That would mean that police officers would have to be deployed in greater numbers than if we went ahead with full civilianisation. That is the core of the argument.

My hon. Friend makes a reasonable point about the level of training that should be available to police officers. Indeed, under wider police reforms, we are trying to make that much more systematic and competence-based than it has perhaps been in the past. These issues should be addressed.

Column Number: 286

On balance, the danger of restricting the significant gains from civilianisation outweighs the step that the Committee is being asked to take. Everything takes place within the framework of PACE codes and guidance. Given that there is absolutely no question about either the preference in law that that provides for the use of medical staff or the tests that have to be passed by the authorising officer, including that of the harm being potentially greater than the harm produced by taking action, I hope that the Committee will resist the amendments.

Norman Baker: What about my point about the same sex?

Mr. Denham: The position on the same sex is the same as for a police officer. A constable may not conduct an intimate search of a person of the opposite sex. That is in the PACE code of practice, and the same will apply for a detention officer.

Mrs. Brooke: I thank the Minister for those comments. He has been very persuasive in some respects, but I wish to press the amendment on the basis that, at this stage, I am not fully convinced by his argument that the requirement of a police officer could prevent the bringing into being of civilian detention officers. It is a very powerful argument, but I do not think that this forum is such that the convincing evidence can actually be provided in it. I am still very unhappy about the matter, so I hope that there will be further correspondence. I should like to go and talk to police officers about the matter, to get a better feel on it, but because of my very strong feelings on the issue, I wish to press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 2, Noes 9.

Division No. 10]

Baker, Norman
Brooke, Annette

Baird, Vera
Borrow, Mr. David
Denham, Mr. John
Heppell, Mr. John
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Munn, Ms Meg
Prentice, Bridget
Stinchcombe, Mr. Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 198, in page 132, line 10, leave out ''under section 35''.

No. 199, in page 132, line 20, leave out ''under section 35''.

No. 200, in page 132, line 31, leave out ''under section 35''.

No. 201, in page 132, line 39, leave out ''under section 35''.

No. 202, in page 133, line 14, leave out ''under section 35''.

No. 203, in page 133, line 20, leave out ''under section 35''.

Column Number: 287

No. 204, in page 133, line 25, leave out paragraph 29.

No. 205, in page 133, line 42, leave out ''under section 35''.—[Mr. Denham.]

Column Number: 288

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Heppell.]

        Adjourned accordingly at two minutes to Five o'clock till Tuesday 25 June at half-past Ten o'clock.

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

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