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House of Commons
Session 2005 - 06
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Standing Committee Debates

Third Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

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Third Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Mr. Christopher Chope

†Blears, Hazel (Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety)
†Carmichael, Mr. Alistair (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
†Clappison, Mr. James (Hertsmere) (Con)
†Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan (Huntingdon) (Con)
†Herbert, Nick (Arundel and South Downs) (Con)
†Howarth, Mr. George (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab)
†Iddon, Dr. Brian (Bolton, South-East) (Lab)
Kawczynski, Daniel (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)
†Khan, Mr. Sadiq (Tooting) (Lab)
†Marsden, Mr. Gordon (Blackpool, South) (Lab)
†McDonagh, Siobhain (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab)
†McKechin, Ann (Glasgow, North) (Lab)
Oaten, Mr. Mark (Winchester) (LD)
†Pound, Stephen (Ealing, North) (Lab)
Prisk, Mr. Mark (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
†Ryan, Joan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury)
†Smith, Mr. Andrew (Oxford, East) (Lab)
Alan Sandall, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

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Wednesday 30 November 2005

[Mr. Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Draft Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) Order 2005

2.30 pm

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Hazel Blears): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) Order 2005.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to serve on the Committee. I understand that it is normal practice for the Minister to make a fairly lengthy statement in these circumstances—I must therefore apologise for the length of my contribution—but it is helpful to go through the changes in some detail. I think that every member of the Committee has had a copy of the code, the track changes and the table setting out the consultation that began on 7 October, as well as the responses to it. I hope that all hon. Members are fully up to date with the changes.

Codes A to G are pretty detailed, and I want to go through the changes that we have made. Most have been subject to fairly detailed parliamentary scrutiny because they arise from provisions in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which went through Parliament recently. I therefore hope that they will not be of great controversy and that hon. Members understand the background to them.

The codes of practice under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 have been revised annually since 2003 in a genuine attempt to keep up with the development of practice. The codes are there to try to ensure that there is a balance between the rights of the individual and the powers of the police to investigate and tackle crime. We must ensure that that balance is proportionate—that the police have sufficient powers, but that enough safeguards are in place to ensure that those powers are not used arbitrarily and unfairly. It is therefore important that all the codes are kept up to date and are relevant. That is why annual revision is the proper thing for us to do.

Most of the provisions come from the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, but some provisions in one of the codes come from the Drugs Act 2005 and relate to drug testing on arrest and drug testing of young people aged between 14 and 17. Some changes made by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act have already been brought into force. Other relevant changes are due to come into force on 1 January 2006, when the revised provisions of the PACE codes will also come into effect.

I acknowledge the time and effort that our stakeholders and interested parties put into this process. Although officials and those involved in the parliamentary process contribute a great deal of time
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and effort, it is not always acknowledged that we are greatly assisted in drawing up the codes of practice by a range of organisations, including the Law Society, Liberty, Justice and others with an interest in ensuring that we get the right balance between police powers and the rights of the individual.

Clearly, we extensively consult police officers and the Police Federation, which results in codes that are practical, accessible and properly implemented on the ground. We are always keen to see whether we can rationalise the codes. We are looking at the development of statutory guidance on the codes so that we can take into account good practice and lessons learned. We also want to ensure that we share that good practice.

All the proposals that we make are subject to extensive consultation. They are also referred to the Home Affairs Committee and, if necessary, to the House, by way of the affirmative procedure. The codes therefore receive a great deal of scrutiny.

Let me deal first with the changes to code A, which relates to stop-and-search and the new requirement to record encounters. The code now makes it explicit that a person’s religion cannot be considered reasonable grounds for suspicion and should never be considered a reason to stop or stop and search an individual. There were provisions in the code relating to race, age and gender, and we have now made it explicit that a person’s religion is also not to be considered grounds for suspicion.

The second change is to allow the police to give a person a receipt for a stop when an officer is unable to produce a copy of the stop form at the time. Providing a record of a stop is about accountability. We acknowledge that in doing that officers have to complete paperwork. Several forces use technology electronically to record stops and searches and encounters at the time. That reduces the manual transfer of records, so it is a good way to reduce bureaucracy, but limits on the amount of equipment that officers can carry—we have all seen officers who have a lot to carry with them—mean that they might not always be able to print out a full copy of the form at the time. The code has therefore been changed to allow a receipt to be given, which means that the individual can follow the matter up if they want a full copy of the form.

The third change provides clarity on when an officer must provide a record of an encounter. The code currently states that such a record must always be given when the criteria have been met. When they are not met, and the person requests a record, the officer should provide a copy of the form, but make it clear on the form that the criteria for the stop or the encounter were not met.

We have now made it clear that an officer can refuse to issue the form if he or she reasonably believes that the purpose of the request is deliberately aimed at frustrating or delaying legitimate police activity. There may be a gang of people on the street and the officer wants to ask them a few questions, but that does not amount to an encounter that needs to be recorded formally as a stop. Each person could ask for a record
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of the encounter, and it is perfectly right and proper that we allow the officer to use their discretion to decide whether that is a tactic to delay them and keep them filling in forms for the next hour and a half. The officer should be entitled to refuse to give that form out. This is a very sensible change.

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): The form itself has been the cause of some controversy and could delay matters. I have seen it; it is very long, and many policemen and women have complained about its length. As part of the process, does the Minister intend to review the size of form?

Hazel Blears: We do. Many forces have also combined the encounter form with the stop-and-search form so the police can simply fill out one form. The whole idea has been controversial. The Police Federation was initially resistant to recording encounters, but I understand that it recently acknowledged that as a legitimate policing tool that helps the police to gather intelligence. It has now said that recording encounters is a necessary and important means of ensuring officer accountability. That is a significant shift, for which I commend the Police Federation.

On the practicalities, we have tried to minimise the time involved—three quarters of all stops take less than five minutes to record—and the introduction of technology means that the process is not bureaucratic. The police acknowledge that recording encounters can give them intelligence about where the hotspots are and where they need to direct their activity. We have made significant progress by working together.

Mr. Djanogly: I thank the Minister for giving way again on an important point. When the form first came out, the complaint was that it took 10 minutes or more to fill in. Has the time it takes to fill out the form reduced to five minutes because the form itself has now been reduced?

Hazel Blears: I am not aware that there have been significant changes to the form. As in most areas, getting used to filling in the form inevitably means that it can be done more quickly. The London School of Economics published a study on good practice in recording encounters, including when they should be recorded and when they should not.

Again, there was widespread misunderstanding that every conversation on the street would need to be recorded as an encounter, which is clearly not so. Encounters need to be recorded when people are asked to account for their activity or their presence. Familiarity with the form and understanding its purpose mean that recording three quarters of incidents now takes less than five minutes, and the police believe on balance that the form is a useful and necessary tool for their job.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act introduced three new search and seizure powers for community support officers, who have the power, if they are designated with it, to search detained persons for dangerous items or items that could be used to assist escape, to search for alcohol and tobacco, and to
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seize drugs and require the name and address of the individual for possession of those drugs. New annexe C to code A sets out the powers of designated community support officers in that regard.

The code refers throughout to police staff, but we thought it important to clarify the limited range of stop-and-search powers that community support officers have. They do not have a general power, but they have a power in relation to the specific stop-and-searches mentioned. Setting that out in the code clarifies the powers of community support officers in that regard.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): Is the power complementary or is it to be construed as part of the power for police officers under section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971?

Hazel Blears: I am talking about community support officers’ powers to search for alcohol and tobacco while carrying out their main duty of tackling antisocial behaviour. That is the purpose of the powers that have been introduced. We do not anticipate that community support officers will go out on specific operations as police officers do, but if they are searching someone for tobacco and alcohol and they find drugs, clearly they need a power to take action in that regard.

Mr. Carmichael: The point about section 23 is that it gives police officers powers in situations where they have reasonable grounds for suspicion—something that has often proven problematic for police officers in the past. Will the same requirements be placed on community support officers in relation to those powers?

Hazel Blears: The stop-and-search powers under PACE are based on reasonable suspicion. To exercise those powers, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed. My understanding is that the powers for community support officers have the same basis, but I will confirm that to the hon. Gentleman later.

PACE operates within the framework of there being reasonable grounds for suspicion. Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which is another power to stop and search, there is not the same requirement for reasonable suspicion, because that power is directed in a different way and is for a different purpose. However, I will confirm the answer to the hon. Gentleman, either shortly or, if that is not possible, after the debate.

Code B regulates the use of warrants. Sections 113 and 114 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act amended PACE quite radically to introduce the multiple use warrant. That was the subject of lengthy debate when the legislation was being considered. Sections 113 and 114 allow for the issuing of a specific premises warrant—for one or more sets of premises specified in an application—or for an all-premises warrant, under which any premises occupied or controlled by the person specified in the application, including any premises that can be specified, can be searched.

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Those measures are aimed at enabling investigators to gain access to relevant premises when required, with the least disruption to the progress of an investigation. An all-premises warrant allows a range of premises to be searched, so that the officer does not have to go back to court for every single search warrant for every single set of premises.

In our discussion, we talked about the fact that criminals these days can be very sophisticated; they may move goods from one set of premises to another, and in that way seek to prevent the police from searching and gaining evidence of offences.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): Unlike many Committee members, I was recruited to attend these proceedings rather late in the day, so I have not had the opportunity to read as much about the order as I would like. I understand from the explanatory memorandum that the order arose from a Minister undertaking, in 2003, to refer the codes to the Home Affairs Committee. The new codes are a result of its recommendations. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister compare what was originally in the code with the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee and say how these new codes line up with its recommendations?

Hazel Blears: I welcome my right hon. Friend to the Committee; I am sure that we will get the benefit of his extensive experience of the practical measures that the police need to tackle crime. I say that genuinely, because I know that he is extremely concerned to ensure that the police in his constituency get up-to-date powers to tackle the more sophisticated criminals who are around these days. I may be able to give him that line-by-line comparison, but I doubt whether I can do so in Committee. However, I certainly undertake to give him that analysis.

Among the papers available to the Committee, there is a document with a schedule of the consultation that is taking place. It lists the recommendations that people have made, says whether those recommendations have been incorporated into the codes, and if not, it gives the reasons why. That is part of the information that my right hon. Friend seeks. If that information is not sufficient, I will gladly provide him with more.

The changes to the warrant are quite radical, but there are significant safeguards in the codes to ensure that the powers are not used arbitrarily and unfairly. Every application to the courts has to demonstrate that the exercise of the powers is justified and necessary. When considering applications, the court has the discretion either to accept the application or to restrict criteria, such as when the warrant should be executed.

Every use of the warrant—even individual uses of a multiple premises warrant—has to be individually recorded by the officer in charge of the search. The warrant has to be scrutinised when it is returned to the court, and how it was executed will be endorsed on the warrant. A second or subsequent entry to premises
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specified on a multiple premises warrant must be authorised in writing, prior to its being used, by an inspector not involved in the investigation, so there is some external scrutiny of the process.

When entry is sought to premises not specified on an all-premises warrant, prior written authorisation must given by an inspector not involved in the investigation; that, again, allows a degree of rigorous scrutiny. Although this is a significant change, I hope that hon. Members accept that the safeguards will ensure that the rights of the police and the individual are properly and proportionately balanced.

Mr. Carmichael: I think I am correct in saying that, in addition, it is recommended that the time limit for the execution of warrants should be extended from one month to three. I see the Minister nodding. Having multiple premises warrants and repeat entry warrants opens up significantly the range of executing warrants—unlike the original, which was for a named individual and a certain premises, and which is something from which we have clearly departed.

Does the Minister share my concern that scrutiny by an officer not involved in the investigation who has the rank of inspector—or higher, I presume—welcome though that is, still involves scrutiny of the police by the police? Will she give the Committee some assurance that the Home Office will be looking at how such warrants are used over the three-month period?

Hazel Blears: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. We tried from the outset to ensure that the police could not engage in a sort of fishing expedition—for instance, with a hypothetical, speculative case—and then seek to execute warrants on those flimsy grounds. At the same time, I repeat that criminals are increasingly sophisticated and can move goods and evidence around, and we want to ensure that the police do not find themselves having constantly to return to court to get individual authorisations for every step of the investigation. It is important to strike a correct balance.

As well as the inspector having to authorise a warrant, each use will need to be endorsed on it when it is returned to court. When we review the codes of practice—it is an ongoing exercise—we consider how the powers have been used; we want to ensure that they, too, are up to date. With the Department for Constitutional Affairs, we will be monitoring applications for the issue and use of multiple warrants. It is a new power and we want to see how it works, whether it achieves the expected benefits, and whether it enables us more effectively to tackle some of the serious organised crime that unfortunately takes place. I gladly give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks.

Code C deals with drug testing. The Drugs Act 2005 extended the police’s existing powers for drug testing persons on charge or after arrest for trigger offences, if it is believed that the misuse of drugs caused or contributed to the offence. Authorisation from the Secretary of State to allow testing will stipulate whether the power enables the police to test on arrest or on charge and whether the testing applies to 14 to
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17-year-olds. However, it is not an investigative power. It is not meant to test for drugs in order investigate specific crimes for which people have been arrested; we want to test for drugs in order to direct people into drug treatment. Breaking the link between drug addiction and crime is key to reducing crime on our streets. The power is designed to enable the police to require individuals to attend and complete an assessment of their misuse of drugs. That will enable them to get help and support, and break the cycle of offending behaviour.

Significant safeguards have been put in place. The process requires the person’s consent, and testing can be carried out only by prescribed persons. In the case of 14 to 17-year-olds, the sample request, the warning that refusal to consent without reasonable cause is an offence, and the taking of the sample must all take place in the presence of an appropriate adult. I hope that the Committee accepts that although those are significant powers, designed to push people into drug treatment, there are safeguards in place to protect individuals.

There is an additional power to deal with people who are suspected of having swallowed drugs in order to hide them. People who do that can present significant health risks in the custody suite. We need to improve the current powers for identifying whether a person has swallowed drugs, and for keeping them in custody to recover evidence of the crime. The power to take X-rays or ultrasounds of those suspected of having swallowed drugs will apply to areas designated for that purpose by the Home Secretary. That will help the police to gather evidence and ensure that the suspect receives appropriate health care while they wait for the evidence to be produced, if I can use that term. The process requires consent but, to prevent detainees from routinely frustrating investigations by withholding consent, a judge will be able to allow a jury to take a refusal to submit to an X-ray or ultrasound test into account when considering the suspect’s guilt.

The legislation, supported by Home Office guidance, sets out important safeguards to ensure that the procedures are carried out only when it is medically safe to do so. Again, in the case of juveniles, the process of consent must take place in the presence of an appropriate adult. It is important for the police to have the power to take X-rays or ultrasounds in cases where they suspect that people have swallowed drugs to conceal them within their bodies.

There is further provision to maintain safeguards for people who can be detained in police custody for up to 196 hours, on the authority of a magistrate, to recover swallowed drugs. I am told that it can take some time for that process to be completed. According to one of my officials, the record for that to happen was over 40 days. That does not really bear thinking about, but clearly there need to be proper powers and safeguards in place while it happens.

I mentioned further provisions for appropriate adults, who offer an important safeguard for young and vulnerable detainees. The role of the appropriate adult is to ensure that the interaction between the
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police and a juvenile is itself appropriate, but we would not want to prevent appropriate adults from facilitating the relationship between a young person and their solicitor. However, since the appropriate adult has no legal privilege there is concern that they could, in some circumstances, be called to give evidence of what had taken place between a young person and their solicitor—a difficult position to be in.

Appropriate adults accept that they have no legal privilege, but we are working with the national appropriate adult network—also, with Justice and Liberty—to try to ensure that appropriate adults will be questioned only by the police in exceptional circumstances. They can then continue to carry out the role of facilitating a relationship between young people and their solicitors. Those safeguards are important for us.

Mr. Carmichael: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because I cannot think of any circumstance where it would be appropriate for the police to question an appropriate adult who had been acting in that capacity. What does the Minister think might be exceptional circumstances?

Hazel Blears: The very fact that circumstances might be exceptional makes it difficult for me to speculate. If I were able to predict now what would be likely to be exceptional circumstances, I would no doubt be proved wrong when others occurred. In the code, we want to make it clear that appropriate adults should not be questioned as a matter of routine. We cannot change their legal status, since they do not have legal privilege, but we want them to be able to maintain that important role. If we put into the code that it is only in exceptional circumstances—for example, if justice were to be denied as a result of not being able to question—that would clearly be a difficult call for us all to make, since we would want justice to be obtained.

Issues such as the seriousness of the offence might be looked at in a situation where someone who had committed a very serious offence was able to evade prosecution without vital evidence from a person involved. We are saying that the threshold is pretty high for putting appropriate adults into that situation. However, there might be issues involving national security, or a case—although I am sure it should never happen in practice—where a defence lawyer had destroyed some evidence, or something of that nature. But I am again speculating on what might be exceptional circumstances. In the code, we are trying to give the appropriate adult some protection, while recognising that the legal status cannot really be changed. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman; as I say, there are considerations such as the seriousness of the offence and national security.

Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): The advantage of putting that power explicitly in the code is that, while the legal status cannot be changed, we are making it clear that only in exceptional circumstances can police officers interview, and so on. Not putting that
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explicitly in the Bill may lead the police officer to believe that, in ordinary circumstances, the appropriate adult can be questioned.

Hazel Blears: My hon. Friend is right. As I say, we are trying to raise the threshold so that appropriate adults would not be questioned as a matter of routine. For an appropriate adult to be questioned, a pretty high threshold would have to be reached; and if it was not reached, that would be a breach of the code. The code seeks to set the parameters for acceptable behaviour by police officers in those circumstances. Making use of the power exceptional makes the police officer think again, and ask themselves, “Do I really need to do this in the interests of justice?”

Code D covers footwear impressions. It makes sure that the provisions on evidence apply to footwear impressions, just as they do to other kinds of evidence. Footwear impressions found at the scene of a crime play an important role in identifying perpetrators. Until now, the powers to take, retain and speculatively search for footwear impressions were not covered in legislation, although impressions of footwear could be taken where it was suspected that the footwear matched an impression taken during an investigation.

The changes to the code focus on supporting the effectiveness of on-street powers; providing similar powers on gathering news and retaining footwear impressions, as for other forms of identification; ensuring consistency between live and video ID parades; and ensuring greater support for vulnerable witnesses and suspects. We are trying to get that balance right. We need to make amendments to identification provisions to keep up with changes taking place in the rest of the law.

There are also changes to do with taking photographs elsewhere than at a police station. Increasingly, police use on-street powers to ensure a swift disposal of events, for example by issuing a fixed-penalty notice or issuing street bail. Those changes mean that police officers do not have to go back to the station; they can actually do something about the problems that they face there and then. The power to take photographs otherwise than at a police station gives the police power to record the identity of a person. It is a deterrent for those people who otherwise could claim mistaken identity, and say, “It wasn’t me who got the fixed penalty notice.” If the police officer can take a photograph there and then on the street, they can prove that a certain person got a fixed penalty notice.

The power also helps with fine enforcements. Very often when enforcement officers go round to enforce a fine, they will get into issues of disputed identity. If they can take with them a photograph of the individual concerned, it will make life an awful lot simpler. We have also dealt with an anomaly whereby, in previous PACE codes, moving and still images were dealt with differently. The new powers put those types of images on an equal footing, so that they can all be lawfully retained and exchanged to prevent or detect crime.

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There are video identification changes, too. Video parades—a relatively new phenomenon—mean that identity parades can now be done in a matter of hours, rather than weeks, as used to be the case. It is a much quicker process. It means that people’s recollections are instant and much sharper, and it greatly increases the ability of witnesses to identify suspects.

The code now makes it clear that, during a video ID procedure, an unusual physical feature may be concealed or digitally replicated on other images. My understanding is that that relates to cases in which someone has a significant scar, for example. If that was simply on the photograph of the suspect, it could skew the identification process. Increasingly, with digital imaging and pixilation, we can conceal what would otherwise be very visible identifying marks. In some cases, I understand that forces have the technology to replicate that physical identifying mark on a range of other images. Again, that means that the video identification process can be robust and rigorous. That is a real indication of how technology is changing the way in which the police do their business. It means that the process is much more effective, and that people’s recollections are better. But making sure that it is still a fair process by making sure that the images are as similar as we can get them to be is extremely important.

There is also an amendment to the definition of intimate and non-intimate samples. We are ensuring that the law is brought up to date because in cases of suspected sexual assault, swabs taken from specific intimate areas of male suspects and female victims fell outside the current definition of an intimate sample. The amendment allows these swabs to be taken with consent, which will avoid any allegation of assault against the police if they decide that such a swab is necessary. Again, it gives added protection to the rights of the suspect. As I understand it, the previous definition of intimate samples was quite narrow. If police wanted to take other samples—still of an intimate nature, but not falling within that definition—they could be exposed to allegations of assault. Changes in the code make it clear that that position will not be the case.

We have also amended code D to reflect the guidance on supporting witnesses set out in “Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings”, a document issued under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. That required that a person carrying out pre-trial support should accompany a vulnerable witness during any identification procedure. Again, the process has more support not just for victims but also for witnesses, as undertaking an ID parade can be a traumatic experience for someone who has witnessed crime. It really can be difficult, and I say that from personal experience. Making sure that somebody is there to support them is indeed important.

Code E deals with the recording of interviews and ensures that we have best practice. The changes to code E again take account of technology. At present, as I understand it, recording is limited to audio cassettes. Increasingly, more modern forms of audio recording
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such as CDs are taking the place of traditional technology, so the changes here will bring us up to date.

No changes are proposed to code F, which governs the audiovisual recording of police interviews with interview suspects. That is not a statutory code; it is there for guidance. Not every force does visual recording but where forces do, the guidance is there.

The final changes relate to code G, which governs the new arrest powers introduced in sections 110 and 111 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Like the warrants change, that was quite significant, as we moved from the concept of having arrestable and non-arrestable offences to saying that all offences should be arrestable—but only where the police officer could show that it was necessary to carry out the arrest.

Paragraph 1.3 of code G, as amended, sets out in clear terms the constraints around that power. Some concerns were expressed that by saying every offence should be arrestable we were getting into a position where people would get arrested simply for dropping litter on the streets, and that that was an oppressive and arbitrary power. Paragraph 1.3, however, sets it out well. It says that the use of the power must be fully justified; that officers exercising the power should consider whether the necessary objectives can be met by other, less intrusive means; that

    “arrest must never be used simply because it can be used”,

and that when it is used, it should be in a non-discriminatory and proportionate manner.

That says to police officers, “Think carefully when you come upon a situation. If you can deal with it in a way other than arrest, you should think about doing so.” The new provisions thus give added accountability, rather than taking it away, by providing not only that they should arrest but that it should be necessary for them to arrest.

I draw the attention of hon. Members to paragraph 2.9 of the code, which sets out the criteria for where an arrest should be necessary. It goes through a range of issues—the conduct of the person, whether they need to be arrested to prevent physical injury, and the kind of cases where there are reasonable grounds. So, the circumstances and situations in which police officers might find it necessary to effect an arrest are listed really well in paragraph 2.9. A whole range of safeguards is in place as a result of the change that has taken place. The officer’s decisions will be subject to oversight by the courts, by the independent police complaints procedure and by their superior officers.

As an indication of how seriously we take comments from stakeholders, paragraph 1.3 of code G is apparently taken directly from the response made by the Law Society. Again, our stakeholders do change and influence the way in which we draw up the codes and that is good evidence of the extremely important relationship that we have. The changes to code G will give the police sufficient powers to bring criminals to justice but will allow those powers to be subject to proper safeguards. There is still an element of discretion about the arrest power. Discretion has been a core responsibility of police officers in this country
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for more than 100 years and they are well able to exercise it in a proper legal and accountable framework

We have tried, in all the changes, to ensure that we have the right balance between giving the police the powers that they need to do the job and safeguarding individuals in our democracy. Such values are important to us. The reason why we have policing by consent in this country is that the public feel that the powers are exercised fairly, proportionately and properly. I have no doubt that they will continue to be used in that way. The codes are an extremely useful tool for all of us—police officers and citizens.

I will deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. The community support officer powers are free-standing from any powers in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The community support officer has power to seize and detain any controlled drug that he finds while searching the person if he believes it is unlawful for the person to possess it; it might be lawful if it were prescribed medication, but such a situation might be rare. The community support officer’s power is not to search for drugs, but the power exists to deal with the situation where drugs are found during a search for alcohol or cigarettes, for example. So, it is a consequential power rather than a free-standing Misuse of Drugs Act power, which is why it is important to have that in the legislation, as I said to the hon. Gentleman in my original answer; that confirms the point.

With that, I commend the revised codes to the Committee.

3.7 pm

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