Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Annex J

Letter from the Police Federation of England and Wales to Mr J Woodcock, Operational Policing Unit, Home Office


  I refer to your letter of 7 March and attached paper.

  We have been asked to provide views on proposals to amend Section 40(1)(b) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), that would allow reviews of detention before charge, to be conducted by way of video links or over the telephone.

  The policy of the Police Federation of England and Wales is clear. We do not support any form of "remote" review of custody, except in cases of emergency which is already provided for.

  The proposed changes will dramatically alter the safeguards that Parliament introduced and intended. These safeguards provide suspects and their representatives with protections and rights. They are linked closely to accountability and we believe that your proposals strike against the very heart of purpose of the Act itself and the associated Codes of practice.

  Whilst acknowledging that Information Technology can provide substantial benefits, we would contend, that adoption of the proposal is not one of them. In an every-increasing litigious society, "Best Value" will not be provided by removing or diluting legislated provisions affecting Custody. Review Officers need to experience the atmosphere of custody areas to conduct effective reviews and to physically inspect and review all custody matters.

  Custody Suites no less than any other policing area demands more rather than less active supervision as ably illustrated in the death in custody of two Essex prisoners (Linford and Edwards) some 18 months ago and of the subsequent inquiries' criticism of the level of supervision. Leadership and remote supervision from a distance, by way of the telephone or video link will not provide the operational or resource benefits suggested, least of all Lord Chief Justice Bingham clearly regards such practice as unacceptable.

  The Police Federation are not opposed to the establishment of Central Review Cadres. Indeed we were very supportive of the same, when the Home Office Working Group on which we were represented provided recommendations that were accepted by the Police Advisory Board. Such Cadres can advance levels of expertise in the complex, challenging and onerous roles associated with the application of PACE.

  It is further interesting to note that following the Judicial Review, (referred to in the paper and funded by the Police Federation), forces who had been conducting an increasing number of telephone reviews stopped doing so. Many of those forces are now managing custody matters more effectively by making use of the current provisions, allowing reviews to be delayed, others are bringing reviews forward. Whilst we would not support bringing a review forward by such a period of time to make it superfluous, we do recognise that in exceptional circumstances when the Review Officer is not available as opposed to not on duty, such practice is both lawful and appropriate.

  In brief we view these proposals as cost saving measures only at the expense of proper care and conduct of the rights of a detained person and moreover in an area of policing where the risks for all are great. We therefore do not support the proposals to change and would strongly resist them.

  In support of our resistance, we shall of course also rely considerably upon associated elements in the application of the Human Rights Act with regard to both the suspect and Police Officers, as well as the views of the Police Complaints Authority as contained in their report addressing "Deaths in Custody" and of their continuing interest in this field. Indeed it is relevant to note the PCA states that when conducting a Review, the Review Officer will:

    —  speak to the detained person;
    —  speak to the appropriate adult (where applicable);
    —  speak to the Police Surgeon (where applicable);
    —  speak to the Officer in the Case;
    —  speak to the Custody Officer;
    —  read the Custody Record;
    —  consider co-accused (where applicable);
    —  speak to solicitor of detained person and take representations;
    —  consider hours in custody;
    —  consider diligence and expeditiousness of enquiry;
    —  consider necessity for continuing detention/bail/release.

  Only after all of this will the Review Officer determine whether they are able to authorise further detention. This cannot and should not be seen as a paper exercise.

  In conclusion whilst I am happy for you to circulate this response I trust our position is clear and is sufficiently persuasive for you and for Government not to pursue this proposal further. Should you require further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Jeff Moseley

General Secretary

24 March 2000

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