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
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
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
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
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
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.
24 March 2000