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The key roles that PCSOs play in all areas are: offering increased visibility to provide greater reassurance to the public, improving community engagement through getting to know communities and the issues that concern them, and gathering intelligence from local people about what is going on in their neighbourhoods. It is precisely because they are not quite police that they are more trusted by the sections of the community which react badly to the more authoritarian image of fully sworn police officers, yet standardising their powers in the way suggested by the Government will simply make them more like sworn officers. They risk losing these advantages and there is no clear distinction.
If we are to give PCSOs standard powers, this standard should represent a set of minimum powers, with flexibility for chief officers to increase them if it
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Taken together, these represent a compelling set of arguments for ensuring that any standard powers are minimum powers, with the line drawn as I have described. Chief police officers will still have the ability to increase those powers if and when they feel it is necessary. For the reasons that I have outlined, it is unhelpful to prescribe greater powers for all areas. This is important for the confidence of the public in policing and deserves to be in primary legislation. I beg to move.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I understand the anxiety of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, but I do not accept that it is merited on this occasion. Perhaps I may explain to her why. The key question is the intention of the Bill in relation to the powers of the police community support officers and whether the amendment improves it.
The Bills intention is to bring clarity to the policing powers currently designated to community support officers. I welcomed the noble Baronesss acceptance at the beginning of her speech that this was a reasonable aim, because if we are to have the benefit of using community support officers, we should know the ambit of what they are likely to do in any given area.
There is great variation among forces, a fact with which the noble Baroness is all too familiar. Clause 6 allows the Secretary of State to propose to both
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I reiterate that this Bill does not prescribe what the standard set of powers should be; it sets out a statutory process for determining the standard setand it is a comprehensive process. If, after debate on a draft order, this House thinks that we have got it wrong, it may then reject the draft order, but we do not think that the Bill is the place to debate the individual existing powers or skewer the Bills intention.
I am reluctant to discuss the merit of exercising the power or the reasoning for including it in a standard set because the key point is to safeguard the integrity of the existing clause. All policing powers, whoever exercises them, are coercivethat is their nature. CSOs are appropriately trained and recruited to a task from a wider and more diverse background than are police officers. Some 15 per cent come from minority ethnic groups, for example. Their nature is that they are local, immediate and known by people. It is quite clear that we want to retain that distinct and valuable flavour. Not everyone welcomed CSOs initially, but we all welcome them now as being a thoroughly good thing. They are not only to engage and to reassure, but they solve problems about anti-social behaviour that people face, and we should dispel the myth that they are not up to the job of doing thatbecause we know that they are.
Noble Lords will be aware that we did a pilot study on the use of the power to require someone to remain for 30 minutes. The result was really favourable. It is an important sanction when a CSO is dissatisfied with the response given to a request for a name and address. Whether to exercise that power is at the discretion of the CSO and on the basis of local operational instructions. It is then for a constable to resolve the situation, not the CSO. The CSO may not restrain someone; that requires the designation of a separate power.
We are having discussions with the police service on the shape of a list of standard powers and debating with it the merits and the composition of such a list. We are seeking to reach an agreement with the service on this and we will pursue this aim, if necessary, through formal consultation required by the Bill. For transparencys sake, we published the previous Home Secretarys proposal for a standard list in the annexe of the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, but it was never intended to be the final word. There is a lot of debate about what that core should be, where the dividing line should be and what should be left for local determination. That is a debate that we
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Lord Dholakia: My Lords, would the Minister explain whether, when the standard powers have been discussed and the police authorities and forces have been consulted, they will come before Parliament again?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the proposal is that they would then go into a list, which this House and another place would have an opportunity to debate and which we would review. All that we are doing at this stage is setting a framework to say that there should be a standard and that this is the process that we are going to use to develop that standard and the process through which the Houses will be able to review what the standard should be. We are in agreement that it would be a good thing to have a standard set of core things that CSOs can do, but at this stage it would be arbitrary to pick out one issue and say that it is outwith what CSOs should do. That would be precipitate. The one pilot that we have had so far indicates that allowing the CSOs to stay for half an hour is a good idea.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I think that by implication I made it clear that this would be done by the affirmative not the negative resolution procedure, but I shall put that on the record so that there is no ambiguity about it.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I am grateful. I listened carefully to what the Minister said. It is slightly cart-before-horse to bring in a standard at this stage if at a later stage we will be talking about it. However, as the Minister put some things on record, I shall also put on the record the concerns of Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who in writing to the Home Secretary said that he believed that the powers could be,
He believes that all those are unsuitable for PCSOs and, as set out in the attachment to the letter, has
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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am happy to confirm that. I have tried to indicate that we are in discussions with chief police officers to discuss with them what the standards should be, so we will have ample opportunity to review these issues and to talk with the police about how best to go forward.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this was a revised version of the amendment that we discussed in Committee. It would restrict the maximum duration of conditions on street bail, specifying that the conditions would expire either seven days after the person was released or when he or she attended a police station, whichever was earlier. The amendment would not remove the power to impose a condition on street bail; that is not the purpose. It would merely impose generous limits on the duration of this condition.
Street bail can be beneficial for both police and suspect. We know of an example of street bail being used in the case of a mother who, while out with her three young children, was arrested for shoplifting. She was given street bail to attend a police station at a later date so that she could arrange care for her children. In such circumstances, unnecessary inconvenience was avoided. We do not wish to see people being taken to a police station at times that are inconvenient for them and the police. That is the purpose behind the amendment and I hope that the Minister can respond to it. I beg to move.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I should say straight away that I acknowledge the sentiment behind the amendment, which is to minimise the potential for a suspected person to be placed for an
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First, under the Bill, the person granted street bail has an immediate right to appeal to the custody officer and then to a magistrate. A person granted bail pre-charge at the police station can apply to the magistrate for those conditions to be changed.
Secondly, an officer setting conditions of bail will do so on the basis of a risk assessment, taking into account the condition of the victim, the circumstances of the offender, the nature of the offence and the needs of the investigation. Automatic expiry of conditions after seven days does not mean automatic expiry of the risk. If the noble Lords amendment was enacted, the almost certain outcome is that suspects would be required to return to the police station at the end of a completely arbitrary period of seven days. The officers could consider whether to issue a further period of bail with conditions attached if the investigation was still in progress.
Let us take the example that the noble Lord gave of a mother who has real difficulties with childcare because her mother is away and she has no one else. That mother can say, I can come backthere is no urgencyif you give me 10 days. If there was an obligation for that to happen in seven days, there would not be that flexibility; it would mean prescribing a strict timetable that would be disadvantageous to the mother, time-consuming and unnecessary, because it would prescribe an arbitrary time, which might not meet the needs or the risk assessment done by the police officer, who might think that it was not necessary. We believe that this would not only be disruptive to the suspect but create a bureaucratic and time-consuming process for the police. We cannot see the benefits of that and I do not believe that it is what the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, wants either. The Bill currently provides the officer with the ability to determine the period of bail that best suits the needs of the investigation. That has to be the driver and not a bureaucratic and arbitrary process.
Thirdly, one of the aims of bail is to ensure that people spend as little time as possible in police detention. We are looking to encourage officers to make effective use of bail and to do so in an environment that recognises the needs and concerns of the victim. The application of conditions proportionate to the offence should both help to protect the victim and minimise the time that the person needs to spend in a police cell. I recognise the concern that a person might be subject to almost indefinite conditions or periods of bail. I am sure that the noble Lord has that anxiety about the provision. In Committee, I indicated that it was mentioned in Committee in the other place that we had anticipated
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The 2003 circular requires the monitoring by supervisory management of the use of street bail, particularly regarding disproportionalityanother issue about which the noble Lord and I are anxious. We would extend that requirement to the conditions attached to bail and to the periods to which those conditions are attached. Police officers are accountable for their actions but are also answerable to their communities regarding tackling and investigating crime. We believe that these proposals will help to achieve both objectives. We want police officers to behave safely but compassionately and sensitively, if the need arises. We believe that the measure enables them to do that. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured. He and I believe that the way in which these matters are tackled has worked well, and that we need to replicate that.
Government Amendment No. 142 corrects the reference in Section 142(3) of the 1988 Act. For some timegiven the date of the legislationit has incorrectly referred to conditions as set out in Section 142(1)(b). That provision does not contain any conditions; the relevant subsection is (1)(c). Accordingly, the amendment will require a justice of the peace to consider conditions that must be satisfied to authorise entry and search of premises for offensive weapons. A justice of the peace would already take those matters into account. In any event, the conditions reflect the framework set out in PACE in relation to authorising entry to the premises. I hope that I shall satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that he and I, as always, want the same thing, but that we have found a good way of doing it for him.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that explanation. On future occasions we shall have plenty of opportunities to monitor how the provision affects individuals. I have no doubt that in the coming months we shall have a plethora of criminal justice legislation that will provide further opportunities to deal with the matter. I am grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this simple amendment would provide a clear power to help the police to get guns off the streets before they are used. The situation on gun crime has become considerably worse since we previously discussed it, which was on 4 July. The Library has kindly provided me with cuttings that cover the period since then. They tell a horrific story. I shall mention only two figures. In Manchester alone, there is an average of five firearm offences every two days, committed by boys and men aged 15 to 20. In London, shootings are almost one a day with more than two fatal shootings a month.
I should like briefly to quote Kevin Davis, who, as the head of Scotland Yards Operation Trident, is one of the most senior law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom. He has pointed out that a minority of young people think that it is,
Two-thirds of the shootings investigated by Trident officers occurred in just six of the capitals poorest boroughs. Three-quarters of the victims are black. Intimidation is rife and Davis admits that protecting the entire extended family of a witness is impossible.
After terrorism, firearms crime is perhaps the most serious challenge to law and order that we face. Luckily, I believe that we can do something about it. Unlike searching for drugs or collecting drugs, which is extremely difficult, finding a firearm with a hand-held metal detector is very simple. My amendment seeks to give the police powers to use that means when they wish to do so.
In previous debates, the Minister has said that there are already many powers in relation to firearms. She is absolutely right. I refer to Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. I shall not go on, but suffice it to say that the Home Offices firearms website emphasises that firearms law is very complicated. Complicated law is not good law. Simple law is needed, which is understood by both the public and the police.
Do the police want the measure? In July, I said that the part of ACPO responsible for gun crime was anxious to have it. Since that time, the Home Office has lent on ACPO and ACPO has suggested that its different sectionsthe police section and the section dealing with community relations
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot let it stand that we have lent on ACPO. We asked for ACPOs view because we were worried that it might have concerns about the matter. We wanted to hear from ACPO whether there was a gap and what the gap was so that we could assist. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to come back to the House and say to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, Youre right and there is something more that we can do. I reassure the noble Lord that we asked ACPO about the matter, but it was certainly not lent on.
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