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|Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]|
These notes refer to the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]
POLICE (NORTHERN IRELAND) BILL [HL]
1. These explanatory notes relate to the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL] as introduced in the House of Lords on 5th December 2002. They have been prepared by the Northern Ireland Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.
2. The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given. A glossary of abbreviations and terms used in these explanatory notes is contained in the annex to the notes.
3. The purpose of the Bill is to implement more fully the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, set out in its report "A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland" (also known as the Patten report) which was published in September 1999. The Bill's contents cover commitments made in the updated Implementation Plan for the Patten report, published in August 2001, and matters arising from the 2002 review of policing reform in Northern Ireland. Many of the clauses in the Bill amend the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (c.32) ("the 2000 Act") which was the main implementing legislation for the recommendations of the Patten report. The Bill also makes provision for giving limited police powers to police support staff, in line with recent legislation in England and Wales (the Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30)), in order to make more effective use of these staff.
4. The main provisions of the Bill are
5. The Act has three Parts and three Schedules
COMMENTARY ON CLAUSES
PART 1: POLICING
THE NORTHERN IRELAND POLICING BOARD
Clause 1: Consultation with Board
6. This clause deals with consultation with the Board. It amends sections 24 and 27 of the 2000 Act, which require the Secretary of State to consult the Board before determining or revising long term policing objectives, and before issuing or revising codes of practice on the exercise of the functions of the Board or the Chief Constable. Subsections (1) and (2) amend these provisions to provide that the Secretary of State must consult the Board with a view to reaching agreement on any proposed new or revised objectives or code of practice. The arrangements for consulting the Chief Constable and any other persons under sections 24 and 27 remain unchanged.
Clause 2: Board's policing objectives
7. This clause amends section 25 of the 2000 Act. The current requirement under section 25 is that the Board frame its policing objectives so as to be consistent with the Secretary of State's long term policing objectives for Northern Ireland set under section 24 of the 2000 Act. The effect of the amendment is that, in determining its objectives for the policing of Northern Ireland, the Board must take account of, rather than be consistent with, the Secretary of State's long term objectives under section 24 of the 2000 Act.
Clause 3: Public meetings of the Board
8. This clause amends Schedule 1 to the 2000 Act to provide that the Board must hold eight public meetings a year, rather than 10 as currently required by paragraph 19(2) of Schedule 1 to the 2000 Act. The clause also removes the current requirement (paragraph 19(3) of Schedule 1 to the 2000 Act) that those meetings should be held at least 28 days apart.
Clause 4: Funding for pension purposes
9. This clause amends sections 9, 10, 27 and 77 of the 2000 Act. The object of the amendment is to split off funding which relates to the Police Service of Northern Ireland Pension Scheme from other Board funding. This is a necessary first step if the Board is to be required to draw up separate accounts for pension funding, and for other police funding. If separate pension funding accounts are prepared, the requirements of the new accounting standard FRS 17 Retirement Benefits (which oblige pension scheme accounts to set out in full the scheme's assets and liabilities) will apply only to these, and not to the accounts relating to general police funding. The objective is to prevent the detail required by FRS 17 from overshadowing and drawing attention away from the record of the police's core financial performance.
10. Subsection (2) amends section 9 of the 2000 Act to provide that separate grants will be made to the Board by the Secretary of State for pension purposes and for all other purposes. Subsections (8) and (9) oblige the Board to place the amounts of each grant, plus any other relevant amounts received by it, at the disposal of the Chief Constable.
11. Subsections (3), (5) to (7) and (10) make consequential amendments to the 2000 Act. Subsection (11) inserts a definition of "pension purposes".
12. Subsection (12) provides that the new arrangements will have effect from the financial year 2003/04.
Clause 5: Accounts and audit
13. This clause amends section 12 of the 2000 Act, relating to accounts and audit.
14. The amendments require the Board to draw up separate accounts for each of the amounts placed at the Chief Constable's disposal for pension and non-pension purposes, and for any amount the Board pays into the Police Service of Northern Ireland Fund (provided for in section 28 of the 1998 Act) and into the Police Property Fund (established by the Police (Disposal of Property) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1974, made under section 2 of the Police (Property) Act 1897).
15. Subsection (8) provides that the new arrangements will have effect from the financial year 2003/04.
Clause 6: Performance summaries
16. This clause amends section 28 of the 2000 Act, to provide the Board with two options for publishing its assessment of the police performance against efficiency targets. At present, the 2000 Act provides that the Board must publish three documents
17. Subsection (2) amends section 28(5)(c) of the 2002 Act so as to remove the current requirement that the retrospective summary of performance against targets (to be known as the "performance summary") form part of the performance plan. Instead, subsection (3) gives the Board discretion to publish the performance summary with the annual report, or with the performance plan.
18. Subsections (4) and (5) make consequential amendments.
19. Subsection (6) provides that the new arrangements will have effect from the financial year 2003/04.
Clause 7: Performance summaries: supplementary
20. This clause makes consequential amendments to sections 29 and 31 of the 2000 Act, relating to audit and reporting arrangements, and arising from the amendments set out in clause 6.
21. The effect of the amendments is that the arrangements that currently apply to the audit of a performance summary comprised in a performance plan, and to any report on a performance summary, will continue to apply to a performance summary even though it will not necessarily be published with a performance plan.
22. Subsection (9) provides that the new arrangements will have effect from the financial year 2003/04.
REPORTS AND INQUIRIES
Clause 8: Reports of the Chief Constable
23. This clause amends section 59 of the 2000 Act, which deals with the Chief Constable's general duty to report to the Board. Section 59 currently requires the Chief Constable to submit a report whenever required to do so by the Board. However, where the Chief Constable considers that his report would contain information which ought not to be disclosed on any of the four grounds currently listed in section 59(3)(a) to (d), he may refer to the Secretary of State the requirement to submit a report.
24. Subsection (2) amends section 59(3) by deleting the existing list of grounds at section 59(3)(a) to (d), and stating instead that the Chief Constable may refer to the Secretary of State a requirement that he submit a report if any of the conditions set out in the new section 76A are satisfied. These new conditions amend two of the grounds set out in the existing section 59(3)(a) to (d), and are explained in the notes on clause 19 below. Subsection (4) makes transitional arrangements to provide that the new provisions apply to any requirement to submit a report that the Chief Constable refers to the Secretary of State after clause 8 comes into force, and to any requirement that the Chief Constable had referred to the Secretary of State, but in relation to which the Secretary of State had not made a decision, prior to clause 8 coming into force.
Clause 9: Inquiries by the Board
25. This clause amends section 60 of the 2000 Act, which deals with the initiation of an inquiry by the Board following a report to it by the Chief Constable. Currently, section 60(3) of the 2000 Act provides that where the Chief Constable considers that an inquiry should not be held on any of the four grounds listed in section 60(3), he may refer the Board's decision to hold an inquiry to the Secretary of State. Subsection (2) deletes the list of grounds set out in section 60(3), and provides that instead the Chief Constable may refer the decision to the Secretary of State if he considers that an inquiry should not be held on any of the grounds listed in the new section 76A. Subsection (4) contains transitional provisions mirroring those described in relation to clause 8 above.
Clause 10: Approval of proposals relating to inquiries by the Board
26. This clause amends paragraph 18 of Schedule 1 to the 2000 Act, which applies to inquiries held under section 60 following a report by the Chief Constable. Paragraph 18(5) presently provides that the Board shall not set in motion an inquiry under section 60, or request or appoint a person to conduct such an inquiry, unless a proposal to take this step has been approved by the "required number" of members. The required number of members is detailed in paragraph 18(6), and varies according to the number of members composing the Board. Subsection (2) imposes an additional requirement for Board approval in these circumstances, namely that the proposal must also be approved by a majority of the members present and voting. Subsection (3) reduces the "required number of members" as set out in paragraph 18(6) so that for example whereas the present required number of members is 10 if the Board has 18 or 19 members, the new required number will be 8. Subsection (4) provides that the new provisions have effect in relation to any Board meeting held under paragraph 18 of Schedule 1 to the 2000 Act on or after the day on which the Bill receives the Royal Assent.
THE POLICE OMBUDSMAN
Clause 11: Investigations by the Ombudsman
27. Section 51 of the 1998 Act established the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland ("the Ombudsman"). Clause 11 provides for investigations by the Ombudsman into police practices and policies by inserting a new section 60A into the 1998 Act. It replaces with modifications the current provision in section 61A of the 1998 Act (as inserted by section 63 of the 2000 Act), which provides for the Ombudsman to make reports to the Chief Constable and the Board on matters concerning police practices and policies.
28. The new section 60A provides that the Ombudsman may investigate a practice or policy of the police that has come to his attention if he has reason to believe that it is giving rise to significant public concern (section 60A(1)). If he decides to conduct an investigation under section 60(A), he must immediately inform the Chief Constable, the Board and the Secretary of State of this (section 60(A)(2)). He must provide the Chief Constable and the Board with a copy of his investigation report (section 60A (3)). A copy of the report must also be sent to the Secretary of State if the investigation touches on excepted matters (as defined in section 4 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (c.47)) or matters for which the Secretary of State has a statutory responsibility (section 60A(4)).
29. Clause 11(3) makes a consequential amendment to 63(2A) of the 1998 Act. That subsection, which was inserted into the 1998 Act by section 63(2) of the 2000 Act, provides an exemption from the restriction on disclosure of information in section 63 of the 1998 Act, so as to allow the Ombudsman to disclose information relating to the identity of an individual in a report under section 61A where he considers it necessary to do so in the public interest. The effect of clause 11(3) is to modify this provision so as to apply the exemption to the Ombudsman's report of an investigation under the new section 60A.
30. Clause 11(4) amends section 66 of the 2000 Act which provides that the Chief Constable and the Board shall supply the Ombudsman with such information and documents as he may require for the purpose of exercising his functions. Clause 11(4) inserts new subsections (2) to (5) into section 66
DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS
31. Clauses 12, 13 and 14 make amendments to Schedule 3 to the 2000 Act, which makes provision regarding district policing partnerships ("DPPs"). Section 14(1) of the 2000 Act requires each district council to establish a DPP, which has the functions set out in section 16 of the 2000 Act. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 provides for DPPs to be composed of members of the council ("political members") and of independent members.
Clause 12: Independent members
32. This clause amends paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 to the 2000 Act so as to provide that the Board (which appoints independent members from among persons nominated by the district council) shall, so far as practicable, ensure that the independent members of a DPP taken together are representative of the community in the district.
Clause 13: Disqualification
33. Paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 3 of the 2000 Act sets out various circumstances in which the Board, or a district council with the Board's approval, may remove a person from office as a member of a DPP (e.g. conviction of a criminal offence; bankruptcy). Clause 13 amends paragraph 8 of Schedule 3 to the 2000 Act to provide that someone removed from a DPP under paragraph 7(1) is disqualified from reappointment until the next local general election. This is a new disqualification which brings the arrangement for DPP membership in line with that already in place for membership of the Board.
Clause 14: Council's powers
34. This clause inserts two new paragraphs into Schedule 3 to the 2000 Act. The effect is to give district councils power to insure against accidents to a member of a DPP while engaged on DPP business, and to indemnify a member of a DPP for liability incurred in relation to DPP business. These provisions will apply retrospectively.
POLICE FUNCTIONS AND APPOINTMENTS
Clause 15: Core policing principles
35. Subsection (1) inserts a new clause 31A in the 2000 Act and sets out what are considered to be core policing principles. It provides that police officers must carry out their functions with the aim of securing the support of the local community, and of co-operating with the local community. They must also be guided by the code of ethics issued by the Board under section 52 of the 2000 Act. This requirement is not new: it currently appears in section 32(4) of the 2000 Act, but as it affects the way the police carry out their other functions, it sits more easily in the new section 31A. Subsection (4) makes consequential amendments.
36. Subsection (2) amends section 3 of the 2000 Act. It obliges the Board, in addition to its other duties, to monitor the performance of the police in complying with the community policing core principles set out in new section 31A(1). Subsection (3) obliges the Board to include an assessment of the performance of the police in this respect in its annual report. Subsection (5) amends section 27 of the 1998 Act which deals with PSNI members on secondment or "relevant service" to other police services, so that a member of the PSNI on relevant service shall be treated for the purposes of new section 31A as if he were still a member of the PSNI.
Clause 16: Chief Constable's functions
37. Clause 16 deals with the Chief Constable's functions, and amends section 33 of the 2000 Act. It provides (as at present) that the Chief Constable shall have regard, in carrying out his functions, both to the policing plan and to any code of practice issued under section 27. However, the clause inserts a new provision to the effect that the Chief Constable's duty to have regard to the code of practice applies only so far as consistent with his duty to have regard to the policing plan.
Clause 17: Provision of information to the Board
38. This clause inserts a new section 33A into the 2000 Act. The new section places a general obligation on the Chief Constable to supply the Board with whatever information it may reasonably require in order to carry out its functions, subject to the same safeguards as apply to the formal reports and inquiries procedures (see notes on clause 19 below).
Clause 18: Fixed-term appointments
39. Clause 18 makes provision for fixed term appointments to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Subsection (1) inserts a new section 36A into the 2000 Act, which permits the Chief Constable to appoint someone to the PSNI for a fixed term of up to three years (new section 36A(1)). The Chief Constable may not appoint anyone under this provision to the rank of constable or to the rank of a senior officer (new section 36A(3)). The Secretary of State is given the power to modify by order the provisions of Northern Ireland policing legislation (the 1998 Act and the 2000 Act) as they apply to people appointed through this route, where that is considered appropriate. However, before making such an order, the Secretary of State is obliged to consult the Board and the Police Association. Subsection (2) makes a consequential amendment to section 25(6) of the 1998 Act, which relates to regulations as to conditions of service of members of the PSNI.
INFORMATION AND INQUIRIES
Clause 19: Disclosure of information and holding of inquiries
40. This clause inserts a new section 76A into the 2000 Act. Section 76A(1) sets out the grounds on which information ought not to be disclosed for the purposes of -
41. Section 76A(2) sets out the grounds on which an inquiry ought not to be held for the purposes of a reference by the Chief Constable to the Secretary of State under section 60(3) of the 2000 Act (as amended by clause 9 of the Bill), of a decision by the Board to cause an inquiry to be held, where the Chief Constable considers that such an inquiry should not be held. With two exceptions, the grounds set out in the new section 76A(1) mirror those currently set out in sections 59(3) and 60(3) of the 2000 Act. The exceptions are
PART 2: POLICE POWERS
POLICE SUPPORT STAFF
42. This clause enables the Chief Constable to designate suitably skilled and trained civilians as one or more of the following categories of officer: investigating officer; detention officer; and escort officer. The clause enables the Chief Constable to confer on such civilians some of the powers and duties otherwise only available to police officers.
43. Subsection (1) enables the Chief Constable to designate any person who is a member of the police support staff as an officer of one or more of the following descriptions: investigating officer; detention officer; and escort officer. Clause 20 (2) prevents a designation being made unless the Chief Constable is satisfied that the person is a suitable person for this purpose, is capable of carrying out the functions for the purpose of which he is to be designated, and has been adequately trained. Subsection (5) limits the powers that can be conferred on designated persons to those specified in the relevant parts of Schedule 1. Subsection (7) clarifies that a designation does not authorise or require conduct other than as a member of the police support staff and that a designation may contain restrictions and conditions.
44. Subsections (8) and (9) provide that where a power allows for the use of reasonable force when it is exercised by a constable, a person exercising such a power under a designation shall have the same entitlement to use reasonable force; for example when carrying out a search. Subsection (10) provides that where a designation includes the power to force entry to premises, this power will be limited to occasions when the designated person is under the direct supervision of a police officer and is accompanied by such an officer: the only exception to this requirement is when the purpose of forcing entry is to save life or limb or to prevent serious damage to property.
45. This Schedule relates to the provisions in clause 20 of the Bill, which deal with the exercise of police powers by designated police support staff. It sets out in detail the range of powers that can be conferred on designated civilians.
46. This Part includes a range of powers which may be needed to support the work of civilian investigating officers in specialist areas such as financial and information technology crime. They are mainly linked to entry, search and seizure, and include powers to obtain and exercise search warrants, to seize evidence and to apply to a judge for access to confidential material. Part 1 also covers powers to enter and search premises following arrest. This set of powers is particularly relevant to the work of Scenes of Crime Officers, many of whom are already civilians.
47. Paragraphs 1 and 2 enable a suitably designated person to apply for and be granted search warrants under section 42 of the Terrorism Act and under Article 10 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 ("the 1989 Order"), to execute warrants and to seize and retain things for which a search has been authorised under Article 10 of the 1989 Order. The power of seizure is extended to computerised information. Both paragraphs provide that the standard safeguards covering the process of applying for a search warrant, the contents of the warrant and the way in which the warrant should be exercised are extended to warrants dealt with by designated persons. Paragraph 2 imposes the same obligations on designated persons in relation to providing records of seizure, providing access to or copies of seized material and retaining seized material as apply to constables. Paragraph 2 gives the same protection from seizure to legally privileged material in relation to seizures by designated persons as applies to seizures by constables.
48. Paragraph 3 enables a suitably designated person to obtain access to confidential material under Article 11 of the 1989 Order by making an application to a county court judge under Schedule 1 to that Order. It extends the power of seizure conferred by paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 to the 1989 Order to a designated person, enabling him to seize and retain any confidential material for which a search has been authorised under Schedule 1. This power of seizure is extended to computerised information. It extends standard protections and obligations under the 1989 Order to material seized by or produced to a designated person under these provisions.
49. Paragraph 4 enables a suitably designated person to use the powers under Article 20 of the 1989 Order to enter and search any premises occupied or controlled by a person who is under arrest for an arrestable offence and to seize and retain items found on such a search. The designated person may conduct such a search before the arrested person is taken to a police station and without obtaining the authority of an inspector if the presence of the arrested person is necessary for the effective investigation of the offence. Standard protections and obligations under the 1989 Order are extended to material seized by a designated person under these provisions. Again, the power of seizure is extended to computerised information.
50. Paragraph 5 enables a suitably designated person, when lawfully on any premises, to exercise the same general powers to seize things as are available to a constable under Article 21 of the 1989 Order. The designated person may also make use of the power to require, in certain circumstances, the production of electronically stored material in a form in which it can be taken away. Once again, standard protections and obligations under the 1989 Order are applied.
51. Paragraph 6 enables a suitably designated person, to supervise access to, and copying of, any material seized by a constable, where a person has the right to access or to have a copy of that material under the standard safeguards in the 1989 Order. A suitably designated person is also given power to photograph, or have photographed, anything which he has the power to seize.
52. Paragraph 7 enables a suitably designated person to arrest a detained person for a further offence if it appears to him that the detained person would be liable to arrest for that further offence if released from his initial arrest.
53. Paragraph 8 enables a custody officer to transfer a detainee to a designated civilian investigating officer. Article 40 of the 1989 Order places on custody officers the duty to ensure that all detainees are treated in accordance with the Order and relevant codes of practice. Article 40(2) of the 1989 Order provides that if a detainee is transferred to the custody of another police officer in accordance with the 1989 Order, then that officer takes on responsibility for compliance with the duty, and the custody officer is relieved from it. Paragraph 8(4) provides that when a detainee is transferred to a designated investigating officer, the custody officer's responsibilities are similarly transferred to that designated investigating officer. Paragraph 40(3) - which imposes a duty to report back to a custody officer, when a transferred detainee is returned to him, on compliance with Article 40 and the codes of practice - is also extended to a designated person into whose custody a detainee has been transferred. A designated investigating officer using powers under this paragraph is regarded as having the detainee in his lawful custody, with a duty to prevent his escape and entitlement to use reasonable force to prevent this.
54. Paragraph 9 enables a suitably designated person to use extended powers of seizure and retention available to constables under Part 2 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, where those powers supplement powers conferred on designated persons under other paragraphs of Part 1 of the Schedule. In essence this means that where a designated person has been provided with a specific power of seizure and the exercise of the power on premises would be difficult or impossible due to the sheer bulk or complexity of the material to be searched through, that material can be moved elsewhere for sifting, subject to a range of detailed safeguards.
55. This Part covers powers that may be exercised by detention officers at police stations. Many of them are connected with the handling of persons in custody - an area of work in which police support staff are increasingly involved - such as powers to search detained persons, to take fingerprints and certain samples without consent and to take photographs. Providing police support staff with these and other powers will broaden the scope of the work they can undertake and ensure their work is underpinned by the law.
56. Paragraph 10 enables a suitably designated detention officer to require persons who have been convicted of a recordable offence, have not been in police detention for the offence and have not had their finger prints taken in connection with the offence or since the conviction, to attend a police station to have their fingerprints taken. Recordable offences are set out in regulations made under Article 29 (4) of the 1989 Order.
57. Paragraph 11 enables a designated detention officer to carry out non-intimate searches of persons detained at police stations or elsewhere and to seize items found during such searches. Restrictions on the scope of searching and seizure and on the circumstances in which searches can be carried out are applied to designated persons in the same way as to constables.
58. Paragraph 12 enables a designated detention officer to carry out searches and examinations in order to determine the identity of persons detained at police stations. A designated detention officer may photograph any identifying marks found during such processes.
59. Paragraph 13 enables a designated detention officer to carry out intimate searches in the same very limited circumstances that are applicable to constables under the 1989 Order. An intimate search is a search that consists of the physical examination of a person's body orifices other than the mouth.
60. Paragraph 14 enables a designated detention officer to take fingerprints without consent in the same circumstances that a constable may under the 1989 Order and paragraph 15 gives him limited powers to take fingerprints from a person detained under terrorism provisions. A designated detention officer can also discharge the duty under the 1989 Order to inform the person concerned that his fingerprints may be the subject of a speculative search against existing records.
61. Paragraph 16 enables a designated detention officer to discharge the duty to inform a person from whom an intimate sample has been taken that the sample may be the subject of a speculative search against existing records.
62. Paragraph 17 enables a designated detention officer to take non-intimate samples without consent and to inform the person from whom the sample is to be taken of any necessary authorisation by a senior officer and of the grounds for that authorisation. The designated person may also inform the person concerned that a non-intimate sample may be the subject of a speculative search against existing records. Paragraph 18 enables the designated officer to take a non-intimate sample from a person detained under terrorism provisions.
63. Paragraph 19 enables a designated detention officer to require certain defined categories of persons who have been charged with or convicted of recordable offences to attend a police station to have a sample taken.
64. Paragraph 20 enables a designated detention officer to photograph detained persons in the same way that constables may under the 1989 Order and paragraph 21 enables the designated detention officer to photograph a person detained under terrorism provisions.
65. This Part covers escort powers. It includes powers enabling designated civilians to transport arrested persons to police stations. It also allows designated civilians to escort detained persons from one police station to another or between police stations and other locations specified by the custody officer.
66. Paragraph 22 enables a suitably designated person to carry out the duty of taking a person arrested by a constable to a police station as soon as practicable. That must be a designated station (i.e. a main station equipped for holding detainees) unless the person is working in an area not covered by such a station and it appears that it will not be necessary to hold the arrestee for more than six hours. The designated person may delay removal to a police station if the arrestee is required elsewhere for immediate investigative purposes. A designated person using powers under this paragraph is regarded as having the arrestee in lawful custody. He has a duty to prevent escape and is entitled to use reasonable force to prevent this. He also has the power to carry out non-intimate searches and to seize anything found as a result of such a search.
67. Paragraph 23 enables a suitably designated person, with the authority of the custody officer, to escort detainees between police stations or between police stations and other specified locations. Once again, a designated person using powers under this paragraph is regarded as having the detainee in lawful custody. He has a duty to prevent escape and is entitled to use reasonable force to prevent this. He is also entitled to carry out non-intimate searches. Where the custody officer transfers a detainee to a designated person under these provisions, the designated person becomes responsible for ensuring that the detainee is treated in accordance with the 1989 Order and codes of practice.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared: 6 December 2002|