Saturday, January 07, 2006

SOCPA - Serious Organised Crime and Police Act - the wha?!?!?

As the clock struck midnight on 01.01.06, new police powers came into force, under the guise of Section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) 2005, which rewrote Section 24 of the Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

We can now arrest for ANY offence, as long as we can justify the arrest as necessary under one or more of several criteria. Those criteria are pretty much the same as Section 25 of the old PACE with a couple of extra criteria added. These are:

(a) to enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person's name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);
(b) correspondingly as regards the person's address;
(c) to prevent the person in question-
(i) causing physical injury to himself or any other person;
(ii) suffering physical injury;
(iii) causing loss of or damage to property;
(iv) committing an offence against public decency (subject to subsection (6)); or
(v) causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;
(d) to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;
(e) to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;
(f) to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.

Our force have been kind enough to either not bother training us yet, even after the date for the new Act to come into force has passed, or provide bugger all training on it. Having fallen into the former category and heard those who have been trained describe it as stated above, I've had to muddle through one of the biggest changes in police powers in quite some time, entirely on my own.

I've had three lockups under the new powers thus far. The first one was just after midnight, and fortunately was for a job that occurred off our patch, so a quick arrest statement and PNB writeup was all that was needed. Having had no idea what the new Act involves, and not having had the chance to speak to other officers yet, I copied my reasons for the arrest directly from the wording above, and didn't elaborate. The arrest was accepted, probably because all involved were just as confused as I was!

The second one was a simple D&D in which the offender decided that keeping silent, having no ID on him and glaring at the person he wanted to beat seven bells out of would result in us letting him go out of exasperation. Again, a few extra lines on the statement, in the PNB and on the MG5 were the sum total of the new Act's impact in this case - a simple 'necessary to ascertain details and to prevent the offender from harming others' sufficed.

The third one was for shoplifting - this one could probably have been dealt with by summons, but with us being able to justify most arrests now on the grounds of 'necessary for the prompt and effective investigation of the offence so evidence could be obtained by questioning' - it's a nice little catch all. Plus the offender had about 5 pages of previous, among which "Failing to appear" featured prominently, so a summons would have been pointless. Until the courts say otherwise, I'll put good money on "obtain evidence by questioning" being the main reason for most arrests!

Of course, 'necessary' is also very subjective, and can also be used as a get-out as well as a get-in reason for arrests. Sometimes circumstances mean that arrests aren't anywhere near as necessary half an hour before the end of shift, compared to the necessity that arises at the start of a shift, on a rainy day when it's cold and the jobs coming in are petty and trivial. Summonses, which can usually be completed at leisure, will suddenly become far more attractive than the reams of paperwork that accompany many lockups, that threaten to take an officer far over their finishing time.

So will this Act actually help or hinder the upholding of the law? Well with the concept of 'upholding the law' already shot to pieces by over-auditing and arbitrary bureaucracy, I'd imagine it'll just cloud things even more until the police provide proper, comprehensive training and the Courts start having a say on things!

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
Don't forget all those "trigger offences" for drug testing (shoplifting is one of them)

The Codes of Practice suggest that arresting someone to make them open to the drug testing procedure is acceptable, so regardless of any other circumstances, bear this one in mind.
I must admit 'prompt and effective investigation' seems to have been adopted at my nick. Nice to see an explanation here though. we were given little prompt cards. John, I'd like to know more about what you have mentioned.
I could well be wrong but I though Section 25 was repealed. Section 24 now has the old parts of S25 included with the 2 extra bits (ID COP PLAN). Unfortunately Blackstones in their infinite wisdom haven't provided any updates in their 2006 books...go figure...
Hey Bow Street, or anyone else in the know, any ideas on this one:

I thought that for offences such as Section 5 Public Order, which had statuatory powers of arrest, you could still arrest under the statuatory power (providing the warning had been given for section 5). This means that there is no reason to provide a 'necessary to arrest reason', as the power of arrest comes not from Section 24 but from the Statute. I was fairly sure this was the case, but the custody sergeant refused to accept it the other day and I had to amend it to put a reason down.

Who was right? Me, or the sergeant?
They haven't trained magistrates either, so please try to explain things to the Bench s-l-o-w-l-y.
Our training (yes we did have some, it was even before 2006!), used COPPLAN NEDS.
Things are far to confusing !
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