Tuesday, April 11, 2006

SOCPA - One hundred (and one) days on

Well, completely forgetting that yesterday was the 100th day anniversary since the introduction of SOCPA (it's not like I had it marked on a calendar or anything sad like that), I thought I'd give it a passing mention today.

Those who predicted the legislation would lead to a police state in which people were being led away in handcuffs for the most minor and trivial of offences have been proven to be quite wrong. Indeed, I can't recall any shouts on the radio for prisoner transport for people arrested for any offence other than those within the usual run that existed before the legislation.

There's a few possible reasons for this:

1. Most police aren't aware of the full extent of their new powers
2. The existing (pre s.110) arrest powers were and are sufficient for most jobs officers routinely encounter on the street
3. We self-police ourselves as regards the exercise of this power, insofar as the cost (financial, paperwork and resource) of arresting and processing someone for a misdemeanour offsets the legal entitlement to arrest if the arrest meets any of the 'necessary criteria'.

Arguably, though, some misdemeanours (s.5 Public Order) are more arrest-worthy than others (littering), leading to the argument - where do you draw the line on the gravity of offence to arrest for? What factors should be taken into account?

I'm tempted to try something to prove that third point and the above argument. I'll have a think about the viability of it over the next few days. Watch this space...

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