Police Powers of Arrest

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Police Powers of Arrest and Detention of Offenders Satisfactory The first police power I will evaluate is the power that custody officers have over detainees. When a police officer arrests someone they will have their reasons for doing so and will have seen or heard what the person has done. Though, when he brings him to the police station the custody officer will see whether the constable has detained the person correctly or not.

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He will look into what the detainee has done more thoroughly and give his own verdict on whether he should have been arrested or not. Because the custody officer was not present at the scene or may not have received a first-hand report of the incident he cannot give a biased judgment and as such would work towards having a third party verdict of the detainee’s guilt or innocence. You could almost say that it is the equivalent of getting a second opinion on a specific case or topic in question. It can be both beneficial to the police as well as the detainee because the custody officer could question the arresting officer on the reasons for arresting the individual and make his judgment based on that. The arrest would then be justified if the custodial officer agrees with the arresting officer’s reasons for arrest. The next power I will be evaluating is the amount of force the police are allowed to use when they are arresting someone suspected of committing or going to commit a crime or offence and when searching premises. I believe the police force that is used against a suspect will probably relate to the force the suspect is using against them. What I mean by this is that if you are very aggressive and try to pick a fight with an arresting officer/s, then they are going to use more force to overpower you, so that they can then arrest you for the offence they suspect you of committing. Whereas, if you are completely compliant with the police, don’t shout abuse at them do everything they are asking you to do, most of the time they won’t even put handcuffs on you, they would just escort you to the back of their police vehicle. I think the police use the correct amount of force when entering a premise. If you are compliant they will then not use force at all, they would just do the job they were sent there for and be on their way. I also believe they use the right amount of force when raiding someone’s house where they have reason to believe that drug dealing is taking place. Warrants will be executed under the Misuse of Drugs Act and the police will use police battering rams to hit the door where the locks are so that they can gain entry. Then they would use tactics to scare and detain any suspects in the property. They go in shouting because it puts the suspect on the back foot straight away because it is quite frightening. Not Satisfactory Regular citizens also hold the power to arrest someone who they believe is in the act of committing an indictable offence or even if the person has reasonable grounds to suspect the individual of committing an indictable offence. This is stated in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) under S.24, where it is said that “anyone who is not a constable may arrest someone without a warrant” as long as the above conditions are met. In the case if chip shop owner Nicholas Tyers, who along with his son carried out a citizen’s arrest on a 12 year old boy who had damaged his property and spat at a customer the day prior. They had first driven the boy to their home where they then called the police. Their reasoning for this was because, according to Tyers senior, “nine times out of ten Bridlington Police Station is unmanned and you have to speak to someone on the telephone”.[1] They would have thought that calling the police from their home would have been the more efficient method. Though, this was not the case as they were charged with kidnap because the boy had complained to the police that they had not taken him directly to the police station once they had arrested him. What can be said about this case is that the main issue is the clarity and the knowledge of a legally viable citizen’s arrest. Neither of the defendants charged with kidnap had the intention of doing anything of the like to the ‘victim’, but through their lack of legal knowledge required to carry out a citizen’s arrest within the boundaries of the law they have fallen victim to their own good intentions. It would be unfair to place the blame entirely on the defendants for this mishap, as the smaller details of the law are not well-known to the general public, and as such, may lead to absurd results in terms of verifying the actual crime being committed and by whom. The process of citizen’s arrest is something that would need amending or simplifying because of the above example of Tyers and his son. One key change that could be made is the actual part where the person carrying out the arrest must bring the defendant to the police station and cannot take them anywhere else before that. This is a dangerous rule to have as under immediate circumstances in may not be within the best interest of the person carrying out the arrest to do so, as it may lead to violence breaking out or anything of the like. After 6 long months the defendants were cleared of their charges because the judge (John Dowse) deemed the case too trivial and questioned, “whether or not there are far more serious cases to bring?”. [2] This was largely the correct decision to be made, if not made quickly enough by the courts. Not Satisfactory Under the current legal system if a person being detained or arrested is under the age of 17 their parents or guardians would be notified immediately. Though, in the case of two teenage boys Joe Lawton and Edward Thomber, who were both 17 years old, their parents were not informed as there was no requirement to do so. Both teenagers were treated as adults in custody, but when they were to be charged they’d be treated as children. The two of them committed suicide after having been arrested and summoned to court respectively. The parents of both these teenagers were appalled at the way their sons had been treated and Mr Lawton (The father of the deceased teenager Joe Lawton) questioned in a statement, “how can you be an adult one moment and a child the next? That simply isn’t right.” [3] In response to the fact that he and his wife were not informed of the arrest of their son whom they could have supported emotionally in his time of need, and possibly stopped him from committing suicide. Both sets of parents initiated a petition for a change in the law regarding the age barrier for there being a legally required necessity to inform the parents or guardians of a person arrested or detained. The reasoning behind their petition is a very valid one as anyone with any form of support or emotional backing is more likely to make it through something as serious as a jail sentence or court hearing without resorting to extreme measures such as suicide. Psychology speaking the teenagers may have made their decision to end their own lives because of the fear of what their parents may think if they found out, but if they were to be told that everything is alright and they have their parent’s full support the resulting consequences may be different. In accordance to the Home Office, “every year 75,000 17-year-olds are taken into police custody.”[4] This is a staggering statistic as at that rate, with the law not stating the need to inform their parents or guardians of their arrest or detention, the majority of these young-adults are facing the looming anxiety of it all without any form of support and this could lead to many more tragic situations, such as in the case mentioned above. Personally speaking, I believe that the age barrier should be increased to 17 so that those of that relatively tender age are not exposed to ‘adult’ treatment just yet. Not Satisfactory There are a total of four methods to make a complaint about the police. You can either go to the police station of the police force you have a complaint about and complain directly to a representative, fill out a complaint form from the website of the police force you have a complaint about, complain to a solicitor or even to your local MP (Member of Parliament) who will complain on your behalf, or you could fill in the IPCC’s (Independent Police Complaints Commission) online complaint form and they will send it directly to the police force you are complaining about. For obvious reasons, some of the above ways of complaining are not exactly enticing for someone who has a genuine complaint as they may feel singled-out and uncomfortable complaining directly to an officer in a police station. This cannot be classified as a viable method of complaint as the majority of people would prefer not to complain at all if it means facing up to the people you are complaining about in person. Also, it can be said that some people may not feel safe under the targeted scrutiny of their own local police force after having complained about them and given their name in too. When it comes to dealing with your complaints, whether you tell your local police force verbally or send out a complaint form through the IPCC’s website, it will still be taken care of by the PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner) for that police force the complaint is being made to. The complaint is then checked through and if something that has been deemed unfair has taken place you will be in line for compensation. Though, one main concern with the person handling the complaint is that they work in that specific police force and that may instil some form of fear in the person doing the complaining as they may then anticipate some form of harm or persecution from their local police force because of their complaint. “Only 10 out of 100 complainants in our interview sample from 3 forces said that they had any clear idea of how to go about complaining or how the system worked.”[5] This statistic shows how incompetent the police and their local councils have been in terms of addressing to their local towns and cities the steps needed to be taken in order for a formal complaint to be made about the police and their activities. Some could say this isn’t the worst thing in the world for them, as they would have fewer complaints to deal with and cynically speaking, they wouldn’t exactly have much of an incentive to do anything about it. In this instance it could be said that the police are not doing a satisfactory job of offering the public an effective means of complaint because of the sheer amount of people attempting to complain but not knowing how exactly it is done, and the anxiety and worry of angering or provoking the wrath of a local police force if a genuine complaint is made. Satisfactory All communications between a suspect and their legal advisor is subject to legal privilege which means that the police or any other legal authority does not have the right to see or hear them. In the case of R v Grant, it was brought to the Court of Appeal to judge as to whether the eavesdropping of the police was unlawful and the information they retained from doing so was to be held as valid in a court of law. They were indeed deemed to be unlawful as they had committed a crime which amounted to a, “deliberate violation of a suspect’s right to legal privilege”[6]. It was something that went against the justice system entirely and so therefore the information gathered from committing the illegal act was not held to be viable as evidence. Although it is understandable that there should be some form of ruling to stop legal authorities from using confidential information between a suspect and their legal advisor/lawyer, it can also be said that in the eyes of the justice system this is simply providing criminals with more protection than they deserve. If a suspect is in fact innocent then they have barely any reason to actually hide anything from the court. Though, this cannot be said about those who are guilty of the crime they are suspected of doing. Only a guilty party would need to hide details from the legal authorities and as such I believe that them being able to intercede between the suspect and his lawyer is perfectly reasonable because it could be the difference between an innocent man being jailed for life and a guilty man being completely cleared of all charges. In terms of arrest and detention it is only of benefit to the justice system that legal privileges are abolished as the sticky and pedantic rulings on arresting or detaining a suspect can be used against them so nothing can be said to or from the solicitor or lawyer without the legal authorities being present and listening in. All in all, I’d say that the process of arrest and detention could be vastly improved and simplified if the law on legal privileges were to be abolished. The justice system would benefit greatly and it would more or less ensure that innocent people are set free and guilty people are put behind bars or given their sentence. The abolition of the right to silence is one that has been going back and forth between representatives of senior judges, the police and the criminal Bar. It is something that can easily be deemed a breach of a person’s basic right to silence even when unfairly pressured into doing otherwise, whilst also exposing the fact that said people have not responded to legal authorities to the jury and judge hearing their trial. The right to silence is widely criticized by the likes of major politicians such as Douglas Hurd who questioned whether, “it was really in the interests of justice that experienced criminals should be able to refuse to answer all police questions secure in the knowledge that a jury will never hear of it?”[7] This is a very commendable thing to ask as guilty parties can stay silent when being questioned by the authorities and whilst with their lawyers they may come up with some form of defence to protect themselves from punishment. This is obviously not the outcome that the justice system would like to achieve from allowing this right to continue on. Whilst the issue may raise questions on both sides of the argument, it also divides the legal authorities such as the lawyers from the judges. It could be said that the debate would be more efficiently argued with an objective view on the positives as well as the negatives with regards to keeping this right in place. The argument for keeping the right intact is that it would incorrect to assume that only a guilty party chooses to be silent when questioned. There are many other reasons as to why someone may choose to be silent, such as shock or confusion, in order to protect someone else from harm, or even out of pride as to the fact that they’re being suspected of a crime. It would be unfair to group together a guilty criminal with all of the above people in the same boat and treat them equally. Whilst the majority of people choose not to be quiet, as shown in one survey, as low as 4% of people actually do, though, the right itself remains a key part in ensuring that police officers cannot apply unjust amounts of pressure onto the suspects in order for them to say something incriminating. Personally, I believe that it should be kept as a right, but the fact that they have remained silent in the instance should be allowed to be brought to the attention of the jury when determining whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. The UK DNA database is currently the largest in terms of percentage per population size at a whopping 10%. Second being Austria with only 1% of their total population’s DNA samples being stored. These figures are worrying for the British public as there could be growing fears of privacy breaches by the government and the legal authorities in charge of said samples. It is certainly unethical to keep the DNA of a completely innocent person for no apparent reason besides having it there if need be. This is definitely something that has been fought against and petitioned over by the Liberal Democrats when the coalition government came into fruition. They have stated that, “whilst DNA is a vital tool in the fight against crime, there is no legitimate reason for the police to retain for life the DNA records of innocent people”[8] and that, “nearly 150,000 children under the age of 16 have their details on the database.”[9] The law on the retention of DNA samples is reforming and the national database has been ordered to destroy as many as 7 million DNA samples because of the lack of necessity in keeping them stored away. Especially considering the sheer amount of them having been taken from innocent people who have not done anything to require their DNA be kept on a database. This is also the case with people who are detained but are not charged with a crime or an offence. Thought it can be said that the National DNA Database does have a major role in solving crimes and putting guilty parties behind bars, “prior to the adoption of the Protection of Freedoms Act, a massive expansion in the number of individuals on the Database did not lead to any noticeable increase in the likelihood of identifying a suspect”[10] which shows that the vast majority of retained DNA samples are in no way helping to benefit the justice system and serve no purpose in being kept any longer. Many reforms have been made over the years, especially in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which requires the destruction of DNA samples and the removal of most innocent people’s DNA profiles. However, there are still some issues that have yet to be addressed such as: the indefinite retention of the DNA profiles of children who have committed more than one minor offence; amongst a few others. The law on DNA sample retention has gotten a lot more reasonable and relevant in comparison to the past but there are still many changes and discrepancies to be made and adhered to in order for a fair and just DNA Database to be kept. Whilst seeking to protect the rights of the majority, the police at times infringe certain individual rights, such as the right to privacy or to freedom of movement also known as ‘stop and search’. However, they are only permitted to do so if the infringement is reasonable, proportionate and lawful. Yet the evidence shows that, on the contrary, some police forces are using their powers disproportionately suggesting they are stopping and searching individuals in a way that is discriminatory, inefficient, and a waste of public money. This is despite the evidence from both the investigations of ‘Staffordshire and Cleveland’ which have proven that a reduction in the use of stop and search can go hand in hand with a reduction in the overall levels of crime.


[1] Powers of Citizen’s Arrest hand-out [2] Powers of Citizen’s Arrest hand-out [3] Detention of Young People hand-out [4] Detention of Young People hand-out [5] A study of the Police Complaints System, Maguire and Corbett [6] R v Grant – Legal Privilege [7] Archive, 21 October 1988: Editorial: New law will erode right to silence hand-out. [8] Police DNA Database hand-out [9] Police DNA Database hand-out [10] Police DNA Database hand-out

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