CHANGES TO POLICE CODES OF PRACTICE

Written 30th October 2013 by Olliers Solicitors

Last week an order under section 67 (7A) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 brought into operation amended versions of six of the PACE codes. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Revision of Codes A, B, C, E, F and H) Order 2013 will bring these revisions into operation on 27 October.

Revised Codes

The codes which have been revised are:

  • A (stop and search)
  • B (search of premises and seizure of property)
  • C (detention of suspects)
  • E (audio recording of interviews)
  • F (visual recording of interviews)
  • H (detention of terrorism suspects)

The Police and Criminal Evidence Codes govern the way in which the Police can treat people in Police custody and seek to strike the right balance between the powers of the Police and the rights and freedoms of the public.

Stop and Search

The main changes to Code A are the removal of references to stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 as a consequence of the introduction of amended terrorism stop and search powers in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Both Codes A and B are being amended in line with Section 48 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 which reduced the threshold for searching individuals on school premises for weapons, from having a reasonable belief to having a reasonable suspicion, as a result of the increase of possession of weapons in schools.

Detention of Suspects

Revisions to Codes C and H aim to transpose the legal obligations in the European Union Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings into UK legislation. The amendments clarify the current arrangements in relation to provision of interpreters. They aim to ensure that suspects who need help to communicate with officers, and to understand the reasons for their detention in custody and the charges laid against them, are given access to an interpreter and written translations of documents as necessary.

One of the most crucial changes to the codes is to Codes C and H to comply with the High Court ruling in the judicial review ‘HC vs. Secretary of State for the Home Department and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis’. In the landmark ruling in April of this year, it was ruled that the treatment of 17 year old offenders, who received the same treatment as adults at a police station, was unlawful.

Currently, Police are obliged to contact a parent or other appropriate adult for offenders aged 16 years or younger but not for 17 year old offenders, unless they are considered to be vulnerable. Accordingly, this change amends the codes of practice to adopt the ruling. The main area of amendment is for an appropriate adult to be called for all 17 years olds at the Police Station.

Audio & Visual Interview Recordings

Codes E and F are being amended to include new provisions for the conduct and recording of voluntary interviews of suspects who are not under arrest. These provide for a Sergeant to be responsible for voluntary interviews and for giving the authority for them not to be audio recorded where appropriate. They also correct a number of cross references to the code of practice for the video recording of interviews of terrorist detainees, and make amendments concerning the security of master interview recordings, in order to ensure consistency between codes E and F and the new terrorism code.

Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, Damian Green, said:

“The amendments to the codes are required in order to achieve consistency and to comply with domestic and EU legislation as well as the High Court ruling. As such, I consider these revisions to be straightforward and consequential rather than controversial.
“This overall package of revision to the codes will strengthen, clarify and embed the safeguards available to the public where the police exercise their powers.”

Tracy Gibbon

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