Power of Police Authority to Retain Unclaimed Property

Part of Orders of the Day — Police (Property) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:33 pm on 7 February 1997.

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Photo of Mr Piers Merchant Mr Piers Merchant , Beckenham 12:33, 7 February 1997

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 10, leave out 'a year' and insert '18 months'.

This simple and straightforward amendment seeks to substitute for the period of 12 months the period of 18 months in relation to the time for which the police have to keep property before they can move to acquire it as property in their own name. This is partially a probing amendment to ascertain why the figure of 12 months is in the Bill, but I shall also advance arguments as to why the period should preferably be longer.

By way of explanation, this sub-paragraph is part of a number of conditions that the Bill would impose on the police before they are able to exercise a new right of acquiring ownership of property that has fallen into their possession. Such property may have been forfeited or may otherwise have come into police hands. As we all know, the police acquire a vast amount of property as part of their daily work. Of course they cannot for ever act as custodians of that and decisions must be made on disposing of it in one way or another.

Under the Police (Property) Act 1897, the police have the power to auction this property. That was clarified by regulations passed in 1975. The police do not have the power at present to keep the property even if it would clearly be of great benefit to them. The Bill aims to ensure that they have that power.