In section 30 of the Transport and Works Act 1992 (powers of arrest and entry), omit subsections (1) and (3)."
Page 183, line 33, at end insert—
|"London County Council(General Powers) Act 1900(c. cclxviii)||Section 27 (arrest for breach of byelaws).|
|Ministry of Housing and LocalGovernment ProvisionalOrder Confirmation (GreaterLondon Parks and OpenSpaces) Act 1967 (c. xxix)||Article 19 (power of detention) of the Order set out in the Schedule."|
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendment No. 107 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 108:
Page 189, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 14 and insert—
"(iiib) section 27 of the Transport and Works Act 1992 (which relates to offences involving drink or drugs);","
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 108 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 110:
Page 74, line 35, at end insert—
"( ) Where any sets of premises are specified in the application the justice of the peace must be satisfied of the matters in subsection (1) above in relation to each set of premises so specified."
This amendment relates to search warrants. Powers of police search of premises and seizure of evidence engage the right to privacy. In its current form, Section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides safeguards against the arbitrary exercise of these powers through a regime of prior judicial scrutiny. We fear that, if enacted, the clauses will undermine the safeguards in that regime, giving rise to opportunities for unlawful speculative searches, harassment and unnecessary searches that are potentially dangerous and a waste of police time.
We believe that the types of warrants created in Clauses 109 and 110 would be genuinely appropriate only where, for a valid operational reason, the police could not return to court for each separate warrant; for example, where they would need to enter premises at very short notice to conserve evidence.
In many of those circumstances, measures could be adopted that would not remove judicial oversight. For example, provision could be made for emergency application by telephone—on a par with emergency applications for interim injunctions made by telephone to a judge. We recommend that, if that is not deemed to be practicable, further safeguards be inserted into the clauses. For example, the court should be satisfied that, for a valid operational reason, it is not reasonably practicable for individual warrant applications to be made in the normal way regarding different premises and different entries to the same premises.
The amendments are designed to retain a higher level of prior judicial scrutiny of applications for search warrants for multiple premises. We believe that there should be a valid operational reason why the police cannot apply for warrants singly in the usual way. The insertion of the safeguards would, we believe, help to prevent opportunities for speculative searches and harassment of suspects. I beg to move.
Can I clarify that the noble Lord has, in effect, spoken to Amendments Nos. 110, 111, 112, 113 and 114 together?
The noble Lord referred to multiple searches, and that falls into the next group.
It is essential that application for and use of search warrants is, as the noble Lord rightly said, subject to independent scrutiny and oversight. We have maintained the essential role of the judiciary in the application for and issue of warrants. Importantly, when warrants are returned to court, they are duly endorsed to indicate the activities in relation to which the warrants have been used.
For all premises warrants, prior written authority from a senior officer of at least the rank of inspector who is not involved in the investigation will be required in addition to scrutiny of the application by the justice of the peace, before any additional premises may be entered and searched. We believe that we have enhanced the investigative process, while ensuring that the new powers are proportionately balanced against the rights and protections of the individual. I invite the noble Lord not to press the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 118:
Page 79, line 2, at end insert—
"( ) In subsection (4)(b) after "related" insert "; except that—
(c) where a person's photograph has been taken because he falls within one of subsections (1B)(c) to (f) (but not within (1B)(a) or (b)), the photograph must not be disclosed to any person for any purpose and must be destroyed as soon as either proceedings relating to the fixed penalty notice have been concluded, or a decision has been taken not to commence, or to discontinue, proceedings against him.""
The non-consensual photographing or video capture of people who have not been arrested for any offence engages the right to privacy, as protected by Article 8 of the European convention, as does the retention of the images.
The Government have stated that the purpose of the provision is to prevent disputes about whether the person charged with an offence was the person required to wait with the community support officer or issued with a fixed penalty notice. That purpose is achieved when the proceedings are concluded or a decision is made not to initiate proceedings against the relevant person.
If a decision is taken not to proceed against a person or issue them with a fixed penalty notice, there is no legitimate reason for the images to be retained by the police. As the person has not admitted or been convicted of any offence, there is no reason why their image should find its way on to a police database of potential suspects or be shared with other agencies. The interference with privacy occasioned by such retention and/or disclosure of the images would not be necessary in a democratic society or proportionate. It would also give scope for arbitrary or discriminatory treatment by police of people on the database who may not be guilty of any crime. We fear that it might lead to the unfair targeting of particular groups in the community. I beg to move.
The increasing use of interventions outside the police station means that it is appropriate to extend the range of circumstances in which a photograph can be taken and retained. Fixed penalty notices and requirements to wait with community support officers are examples of cases where the police will need to record their intervention through means of identification such as photographic images, so as to avoid later disputes about the identity of the person who was given the notice or was required to wait. I know that the noble Lord understands that, given the comments that he made.
The photos should be retained in the same way as those currently taken inside the custody suite to prevent persons who may be wanted for other matters to avoid detection by giving the police a false name and address. The police should also be able to check the photographs against other still and moving images to determine whether the suspect is linked to any unsolved crimes.
With that explanation, I urge the noble Lord not to press his amendment.
moved Amendment No. 119:
Page 79, line 8, at end insert—
"( ) After subsection (6A) (inserted by subsection (5) of this section) insert—
"(6B) This section does not apply to—
(a) a person aged under 17, or
(b) a member of any group which is identified in a code of practice issued under this Act as a vulnerable group.""
Amendment No. 119 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 120 and 122. The purpose of the amendment is to probe the Government on their intentions. I would like to have the Minister's advice on some serious issues that are of some concern to various groups outside the House that deal with children.
As the Minister may be aware, the amendments were suggested by the Standing Committee for Youth Justice. It has a clear point of concern. Under the present PACE codes, additional safeguards should be in place when young or vulnerable people are required to undergo any intrusive act at the request of a constable. Usually, the requirement is that an appropriate adult is with any young or vulnerable person taken to a police station for those activities to be undertaken. The concern has been expressed that those protections would go out of the window under the new provisions, unless there is an express provision in this part of the Bill to bring back the requirements in the PACE codes, thereby ensuring that the Government meet their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I would be grateful if the Minister could explain the position. I beg to move.
I thank the noble Lord for indicating that the amendments are probing amendments. Amendments Nos. 119 and 120 would prevent the police from taking photographs and fingerprints from juveniles and other vulnerable persons on the street and under the existing provisions of PACE. I was perplexed, but I understand why he has framed the amendments in that way.
Although appropriate safeguards are important when dealing with juveniles and vulnerable people in custody, it is also important that the police have the power to record or establish an individual's identity or gather evidence that can be used to investigate and detect crime. Sadly, juveniles are responsible for a large amount of crime, and precluding the police from taking their photograph or fingerprints would be a retrograde step. That is particularly so when one considers that the taking of photographs and fingerprints on the street could reduce the incidence of juveniles and vulnerable people being arrested and taken to the police station for the purpose of ascertaining their identity.
I turn to Amendment No. 122. The "appropriate adult" safeguard is a valuable safeguard in protecting the interests and welfare of juveniles and other vulnerable groups in custody. Their role is set out in the relevant PACE codes of practice, and the codes should be the vehicle for measures relating to their role and functions. The proposal that they must be present when footwear impressions are taken has already been logged by the Home Office for inclusion in the next revision of the PACE codes, due later this year.
For those reasons, I invite the noble Lord—with the agreement of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond—to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 121:
Page 80, line 2, at end insert—
"(6A) In subsection (1A), for "or the conduct of a prosecution" substitute ", the conduct of a prosecution or the identification of a deceased person or of the person from whom a body part came"."
These two amendments are designed to assist with the identification of the British victims of the tsunami that struck south-east Asia on Boxing Day. Currently, somewhat tragically, there are 169 confirmed or feared British victims of the tsunami. Officers from the Metropolitan Police are leading the painstaking task of ensuring that bodies are correctly identified before they are released to their families for burial. The sooner that process can be completed, the sooner the family and friends of the deceased can properly mourn the loss of their loved ones and bring closure to this tragic event.
These amendments make a simple change to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to enable DNA samples and fingerprints to be checked against the national DNA and fingerprint databases for the purpose of the identification of a deceased person. As such, the change will apply to future natural disasters. It is not confined to the identification of the tsunami victims. The amendment to PACE will come into force on Royal Assent so that the checks can be undertaken speedily. I know that the Committee would wish relief to be given to those families in distress as quickly as possible and will join me in welcoming the amendments. I beg to move.
The noble Baroness is right. I feel sure that other Benches will join me in supporting the amendments. The House is normally reticent about such matters as extending the occasions when DNA samples may be taken. This situation does not fall into those areas that antagonise Members of this House. We can only hope that the application of the new systems will enable families' feelings to at least be assuaged and that they may know whether a deceased person is of their family.
These Benches oppose Clauses 116 and 117 stand part of the Bill for the following reasons. Notwithstanding the explanatory letter from the Minister to a number of Peers who also spoke at Second Reading, her explanation that she intends to continue with the pilot schemes in no way helps to make the suggestion more palatable to a great number of people.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, dated
"We write to express our grave concerns over plans to civilianise the post of custody sergeant; views shared by Liberty, the Law Society, Justice, the head of police training (Centrex) and eminent QCs alike.
"As we are sure you are aware, these proposals have sparked much emotive debate, not least because we would not wish to see it inadvertently lead to a rise in the numbers of deaths in police custody or reduce the number of crimes which are detected and result in a successful conviction.
"Even at the eleventh hour, Clauses 116 and 117—two of the most ill thought through provisions in any single piece of police legislation—could be removed without otherwise affecting the primary aims and objectives of the SOCAP Bill.
"The perversity of the decision to civilianise this, of all policing roles, is astounding. The post of custody sergeant is one of the least suited to civilianisation, requiring extensive policing skills, knowledge and experience.
"We readily acknowledge problems exist in the recruitment and retention of custody sergeants, and the knock-on this has had upon the rank as a whole. Civilianisation, however, is a wholly facile solution. The real solution lies in addressing the underlying causes of those problems, namely acute staff shortages, cell overcrowding and meeting Centrex training and retraining requirements.
"We fully recognise that one Force has agreed to take part in a pilot. But this 'support' represents only a tiny minority of chief officers, and it is spurious in the extreme to suggest otherwise (as in the Commons Standing Committee Stage). The fact remains that the vast majority of chief constables, including notable 'modernisers' such as Sir Ian Blair, are wholly against the plan.
"It is unclear as to how Government statements in response to Lord Mackenzie's suggestions would ameliorate this suggestion. While the idea of station sergeants is an interesting development, it in no way addresses the real issue—the civilianisation of the post of custody sergeant. Only the pilot, not the Bill, would be amended.
"It is for these reasons that we, the only staff organisations with operational policing perspective at this level, are fundamentally opposed to this provision and press for an urgent consideration".
The Government have not given any sensible reason at all why they feel they must go down that route. The views expressed above are also shared by the chief executive of Centrex, Justice, the Law Society and others. It is a core, front-line, operational policing function—dealing with detainees after arrest but before charge. The custody officer determines whether an arrested person should be detained or should go free.
Those decisions can often be taken at speed and under enormous pressure. Is the arrest lawful and necessary? Is there sufficient evidence to justify detention? The custody officer is wholly responsible for the safety and well-being of those in custody, which is an enormously responsible job. The substantive rank of sergeant has the authority and responsibility to deny a senior officer access to a suspect at an inappropriate time or in inappropriate circumstances.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended that the role of custody sergeant be recognised by providing greater recognition and support, not more civilianisation. I can see nowhere any regulatory impact assessment for the cost of training civilian custody officers, which is an extraordinary omission in view of the Minister's assurances on training during the Bill's Committee stage in the other place.
Finally, a pilot would rely heavily on the support, guidance and decision-making of a police custody sergeant, which would completely invalidate the evaluation. What happens if the pilots are deemed unsuccessful? The Government do not seem to have grasped that it is the whole panoply of policing know-how gained performing other police duties at street level which are critical to the effective management of custody suites.
By all means incorporate the excellent ideas of having a station sergeant, but do not muddle them up with the unique role undertaken by a custody sergeant. And certainly do not believe that giving us the sop of a pilot will satisfy anyone at all in the policing world, because it will not.
When the Minister opened our proceedings today, she pinpointed accurately the two major issues on which this House expressed concerns at Second Reading. She was careful to explain in detail why the Government feel that the role of the custody officer could be developed in a new direction.
We agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, that custody sergeants, as they are now, have a supremely important role. It is certainly the case that we, too, wish to ensure that custody sergeants have the levels of skill and authority to enable them appropriately to carry out their duties.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has already referred to the strong feelings of the Police Federation on this. In its briefing the federation makes it clear that custody officers have an unusual role in the justice system because they have the right, under great pressure and at short notice, to determine whether someone is free on the streets or not. I know that none of us, let alone the Minister, underestimates the difficulty and importance of the role. Further, if a person is detained, the custody officer is then wholly responsible for his or her safety and well-being.
It has been argued that only the substantive rank of sergeant carries the authority and responsibility to deny a senior officer access to a suspect at an inappropriate time or under inappropriate circumstances. Only someone with that clout—if I may call it that—might be able to persuade more senior officers that they may not override the custody officer's decision. All those points have informed our position on this matter.
Initially, we thought that this role was most appropriately open to being civilianised—a ghastly term—but as we listened to the development of the arguments, we came to appreciate more fully the case being put by the Police Federation. However, we continue to listen. Earlier today the Minister made considerable efforts to explain the Government's position, particularly on ensuring that whoever performs this role in the future should be well trained and held in sufficiently high esteem by their colleagues to be able to carry out the current role with the same efficacy.
While I have been able to listen to the noble Baroness, my colleagues in another place have not. I anticipate that she chose her words so carefully that they may feel that she has done enough to assuage their concerns, but I cannot speak for them. The Bill is to come before us again tomorrow for consideration on Report, and I shall certainly ensure that both the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, and the Minister are made aware of our position before then. But if Hansard bears out what my ears have heard, we may not need to press the matter further.
This is a very important matter. The noble Baronesses, Lady Harris and Lady Anelay, have set out the case in such detail that I need not say much. But it surely cannot be right to civilianise this element of police work. It is all right to civilianise clerical workers, telephonists, mechanics, drivers and so forth because they are not an inherent part of police work itself. However, the custody officer is very much part of police work.
It is essential that criminals should recognise that they are being held in police custody, not in the custody of some civilian. They are being held because they are suspected of having committed a criminal offence. They would have been arrested by a police officer and would have been taken to a police station. At that point they should be put in a police cell and looked after by a policeman. What will criminals think if, after being arrested and charged in the police station, they are handed over to some civilian who is to look after them from then on? That simply cannot be right. It sends out the wrong message not only to the police, but also to civilians and criminals.
I hope that the Government will listen to what has been said and that they have been in close contact with the Police Federation. The federation represents those who do the job on the ground. It is not done by Ministers and staff in the Home Office. Policemen do the job on the ground and in this instance they have the expertise, experience and knowledge and thus should be listened to.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has said, the Bill will have its Report stage tomorrow. We are in a difficult situation and I believe that if it were being given proper consideration in Committee and on Report, we—not I, as one who is simply Independent Labour these days—in the form of the main opposition parties would press this Question to a vote. They probably do not want to do that but, given the assistance the Government have been given today by all sides of this House to get the Bill through, they ought to be good enough to hold conversations with the Secretary of State and persuade him to make this concession. Tomorrow—or perhaps even tonight; it would be marvellous if she could do so—I hope that the Minister will be able to say that, having considered all aspects of the issue and having listened to the concerns of the Police Federation and the debate in Committee, the Government have decided that the proposition that the clauses should not stand part should be agreed and that they will no longer proceed with this part of the Bill. I look forward to the Minister's reply.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, that we have listened to the arguments very carefully indeed. We agree with both the noble Baronesses, Lady Harris and Lady Anelay, that the role of the custody officer is extremely important. They are absolutely right to point out that the job deserves authority and strength because it is that person who has to determine the question of access to an individual and/or whether they are or are not detained.
However, the Bill is predicated on real change. I said earlier that the agency brings together senior and other individuals from a number of different agencies—immigration officers, Customs officers and others—many of whom have similar expertise. Most important, however, is that anyone who undertakes this enormously responsible job should be properly trained, be given the proper level of independence and should be able to do the job currently being undertaken by the custody officer—irrespective of the agency from which they may have originally come. Only people with those skills should be entrusted with this role.
I hope that I have made clear that we are as concerned as all noble Lords about the skills and abilities that need to be evident for the discharge of this role. The chief officer must be satisfied that a person designated as a staff custody officer is suitable, capable, and has received adequate training. It does not mean that a police officer will not do the job because it may be that the chief officer's designation determines that the most able and appropriate person is a police officer. It does not necessarily mean that that has to be the case.
Clauses 116 and 117 provide for the introduction of a new category of police staff—that of staff custody officer—and some consequential amendments to PACE. A person will be capable of being designated in this role if he or she is employed by the police authority for a particular force and is under the direction and control of the chief officer of that force.
The role of custody officer under PACE is recognised as a significant safeguard both for the suspect and the integrity of the custody and investigation functions. I emphasise that there is no intention to dilute the key role of the custody officer, nor to dilute the ability of the custody officer to act independently of the investigative process.
However, two issues have to be considered. First, as recognised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's thematic report, Modernising the Police Service, published in 2004, there are currently hundreds of experienced police sergeants acting as custody officers at a time when front-line supervisory experience is at a premium. Secondly, much of the work of the custody officer is largely process-driven. That does not suggest that the work is either routine or simply administrative. Far from it. The role of custody officer requires significant skills and abilities and, above all, requires the aptitude to apply those capabilities fairly, correctly and in circumstances where they may potentially attract adverse views from both policing colleagues and suspects' legal representatives.
So, in dealing with the skills and abilities issue, the chief officer must be satisfied that a person designated as a staff custody officer is suitable, capable and has received adequate training. I set out earlier today the national occupational standards developed by Skills for Justice that are already in place and have formed the basis for an integrated competency framework, which sets out the tasks and outcomes to be achieved in the custody officer role.
The National Centre for Policing Excellence is currently developing guidance that, in turn, will set out how the standards are to be achieved. The tripartite system that is being developed will not only clearly set out occupational standards for use by existing custody officers but, importantly, have in place definitive standards for both police and police staff employed in this task.
I understand the possible concerns of Members of the Committee that the custody officer has to be an experienced police officer who has the authority to make and impose a decision with independence. The authority and the independence of the role is set out in PACE, and that Act provides the custody officer with recourse to a superintendent in the event that his or her authority is questioned. The 1984 Act recognised similar concerns about a police sergeant undertaking the duties that we are now hearing about a member of police staff performing.
Added to this, we know from responses to the 2002 review of PACE, from pilot studies on the use of police staff and from the consultation exercise on police powers last autumn, that many police officers welcome the introduction of staff custody officers and the opportunity to get out from behind a desk.
We are currently discussing with the police and other key stakeholders the potential to pilot the role of staff custody officers in six force areas. The pilot studies would focus significantly on selection, training requirements and the practical application in the police station. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, is particularly concerned about that.
The pilot study would be subject to independent evaluation and would look to determine three elements: the efficacy of using police staff for this important role; the ability to use police staff solely in the role of custody officer; and the ability of a staff custody officer to make all decisions under PACE, with the potential for using a police sergeant or other rank in the role of custody supervisor.
We are not wedded to a specific outcome other than providing the ability for chief officers to make best use of the skills and knowledge available to them in the handling and treatment of suspects. I believe that this will help allay some of the perceptions and provide an opportunity to build on the already successful use of police staff in a number of force areas. The piloting, the testing and the independent evaluation will ensure that we have got it right and that chief officers have the flexibility to exercise the discretion in a robust and appropriate way.
Much will depend on the evaluation, which will assist us in deciding whether we have got it right, whether it works, whether it is practical, whether it is safe and whether it is proper. We think that it will be. We shall see. The pilots will help us to determine whether it is and we think that the Committee will be pleased by the results.
I shall certainly endeavour to do so but normally that relates to other constructs—for example, working in partnership with professionals in the health sphere and elsewhere.
We have to appreciate that we are creating a very different agency. The whole concept of SOCA is to move away from the silo-based working that has delivered results but not as many as we think we can achieve by working together in closer partnership. The fundamental nature of SOCA is in issue because it is not a replication of what we have done before in linking together silo-based entities; it is a new agency which will work in an integrated, inter-disciplinary way for the better management and efficacy of a criminal justice system focused on dealing with serious and organised crime. It is very difficult to find old examples of what you intend to do when you propose something entirely new.
I commend Clauses 116 and 117 to the Committee. I invite the noble Baroness to be content with the explanation I have put forward for the Committee's consideration.
I thank the Minister for her very full account of what she believes custody sergeants do. I set out very clearly what I believe they do, and the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents' Association and a whole range of other very senior policing people also feel that way. The Minister will not be surprised to learn that I am deeply dissatisfied with her response.
I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving the Motion, may I suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.30 p.m.?