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Clause 111 - Staff custody officers: designation

Part of Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 18th January 2005.

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Labour, Redcar 5:00 pm, 18th January 2005

I, too, am concerned about the proposal, on the basis of my court experience over the years, and for the same reasons as Conservative Members. We should make some strong points, however.

The proposal has nothing to do with expense. Because we have rightly and properly recruited large numbers of police out on the streets, there is an urgent need for supervisory officers out on the streets to supervise them. I can see the need for that.

The burden of deciding on charging, and so on, has been hugely relieved by the fact that the CPS is now in police stations. That has taken the top slice of   responsibility off custody officers. I can see why there appears to be an opportunity here, but my concerns are best summarised in the following way: it would be difficult to train into someone the experience needed to be able to decide whether to accept a charge; whether someone has used their reasonable suspicion appropriately; whether they have arrested someone properly and told them why they are being arrested; whether the case will survive; to decide, right at the beginning of the case, whether someone is entitled to an appropriate adult when interviewed; to provide protection against senior detectives who may feel that they urgently need access to someone when the duty of the custody officer is only to allow regular and noted access; and for decisions about bail, visiting and access to legal advice to be taken. It would be hard to train someone to take decisions of that kind. They are, it seems to me, decisions best taken on the back of having some experience of policing. I do not see it in quite the same way as the other civilianisation programmes related to the police.