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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 James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 5:00 pm, 18th January 2005

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Lady on this occasion. All the points she made were important, but the final one will take some answering from the Minister. Whatever training civilian custody officers receive, they will not have the practical experience that a police officer can bring to the role, particularly a police officer of status.

I share the concerns expressed across the Committee. I have some sympathy with the Government's objectives of trying to make the best possible use of the police and bring in civilianisation   wherever proper and appropriate, but the Minister has some important questions to answer as to whether or not the clause is the right way to do so.

I hark back to PACE itself. Much what we are doing challenges the structure of that Act, not least with regard to custody officers. Great attention is paid in that Act to their role, such as who will be a custody officer and what happens if one is not available. Custody officers are given important decisions to take, many of which they still take, not least decisions about bail, which the hon. and learned Lady just mentioned. That is extremely important from the point of view of civil liberties. Decisions on bail have to be taken properly and the rights of an individual being brought to a police station must be properly protected. Those are important issues, and the Minister has to answer this debate with some care.