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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 Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 5:00 pm, 18th January 2005

The interesting thing about the clause is that almost everyone disagrees with the Government's position. The Law Society has said:

''Decisions on suspects' civil rights made by custody officers are too important to be carried out by a civilian.''

Liberty and the Police Federation are equally opposed, and one wonders why the Government are ignoring the consensus.

Would a civilian custody officer have the authority and experience to cope with a scenario such as a detective superintendent seeking inappropriate access to an arrested person? I give that example because a retired senior police officer told me that the police often wanted to question suspects held in custody in a way that was incompatible with PACE—sometimes only slightly incompatible—but the sergeant, as custody officer running the police station, would put a stop to it because they had the authority to do so. They occupied the police station in the same way as they now say that one needs tanks to occupy towns after one has taken them. The retired officer said that they were a solid force, equivalent to the old matrons in the NHS who knew intimately what was going on around them and took responsibility for their surroundings. The Government are being unwise to get rid of this important role, and police stations and individuals detained in them could be worse for it.