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23/12/2005

The Death of Liberty in Britain

On 1st January 2006, the powers bestowed on the police will dramatically change. This has received little if any coverage in the media. The power invested in individual police officers will be significantly greater than at any time in the history of the police service. The reason for this? The Serious and Organised Crime Act (SOCA).

Until 31st December 2005, the power to arrest was governed by statute, predominantly by the powers conferred under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Certain offences were deemed 'arrestable' others not so, unless strict conditions applied. These conditions are listed in the legislation. Under SOCA, you can be arrested for any offence from not wearing a seatbelt to murder. Each arrest must be justified by the police officer concerned for a variety of reasons. The main difference is that the reasons are not identified by statue. The legislation provides a number of examples where the power of arrest may be used, but quantifies this by stating that other circumstances may apply. This means that the individual police officer must justify why the suspect has been arrested. They are not constrained by a legal list.

Powers of search have also changed. Under old legislation, to search private premises for evidence of an offence prior to arrest for example, a warrant needed to be obtained from a Magistrate. Under S8 of PACE, the offence under investigation needed to be a serious arrestable offence. This was basically murder and the like, and offences involving serious loss or gain and so on. Such warrants were valid for one month and applied to one address only.

The new law has abolished the term 'serious arrestable offence'. The type of offences that warrants can be applied for has widened considerably. Search warrants can now be valid for up to three months, and can cover more than one address. Police will be able to apply for search warrants that allow for entry to a specified premises an unlimited number of times within three months. Every entry after the first can be made with the authority of a police Inspector. Should further premises be identified during a search, these premises can also be searched with the authority of an Inspector. Neither scenario necessitates a return to Magistrates Court for a further warrant.

A higher level of warrant is called a Production Order. This is obtained from a Crown Court Judge and relates to allowing the police access to private information such as bank accounts and so on. This power also related to serious arrestable offences. This has also changed to cover a larger variety of lesser offences.

The nature of judicial scrutiny to oversee police activity and therefore protect civil rights will be fatally altered. As they say, be afraid, be very afraid....

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

And can you believe the poxy training package they have provided to train us?

typical

guv said...

We had an amazing two hours which I hear is quite high compared to some other forces. I'm not sure how I feel about the new powers yet. On one hand it could speed some cases up on the other it could be abused. As I will be working New Years Eve, it will be interesting making the switch half way through shift. I do think it will be mostly the same as before though, as long as you can justify yourself and with good reason and you remember to tell the person at the time why you are arresting them.

World Weary Detective said...

The Met police were issued with a computer based training package on 20th Dec. This is to be completed by 10th Jan. Ten days after the new law comes into force.

Anonymous said...

The "Potential" for abuse is frightening. Coppers are human and cannot be faulted for using all the powers they have to get a good result. This appears to give you an awful lot of leeway. Did it slip through while we were all concerned about the 90 days?

Anonymous said...

Some forces have provided no training whatsoever and not even told their officers that there is a change in the law.

Should be interesting.

Jurgen said...

I learned all about SOCA from this and other Police weblogs .... Investors in people ... don't make me laugh. Consequently I shall not be applying any of the new powers until properly trained in their use... as I consider that to b a proportional response to the situation.
Education Education Education .. B******T

Knight of NI said...

At 21.48 Anon said "Did it slip through while we were all concerned about the 90 days?"

Yep. Pretty much.

World Weary Detective said...

I see a number of national papers have picked up on the SOCA story. There is still nothing like the media interest that was generated by the terrorism provisions. SOCA will have a far greater impact on society in general, and is a further reason for the police to become distanced from the community.

Anonymous said...

Like many other solicitors, I gave up crime years ago, because crime doesn't pay - or specifically crime pays about the same per day as I can get per hour in commercial litigation.

SOCA may just change all that. Nip down the Mags, catch up with paperwork on the laptop while waiting, write off the time actually spent dealing with the case, and hey presto! Into the Admin Court and back on my usual rates, earning as much in a day as experienced counsel earn in a week for routine stuff like murder and armed robbery.

This government may abuse us and calls us fat cats, but it's only the very lean cats at the coal-face of the criminal legal system whose income is being reduced.

Or perhaps I shall hang on to the shreds of my personal dignity and not jump on this gravy train.

Anonymous said...

No, the papers have now started shreiking that we will now be nicking people for not wearing their seatbelt etc.
Did no one remember s25 PACE? seems to be pretty much the same thing to me.

The mets package is laughable, on top of that it is also inaccurate...
You do still have a s17 power of entry for a breath test, to arrest for TDA and failing to stop folks.

A lurker said...

Just wanted to say congratulations on the blog. I used to read David Copperfield's blog when he did it. Despite me being a whinging liberal I did find his blog both informative and often amusing.

You seem not to have a knee jerk reaction against sime liberal ideas, which of course is going to appeal to me ;-) but what's more important is that it is well written and interesting. Good stuff - it has become required reading for me.

Anonymous said...

Someone above mentioned that there was little publicity about this when it went through Parliament - the criminal solicitors of the country were up in arms about it and were ignored as usual. It makes me laugh that the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have both now published full page articles pointing out the consequences of the legislation. I take heart from Anon's comments above about the Divisional Court - at least I might be able to make a decent living from Judicial Review of this mare's nest. One point, this legislation appears to have been in force in Cheshire for some time because I have a client who was arrested weeks after the event for a section 39 - common assault - where s25 was clearly not appropriate - the officer had gone to the client's house to arrest him. Hey ho!

World Weary Detective said...

Thank-you Lurker!

The power of arrest under S25 PACE was reliant on a specified list on conditions. The new powers under SOCA provide an expanded list which is not exhaustive. This means that the individual officer can justify their own actions in any way they see fit. Awful lot of responsibilty for one officer...

Al said...

Thanks for letting us know what is really happening WWD. Come on all you decent coppers make a stand. Remember you only live the once, and you will have to answer to you maker one day soon.

Anonymous said...

this now effectivly means that an innocent private remark or even a joke between friends in a pub could lead to imprisonment if an off duty police officer over hears, that's assuming they will be allowed the freedom of light entertainment !!!

pat said...

I am afraid it is high time the police force acquired a pair of testicles and ceased permitting themselves to be used in such a manner that dictates every ounce of respect from the public to be lost.

The public are the individuals who bear the brunt of the police forces weakness and inability to say "NO" for a chamge. It is quite clear the police are well and truly locked within the jaws of the politically correct animal and the "we are not permitted to strike" justification for inaction will no longer be a sufficent excuse for behaving in a somewhat treasonist manner when we all know the real reason for non-protest is your pensions. Perhaps the police force should be reminded that changes which are required in our police force, and society as a whole, will only come about with SACRIFICE.

The public see a suppressive government who strive to rob us of our rights and our freedoms and we see the police force facilitating their wishes without question, one wonders what the police feel will be the outcome of their present policy of allowing themselves to-be used in this manner?, one wonders how long the public will accept a police force which is developing stark similarities to the SS.

World Weary Detective said...

The new legislation has nothing to do with race, sex or religion. It is a matter of human and civil rights. Equality for all. To try to turn this debate into one of race or right versus left misses the point completely. A moral and ethical society should have no place whatsoever for hatred based on lack of understanding of those who are different to ourselves.

Anonymous said...

This new stuff is a complete joke.
Its a rushed law and that means bad law as usual form this lot. I have oddles of public order experiance and have seen this labour lot screw down on demonstrations in recent years with all sorts of excuses. It is now to the extent that demos are nigh on impossible to have legally.
There is ahuge amount of disssatifactiob building up out there and its us who will bear the brunt of it. Next time Im in front of parliament and the hordes want in...I aint going to be trying too hard to stop them.
I have had enough.
Alloy.

World Weary Detective said...

Good point. I can see the centuries old right to vote being replaced by mass arrests merely for being within a certain distance of the Houses of Parliament.

gemmak said...

I seem to be the only voice of dissent here but whilst I appreciate this is a big responsibility for police officers and open to abuse by the few have we all forgotten why this law has come to pass? I have to say that in the main it seems a positive step to me and whilst I am far from naive I wonder what any law abiding citizen havs to fear.....in the main if you keep to the laws of the land you don't get nicked, if you don't you do! My heart doesn't bleed.

Excellent blog incidentally.

Brennus said...

Was an Exellent blog till gemmaks last moronic comments.

Beachhutman said...

Utterly ridiculous remark by Gemmak. The old cry of "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear!" has gone RIGHT out of the window, as people who have done nothing WRONG (like heckling Straw, Wearing anti-war Teeshirts, Making jests about police horses, or Simply being on the pavement in Whitehall, are arrested, persecuted, and prosecuted. Even Middle class professional Joe Public DOES NOT TRUST the law any more, is VERY suspicious of the Police, and continuous expansion of police powers makes this worse and worse. "Policing by consent" which took centuries to establish has almost been entirely destroyed in labour's term.

Anonymous said...

02/04/2006
Yep...the above just about sums it up now.
Badly designed laws (or maybe done so on purpose ) that undermine the police or the enforcers.
You can be arrested for doing very little now but its the erosion of trust in the police thats going to do the damage.
But there again thats exactly what this bunch of ex-communist students want though......
Alloy

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