The Police and Criminal Evidence Act

Introduction

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 was brought in following recommendations set out by the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure.  The purpose of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 was to unify police powers under one code of practise and to carefully balance the rights of the individual against the powers of the police.  There are codes of practise that accompany the Act to further clarify to police officers the extent of their powers.  Sections 60 and 66 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 require the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice in connection with the exercising of various powers. So far, eight such codes have been issued.

  • Code A Deals with the exercise by police officers of statutory powers to search a person or a vehicle without first making an arrest. It also deals with the need for a police officer to make a record of a stop or encounter. 
  • Code B Deals with police powers to search premises and to seize and retain property found on premises and persons. 
  • Code C sets out the requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects not related to terrorism in police custody by police officers. 
  • Code D Concerns the main methods used by the police to identify people in connection with the investigation of offences and the keeping of accurate and reliable criminal records.
  • Code E Deals with the audio recording of interviews with suspects in the police station. 
  • Code F Deals with the visual recording with sound of interviews with suspects. There is no statutory requirement on police officers to visually record interviews. However, the contents of this code should be considered if an interviewing officer decides to make a visual recording with sound of an interview with a suspect. 
  • Code G Deals with powers of arrest under section 24 the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 as amended by section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. 
  • Code H Sets out the requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects related to terrorism in police custody by police officers.

The power to stop and search must be used fairly and responsibly.  Police should respect the person being searched without prejudice.  The intrusion on the person stopped must be brief and carried out in the proper manner with the stop being recorded in the right way.  . 

After high profile miscarriages of justice cases such as the Birmingham six and the Guilford four there is a sense of accountability by the police in the eyes of the public, and a need to be transparent in the methods they use and for the public to know what their rights are if stopped or arrested by the police.  The high profile Stephen Lawrence enquiry criticised the police force as being “Institutionally racist”.   This is a concern of many ethnic groups that the stop and search method targets ethnic minorities more than white.  Since the Stephen Lawrence enquiry was published amendments were made to Code A to say that powers must be used “fairly, responsibly with respect for the people being searched and without unlawful discrimination”.

Under s1(1) (a)(b) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984A police officer can use their power to stop and search in any place the public has ready access to or by implied permission have access (but not a dwelling).  Private land is excluded if the person stopped is a non-resident or trespasser s1 (4) (a) (b) Pace.  s1 (2) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states that an officer subject to subsections (3) and (5) can detain a person or vehicle for the purposes of a search.  Anything which is in or on the vehicle can also be subject to a search.  S1 (3) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states the officer has no right to search any person/vehicle unless they have “Reasonable Suspicion” that prohibited/stolen articles will be found.  Code A of the accompanying codes of practise states “Reasonable suspicion can never be supported on the basis of personal factors. It must rely on intelligence or information about, or some specific behaviour by, the person concerned. For example, other than in a witness description of a suspect, a person's race, age, appearance, or the fact that the person is known to have a previous conviction, cannot be used alone or in combination with each other, or in combination with any other factor, as the reason for searching that person.” Code A accessed on 14/01/2011 www.homeoffice.gov.uk    Reasonable suspicion should not come from generalisations or stereotypical images of certain groups.  Religion should never be used as a reason to stop someone for the purposes of a search.  The Race Relations Act 2000 makes it unlawful for police officers to discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins when using their powers.  Stops should be made as a result of intelligence or by the officer witnessing suspicious behaviour enough to warrant a stop to search.

If an item is recovered during the search which the officer suspects to be a prohibited/stolen article the officer may seize that item.  S1 (7) Pace sets out what prohibited articles are.  They include:-

  • Stolen goods
  • Offensive weapons including bladed or sharply pointed items (excluding pocket knives with a bladed cutting edge not exceeding 3 inches).
  • Articles intended for use in certain theft act offences
  • Articles intended for destroying or damaging property added by s1 Criminal Justice Act 2003 e.g. Spray paint cans and tools to cause graffiti
  • Fireworks within the definition of fireworks in s1 Fireworks Act 2003

Other stop and search powers allow the police to search for other items such as:-

  • Drugs (Misuse of Drugs Act)
  • Alcohol at sporting events, Sporting events (Control of Alcohol) Act 1985
  • Contraband, Customs and Excise management Act 1979
  • Firearms and crossbows, Firearms Act

When an officer detains a person for a stop a record of that stop has to be made. S2 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides statutory safeguards in relation to Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and any other stop and search power.  Before searching a person or viechle or detain a person for the purposes of a search, the officer must take reasonable steps to bring to the persons attention as set out in s2 (3) (a) (b) (c) Pace:-

  • His name
  • The police station he is attached to
  • The object of the search
  • His grounds for making the search

The officer should also advise the person they are entitled to a written record of the search, and which police station they should apply to obtain the information (Para 2.6 code A)

The police use the acronym GOWISE-LY to remind officers of each requirement of the search

G - Grounds for the search

O - Object of the search

W - Warrant card (if in plain clothes)

I - Identify. The officer must identify themselves

S - Station where the officer works

E - Entitlement to a copy of the search

L - Legal power being used for the detention

Y- “You are being detained for the purposes of a search...” The person must be informed they are being detained. 

In Osman V DPP 1999 EWHC Admin 622 the officers had not identified themselves or their station to the suspect making the search unlawful.

S3 (1) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states, that when an officer conducts a search, they must make a written record of the search unless it is not practical to do so.  If it is not practical to do so a written record must be made as soon as is reasonably possible after the completion of the search.

When a police officer conducts a search in public only the outer coat/jacket and gloves can be searched.  A more detailed search can be made in a police van out of public view but it must be conducted by an officer of the same sex.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA) 1994 also provided that an officer of superintendent rank or higher may authorize stop and searches where that officer reasonably believes there may be incidents of serious violence likely to occur in the police authority area.  Under s60 CJPOA a police officer may without reasonable suspicion in a designated area, this includes asking individuals to remove headgear such as face masks, balaclavas etc. S60 is commonly used for organized protests and football matches.  Stop and search without Reasonable suspicion in designated areas has also been replicated in the Terrorism Act 2000 in s44. The Terrorism Act 2000 allows people to be stopped and searched only in relation to terrorism offences.  But all stops and searches made under the Terrorism Act must be carried out in accordance with the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and Code A.  S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives police the power to stop and search individuals if they had reasonable suspicion they were involved in terrorist activity or activity that could support terrorists.  S44 Terrorism Act gives the police the power to stop individuals without Reasonable suspicion if they were in a “Designated Area”.  There was much controversy surrounding “Designated Areas” as many were kept secret, on the grounds revealing the location of these areas as it was thought it would provide terrorists with useful information as to the location of such areas.  The European court of Human rights has ruled that s44 Terrorism Act stop and search is unlawful following the case of Gillan & Quinton v Uk 2000.  It was ruled as a breach of Article 5 HRA (right to liberty) and a violation of Article 8 HRA (right to respect for family and private life).