Does the legal framework for everyday policing on the streets of the UK properly balance the competing rights and interests – of victims, suspects and society more widely – that are at stake?
Everyday civilian staff including society members, victims or the suspects along with the police officers in the United Kingdom are confronted with different challenges such as increased crime rate. However, police officers are grappled with dilemmas, one after the other, under a microscope of comment and scrutiny. Crime and disorder remain on top public priorities with the introduction of Human Rights Act (HRA) and other legal frameworks & statues such as PACE that grants powers to the police officers.It also triggers a great concern related to compromise of rights and interests of victims, suspects and the society as a whole that are at stake. Therefore, a balance is required. That is why by answering the question this essay will present an argumentative discussion whether the legal framework for everyday policing in the United Kingdom’s streets properly balance competing interests and rights or not.
The balancing between the effective and fair everyday policing within the legal framework and the rights together with the concerns of victims, society and the suspects is quite difficult. Especially when it is viewed from the desk of a city mayor, police chief or the citizen of a state, that has high crime rate and deprived community. However, it is at the heart of good policing, for when the police does something wrong: totally out of balance as happened in 1970s in London, Brixton and quite more recently in Missouri (Ferguson). The outcome of policing resulted in breakdown in law and order with rippling and wider consequences for our societies. With respect to HRA 1998, police and other public authorities are under obligation to exercise their powers with respect to the rights set in ECHR while complying with the standards of international human rights set out in regional and international treaties as well.
The statement in question can be understood more accurately by first analysing the purpose of everyday policing in the streets of the UK. The purpose is to service and uphold the law firmly and fairly in order to avoid crime on the streets and to ensure peace by bringing those to justice who violated the law. The police officers provide their service to the public to keep the peace of Queen, to reassure the community by helping and protecting people. They perform this duty with common sense of integrity and sound judgement. Police officers will be able to properly balance the competing rights and interests of the victims if the above purpose of policing would be accomplished by them. In the past, crime reduction was considered as the biggest success story of the UK, where a considerable decrease in crime is noted. But in the last four years it seems that the crime rate is again increasing, although very fewer people consider themselves being a victim of crimes, the figure of crime rate is increasing day by day. This increasing aspect of crime shows that policing is not balanced properly.The low-incidence crimes are considered a recent trend which is undeniable. Therefore, in the past, policing makes many things improved at very awful times, but the latest figures show that crimes rates are again increasing.
There is a recent saying from the metropolitan police about the investigation of street crimes or lower-level crimes, where they stated that they would not investigate them.As a result of this the thiefs and burglars will be identified as a suspect very rarely. The reason behind passing such statements seem that they are financially motivated and are faced with many funding cuts, as a result, the numbers of police staffing have declined to the lowest number. This, in my opinion is wrong and leads to unbalancing the rights and interests of victims and suspects. Whereas, the victims think imperatively that policing will help and support them in reporting the crime and will take it seriously. It is a notion on the part of police that offenders will be traced and caught especially those who are involved in committing heinous crimes and violating the rule of law. Moreover, one important thing in this aspect is the relationship with the police remains complicated. The reason is that in the past when half of the people were becoming victims of crime,people's faith in policing went considerably down, which made the relationship more complicated. Whereas, after the success stories of policing about crime restored people`s faith. The belief was that policing intervenes in a positive way and they have the ability to handle high volumes of crime. After the recent facts and figures of crime rates, policing will be changed for worse if police officers continuously don’t follow their societal responsibility. It should focus again on crime reduction, crime prevention and also on minor crimes to maintain that belief from people`s side.
Moreover, the acceptable standards of human rights under HRA and common law requires that police should maintain high political impartiality and independence during everyday policing and should effectively discharge their duties while making no discrimination on the basis of race, language, politics, religion, and sex. This has been also observed in the PACE Act that provides a guideline for effective policing in the UK. The PACE Act grants powers to the police concerning their day to day duties and responsibilities whether it is of proactive nature initiated by the police themselves or are of reactive nature initiated on the call of society or the community members. However, both of them require police to either stop and search the suspect or on the reasonable suspicion of the crime which in turn raises a question of protection of rights and the interests of the others as well. The powers granted to the police officers under PACE Act are also subject to controversies because most of the powers exercised by police officers during their everyday policing are subject to racial discrimination, for example. It has been reported on a number of instances how after May’s reform the incidents of stop and search are reduced by 75% for white people but on the other hand, the ratio of stop and search has been tremendously increased for black, minorities and other ethnic groups.
Additionally, to balance the rights of the suspects and the society at large,PACE section 1 and 3.1  provides reasonable grounds and procedure for the police to stop and search while practically there are many instances where police have not only arbitrarily exercised their powers but also has caused infringement to the basic fundamental rights of the individuals. In Osman v DPPit was stated that police officers had not identified their station and themselves to the suspect,making the search unlawful, thereby violating the right of the suspect to be informed.
Moreover, there are certain cases where police search without any reasonable grounds and also by not giving justified grounds why they are stopped and searched. Criminal Justice and Public Order Actand Terrorism Act 2000allows the police to either stop or search without any reasonable suspicion in such areas where any kind of prior authorization has been already given by upper authorities. Thereby giving no reason to suspect, victim or any other member of the society that they are being searched. The right to privacy, liberty and right to life are the core fundamental human rights, which were found to be violated while in due course of the exercise of powers by police in Gillan and Quinton v UK.When House of Lords allowed their appeal. Lord Bingham and the fellows maintained that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was of the view that the section that governs policing is actually compatible with the conventional rights as well. When the same case was brought before the European Court of Human Rights in 2009 in Strasbourg, the court maintained the verdict that police have violated article 8 ECHR of the right to private life. While on the other hand, it should also be noted that ECHR does not also share its view whether the policing powers related to stop and search is against human rights or not. In its submission, ECHR it is quite reasonable to do the same in case of the search of weapons or perpetrators in serious incidents.
In addition to this, undercover policing in the United Kingdom is also emerging as a matter of great concern for the political as well as public concerns. Moreover, the police responses to those who protest especially on the streets of England and Wales subjects to long debates with respect to human rights law. Police usually use different policing instruments caries from less than the lethal weapons to the real-time surveillance along with different techniques such as CCTV etc. No doubt, police are also restricted by certain written and unwritten commands as well, but the extent to which they can use force is subject to their discretion. However, the use of force during the protest limits the right of freedom of speech of the protestors which in turn violates their basic fundamental rights. According to the IPCC satisfaction survey, in contact with the police lower socio-economic classes and the people from other ethnic minorities are the least happy people resulting in coercive policing and public distrust. It can also be evident from the incident of the 2011 summer riots by the guardians and LSE (London School of Economics and Political Sciences). The use of tactics such as controversial kettling as a model for maintaining public order and the incident of death of Mr. Ian Tomlinson in the protest of G20 on 1st of April 2009,after being stuck in the protest by a police officer,shows clear violation of the rights and interests of those who were protesting. Moreover, the clear failure of the policing in different cases such as in the Rochdale child exploitation case truly exhibits the imbalance of the rights and the interests of the concerned ones.
In addition to this, police also use LFR technology in everyday policing that should meet the core principles such as protecting property and life, prevention of commission and many more, to maintain the balance between interests, rights and policing. However, many researchers have raised concerned over human rights as an impression was perceived that its compliance with the human rights was not built into the system of the Metropolitan police from the outset, thereby has the potential to imbalance the rights and the policing system.
To conclude, while addressing the question whether the legal framework for the everyday policing in the streets of the United Kingdom balances the rights and the interests of the concerned people it can be evident that the Acts and the statutes that provide a guideline to police, effectively discharge their duties along with investing powers in them,fails to maintain a balance, most especially in their practical applications. Rights of the citizens such as rights of liberty, freedom of speech, right to privacy, right of expression, peaceful protest along with the rights of the suspects should be given without any arbitrarily discrimination based on colour, race, ethnicity etc. On the other hand, same rights seem to be violated in cases where individuals are stopped and searched without any reasonable grounds, without letting them know the offence against which they are suspected. Additionally, it is also concluded that the proper exercise of the duties also infringes the right of life or right to privacy that can easily evident from the above mentioned cases. Therefore, it is a need that the policing legal framework should be implemented by the concerned authorities without making any infringement to the rights and the interests of the people, more practically powers related to policing must not be subject to discrimination on any bases.
- European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
- Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
- Terrorism Act 2000
- Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984
- Human Rights Act of 1984
- Osman V DPP 1999 EWHC Admin 622
- Gillan and Quinton v. UK 4158/05  ECHR 28
- “INTERNATIONAL RULES AND STANDARDS FOR POLICING”: https://www.icrc.org/en/doc/assets/files/other/icrc-002-0809.pdf ,accessed December 28th, 2019.
- Jim Murdoch and Ralph Roche, “THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND POLICING” https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Handbook_European_Convention_Police_ENG.pdf ,accessed December 28th, 2019
- Rosie, M, Gorring, H (2009) What a Difference a Death Makes: Protest, Policing and the Press at the G20 http://www.socresonline.org.uk/14/5/4.html/
- Great Britain. Parliament. Joint Committee On Human Rights, Great Britain. Parliament. House Of Commons and Great Britain. Parliament. House Of Lords, The Terrorism Act 2000 (Remedial) Order 2011 : Stop and Search without Reasonable Suspicion (Second Report) : Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12 : Report, Together with Formal Minutes and Written Evidence (Stationery Office 2011).
- Jamie Grace, “A Balance of Rights and Protections in Public Order Policing: A Case Study on Rotherham” (2013) 24 European Journal of Current Legal Issues .
- Peter W Neyroud, “Balancing Public Safety and Individual Rights in Street Policing” (2017) 114 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 9231 accessed December 23, 2019.
 Section 6 Human Rights Act 1998
 “INTERNATIONAL RULES AND STANDARDS FOR POLICING” accessed December 28th, 2019.
 Jim Murdoch and Ralph Roche, “THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND POLICING” https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Handbook_European_Convention_Police_ENG.pdf accessed on December 28th,2019.
 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
 Osman v DPP  EWHC (EWHC)Admin 622
 Section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
 Section 47a Terrorism Act 2000
 Gillan and Quinton v UK 4158/05  ECHR 28
 Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000
 Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
 Great Britain. Parliament. Joint Committee On Human Rights, Great Britain. Parliament. House Of Commons and Great Britain. Parliament. House Of Lords, The Terrorism Act 2000 (Remedial) Order 2011 : Stop and Search without Reasonable Suspicion (Second Report) : Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12 : Report, Together with Formal Minutes and Written Evidence (Stationery Office 2011).
 Jamie Grace, “A Balance of Rights and Protections in Public Order Policing: A Case Study on Rotherham” (2013) 24 European Journal of Current Legal Issues .
 Rosie, M, Gorring, H (2009) What a Difference a Death Makes: Protest, Policing and the Press at the G20 http://www.socresonline.org.uk/14/5/4.html/
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