HC Deb 08 June 1964 vol 696 cc193-4

Lords Amendment: In page 28, line 19, at end insert: (2) Any person who, not being a constable, wears any article of police uniform in circumstances where it gives him an appearance so nearly resembling that of a member of a police force as to be calculated to deceive shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.

10.58 p.m.

The Secretary of State to the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Amendment would make it an offence for a person to wear police uniform or uniform having the appearance of police uniform in circumstances where he might so closely resemble a police officer as to be likely to be mistaken for one. The Joint Under-Secretary promised in Standing Committee in this House that he would give consideration to this point when a working party had completed its examination. I think that the matter had been raised by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley), who took a very interested part in the proceedings of the Standing Committee. Now that we have the conclusions of the working party it seems desirable to include this new provision in the Bill.

If I may paraphrase it, this new subsection will make it an offence for a person to wear a police-style uniform if the combined effect of the uniform itself and what the person is doing and all other relevant circumstances will be that he is likely to be mistaken for a policeman. This danger had arisen, as is common knowledge, in connection with some of the private security organisations, but it might arise in difficult connections even with individuals. I think that the House will agree that it is desirable that we should seek to minimise the risk of someone being mistaken for being a person who possesses the power of a constable. The private security organisations will need, I think rightly, to consider whether the uniform of their guards might bring them within the scope of the new offence, but, let it be stressed that provided their guards are so clothed that they could not be mistaken for police officers they will be quite unaffected by this Amendment.

I hope that the House will agree that this is a satisfactory conclusion to an interesting discussion we had in Standing Committee on the Bill.

Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)

I would like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for inserting this sub-section, because, as he says, it does meet some of the doubts expressed by some of my hon. Friends during the passage of the Bill through this House.

I appreciate that it has been very difficult indeed to get the right wording to meet all the points that were raised, but I think now that this subsection (2) that we have on the Notice Paper is about right in the words which it uses.

I think it is very important that there should be no confusion in the minds of people as to who are policemen and who are not policemen. There has been a tendency hitherto for some of the private guards not only to look like policemen in that they have been wearing uniforms of identical colour to those of policemen, but to try to look exactly like policemen. This is not to criticise the work they have been doing, but I think it is very important that our policemen should not be confused with any other people during any other work.

Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)

I am pleased to see this Amendment to the Bill. As the Home Secretary said, some of us on this side were rather alarmed, as were some hon. Gentlemen opposite, at the growth of private security forces whose members were wearing uniforms which could well be thought by members of the public to be the uniforms of police constables.

I do not want to take up the time of the House except to say that this subsection (2), along with subsection (1) of Clause 52, meets the points raised in the Standing Committee.

Question put and agreed to.