HC Deb 03 May 1983 vol 42 cc188-90

'Where— (a) a person—

  1. (i) is at a police station in consequence of that arrest; and
(b) it appears to a constable that, if he were released from that arrest, he would be liable to arrest for some other offence, he shall be arrested for that other offence.'—[Mr. Mellor.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Mellor

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatheril)

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 175.

Mr. Mellor

The new clause is intended to supplement clause 21, which provides that if a police officer decides that a person who has been attending a police station voluntarily should not be allowed to leave at will the police officer must inform him at once that he is under arrest. The purpose of this is to remove any room for doubts in people's minds as to their position and their ability to leave a police station at will.

The new clause is designed to remove a similar area of potential doubt and to clarify the structure of the scheme of arrest and detention set out in the Bill. It sometimes happens that the offence for which a person is under arrest changes while he is at a police station. For instance, a person may be arrested for burglary because it appeared on the facts known to the arresting officer that that was an appropriate charge. As a result of an interview at the police station, however, the investigating officer may be satisfied that there is no prima facie case of burglary but that there is a reasonably based suspicion that the person has been handling stolen property.

The effect of the new clause will be that at the point where it appears to the investigating officer that he has grounds on which to arrest the person for a further offence but that the offence for which the person was originally arrested is no longer sustainable, he is obliged to caution the person and to re-arrest him. As the person is already in custody, that will in practice be done by informing him that he is under arrest for a further offence and telling him what the offence is. Thus, in the example that I gave, the investigating officer will inform the person that he is under arrest for handling stolen property and is not free to leave the station at will, even though he is no longer suspected of having committed the burglary for which he was originally arrested.

The clause is couched in such terms to ensure that once an individual is at the police station he should always know not only whether he is under arrest or whether he is free to leave, but the offence for which he is under arrest. It also makes it clear beyond a peradventure that it is not permissible to release the person from arrest on the burglary charge, immediately re-arrest him for handling stolen goods and turn the detention clock back to zero so that the time period for the various procedures in the Bill begins anew. I hope that this will be seen as an obvious improvement in the drafting of the Bill and as such will be acceptable to the House.

Amendment No. 175 is a consequential amendment to clause 31 and provides that if a person is already under arrest at a police station and is arrested for a further offence, the time from which his detention is calculated must be based on the original arrest and not the further arrest, for the reasons that I have already given. That ensures that however many arrests there may be there will be only one time period, which flows from the time of the original arrest and that it is from that time that all the various provisions of the Bill must be considered.

I commend the new clause and the amendment to the House.

Mr. Snape

The House will be grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for the way in which he has propounded the new clause and the amendment.

For most people, arrest is a traumatic experience. The fact that under the Bill a suspect may be arrested, taken to a police station and detained for up to 96 hours in certain circumstances therefore gave us considerable concern when we saw the new clause. Until the Under-Secretary of State gave his cogent explanation it appeared that a person could be held for up to 96 hours, then released and re-arrested for a further offence and detained again for a similar period. The Minister's clarification of the position is most helpful. It goes a long way towards easing many of the fears and concerns that would have been expressed without the Minister's detailed explanation.

The whole business of being arrested is, for many people, a traumatic experience. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who represents the interests of the Police Federation diligently and conscientiously, might say that the new clause is useful, helpful and even essential to the detection of crime. But he will acknowledge that those prepared to confess to crimes during interrogation are not usually the hardened criminals that hon. Members want to be caught—more often than not it is the comparatively inexperienced person, often a youngster.

I do not intend to detain the House by giving examples, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and the Minister will acknowledge that there have been fairly well publicised cases of suspects confessing to crimes that they had not committed simply because of the interrogation procedure at police stations and the time that they were kept there.

The new clause is a welcome improvement, and we are grateful to the Minister for his explanation of it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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