§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)
I beg to move,
That the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (No. 1) Order 1985, dated 24th October 1985, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is required by section 66 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to issue codes of practice governing the exercise by the police of their powers of stop and search, the search of premises and the seizure of property, and the detention, treatment, questioning and identification of persons by the police. Section 67 requires him to lay these orders before Parliament for its approval, and to bring them into operation by statutory instrument.
The codes before the House tonight have gone through a long period of gestation and consultation. The first drafts of some of them appeared as long ago as 1982, and they have been subject to substantial discussion and amendment, first during the passage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which fell with the election of June 1983, and then during that of its successor, which entered the statute book a year ago.
The official "consultative" text of the four codes was published in January this year, since when we have received comments from a wide range of groups and organisations, including those representing the police service, the legal profession, civil liberties interests, and particular community groups. We have sought to take careful account of those views in preparing a final draft of the codes, which were laid before Parliament on 23 October. Inevitably comments from different groups were occasionally in conflict with one another, but our objective has been to reconcile those different approaches as far as possible. The approach that we have adopted has been that of the Act itself—to present a balanced package which gives the police the powers that they need in dealing with crime, but which also provides workable and effective safeguards for the citizen who comes into contact with the police.
It is the Government's intention to bring the remaining provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act into force on 1 January 1986. They deal with police powers and procedures and with rules of criminal evidence. If Parliament approves the codes of practice, they too will come into effect on 1 January. We are coming to the end of the long process of reforming the law on police powers, which began with the establishment of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure in 1978, and there can be no doubt about the importance of what has been achieved. Taken together, the Act and the codes represent a major change in a vital area of national life—the way in which our society is policed.
It might help to remind the House that it was concerns at the inadequacy of police powers, combined with concerns at the inadequacy of controls over police powers, which led to the establishment of the Royal Commission. One of the major events triggering public disquiet at police methods of questioning suspects was of course the Confait case. In 1975 three young men who had earlier been convicted of grave offences, including murder, man-slaughter and arson, had their convictions quashed by the 485 Court of Appeal because it formed the view that the police investigation had not been conducted satisfactorily and that the suspects' confessions were unreliable.
Sir Henry Fisher's inquiry into the case pointed to a number of weaknesses in the way in which the police had kept records of their investigation and had interviewed and obtained confessions from the suspects. The Fisher report concluded that no police officer had deliberately falsified the record. The police had tried to record as accurately as possible their questions and the answers given by the suspects. But established procedures had not been followed in a number of important respects—in particular, the provisions of the judges rules and Home Office administrative directions to the police requiring juveniles to be interviewed in the presence of a parent or guardian, that leading questions should not be asked when a suspect makes a statement, and that suspects be informed of the rights and facilities available to them to get in touch with a solicitor or their friends.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
What steps does the Minister propose to take to enforce the codes of practice, because in recent experimental operations in the metropolitan area they seem to have been breached more often that kept?
§ Mr. Shaw
I fully understand that the hon. Gentleman is referring to events in the metropolitan area. He will be aware that the codes of practice are not yet in force, but when they are he should rest assured that in certain criminal evidence cases, for example, if they are to be produced in evidence, they will play their part as a full legal document. The codes of practice will become part of the police code, and thus any officer who fails to observe them will be liable to the disciplinary procedure.
The Royal Commission on criminal procedure was set up in the aftermath of the Fisher report by the then Labour Government, under the chairmanship of Sir Cyril Philips. It was charged with the duty of considering whether changes were needed in the powers and duties of the police in investigating criminal offences, and the rights and duties of suspect and accused persons. It was also asked to review the prosecution system and any relevant features of criminal procedure. The Royal Commission reported in 1981 after carrying out a most thorough and helpful review of the criminal process. It presented a devastating analysis of the inconsistencies and inadequacies of the present law, which has grown up piecemeal to meet the need of particular circumstances or particular parts of the country. The commission highlighted clearly the uncertainties about the boundaries of police powers, which are neither good for the professionalism of the police, nor conducive to a climate of public confidence. To meet those defects in the present system, the Royal Commission proposed a series of major reforms. I need not remind the House that the Government's response reached the statute book after unprecedentedly detailed parliamentary consideration.
The process inherent in the Act—of identifying the powers that the police need in combating crime on our behalf, of spelling out those powers in terms that police and public alike can understand and operate, and of setting alongside powers the safeguards necessary to demonstrate that they will be used responsibly and only where appropriate—has underlaid the preparation of the codes also. The notion of codes of practice comes from the Royal Commission, which argued that the vagueness of the 486 judges rules needed to be replaced with explicit and workable instructions, subject to parliamentary approval, but capable of amendment and variation as experience or changing circumstances require. We have sought to frame the codes in language easily understandable to police and public alike, but the fact that the codes are not drafted in parliamentary language in no way lessens their significance.
The provisions of the codes are binding on police officers in the all-important sense that breach of a provision renders the officer concerned liable to disciplinary proceedings, and that the codes are admissible, as I mentioned in response to the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), in evidence in criminal and disciplinary proceedings. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the codes mean business and will have a real effect on the way in which the police conduct investigations.
Let me now describe the codes of practice. The code of practice for the exercise by police officers of statutory powers of stop and search applies both to existing police powers of stop and search and to the new power provided by the 1984 Act. It sets out the standard to be satisfied before the necessary reasonable grounds for suspicion may be said to exist to justify the use of the search power. It provides for how searches are to be conducted and it lays down the action to be taken after a search is carried out.
There is a careful balance to be struck here. The Government believe—in common with the Royal Commission—that stop and search powers are an important tool for the police in the detection of crime and the prevention of further offences. It will also be invaluable for the police to have a general power, short of arrest, for dealing with those they suspect of the carriage of stolen goods or offensive weapons: rather than arresting the suspect, as they would be empowered to do, the police will be able to confirm or deny their original suspicion by a quick search. That will be in everyone's interest.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
In coming to that conclusion, did the Minister take into account evidence from the Policy Studies Institute report on the Metropolitan police, the Merseyside crime study and the British crime survey, all of which suggested that stop and search was not an effective way of arresting and convicting people?
§ Mr. Shaw
I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's interest in that matter; he has asked me several questions on it. We had some information about how such matters were handled by various police forces but, as is obvious to the House, we have concluded that stop and search will still provide an important power for detaining suspects and ultimately bringing people before the courts. I accept that there have been variable experiences, to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention.
§ Mr. Bermingham
Does the Minister agree that paragraph 2.2 about stop and search omits the racist important point—that the person who is stopped to be searched is not reminded of his right to silence?
§ Mr. Shaw
I was coming to that. I think that what I shall say will answer the hon. Gentleman's point.
The Government fully recognise the sensitivities involved in the use of such powers. Used inappropriately, or without a proper attempt to minimise the embarrassment 487 inevitably associated with being searched in public, the power can damage police relations with the community, and lead to tensions with particular groups. Thus the 1984 Act itself provides certain safeguards designed to ensure that such powers are used accountably and only in the circumstances intended by Parliament; the code takes that process forward by spelling out in more detail what police officers are empowered to do and how they should go about the task. The code, I believe, will enable police officers to make full use of that important power, without any of the adverse effects that critics have predicted, although I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) about variable experiences.
The second code deals with the searching of premises and the seizure of property by the police. The Royal Commission referred to that asthe power of the police to intrude on to private premises in order to enforce the law and to investigate crime".The need for caution in that area is obvious. There can be few experiences more distressing than for one's home to be entered and searched, and that too is one of the sensitive areas of police powers, where the greatest care is needed if police relationships with the public are not to be endangered. But a proper power for the police to search premises in the investigation and detection of crime is equally essential. We cannot permit crime to be safely carried out in the security of private homes, or evidence of crime hidden there, because the police do not have proper powers to enter and search and seize illegally possessed property or evidence.
Existing police powers relate to a haphazard selection of offences and leave some curious gaps. For example, there is no power to enter and search the scene of a murder or kidnap, and most powers relate to items in unlawful possession, rather than to evidence of offences or offenders. The new powers in part II of the Act are an attempt to remedy that while establishing a general procedure governing all warrant applications by constables. As with that on stop and search, this code of practice takes forward the Act's provisions by providing detailed instructions for the police on applying for search warrants and production orders, and also for searching premises with the consent of the occupier.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
The Minister rightly emphasised the necessity for all police officers to be concerned about their relationship with the public, but nowhere does the code set out a method by which such operations should be carried out. For instance, it does not refer to police officers going to the wrong address, which often happens in London. There is never an apology forthcoming from the police for having made a mistake. When they enter premises, pieces of personal property are often slung or thrown from drawers on to the floor. The police go through the premises as if there were a burglary. No remedy for that behaviour is suggested. As with stop and search, it is a matter of opinion. The Minister says that the behaviour of the police is subject to disciplinary measures, but discipline depends upon opinion. That is not good enough.
§ Mr. Shaw
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. However, he will see that on page 30 of code B, paragraph 5C of the notes for guidance says: 488If the wrong premises are searched by mistake, everything possible should be done at the earliest opportunity to allay any sense of grievance. In appropriate cases assistance should be given to obtain compensation.Therefore, there is a reference in the code to the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. Guidance has to be issued on interpretation. A guidance note will be issued to all police officers by a Home Office circular, which lends further weight to how the codes should operate.
Recent tragic events have demonstrated vividly the need for sensitivity in this area. The power to enter and search premises is essential to the police in the investigation of crime, but its exercise must be carefully controlled. Innocent people must not suffer as a consequence and every precaution must be taken by the police to ensure that it does not lead to unforeseen results. The terrible outcome of the searches in Brixton and Tottenham must and will keep that danger at the forefront of our minds. As the House knows, those events are still the subject of investigation by the Police Complaints Authority and we do not yet know the outcome or what steps the Government can take to ensure that they do not happen again. But it is—and it has always been—the Government's objective to provide proper safeguards on the exercise of police powers, and I can assure the House that the Government will look closely at the authority's findings to see whether they show a need to make additional provisions in the codes. If they do, we shall not hesitate to bring fresh proposals to Parliament.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
What the Minister said about ensuring that the police behave properly in accordance with the codes at the time of carrying out a search is entirely laudable, but, at the same time as issuing new circulars to police officers, will the Home Office ensure that it is drawn to the attention of magistrates that if they act simply as a rubber stamp when search warrants are applied for they are not doing their job? I am afraid that it is a fact, as I think the Minister knows, that some—no doubt a minority—magistrates are all too prepared to grant almost anything if the police apply for it.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
In the light of what my hon. Friend said about the incidents in Tottenham and Brixton, when police officers were armed when they entered the premises, would he think it appropriate, when a revision of the code of practice is considered, to insert a paragraph stating that armed police officers should say on entering the premises that they are armed, to avoid incidents such as the one in Brixton, which had such devastating consequences?
§ Mr. Shaw
That pre-empts the point that I was intending to make later. It is likely that the Police Complaints Authority, in its consideration of investigations into the incident involving the tragic shooting of Mrs. Groce, will make recommendations on firearms practice. I shall await the recommendations of that report before taking the matter further, but I appreciate the issue which my hon. Friend has raised.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
The recent cases to which the Minister has referred involve serious matters. In one 489 recent case it is reported that the police took a young lad into custody and then used his keys to gain access to his parents' property. He was not under arrest at that stage. I accept that the Police Complaints Authority is investigating the case, but I ask the Minister to consider whether the guidance notes need revision to take into account the use of an individual's keys.
§ Mr. Shaw
I cannot speculate on the appropriate action to take in the light of the detailed report and the investigation of the incident which the hon. Gentleman has described. The hon. Gentleman will know that detailed reports are being made and are being carefully considered where necessary by the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the Police Complaints Authority. No doubt we shall have the opportunity to discuss what these reports teach us about police practice and behaviour. All such reports will be considered and, if necessary, amendments will be made to the codes now before the House.
The present draft of the codes, even in relation to these problems and to searching, is as far as we can go at the present. Implementation will lead to major improvements.
After implementation, the police will be under a statutory duty to observe the codes' provisions, and failure to do so will be a disciplinary offence. This is no empty sanction and the police have not been slow to enforce their discipline. For example, in 1984, the last year for which we have full figures, 79 officers were dismissed or obliged to resign, 21 resigned after disciplinary charges had been preferred, 61 resigned while under investigation and 29 were reduced in rank. This was as a result of public complaints or internal disciplinary reviews. The House will be aware that part IX of the Act, which deals with complaints and discipline, has been in force since 29 April. This has established an independent system for investigating complaints against the police, and I am satisfied that it will provide an effective means of ensuring that the provisions of the codes are properly observed.
The code of practice for the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers is the longest of the codes and represents a major landmark. It is designed to underpin the statutory provisions of the 1984 Act dealing with the rights of suspects who are detained and questioned by the police by setting out very detailed provisions governing the way in which suspects may be treated. The code replaces the judges rules, and the Lord Chief Justice has agreed that the latter should be withdrawn when the code comes into effect. The code reflects the traditional safeguards of our criminal justice system. Any person who attends voluntarily at a police station has the right to leave when he wishes, and any person who is at a police station under arrest has the right to have someone informed of his whereabouts, and the right to consult a solicitor.
§ Mr. Bermingham
Does the Minister agree that there is a gaping hole in the codes for those who attend police stations voluntarily? On page 38, guidance note 1A refers to the person who attends voluntarily and who should receive the same consideration. However, these rights cannot be enforced. Nobody can enforce these rights on behalf of the voluntary attender. It would be a good idea to have the code redrafted now to give the custody officer the duty of enforcing the rights of a person who attends voluntarily.
§ Mr. Shaw
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the code of practice will become a disciplinary matter for police officers in certain circumstances. Those who have the duty, as the custody officer has, to implement the provisions of the Act and the codes in relation to the treatment of those detained will have to carry out the provisions or face disciplinary charges. I accept that this is not a law relating to third parties. It is a description of how the police are to operate their powers of duty under the Act. It is a substantial improvement, but if it is not seen to be adequate, we shall carry out a review. I shall think about the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised. If during the debate he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will be able to elaborate on the point.
The Act has provided for circumstances where the police may delay the exercise of these rights, and the code may reflect this, but the principle is unimpaired. The exercise of rights may be delayed but not prevented. I refer to the right to have someone informed of a person's whereabouts and the right to consult a solicitor. The code requires the police to detain suspects in decent conditions and to provide for their normal needs, including the attention of a doctor, should this be necessary. The requirement on the police to caution suspects before questioning them in the code—I trust the hon. Gentleman will recognise this—preserves the right to silence.
I spoke earlier of the Fisher report and the comments it made about the questioning of suspects to obtain evidence. It was especially concerned about the position of people who might be at particular risk because of their youth, mental illness or handicap, inability to understand English, or other disability. The code of practice places on the police a special duty when questioning such people. It requires the presence of a responsible adult who can look after the suspect's interests in any case where the suspect is young, mentally ill or handicapped, or where he may be unable for any other reason to understand the significance of questions put to him or his replies. This includes deaf people who may be unable to communicate by lip reading or writing. Some right hon. Members have recently expressed concern about the effectiveness of the safeguards for deaf people and I have met representatives of the British Deaf Association to discuss these fears. I must make it clear that the Government are concerned to ensure that no group in society is exposed to risk and that all receive adequate safeguards for their rights. The safeguards which exist at present appear to work satisfactorily—no complaints have been made which relate to the exercise of police powers in dealing with suspects who are deaf, and the Government are not aware of any difficulties which have arisen. I am prepared to provide further clarification or guidance in the Home Office circular to the police in respect of these individuals.
I have recently written to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) outlining the proposals that I would make. I understand that the proposals may have the support of the right hon. Gentleman, but no doubt the hon. Member for Hammersmith will refer to this.
The right to have an interpreter is given to those who have difficulty in understanding English, and I am taking steps to have the notice of rights, which the police are required to give to all detainees, translated into the languages of the immigrant communities.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Will the Minister guarantee that similar rights will be given to Welsh-speaking people?
§ Mr. Shaw
I think that I shall have to say yes, because in the areas where police notices are usually displayed in Welsh they will have this notice displayed in that language. I do not know whether that is the answer which the hon. and learned Gentleman expected me to give.
A most important right of the suspect is the freedom to consult a solicitor. The statutory basis for this is in section 58 of the Act, and the code sets out how this right may be given practical effect. Section 59 provides for the creation of a 24-hour duty solicitor scheme. The purpose is to ensure that legal advice is available outside normal working hours so that the right to consult a lawyer is not made meaningless for those who are detained at night or during weekends. The House will be aware of the Government's commitment to the establishment of this scheme from 1 January when these provisions come into effect.
My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor announced the details of the scheme last July in another place. The House will be aware that the scheme entails a distinction being made between those being interviewed in connection with the more serious offences, which the Act defines as "arrestable" offences, where there will be no fixed limit on the amount of advice which may be given, and non-arrestable offences, where there will be a maximum. I am aware of the concern that has been expressed in some quarters, but I am sure that it is not justified. We have sought to ensure that proper provision is made for all suspects who wish to consult a lawyer at a police station.
I am aware of the concern that has been expressed in some quarters at the restriction that is represented by the £50 limit on advice that is given where suspects are detained in connection with non-arrestable offences. A limit of some form was unavoidable because the Government could not accept an open-ended public expenditure commitment. However, the figure chosen in the lower-tier cases reflects the cost of providing advice in the majority of such cases in the pilot studies which have been carried out.
§ Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)
There is a potential problem with the £50 scheme. As I understand it, travelling time and travelling expenses are included in the £50. If a solicitor has to travel for 30 or 40 minutes to reach the police station, that will reduce the amount of advice that he can give on his arrival. Surely that is wrong. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree to reconsider the inclusion of travelling time and expenses within the £50 scheme.
§ Mr. Shaw
I am not sure that my hon. Friend is correct. It is my understanding that the provisions include payment for solicitors on the basis of £30 standby payment, £36 per hour for work done during out-of-office hours in dealing with arrestable offences and £27 per hour if the work relates to non-arrestable offences, which is a category within the £50 limit. Payment will be made for travelling time, time spent waiting and travelling expenses. Solicitors will be paid £10 for each telephone call in which legal advice is given. I put it to my hon. Friend that that is not an unreasonable offer. I trust that the House will agree that the provisions are fair and reasonable.
§ Mr. Christopher Chope (Southampton, Itchen)
Is my hon. Friend aware that concern has been expressed that the 492 duty of the solicitor will not extend to the relatives of detainees? At present, many relatives of detainees telephone duty solicitors to seek advice, which is understandable. In future, solicitors will not be able to obtain payment by the state for duties that they have undertaken in giving advice to relatives who are understandably concerned about those who are being held in custody.
§ Mr. Shaw
I understand my hon. Friend's point. He is talking about a third party being informed of the whereabouts and the condition, for example, of the individual who is detained. The Act, the code and the provisions that we are discussing deal with the conduct of police officers towards those who are detained in police stations. Third parties do not come within these provisons, but I note my hon. Friend's point. He will be aware that the duty of the custody officer will take account of the need to contact third parties if that is requested. Recovery of their costs does not come within the ambit of the duty solicitor scheme.
The final code deals with the identification of persons by police officers. It sets out procedures for holding identity parades and group identifications, for confrontation by witnesses, street identification, the use of photographs, fingerprints and body samples. The code deals with the circumstances in which force may be used to take fingerprints, and in which fingerprints, photographs and body samples must be destroyed. Identification evidence is often a vital tool in the investigation of offences and it is vital that it should be accurate and obtained in circumstances that leave no grounds for allegations that it is misleading or unfair.
The Government's aim in preparing these codes has been to ensure that they represent good professional standards of policing. We recognise that they have involved the police in a major training exercise, which is now nearing completion. This has itself produced benefits for them in giving them an opportunity to review the operation of their service, and in future it will greatly simplify the training of new recruits. I fully understand the anxiety many police officers feel at the introduction of these new procedures. Change on this scale is bound to be an unsettling experience. However, a number of forces have been operating the provisions of the Act and the codes which do not require legislation for some little time, and the message that is emerging clearly is that it is not as difficult to do as they feared it might be. Once they have become familiar with the new procedures, police officers in these forces have found that initial difficulties are resolved and they are able to implement the Act effectively. A good example of this is in Reading, where the town's police have been operating a trial run now for about a year. Their experience has been successful, and they are by no means alone.
The codes of practice should be seen as what their name suggests. They must reflect what is practicable. They are not engraved in stone for all time. They are subject to the statutory instrument procedure and are not part of the Act itself so that they can be set out in workmanlike language, rather than the formality of statute. I would not discount the need, in due course, as I hinted earlier, to add to the codes or to amend them in the light of experience and to meet new situations which may arise. The House can be 493 assured that my Department will keep their operation under close review and that we shall be ready to propose any changes that we are satisfied are necessary.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
I thank the Minister for the generous way in which he has used his time and for answering some difficult questions. We appreciate that.
The aim of the four codes is to provide clear and workable guidelines for the police as well as to strengthen safeguards for the individual. That is a worthy intention, but one that the Government have not lived up to as well as they could. That is why the Opposition are concerned about the codes. I am not convinced that they are as clear as they could be or as workable as they should be. I am certainly not convinced that they include the necessary safeguards. As the Government's law-and-order policies get into more and more difficulty and produce devastating effects on the people who live with the consequences of crime and inner city disturbances, the last thing that is wanted is guidance that is not as effective as it should be.
The Government have managed to cause concern among members of the public generally as well as among the police and lawyers. I shall take up some of those concerns in my remarks, but, first, I wish to thank the Minister for agreeing to a request from my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) concerning representations made by the British Deaf Association. My right hon. Friend asked me to convey to the Minister that he wished to be in his place tonight to mention that himself. Instead, he is with Mr. Speaker this evening. I have read the letter that has been drafted in response to my right hon. Friend's request, and it is clearly a helpful response from the Minister.
The Minister has said that the contents of the letter will be issued as further guidance to the police. I am not sure whether he intends at some time to incorporate them into the relevant code. I am concerned about having a code which contains footnotes that are not part of it and, in addition, having circulars sent round to police stations as additions. The Minister used the word "circulars". It seems that we shall have three levels of information in the codes.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has responded on behalf of his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). The information contained in Home Office circulars is the way in which we normally give guidance to each and every police officer on how he should early out his duty under statutory provision, such as the Act, or the codes. It seems that that is the quickest and most flexible way of making officers aware of the issues raised by the British Deaf Association. I take on board the point that if in due course the codes are to be revised, we can consider bringing within them the kind of points that have been made.
§ Mr. Soley
I am grateful for that explanation. The Minister will understand the concern. A note can be sent round to police stations which, although it has some impact when it first arrives, can quite quickly get lost in the papers. In the long run we must look at the codes themselves.
That is linked to some concern that we have as a result of the Confait case, to which the Minister referred. I am 494 anxious that the subnormal and mentally ill should have their rights explained to them, either by having a solicitor or a friend present or by being given a clear and straightforward oral explanation. We shall be examining the way in which the codes of practice are carried out with some considerable concern in view of the special circumstances of the Confait case. I shall have a little more to say about representation in a case like that where an unarrestable offence can become an arrestable one.
As the codes supersede the judges rules, they need to be clear and workable. In my view, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 increases considerably the bureaucratic load on the police without necessarily improving the civil rights of the person brought into the police station. In that way, I think that the Act gives us the worst of both possible worlds.
I welcome the statement that the code of practice must be made readily available at all police stations for the police, public and detained persons. Lay members of groups, such as Lambeth police consultative committee which had a considerable input in this regard, should make sure that the codes are easily available to any member of the public and any detained person who wishes to see them.
I return to the guidance notes, which are not part of the provisions of the code. Note 1A on page 13 says:It is important to ensure that powers of stop and search are used responsibly and sparingly and only where reasonable grounds for suspicion genuinely exist. Overuse of the powers is as likely to be harmful to police effort in the long term as misuse; both can lead to mistrust of the police among sections of the community. It is also particularly important to ensure that any person searched is treated courteously and considerately if police action is not to be resented.
I come back to my intervention in the Minister's speech. We know that the Merseyside study showed that, out of 1,000 stop and searches, only 43 resulted in arrest. There are other figures from a number of studies round the country which show a very low level of arrest and, I guess, a lower level of convictions resulting from stop and search. We must, therefore, be very concerned about the effect on police and public relations.
Considering the events immediately preceding the troubles at the Broadwater Farm estate, we note that there were a very large number of stop and searches prior to the outbreak of that trouble. We cannot assume that there was no connection between the breakdown in confidence in the police by people in that area and those actions by the police. This is an important point to which we should all pay great attention.
§ Mr. Greg Knight
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman carefully. Surely the notes for guidance, as he has quoted them, will help to prevent the recurrence of instances which he has given. Paragraph 1.2, in effect, says that the notes for guidance, although they are not part of the code, are there for the guidance of police officers and others about its application and interpretation. If in any ensuing court case there was an argument about whether the police were applying the code properly, lawyers would certainly refer to the notes for guidance, although it is accepted that they are not part of the code.
§ Mr. Soley
The hon. Gentleman's final words point to the problem. Many people are saying that in particular this note for guidance should be part of the code for precisely that reason. There is the lessening of civil rights in terms of the code and of the Act, whereas at the other end of the 495 scale there has been no lessening of the powers to detain and so on. That is what we mean when we say that the balance is not as it should be and, indeed, as recommended by many other groups as well as by my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself.
At one of the police conferences on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act earlier this year, one senior officer remarked:for instance, officers are required to give reasons for stopping people. But after a while, cases in court will establish acceptable phrases. And those reasons for stopping someone which are accepted in court will become the standard response.Clearly there is an element of truth in that, but there are also dangers in it.
The percentage of stop and search leading to prosecutions, according to Home Office research, could have been as low as 4 per cent. in London and 1 per cent. elsewhere. It said:Black males aged 16–24 were likely to be stopped particularly frequently, it found.The report concluded:Without a secure base of community support, the use of powers of this kind, however extensive or circumscribed, rapidly becomes hazardous and ineffective.That must be of considerable concern to us. Where the codes have been implemented on an experimental basis in the London area, as I have indicated to the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight), we have seen that under pressure the safeguards go but the powers stay. If that continues when the Act comes into force on 1 January, the only thing that one can predict with any degree of certainty is that in certain key areas of our inner cities the relationship between the police and public will continue to decline, with all that that implies for the welfare of the community as a whole.
If I may take this a little further, the Minister will know that I tabled a series of written questions recently on the operation of the codes where they were being applied on an experimental basis. I asked how many people had been detained and how long it was before they were allowed to see a solicitor. The Minister replied:The information requested is not held centrally. On the basis of the information which is currently available, and whose accuracy cannot be completely guaranteed, we believe that six people were denied access to a solicitor for less than 24 hours, 14 for between 24 and 48 hours, and five for more than 48 hours. Access was denied because, in the opinion of the police, granting it would have caused unreasonable delay or hindrance to the conduct of the investigation. No further information is available."—[Official Report, 2 December 1985; Vol. 88, c. 25.]I am concerned that, unless the Minister is able to give us much tighter information on or after 1 January 1986, all the good intentions that he outlined in his speech about ensuring that the codes are examined as to the effectiveness with which they are carried out will come to nothing. Indeed, in reply to another written question, he said that the information was not available. It will be totally unacceptable to receive answers like that after 1 January because the Minister will not be able to carry out the commitment that he gave to the House to review the way that the code is working. We must have that information made available to us.
I turn next to some comments made by solicitors and lawyers who had some experience of the operation of the code during the troubles in Tottenham. I wish to make it clear that I refer to solicitors and lawyers who had 496 particular experience at that time. I want also to put on record that not only the people and residents of Broadwater Farm but the police were in something of a state of shock that night. That needs to be registered.
I have been told by solicitors that adults and juveniles alike have been held for long periods without seeing a solicitor. One 20-year-old was arrested on suspicion of having a forged tax disc. His mother and his solicitor were not allowed to see him throughout the 24 hours for which he was held. That was in direct contravention of section 58 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
In another example, a 13-year-old boy was held for 55 hours, during which time a solicitor instructed by his mother was not allowed to see him. The solicitor reminded the police of the suspect's unqualified right to seek advice after 36 hours' detention. He was told that he was wasting his time.
Police involved in the Tottenham investigations have claimed the right to refuse to allow suspects to be represented by solicitors of their choice. Two firms of solicitors in north London have been told by the police that it would be improper for them to act. The explanation given by the police was that information might be passed on to other defendants represented by those firms.
The other side of the coin—it causes me some anxiety—is that evidence given confidentially to the Police Complaints Authority in the case of Mrs. Jarrett seems to have been given to police officers involved in the Tottenham cases. The Minister must surely be disturbed about that. There may well be an early-day motion about it. I know that the Police Complaints Authority is concerned. There is a two-edged problem to which attention must be given.
The police maintained their position even after the firms concerned told them that questions of professional responsibility are a matter for judgment by solicitors, who are subject to their own professional code. The firms also told the police that in their judgment no conflict of interest arose in the cases, so that, in the normal course of events, they should have been allowed to represent the people who sought their assistance.
One solicitor agreed to the remand of her client, who was a juvenile, into police custody for further interviews in her presence. When she arrived at the police station, as arranged, she was told that she would not, after all, be allowed to see her client or be present during the interview. Later, the police tried to persuade other firms of solicitors to take over the case, despite the fact that legal aid had been granted. The client had specifically asked for that solicitor to represent him, and the solicitor was certain that no conflict of interest would arise because of other cases in which her firm was involved. In effect, the police prevented her from carrying out the contractual and professional obligations owed to the client. The client's statutory right, under the legal aid legislation, to be represented by a solicitor of his choice was also violated.
The examples that I have given were supplied to me by solicitors, and they must give rise to concern. They are serious complaints by solicitors and other people in the legal profession in the north London area. I do not think that the Minister would want to accept those practices as the norm on or after 1 January 1986.
With regard to training, the Minister is well aware of the police concern about the complexity and bureaucratic nature of some of the rules and of the Act itself. I have long said that the amount of training given to the police needs 497 to be increased. The training offered to police officers is still inadequate, given the complex nature of their task. The police, who are not lawyers, are asked to interpret legislation in the course of their day-to-day duty, despite having had only minimum training. I understand that in some cases police have had only one day's training on the codes and the Act. That must be unacceptable.
The stop and search issue is important. It is crucial to policing by consent. One of the reasons why the Government are in such acute trouble on law and order is that they promised to deliver a "get tough" policy. They delivered such a policy, but it failed precisely because they took other actions which undermined the cohesion of the local community, certainly in the inner city areas. It was further undermined particularly by the effects of long-term youth unemployment. That aggravated the racial problem, because members of the black community suffer most from inner city decline and decay and from long-term youth unemployment. Linked to that is a loss of confidence in the police. When that occurs, we have the worst of all situations.
The police catch most of their criminals by relying on evidence given to them by the public. About 80 per cent. of their convictions are achieved in that way. If that source of information dries up, they will be forced to resort to practices such as stop and search and using sledgehammers to break down front doors to gain entry and look for people or evidence that may or may not be there. In those circumstances, the confidence of the community in the police will decline. In that respect the Government bear a dreadful responsibility. They, more than any other body, have been responsible for the complex and deadly combination of factors which have resulted in an escalating crime rate in the United Kingdom, together with inner city disturbances of a nature and intensity that Britain has not seen for 100 years. That is a damning indictment of Government policies.
The searching of premises has similar dangerous effects. In view of the evidence given at the Jarrett inquiry, which has just concluded, the Minister has a particular duty, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said, on the matter of warrants. When I was a probation officer, I recall there was one court in which police officers would ask for 10 or 20 warrants, which would be issued en bloc. That cannot be an acceptable practice, and questions must be asked about the way in which warrants are being granted if we are to restore the good relationship between the police and the public. I understand that there was a study recently in the Criminal Law Review which concluded that magistrates exert very little control over the issue of warrants. That is borne out by my own experience in the past and by some of the evidence which has emerged in the Jarrett case.
With regard to entry and search, there seem to be double standards in operation. People who live in lodging houses seem to have less right to privacy than those who live in private houses, either rented or owner-occupied. The tenant in a lodging house must be allowed the same rights as an ordinary resident in rented or owner-occupied property. That is an extremely important matter.
Another area of concern is the functioning and financing of the codes. The Lord Chancellor seems to have become a sort of Home Secretary in exile. Everyone on the Government Benches seems to accept that the Lord Chancellor is going to retire, but between now and his 498 retirement he seems to be determined to do exactly what he likes. Indeed, he might even be a Prime Minister in exile. He seems to be very much a law unto himself.
I have a particular axe to grind in regard to law centres, which have been allowed to run down. They were one of the best legal developments under the Labour Government. They have been very useful in inner city areas and in the country generally. They have been undermined, and in many places closed down or threatened with closure.
As far as I can understand, duty solicitors working outside office hours will get enhanced rates of pay, but solicitors chosen by the defendant will be in a different position. Under the Act, a person held in a police station has a right to ask for a solicitor of his own choice. If he then chooses a solicitor in the middle of the night, that solicitor will not be paid the enhanced rate. The solicitor must be tempted to refuse to act, so the right to choose a solicitor no longer exists. The right is undermined by the lack of resources.
I was disturbed by the Minister's comment that the Government could not have an open-ended public expenditure programme. It is difficult to sustain the argument that a principle in law has been agreed, but that it cannot be afforded. Apparently, in other pans of the legal system cost is no object. The cost of prosecuting the Cyprus service men would almost pay for any scheme. I am far from happy about the matter, and believe that it should be reconsidered by the Government.
§ Mr. Bermingham
Does my hon. Friend agree that if the truth were obtained in a police station because a man was properly advised, the cost of a subsequent abortive trial would be saved? For a few pence spent in time, many pounds would be saved.
§ Mr. Soley
I am always willing to listen to legal advice from many suitably qualified hon. Members, as long as I do not receive a bill afterwards. I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. I have a list of solicitors and barristers whom I would pay not to defend me. My hon. Friend is not on it.
Full advice is available only to those who are detained for arrestable offences, but £50 is the maximum available for non-arrestable offences. The most that a person who voluntarily goes to a police station on a non-arrestable offence will receive is £50. The going rate among solicitors is about £25 an hour—considerably more than I get—which would mean a maximum of two hours advice. After that time, the solicitor could presumably say "I am sorry, but I must leave now."
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is illogical to pay solicitors less money for dealing with non-arrestable offences? In many cases, non-arrestable offences are more complex than arrestable offences. A flat rate would be better.
§ Mr. Soley
I have benefited from some more free legal advice. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman is right.
499 What worries me more is the case of a person who is voluntarily or involuntarily at a police station on a non-arrestable offence, but who, after his solicitor leaves, is charged with an arrestable offence. There is nothing to stop that happening if the police decide that a more serious charge is appropriate.
An east London solicitor has given me an example. He states:A group of five youths were arrested for threatening behaviour. They were detained at the Police Station for a long time and interviewed. After the interviews had been concluded, they were charged not with threatening behaviour but with conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. None of these youths would have been entitled to more than £50 worth of advice.There is real anxiety that the Government are not putting their money where their mouth is. The previous Home Secretary said:We want a duty solicitor scheme that works, thereby showing in a practical way that the new safeguards in the Bill are not a paper exercise.The Government have not lived up to that commitment.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
I am conscious that I am trespassing on ground that is the province of my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor. Regarding the duty solicitor scheme, the figure of £50 was fixed after consultation between the Lord Chancellor and the Law Society, which believed it to be far and reasonable—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The figure provides for the standby payment of £30 for duty solicitors for a 12-hour period and an enhanced rate of pay of £36 an hour for work undertaken out of office hours or at weekends, which includes travelling time. If the work relates to non-arrestable offences, the rate will be £27 an hour. In addition, £10 will be paid for telephone calls through which legal advice is provided. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's conclusions that the provisions are not fair and reasonable. They are based on pilot studies that were undertaken. However, this is one aspect of the Act that will be considered, when it is put into practice, to discover whether improvements are necessary.
§ Mr. Soley
According to my hon. Friends, the Law Society did not agree to the figures or, indeed, to the principle. The Law Society was unhappy about the way in which the principle had been formulated. The Minister cannot hide behind that argument. The Lord Chancellor is trying to keep the scheme down and the Treasury wishes to save public money, so the scheme has been cut. The previous Home Secretary gave a clear commitment in Committee that these would not be paper safeguards; but that is what they are. Unless the Government reverse the process, we shall be in difficulty when the Act comes into effect.
I return to the letter of the solicitor from east London who contacted my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). He gave another example that causes concern. His letter states:In the past three weeks this firm have had two instances where they have been contacted, in one case by a wife and in the other by an employee, and requested to go to the Police Station, only to be told when we contacted the Police Station that there was nobody at the Police Station of the name that we requested. Subsequently, arrangements were made for someone from this office to go to the Police Station with a letter addressed to the detainee and a copy to the Custody Officer indicating that a call had been made to us and that we were available to attend at the Police Station for an interview. For reasons one can only500speculate on, within half an hour of the letter being delivered, the suspect was confirmed to be at the Police Station and permission was given for someone to be present at his interview.I do not have the advantage of having served on the Committee, but my right hon. and hon. Friends who did were keen to press for the codes and they achieved several changes. However, the codes do not provide the proper balance between the rights of the suspect and police effectiveness, which is required to make matters clear to the public and the police. The codes are not a satisfactory response to a complicated Act that we believe has many undesirable aspects.
The already dangerously deteriorating relationship between the police and public will be made worse unless the Government do more to ensure that law centres and duty solicitors are financed and protected. The Government must ensure that the codes are adhered to and that police officers are given sufficient training so that we can begin the long hard road to regaining in key areas the support for the police that has been lost at a terrible cost to the community. That is a matter for which this Government bear a terrible responsibility.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on producing simple codes of practice that can be understood by the general public.
§ Mr. Hind
—is that the man in the street can no longer say that the law is complex or that the document is written in legalese. He can go into any shop and buy this document, which will tell him precisely what his rights are when he enters a police station. This is a major development in police dealings with the general public.
§ Mr. Carlile
I agree with almost everything that the hon. Gentleman has said, although I do not share his perception of beauty. He said that any member of the public could enter a shop and buy the document. Does he agree that £3 is an extraordinary price to pay for a document which, after all, simply sets out our rights in a police station? Does he not believe that it should be made available to the public at a substantially lower price?
§ Mr. Hind
The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a good point, and no doubt my hon. Friend the Minister will bear it in mind.
An important effect of the codes of practice will be the necessary reorganisation of police training to meet their requirements. I hope that the Home Office realises the burdens that have been placed upon the police force when dealing with problems that arise from the codes of practice. They have tackled those problems manfully, and the Lancashire police force has informed me that it has been expensive to make police officers aware of the details of the document.
The document will be welcomed by the general public, not only because of its simplicity, but because it has strengthened some of the powers of the police and codified many of their common law powers. It has also translated them into simple terms which the public can understand. It has given the police more teeth when dealing with 501 criminals, and is clearly part of the Government's strategy to ensure a stronger and tougher approach to tackling crime.
The codes of practice reflect many of the lessons that were learnt in Scotland from a pilot scheme on stops and searches. That experiment revealed many offences that would not otherwise have been discovered, including the carrying of offensive weapons and the possession of drugs. I hope that the law will be applied strongly to football hooligans, who are mentioned in this document, and that the police can deal with them firmly but sensibly. The codes of practice will break down much of the aggression that occurs at football matches, which triggered the introduction of the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol Etc.) Act 1985, following the riot at the European cup final in Brussels stadium.
One failing of the document is that it does not mention guns. Following the incident at Brixton, it is important that those whose premises are searched are aware that police officers are armed. In the light of what we know now, the tragic incident at Brixton might not have happened if those who owned the house had known that the police officers were armed. Those of us who are aware of the problems of Brixton and the difficulties of policing such an area will live to rue the day when that armed police officer entered the premises in the way that he did. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider including such a provision in the code of practice when it is reviewed in the light of experience.
Many solicitors have told me that the duty solicitor scheme is in many ways inadequate, especially in relation to summary offences. May I give an example? The solicitor's client may be interviewed by the police on the basis that he caused a death by reckless driving. However, subsequently, the police may consider that he committed a negligent act, so he will be charged with careless driving. That solicitor may spend hours in the police station on a serious matter, but he will not be remunerated in the way that he would expect for his hard work on such a serious offence. There are other examples. We know the difference between threatening behaviour under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936, which is a summary offence, and affray, which is an indictable offence that could have entirely different consequences. Perhaps my hon. Friend will confer with our right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor about those matters.
§ Mr. Greg Knight
Is it not true that if someone goes to a police station voluntarily to be interviewed about an arrestable offence, he is entitled only to the lower tier of legal aid? That is just as bad an example as the one my hon. Friend gave.
§ Mr. Hind
I understand my hon. Friend's point, which is a good one. The codes of practice will ensure that all those involved—the police and every member of the general public in contact with the police—know their rights. Their aim is to safeguard everyone. We must ask ourselves whether, in terms of remuneration for the time expended and effort required by solicitors, we are adequately safeguarding the rights and interests of the public.
The most important aspect of the codes of practice is that a policeman may be disciplined for breaching them. The public will realise that any breach by a police officer can result in a complaints procedure under the authority of the Police Complaints Authority.
502 As a practitioner in the criminal courts for many years, I have been disturbed by the practice of recording interviews with defendants after the event. The practice leads to inaccuracy. Occasionally, juries have found that Enid Blyton had some hand in the writing of interviews after the event where dishonest police officers were involved. Such cases lead to suspicion in the public mind. I spent many years practising in Leeds, where there was the sad case of a man who died in custody, which resulted in the trial of several police officers. For many years that completely undermined public confidence in the police. A similar situation arose in Sheffield. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) is not in his place, but he will know of the famous rhino whip case in Sheffield, which had a similar effect upon juries there.
Paragraph 11.3 (b) (ii) of the codes of practice urges that a contemporaneous note should be made of interviews carried out in the police station. That is a major safeguard for the police in obtaining convictions in court, and for the defendant. In my experience, defendants are asked by the police to sign not only at the end of each page, but at the end of each answer, to show that what is written is correct. The interview is recorded as it takes place in front of those concerned. I think that I speak for most of my colleagues in the legal profession when I say that that strengthens the prosecution case a great deal. Wherever possible, that practice should be followedunless in the investigating officer's view this would not be practicable or would interfere with the conduct of the interview".
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way once again. Will he share with me the hope that as a result of the excellent provision in paragraph 11.3 (b) we shall not see what I understand has happened in some parts of Scotland—a sudden increase in the number of informal confessions made by accused persons while they are in a police car on the way to the police station?
§ Mr. Hind
I take that point. The proper course of action should be an interview at the police station. I hope that the police will bear that in mind. Obviously, a police officer faced with a man who insists on talking cannot ignore that. He must caution him and try as soon as possible when he gets to the police station to make a note of what was said. I am sure that such cases are rare. I have found in my practice that most of the time my clients are less than willing to spill out confessions of their evil deeds. That may be the experience of many of my hon. and learned Friends.
Tape recordings are dealt with in the codes of practice. I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind that tape recordings are becoming more widespread and are a matter of concern to many of those who appear in the courts. At the moment, solicitors are being given tapes where the most important matters relating to the offence are included within a large amount of conversation relating to the family and so on. No effort has been made in the Metropolitan police area to transcribe the recordings of such interviews and hand the transcripts with the tapes to the solicitor acting for the defence so that he may check them. Solicitors are asked to make their own transcripts. When my hon. Friend reviews the codes of practice, will he consider some system whereby we can avoid that and the problems of juries listening to a lot of irrelevant tape, which is a waste of the courts' time and money?
503 I congratulate my hon. Friend on the way in which the codes of practice deal with medical matters. Today, many more people who come before the courts are victims of drug abuse. A frightening number of heroin addicts are appearing before the courts. Therefore, police officers frequently have to deal with people who are suffering from withdrawal symptoms. It is important that police officers should take every precaution to ensure that they know whether an accused person is withdrawing. What such people say in their confession is completely undermined. They will say anything to get out of the police station to receive a further dose, whether by injection or by smoking.
Recently, I heard of a man who had been in a police station for 44 hours, during which time he was seen by four doctors. After the 44 hours were up he admitted the offence about which he was being questioned and made a voluntary statement. The police officer who gave evidence in court about the interviews said that he was not aware that the man was a heroin addict. He was not even aware that he had been visited by doctors. Those are important problems which, unfortunately, the police are facing as a consequence of our modern society. I urge the most careful consideration of that matter. A doctor should be called at every opportunity to decide whether a person is fit to be interviewed.
It is my experience that doctors have gone into the witness box to give evidence and have said that they will not say that an accused is unfit to be interviewed unless that person is "very ill indeed". That is wrong. There are two levels of heroin abuse — physical and mental dependence. How does one diagnose a craving if a man has been given drugs to repress the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal? I hope that my hon. Friend will bear those factors in mind when he considers the matter.
I hope that the codes of practice will see the end of the witness who is told to wait on the corner and say whether he recognises a person who walks round the corner. Unfortunately, that happens all too often. In November I heard of a police officer who waited outside a police station for an accused person whom he had not seen for 10½ months to sign on. He knew that that person was coming and he was there to identify him. There was no identification parade. We must stop that sort of thing. The police must be aware of the identification parade provisions in the codes of practice. They are clear and concise.
I welcome the provision in paragraph 20, on page 89, which deals with the taking of photographs at identification parades. Those of us who have appeared on behalf of the defence or the prosecution in trials involving identification parades know that such photographs are valuable when criticisms are being made of a person's memory and ability to point to the appropriate person in a line up.
I thank my hon. Friend for making clear on pages 91 and 92 of the codes of practice the procedure for showing photographs to potential witnesses. That is a welcome change. Every accused person will know the position in relation to that.
The codes of practice are a major step forward. I hope that, because of my comments, my hon. Friend will not think that I do not regard the codes as a major contribution to our criminal law. I do so regard them, but we would be failing in our duty to the House if we did not say something 504 that would improve the situation. These codes of practice have already been put into operation in some police stations. Let us hope that they will improve the quality of our investigations and the rights of people in police stations.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
As someone who bears the many scars of having served on the Standing Committee that dealt with the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, I congratulate the two novices on the Front Benches who have entered into the fray like real professionals. Like many who served on the Standing Committee, they have endeavoured to ensure that what we produce are practicable and reasonable codes which provide sufficient powers for the police and adequate protection for the suspect.
This debate tolls the knell of the passing of the judges rules, a fact which can cause no regret to anyone who has experience of practising in the courts. The judges rules have been honoured in their breach rather than in their obeisance, they have become discredited, and the judges themselves have generally recognised that they are almost valueless. These codes, imperfect as they inevitably are—after all, they are the first attempt at this type of dramatic and comprehensive change in police practice—are bound to be a great improvement.
I applaud the spirit in which the Minister of State has welcomed the criticism that has been made so far in this debate, and I hope that in the future that same spirit will be reflected in the Government's willingness to amend the codes as exigencies arise. The first may well be in connection with the use of firearms by the police.
1986 will be a year of great challenge for the police, not least because they will find themselves charged with the responsibility of putting into effect their part of the obligations imposed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. That Act contains many complexities that I know are unwelcome to the police. Indeed, police officers around the country say ruefully that the old-fashioned police sergeant, who in the past has been a somewhat homely creature, has had to take what amounts to a management course in order to perform the duties of the custody officer.
I know many police station sergeants, and have confidence in their ability to take on board the duties that are now imposed on them. I hope that all police officers will bear in mind the words of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, who in Standing Committee said:The individual has his protection, which is that a code exists which those in authority are deemed to know and obliged to operate … and on which a court, if it accepts the contention and acts upon it, acquits." — [Official Report, Standing Committee E, 1 March 1984; c. 1582.]I hope that all police officers will be reminded of those words, and that they will realise that the courts will take an extremely condign view of police officers and their conduct if they are in breach of the codes.
I also hope that the Minister of State did not think me frivolous when I mentioned the Welsh language in an intervention. It is the second great indigenous language of the United Kingdom. In Wales, 500,000 people are more comfortable speaking in Welsh than in English, and some would find it difficult to understand even a simply drawn code such as this were it written only in English. I hope that in Wales there will be Welsh translations of the whole 505 of the code so that those who are more comfortable in the Welsh language can follow the code in their indigenous language.
I emphasise the point that I made in an intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind). I suggested that the price of the code—£3 for the draft — is rather high. I was pleased when the hon. Gentleman agreed with me, and I hope that the Government will feel that a document such as this should be available to the public at half that price.
There are certain particular aspects of the codes with which I am not entirely happy, and I ask the Minister of State to consider the points that I shall now make and to consider possible future amendments. There is some evidence, mentioned by the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) in some detail, that in the aftermath of the Tottenham riots police officers under pressure — and one understands the effect of that pressure—tended to be less careful than they should have been of the safeguards that should have been given to suspects. In the context of an inadequately funded duty solicitor scheme — experience will show, as the Law Society has submitted, that it is substantially underfunded—it is important that the code should be enforced by police officers, whatever the situation or pressure.
My general criticism of the codes is that they contain insufficient requirements for suspects to be informed of their right to be silent, of the limitation on police powers contained in the codes, and matters of that sort. On stop and search, paragraph 3A on page 16 states, inter alia, thatalthough there is no power to require a person to do so, there is nothing to prevent an officer from asking a person voluntarily to remove more than an outer coat, jacket or gloves in public.It is all very well to state that, but neither the code nor the guidance notes require the police officer concerned to tell the member of the public that he or she is under no obligation to remove outer clothing other than a coat, jacket or gloves. If we are to maintain the spirit, expressed elsewhere in the codes, of good community relations in police work, it is important that people have the right to be informed. Indeed, an obligation should be imposed on the police by the codes to inform people of the limitations on police power.
Paragraph 2.2 on page 14 entitles a police officer, before carrying out a search under the stop and search procedure, to question a personabout his behaviour or his presence in circumstances which gave rise to the suspicion";and the suspicion referred to is the reasonable suspicion that entitles the officer to carry out the stopping and searching. If the officer has a reasonable suspicion sufficient to stop the person concerned, if he has the reasonable suspicion to entitle him to carry out the search, and if he feels it right to question the person about his behaviour or presence in circumstances that give rise to that reasonable suspicion, he surely has the time to caution the suspect and he should be obliged to do so.
It is therefore a regrettable lacuna in the stop and search code that, in the action required before a search is carried out and where questioning takes place, a caution is not also required. I draw to the Minister's attention an important and particular concern highlighted by paragraph 4.4, which deals with the records that an officer is required to keep when carrying out the stop and search procedure. He 506 should normally seek the name, address and date of birth of the person searched, although the person searched has no obligation to give them.
I was encouraged, at a luncheon in the City of London a few days ago, to hear the Home Secretary make the clear and unequivocal statement that he does not believe in a national police force, which he thought would be a backward step. Like him, I recognise that one must allow a considerable amount of organisational autonomy to the individual police forces. Nevertheless, it is clearly the duty of the Home Secretary to ensure that the use made of records obtained during stop and search procedures, as set out in paragraph 4.4, is a proper one.
In the Suffolk police computer system, a person who has been stopped and searched three times within the county, which, after all, could be three visits to a match between Ipswich Town and Norwich City, if he can bear to go to such a match as often as three times, is then starred on the computer as a suspected person, although he is not suspected of any offence. The wholesale gathering of not only names and addresses, but dates of birth seems to be of more use in widespread information gathering than in dealing with any specific offences or suspicions.
It is vital that any records obtained in stop and search procedures should be used only for the purposes of stop and search procedures and not for more widespread information gathering purposes. Will the Minister give an undertaking that records of stops and searches will be destroyed after the relevant period and will not be used as general police intelligence information?
§ Mr. Soley
The hon. and learned Gentleman is making an important point. Is not his point even more important when we bear in mind that there is evidence to suggest that people who work shift work and travel during the night or the early hours of the morning are more likely to be stopped, and are stopped on a number of occasions?
§ Mr. Carlile
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I recall many years ago cross-examining a police officer in a drunk driving case in a Welsh rural county—not mine—who confessed to me that life was so boring sitting in a police car at night that he stopped every car that went past. While that may be an extreme example, there is a risk of such behaviour being repeated. Therefore, it is crucial that the information obtained should be used properly.
I deal now with the code concerned with the search of premises and the seizure of property. I made my point in an intervention in the Minister's speech, but I re-emphasise it. It is crucial that whatever instructions are given to the police should be reinforced in the instructions to magistrates. Most magistrates are careful and competent. But we must not mince our words: some are sloppy and incompetent. We must ensure that such magistrates who are prepared to act merely as a rubber stamp because the law requires search warrants are not permitted to do so in the future, particularly as a magistrate issuing a search warrant and dealing with considerations such as whether notice of a search is to be given to the person who is to be searched and having to consider points such as "disproportionate inconvenience"—one of the least beautiful phrases in the codes—must have a clear understanding of what is being asked for and what is required.
I agree with the hon. Member for Hammersmith about the guidance 4A in the code dealing with searching premises and seizing property which states:
507In the case of a lodging house or similar accommodation a search should not be made on the basis solely of the landlord's consent unless the tenant is unavailable and the matter is urgent.I do not suppose that the club in Pall Mall in which I live during the week when the House is sitting would take too kindly to being called a boarding house, but it could be described, at a stretch of the imagination, as "similar accommodation". It is wrong that those of us who stay in clubs such as mine should have a lower standard applied to them in the code than those living in their own homes. This is a serious point, which applies to the many young people in particular who not only live in lodging houses but now, it would appear, will be forced by the Government's policy on bed and breakfast accommodation to lead a nomadic existence, travelling every few months from one lodging house to another.
Paragraph 3.1 on the code of questioning and detention sets out a right for a person who has been detained to consultthis and the other codes of practice.I hope that the Minister will ensure that this is so and that suspects who ask to see the codes of practice and who, I hope, will be told of their availability will be given the time to read them. It is no use simply being shown a pretty book with a red cover if one is not given the opportunity to find out what one's rights are. I counsel that police officers be encouraged to show some patience towards those members of the public who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity to read about what their rights are.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
Rather than having the code of practice, should there not be five, easily understood points about rights to solicitors and so on?
§ Mr. Carlile
The hon. Gentleman has a great deal of experience in dealing with the technical matters in the courts. It is highly desirable that a simple summary of the main rights be available, although I emphasise that when people in custody ask for the code, as they are entitled to do under this provision, they should be given enough time to read the relevant parts.
I feel some confidence—at least a hope—that on the basis of what we have heard from the Minister the Government will scrutinise closely the operation of the codes. I hope that chief constables will be told by the Government of the importance of punishing breaches of the codes in disciplinary proceedings, particularly in cases in which, in the courts of England and Wales, judges have been faced with difficult evidential problems because of breaches of the codes by police officers. We know—because we are practical people, I hope—that police officers will breach the codes from time to time. Some of the breaches will be trivial, and perhaps we should not take too serious a view of them. But when breaches are significant, particularly when they affect the outcome of a case, the result of disciplinary proceedings should be serious in its consequences for the police officers concerned.
In welcoming the codes on their way into the police stations of this land, I ask the Minister of State to consider seriously the possibility of providing in Government time in the not-too-distant-future a further opportunity for debate so that once again we may scrutinise the codes not as to how we feel they ought to work, but as to how they are working in practice.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
Like all the other hon. Members who have taken part in the debate, I welcome the codes. Many of my constituents will be reassured by having the right of access to the codes when they reach the statute book on 1 January 1986. I say that advisedly. When I have visited youth clubs and other clubs in my constituency, I have been surprised by the number of times, for well over a year now, that people have said to me that it would be a great help if there were police codes of practice. We have such codes now.
The codes are complex, and there are four of them. Reference has been made to the fact that their cost—£3—will be a drawback. I strongly urge the Government to divide the book into four and to make the codes separately available, free of charge, to any member of the public who wants them. They should be made available, free of charge, in every police station in the country from 1 January 1986. That would be a very good investment, and the Government would go a long way towards restoring confidence in the police and in the way that criminal matters are dealt with in Britain.
I wish to raise two points on the codes. The first point relates to something which they do not contain, but which my hon. Friend the Minister of State ought to think of including. Paragraph 17 of code C deals with the charging of detained persons. There are one or two serious omissions. No mention is made of recording an interview on a tape or by other magnetic means. That ought to be done automatically, wherever possible. I refer in particular to paragraph 17.1, which deals with a prisoner who is about to be charged with a serious offence. He should be photographed when he enters police custody. A photograph of his condition when he enters the police station should automatically be taken. It may be difficult to put this into effect, but it is particularly important if a vicious crime has been committed and public feeling is running high.
It would be in the interests of the police if a photograph were taken to show the physical, external condition of a suspect who is brought to the police station on a grave charge. There would then not be the incident of the kind that occurred at the time of the pub bombing in Birmingham a few years ago. Photographs were not taken until 54 hours after the suspects had entered police custody. It was impossible to compare their condition then with their condition when they were taken into police custody, because no photographic record was made at that time. When major charges are laid, the police would be safeguarded if a photographic record were kept of the condition of suspects when they entered police custody.
My second point, on which many hon. Members have touched, relates to the omission from the codes of the conduct of the police in the use, issuing and handling of firearms. My hon. Friend said that the matter was being given urgent attention, but the country demands today nothing less of him than another code of practice which relates entirely to that matter. Recently, so many mistakes have been made by the police in matters in which they have been trained that in some cases, where the police are known to be armed, ordinary people run for their lives. I shall not go into these cases in great detail, but not so long ago in the west end of London armed police fired and injured the wrong person without making any proper challenge. There is also the sad case of the police officer 509 who entered a house with a search warrant and was armed with a cocked handgun which he set on the edge of a child's cot, with subsequent fatal results.
The matters about which the public should know should be laid down in a code of conduct for the House to debate. They should include not only the conditions in which one would expect the police to be armed and the eventualities for which the police should be prepared, but the type and calibre of weapon to be used, the type of training that officers must receive before they are allowed to use the weapons in public and, more important, instructions in the handling of a firearm by a trained police officer, whether or not someone is suspected of having committed a crime.
Hon. Members have already said that a warrant must be issued by a magistrates court for a house to be searched. In recent months public happenings have made a strong case for saying that unless there is an emergency the police should obtain a warrant before they are allowed to arm themselves and go among the public.
Generally I welcome the codes, and I hope that my hon. Friend will seriously consider making them widely available, because they will be a popular document for general use.
§ 9.7 pm
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
I shall begin by drawing the Minister's attention to one of my interventions in his opening speech which he misunderstood. He may recall that I intervened regarding persons who enter a police station voluntarily. I drew a contrast between the rights of the voluntary attender and those of the detained person. The rights of the detained person are safeguarded by the custody officer, but the rights of the voluntary attender, which are referred to on page 38 of the draft codes, are protected by nobody. The draft codes merely state that he must be shown the same kindness and courtesy and have the same facilities extended to him, until he becomes a detained person, when he goes into the care of a custody officer. I suggested that we might overcome the hiatus, which could give rise to arguments in the court room later, which is what we are seeking to avoid, by saying that when a person voluntarily attends a police station the custody officer shall seek to ensure that his rights are maintained.
I served on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill Committee, with its 159 sittings. The object of the exercise was to try, whenever possible, to improve the Bill. Efforts were made by all those hon. Members who served on the Committee to see whether that could be achieved. I ask the Minister to take on board the point that I have made, which is made in a spirit of helpfulness rather than confrontation.
In Committee, I moved a number of amendments, in particular, with regard to the rights and duties of the custody officer and the rights of prisoners. Although I now practise as a barrister, for many years I was a practising solicitor and I spent many a long hour in police stations.
I intend to return to the point that I mentioned during my intervention about the duty solicitor scheme. Standing, as it were, one removed from the scheme, I can perhaps say some of the things that solicitors might not want to say for fear of being thought to be trying to forward their own interests. There is much merit in the duty solicitor scheme.
The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) made a valid and valuable point when he suggested that a synopsis of the codes of practice should be given to 510 the prisoner or the detained person at the moment of detention. It is not beyond the wit of man to provide a simple leaflet printed in large print. Some people have difficulty in reading. Many of the people who find themselves detained in police stations are not just nervous and frightened; they occasionally have some educational difficulties. The codes of practice are contained in the type of book that one would expect to read at one's leisure. Its contents can be condensed into five or six simple headings such as, "You have the right to remain silent", "You have the right to consult a solicitor", "The custody officer is in charge of you", or "You cannot be detained for more than 24 hours without x, y or z happening."
The Americans have an expression about reading a person his rights. The English have always seemed reluctant to do that. I have never understood why. We should consider the result. Games can be played in police stations to see whether people can be tricked into confessions. They are occasionally frightened into doing so. No one admires such evidence. When it is analysed later in a court, it only sours the relationship between the public and the police and destroys much of the good work that police officers have done over many years.
It is to avoid such problems that many of us have pressed for a considerable time for a detained person's rights to be protected. The codes of practice are perhaps a first step along the long road towards achieving a sensible system which will remove investigation from interrogation and towards evidence.
No one can argue with evidence. The evidence speaks for itself. I shall repeat what I said in Committee. The finest case that can ever be brought by the prosecution is one that does not rely for its evidence or one ounce of its strength upon an interview in a police station. The evidence speaks for itself. That is a proper case.
We became lazy in the 1960s and 1970s and moved away from gathering evidence towards the interrogative type of investigation — "Get a confession; get an admission." We had arguments in the 1970s about verhals. "He verballed me up, guv"—the classic defence that every lawyer has heard.
Solicitors tried to move away from that and we adopted the practice of contemporaneous notes. Now we are moving towards tape recordings. Eventually, I hope, we shall move back to obtaining evidence, which will shorten many criminal trials in this country.
That is one of the reasons why the Treasury ought to stop doing its figures. I have said in Standing Committee and in the Chamber on numerous occasions that if one wants to mess something up, one need only let the Treasury get its hands on it. Basically, the Treasury does not understand anything. I suspect that whoever in the Treasury advised the Lord Chancellor's Department about the duty solicitor scheme did not have a clue what he or she was talking about. The Treasury does not seem to appreciate that the presence of a solicitor at a police station can be a good thing. It can shorten the time of interview, reduce the amount of unpleasantness in the case and very often, because proper advice is given, get the right result at an early stage.
In the face of all that, the Treasury can say. "If you work unsocial hours and the offence is not an arrestable one we shall limit payment to £50". The Law Society does not agree, and it has the advantage that the people on its 511 committees have actually done the job. They have turned out in the middle of the night and they know the difficulties that can arise.
§ Mr. Ashby
The allowance of only two hours under the legal aid scheme for duty solicitors may be wholly inappropriate in certain circumstances. It is absolutely ludicrous and totally misunderstands the true position. The whole problem has been caused by people who have no idea about what really happens.
§ Mr. Bermingham
I have practical and personal experience of yesteryear when I was a solicitor. I was called out at night to go to police stations on numerous occasions, as were my staff and partners. I was fortunate enough to practise in a city with only four or five police stations, all of which were within 10 or 20 minutes' drive from my house. If someone were arrested at Rotherham, 12 or 13 miles from the solicitor's home—you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know the area as well as I do—the travelling time may be half an hour. There is always a delay at the police station before one sees the client. In the early hours of the morning there seem to be interminable reasons for delay. That may not be due to nastiness. I always try to be kind and put it down to forgetfulness on the part of the officer, but very often police officers do not want a solicitor to see the client. One eventually gets to meet the client about an hour after starting out. If there is a limit of two hours in cost and credit time, the actual time spent with the client will be only half an hour.
In reality, solicitors always stay, regardless of what they are paid. That is said to be a weakness on the part of solicitors, but I believe that it is a great credit to the profession. I recall an occasion when a man voluntarily went to a police station in Birmingham with his solicitor. The solicitor was with him at the police station for 12 hours. Under the new scheme the solicitor would be paid only £50. The profession is an honourable one and it is not given proper and due credit for that. Solicitors have always been a target for criticism.
§ Mr. Bermingham
Indeed. I was about to say that the other branch of the profession has also been a target.
It is an honourable profession, and solicitors will stay with their clients. It is disgraceful that undertakings given in good faith are now being dishonoured because of advice given in other quarters by people who do not know what they are talking about.
A 24-hour duty solicitor scheme means solicitors being prepared to turn out at 3, 4 or 5 o'clock on a Sunday morning, to drop their family plans for the weekend and to disrupt their social life because police stations must be covered 24 hours a day. We are asking a great deal of those solicitors, but we are offering them very little in return. The Treasury and the Lord Chancellor's Department then decide that £X is sufficient and the popular press goes on about how much the solicitors are earning. Solicitors have overheads——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. I find it difficult to see what solicitors' remuneration has to do with the codes before us.
§ Mr. Bermingham
The codes refer to the right of access to lawyers, and a duty solicitor scheme is very 512 much part of the package. Accordingly, the terms and conditions of that duty solicitor scheme must perforce be part of the debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The debate is about the codes of practice. I see none of those matters in the codes of practice.
§ Mr. Bermingham
With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the matter is dealt with in paragraphs 3.1 and 6 of section C of the code. Paragraph 3.1 on page 40 provides that when a person is at a police stationhaving attended there voluntarily, the custody officer must inform him of the following rights … the right to consult a solicitor in accordance with section 6 below".
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The remuneration of solicitors is not mentioned in paragraph 3.1 or, so far as I can see, anywhere else in the codes of practice. I think that the hon. Gentleman should pursue that matter at some other time.
§ Mr. Bermingham
This is probably the only opportunity that we shall have to pursue it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I appreciate that the Chair rules and I must obey. However, I think that the point has been made. I hope that the Minister will take it on board as it is a serious professional matter.
We are for ever driven back to the purpose behind the code of practice, which is to give people the right of access to a solicitor. One of the holes in the code is perhaps that there are still occasions on which such access can be denied. I have conceded that grave and serious matters must be involved which may later be challenged in the court, but I have never understood the reluctance of police officers to allow a defendant to take legal advice. Of course, there are safeguards for rare or exceptional circumstances, but, just as the judges rules were honoured more in the breach than in the observance, I hope that with regard to the right of access to a lawyer the courts will in future take a far sterner and more robust view of cases in which access has been denied.
In the past, prosecutions have often attempted to justify such denial with post-hindsight arguments. Why have certain police officers in this country found it necessary to take that attitude? What are they frightened of? That is the real question. If the evidence is strong, they have nothing to hide, so why deny the client access to a lawyer?
There are various other aspects of the codes of practice that one could pursue, but I ask the Minister to consider the central point: that if justice is to be even-handed and fair, if we are to avoid cases like the Confait case and if we are to get rid of the long and tedious court room arguments about what was said at one interview or another and the slanging matches about alleged pressure and bullying, the code of conduct at interviews and in police stations must be fair and it must be seen to be fair.
The codes of conduct are a step towards that, if they are enforced, and we have the assurance that they will be. I have listened to that assurance, but I hope that hon. Members will be able to review the matter from time to time. I await with interest to see where there are breaches of the codes and what actually happens. Will the codes have the teeth that they are said to have? I am not yet convinced. Perhaps I am by nature cynical or I have had too many years of watching what has happened to be converted overnight like St. Paul on the road to Damascus.
A step has been taken, and I shall watch with interest what happens. I ask the Minister for an assurance that 513 these matters will be reviewed openly from time to time and that, where errors and mistakes are found, rectification will be not some time in the future but immediate, so that in our court rooms trials become trials based on evidence and not, as happens on many occasions, personalities.
§ Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)
Those of us who are involved professionally with police powers have known for many years that they are confusing and haphazard. For example, the police had the power to stop and search for stolen goods in some cities, but not in others. One particularly outrageous example was that they could obtain a search warrant to look for birds' eggs, but not for a murder weapon. Anyone who realised the inconsistencies would agree that something needed to be done to codify and improve the law.
I hope that no one in the House will object to the introduction of these codes or mourn the passing of the judges rules. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said, quite rightly, that the judges rules were outdated. They were also ignored in many instances. If a suspect knew that they existed and asked a police officer for a copy of them, the police officer would regard that as something of a joke.
Paragraph 1 of the code is a vast improvement because it makes it clear that the codes will be made available at police stations for use not only by the police but, where requested, by a suspect. I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) when he asked whether it would be possible for a brief resumé of the codes to be printed and made available at police stations free of charge. Comment has been made about reducing the price of the codes. Perhaps a compromise would be to produce an abridged version of the codes and make that available free of charge.
Many hon. Members have rightly expressed their concern about abuse. We all know that abuse has occurred under our present law. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) said that he did not like cases in which the police based their evidence on a confession. Unfortunately—I hope that he will agree with me—in the great majority of cases that come before the courts the evidence that tilts the scales, and in some cases the only evidence, is a confession. I have been concerned for many years about the undue pressure that can be put on a suspect to get him to confess to a crime that he may not have committed. That pressure is likely to be most severe in the cases where the suspect needs help and guidance the most.
Let me give an example. Very often—I say that with regret, but I am afraid that it happens very often—a police officer will refuse a telephone call to a suspect, make a threat or say that the suspect will not be given bail until he has made a confession, or say that a more serious charge will be preferred unless a confession is made. That usually happens when the police officer knows that the suspect has previous convictions. The relevance of that is that when the case comes to court, if the accused person seeks to tell the court the truth—that he was put under that pressure and made the confession just to get out of the police station—that is regarded as an attack on the character of the police. Therefore, the tribunal is made aware before it has determined his innocence or guilt that he had previously come to the notice of the police. In those circumstances, how is he to get a fair trial?
514 The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery suggested that we should look at codes of practice for magistrates. I have some sympathy with him in that argument. I may be paraphrasing, but in a well-known case a magistrate announced in open court, "In this case there is a conflict between the police evidence and the evidence given by the defence, and in such a case we always prefer the evidence of the police." That case went to appeal, and the conviction was rightly quashed. In how many cases does the chairman of the bench think that but does not say it? It is important to ensure not only that the police follow the guidelines but that proper training and guidelines are given to magistrates.
I agreed with many of the comments by the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), although he got carried away by his rhetoric when he ventured on to our inner city problems. At one stage in his speech I wondered whether he was considering a career in the Church—
§ Mr. Knight
I am glad to hear the comments of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman.
The hon. Gentleman said that in many cases the police obtained their evidence as a result of help from the public. He was right. He was also right in saying that, because of that, the police rely on the public for their detection work or at least for help in putting together a case. The relevance of that to the codes is that the good police officer, who wants to get results and is willing—most are—to play the game by the rules, will see that there is a benefit to be obtained by the police in getting the confidence of the public, not alienating the public.
Some would say that the safeguards were not adequate in the past, but new safeguards are now introduced with those new codes. For example, a new independent Police Complaints Authority has been set up and a statutory duty has been imposed on all police forces to set up proper consultative arrangements with representatives of local communities. I hope that those two items will help the police to gain and retain the confidence of the public in many areas.
Concern has been expressed about the 24-hour duty solicitor scheme. I note the comments that you made earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point which I wish to make, and which I thought the hon. Member for St. Helens, South was making, is that if the codes give an accused person the right to consult a solicitor, it is valueless if no solicitor is prepared to come out because he is not being paid sufficient remuneration to undertake the work required of him. Concern has been expressed in my branch of the profession about the arrangements that the Lord Chancellor has said will apply to fees to enable solicitors to give advice under the codes. I think that that was the relevance of the point which the hon. Member for St. Helens, South made.
I received a letter only this week from the secretary of the contentious business sub-committee of the Derby law society, Mr. Peter Ashworth, who is a respected local advocate in Derby. He expresses concern and the concern of solicitors in Derby about the operation of the 24-hour scheme. In his letter he says:As you know, in Derby there has been a Duty Solicitor Scheme in operation now for some time at the Derby city Magistrates court. This has proved to be a great help to those people who are bewildered and concerned about their problems …".
He goes on to say:
it is hoped that a 24 hour Duty Solicitor Scheme will be mounted in Derby and district. Obviously, this will be of public benefit. However, there are grave misgivings about the way in which this scheme has been constrained by the Government and there are some areas where I believe it will not be possible for it to commence operation.
That, Mr. Deputy Speaker, subject to your view on the matter, is the relevance of the comments about remuneration in the draft codes that we are considering. I emphasise the point which the hon. Member for St. Helens, South made and, as I understand it, these arrangements were made without prior consultation with the Law Society. If there was consultation, there was certainly no agreement on how the scheme should be implemented.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there was consultation with the Law Society but that the the Law Society made strong representations and did not agree with the scheme that has been imposed upon it?
§ Mr. Knight
That may be the case, but I shall be happy to accept the comments that my hon. Friend the Minister will make in reply. According to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, there was consultation but no consensus. There was no consensus over the introduction of this two-tier scheme. Concern has been expressed about the lower tier, although no one suggests that the entire scheme will be inoperable. However, I have misgivings concerning the lower tier and how it will operate.
I thought—I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that the £50 limit included solicitors' travelling time. In tests carried out by the Law Society it has been shown that on average 30 or 40 minutes is used as travelling time in each direction. If this is not so, I would welcome a denial from my hon. Friend the Minister.
Justice in society can be achieved only by striking the correct balance between the power given to the police and the rights of the individual. Despite my slight misgivings, I believe that these codes get the balance right and I wish them success.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I apologise to the House for not being present for all of the debate, but I had a constituency problem to attend to.
I have listened with great interest to the debate and everything that I have heard has been sensible. I welcome these codes, just as I welcome increasingly the Police and Evidence Act 1984 and the improvements which have come with its implementation. I was most unhappy about the 96-hour provision. The Act has much that is good about it, and the same can be said for the codes. I am confident that the codes will bring dignity and sense to policing and to the courts, which we have not had so far. Other countries have enjoyed those things, but unfortunately we have not.
I hope that the days are gone of solicitors being involved in ignominous run arounds. All too often solicitors telephone a police officer, only to be told that he is not available, or that a message will be passed to him. Unfortunately, in many instances the solicitor's message is not conveyed. I have been involved in a case for about five weeks, during which examples of lack of contact between solicitors and police officers have come to light. 516 It is awful to think of solicitors travelling from London to Nottingham and being unable to see their clients. In many instances they have been told that they would be able to see them, but on arrival are told that that is not possible. The solicitor takes a train back to London, and during the journey his client may well appear before the court. That happens frequently, and the codes, if they are properly implemented, will stop it. They will bring back dignity and confidence to the police. In that sense, we are doing much for law and order. That can be said for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and for the codes of conduct.
The police depend upon the public, and it is unfortunate that they have forgotten that at times. They must remember that they will not be able to achieve what they want without the confidence and support of the public. Their detection rates will not increase without that support. We must give the public confidence in the police, by means of the codes. They will be a most valuable addition to the current framework and we must respond to them positively. Let us adopt them with enthusiasm and ensure that they are followed and implemented. There is a great future for law, order and justice if we follow the codes.
I cannot wait for the introduction of tape recorded interviews. Those of us who have been involved in cases where tape recordings have been used know that they have been enormously successful. Some cases which ran for five weeks and cost many thousands of pounds could have been disposed of in three days if tape recordings had been available. The savings involved in disposing in three days of a case which would otherwise run for five weeks would pay for the tape recording of all the interviews that have taken place in south-east England during the past year. On that basis, why were tape recordings not introduced 10 years ago?
If a system of tape recording is implemented properly, an enormous amount of court time will be saved. An enormous sum is being spent on the building of courts and the appointing of extra judges, but the new courts and the newly appointed judges could become superfluous once we begin to record interviews. There have been 10-week trials involving enormous numbers of exchanges such as "He said that," "No he did not," "Yes, he did," "No, he did not." That will disappear. The interviews will be recorded on tape and, as the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) said, we shall be looking for proper detective work. There will be proper interrogations and proper admissions in which everyone will have confidence. Jurors will be able properly to convict or otherwise.
A case at the Old Bailey came to an end recenty after running for an enormously long time. It would have been marvellous if the interviews in that case had been recorded on tape. I believe that the case lasted for four months. It would probably have lasted for a week if the interrogations had been recorded on tape.
I apologise to the House for intervening at a late stage in the debate. However, I beg my hon. Friend the Minister to introduce the tape recording of interviews and interrogations. Codes of conduct are fine, but for goodness sake let us have tape recordings. My hon. Friend will be surprised at the money that will be saved by their introduction. I cannot understand why the Treasury has not been insistent that tape recordings should be used. There will be enormous savings in both time and money, and justice will benefit accordingly.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
The refreshing intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) has given me a sudden thirst for the economies of scale of tape recording. However, I have to remind myself that I must equip every police station with an appropriate room which is sound proofed and generally appropriate to the purpose for which it must be used.Nevertheless, I welcome the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend, and I can assure him that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary shares his view. Indeed, we shall be starting to extend gradually from the trial areas in which tape recorders have been used.
The subject of tape recording was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) and my hon. Friends the Members for Leicestershire, North-West and for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind). A further code of practice will, of course, be laid before the House in accordance with the provisions of section 60 which require the Secretary of State(a) to issue a code of practice in connection with the tape-recording of interviews of personsand(b) to make an order requiring the tape-recording of interviews of persons".I hope that that will not be too long delayed. Indeed, I trust that it will make its appearance in the course of next year.
§ Mr. Shaw
That has not been part of the experimentation which we have undertaken with tape recording. I take my hon. Friend's point that that is yet another useful technological development. In so far as we are wishing primarily to deal with evidence which has been recorded and which can be understood and transmitted, I think that the video recorder is, in a sense, an excessive development. Let us watch the way in which these technologies are evolved in court cases and review the matter in due course.
I sound one note of caution regarding the reference of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West to the transcripts of tape recording. The joyous economy which my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West rightly seized in the matter of tape recording would fairly rapidly disappear if every tape recording had to be fully transcribed. I am sure that those of my hon. Friends who are lawyers will readily recognise that armfuls of printouts would not be the way to proceed if they and the Government wished to simplify the matter and reduce the cost of court proceedings. I do not, therefore, welcome the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West that there should be provision for the supply of transcripts.
§ Mr. Ashby
I am convinced from cases I have done myself in which there have been tape recordings that it is totally unnecessary to have a full transcript of the tape recording. It is necessary only to have the tape recording available to be heard. It is necessary to have transcribed only the choice parts which are the admissions.
§ Mr. Shaw
I am delighted to have that support from my hon. Friend. No doubt all good members of the Law Society will take note of the way my hon. Friend puts his point, because this matter will doubtless cause concern to lawyers at some stage.
518 I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). I understood his point about the increased bureaucracy which is inherent in the Act and not only in the codes of practice. With regard to training, I think that the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that there was rather slender training, but I can reassure him that substantial training is involved. Every officer has been through a course which lasts for almost a fortnight for those involved in sergeant's training and almost three days for those involved in constable's training to ensure that there is a working understanding of what is required when the Act becomes fully operational on 1 January next year.
I accept that the anxiety is one that forces face in relation to the controls imposed, the keeping of records and the bureaucratic elements within the legislation. In particular, the role of the custody sergeant to which the hon. Gentleman referred will be crucial. The maintenance of duties of the custody sergeant and the record of how he deals with the persons in his care are also crucial to the rights of the suspect which have been such a feature of the debate. This is a matter with which many forces have now experimented and those that I have visited are of the opinion that the Act in action is somewhat less formidable than the Act in prospect. I sincerely hope that that opinion will come to be shared generally.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the PSI report in relation to stop and search powers. My understanding is that the report accepted that stop and search powers were of use in the detection of offences and that they should not be withdrawn but be proceeded with. I think that the concern was that there would be a need for safeguards to ensure adequate supervision of the exercise of the power. That is what the codes are, setting out to achieve, and. I hope that that will be the case in practice.
When the hon. Gentleman referred to lodging houses, I think that he had in mind note 4A on page 27 of the code. I am a little concerned that he should interpret it in the way that he did, suggesting that lodging houses were dealt with differently. The note for guidance says:In the case of a lodging house or similar accommodation a search should not be made on the basis solely of a landlord's consent".That is trying to protect the tenant's right to determine access to his flat rather than the right of the landlord, which is so frequently the case at present. I hope that there will be a slightly greater protection of the tenant, which I think the hon. Gentleman had in mind. There is still the provision that, if the tenant is unavailable and the matter is urgent, the police may rely only on the landlord's consent. The intention, however, is to offer greater protection from entry to the tenant's property, so that it shall not be simply on the say-so of the landlord.
§ Mr. Shaw
I accept that. The question is one of search with consent, and whether the urgency of the matter overlies the requirement of consent. I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and obviously in practice we shall have to see how it is carried out.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West raised several points, and I have dealt with the use of tape recordings. I welcome his comments on the language used in the codes. We have tried hard to adopt language which can be widely used.
519 In an intervention when the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery was speaking, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West suggested that there should be a simplified leaflet setting out the main conditions. Provision is made in the code for the suspect's rights to be drawn to his attention. At paragraph 3.2 on page 40, it says:The custody officer must give the person a written notice setting out the above three rights".That refers to the right to have someone informed, the right to consult a solicitor, and the right to consult the code of practice. There is also a right to a copy of the custody record in accordance with the proceedings set out in paragraph 2.4. That will go some way towards making provision for a simplified version of the code to be drawn to the attention of all suspects. I hope that it will meet with the approval of those who have raised the point.
The four basic rights—to be set out in a leaflet handed to the suspect—would be the right to have someone informed, the right to legal advice, the right to a copy of the code of practice and the right to a copy of the custody record.
§ Mr. Bermingham
Perhaps in one of the Home Office directions this suggestion could be made to police forces, and that might put the matter in motion. If the leaflet could be handed to the person at the time when he signed the detained person's sheet, the problem would be covered.
§ Mr. Shaw
I take on board the hon. Gentleman's sensible suggestion and will see that that is done in relation to police practice.
The provision that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West suggested—to have a simplified or shortened leaflet setting out the rights of the individual—will be met. I emphasise that the codes of practice, whether they cost £3 or not, will be available in every police station in England and Wales. I confirm that the Welsh language will be used, as it is already where Government documents are involved.
I have already referred to the Welsh language matter that was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. He also mentioned magistrates and warrants. I understand the unease that has been expressed in the debate about magistrates' warrants. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) also raised that point. Sections 15 and 16 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act lay down the condition under which warrants are issued. The police will make applications for warrants on forms to be issued by the Home Office, together with a circular note about the provision of the code. A standard application form will be used when a police officer makes an application to a magistrate. The form will clearly set out the information needed for the magistrate to satisfy himself that the requirements of the Act have been met.
However, I accept the points that have been raised. If that system is ineffective, I agree that we should have to consider further guidance to ensure that the practice can be carried out effectively. The intention is to do what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery seeks, which is to formalise and structure the procedure under which a magistrate can issue a warrant.
The hon. Member for St. Helens, South was in robust form when he dealt with the duty solicitor scheme. My 520 hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) also raised that matter. At the risk of getting it wrong again, I can now correct myself by stating that the Law Society was substantially consulted by the Lord Chancellor's Department, but it did not consent to the two-tier arrangement that forms the present basis of the duty solicitor scheme. The arrangement was not regarded with much enthusiasm, but no alternative was offered by the Law Society for a scheme that would enable the 24-hour duty provisions to be enacted as speedily as we would wish. The scheme has not, as yet, gained the support of the Law Society, but the society was closely consulted.
I should tell the hon. Member for St. Helens, South that there will be an opportunity further to assess these matters when the provisions for legal aid orders are laid before the House, for one of which the affirmative procedure will be applied. I am happy to state that the Solicitor-General will move the orders. That will allow for discussion among lawyers, which will be signally more appropriate than a discussion with me.
I confirm for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North that the £50 limit on costs in the second tier for non-arrestable offences will include the payment for travelling time. My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for St. Helens, South accused the Government of proceeding without any idea about what might happen in practice. In pilot tests, the £50 figure emerged as the average cost in the majority of cases, although I accept that nothing will determine that figure more accurately than putting the scheme into practice. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North is dissatisfied with the limit, I suspect that he would welcome some scheme rather than none.
We must ensure that the provision of consultation with a lawyer is made available as of right to the suspect, and made available quickly. I must tell the hon. Member for St. Helens, South that the Lord Chancellor has undertaken to keep the operation of the scheme under early review. I am sure that decisions will be made in the light of experience.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough asked about firearms. I said in response to an earlier intervention that the Police Complaints Authority is likely to report on the use of firearms in searches, which clearly played a part in two of the tragic cases that are before the authority. My hon. Friend will recognise that the use of firearms is acutely sensitive in relation not only to the police but to the public. Therefore, it would be wrong for me to say more tonight than that I believe that the public interest will be served by the report of the Police Complaints Authority. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear that any advice from the authority on training in the use of firearms and the methods by which those who use firearms are selected will be carefully and seriously considered. My hon. Friend will recall that, not too long ago, there was a thorough review of police practice in relation to firearms after the Waldorf case, which no doubt we all remember well.
I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety, but I assure him that such matters are being reviewed by the Police Complaints Authority. Should it see fit, as I suspect it will, to make a special report on the matter, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider the lessons to be learnt from such cases.
I welcome the way in which hon. Members have contributed to our debate on the codes. It is clear that hon. 521 Members on both sides of the House believe that the codes are a significant step forward. Although some hon. Members may believe that the codes have disadvantages, the general feeling seems to be that, on the whole, the codes will have considerable advantages.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) is in the Chamber. I am glad to know that the proposals set out in my letter to him relating to further protection for the deaf, especially the prelingually deaf, are likely to meet with their approval. That is symptomatic of our purpose. The codes will provide some reassurance that the rights of the public, whether they belong to ethnic groups or to disadvantaged groups, including the disabled, the deaf, those who have difficulty in speaking or the mentally ill, are clearly laid down in the form of codes that will have a significant bearing on the powers of the police while executing their duties. The codes will have force in the disciplinary code for the police which hon. Members have come to realise is a considerable advantage.
However, I trust that the codes include the correct expression of the view of Parliament, as contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, that a balance should be struck between the execution in the correct measure of new powers and the duties that Parliament has laid on the police. I assure the House of the extreme care with which the police approached their task, recognising that from 1 January 1986 they will be operating within a context that represents the biggest change in the statutory backing for policing for about 50 years. With those formidable prospects ahead of them, I am confident that they will discharge their duties effectively and well.
I am grateful to the House for accepting the spirit in which the codes were placed before it, and I look forward to the House approving them.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (No. 1) Order 1985, dated 24th October 1985, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.