HC Deb 02 December 2002 vol 395 cc588-9W
Stephen Hesford

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to review the procedures police officers have to undertake once they have arrested a suspect. [82968]

Mr. Denham

The Home Office in partnership with the Cabinet Office has conducted a fundamental review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which examined the basic requirements of The Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act and the codes that underlie police procedures.

Based on the findings and recommendations of this report, the following changes are proposed in the Criminal Justice Bill: We will give police officers the option to offer an arrested person street bail. At an officer's discretion, s/he would be able to release an arrested person on immediate bail at the scene of the crime on the condition that they must attend a specified police station at a specified time in the future. This allows them to prioritise their work load to attend to more serious crime and to put the necessary arrangements in place before they interview the person (eg where an appropriate adult will need to be in attendance with a juvenile). The time-consuming requirement to list a detained person's property will be amended so that the custody officer would secure all possessions in a sealable property bag and only make a few supporting comments about the contents if necessary. This and any subsequent access would be done in the presence of the detained person. This has the potential to save resources without compromising protections. We propose to extend the circumstances in which a review of detention could be done by telephone. It would no longer be obligatory for the reviewing officer to conduct them in person and would ultimately enable officers to overcome the time restrictions that hinder the process.

In addition, section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which is due to be implemented on 2 December, will enable chief officers of police to designate suitably skilled and trained support staff to exercise certain police powers as detention officers, investigating officers and escort officers. Enabling civilians to exercise certain police powers will help to free-up police officers for patrol and increase police visibility. This is consistent with a number of recommendations arising from the Policing Bureaucracy Taskforce which was commissioned to give a Police Service view of what could be done to tackle the administrative burdens and inefficient working practices which keep police officers off the streets.