Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Posts Tagged ‘Police

Disclosure of evidence: planning for change – first steps

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In July 2017, the Inspectorates of the Crown Prosecution Service and Constabulary published a very critical report on the failure of police and prosecution services to apply the rules relating to the disclosure of evidence held by police/prosecutors to defence teams. (I noted the report here in November 2017).

Since then, it seems that the issue of the failure of the police and prosecution to disclose evidence to defence lawyers which might undermine or weaken the prosecution case has received almost daily attention in the mass media. A number of well publicised cases have emerged in which those accused of serious crimes (in particular rape) have found out only at a late stage that evidence which undermines the case against them is available.

A number of reasons have been advanced for these failures. For example, it is argued that the current law was put in place before the arrival of mobile phones and the vast amounts of electronic data that is generated on phones and tablet.

It is also argued that police and prosecutors lack the resources to comb through all this information to see what might by relevant.

This is an extremely serious issue which goes to the heart of the criminal justice system. People must feel that the system is fair and that those who run it are complying with the rules.

Clearly both the police and CPS are taking this issue seriously. The first tangible step has recently been taken. At the end of January 2108, a plan was published  by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing.  This sets out measures designed to improve practice in this area.

These first steps include:

  • Reviewing disclosure training with the College of Policing
  • Developing a cadre of specialist and experienced disclosure experts in every force
  • Providing all multimedia evidence from the CPS to the defence digitally
  • Putting in place specific improvement plans for each force and CPS area
  • Setting up a system for the CPS and police to better identify and deal with cases with significant and complex disclosure issues.

This will not be the last word on this subject. Much work has to be done to ensure that all those engaged in the criminal justice system actually act in accordance with the statutory rules on disclosure. But it is an important first step.

The text of the plan can be found at http://www.npcc.police.uk/Publication/National%20Disclosure%20Improvement%20Plan%20January%202018.pdf

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Written by lwtmp

February 1, 2018 at 11:12 am

Policing and Crime Act 2017

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The Policing and Crime Act 2017 received the Royal Assent at the end of January 2017. It is a large piece of legislation covering a wealth of topics. The Home Office Press Release summarises the  main provisions as follows. The Act will:

  • place a duty on police, fire and ambulance services to work together and enable police and crime commissioners to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services where a local case is made
  • reform the police complaints and disciplinary systems to ensure that the public have confidence in their ability to hold the police to account, and that police officers will uphold the highest standards of integrity
  • further support the independence of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and ensure that it is able to undertake end-to-end inspections of the police
  • enable chief officers to make the most efficient and effective use of their workforce by giving them the flexibility to confer a wider range of powers on police staff and volunteers (while for the first time specifying a core list of powers that may only be exercised by warranted police officers)
  • increase the accountability and transparency of the Police Federation for England and Wales by extending its core purpose to cover the public interest and making it subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000
  • reform pre-charge bail to stop people remaining on bail for lengthy periods without independent judicial scrutiny of its continued necessity
  • stop the detention in police cells of children and young people under 18 who are experiencing a mental health crisis (and restrict the circumstances when adults can be taken to police stations) by reforming police powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983
  • amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, including to ensure that 17-year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes, and to increase the use of video link technology
  • amend the Firearms Acts, including to better protect the public by closing loopholes that can be exploited by criminals and terrorists
  • make it an offence to possess pyrotechnic articles at qualifying musical events
  • reform the late night levy to make it easier for licensing authorities to implement and put cumulative impact policies on a statutory footing
  • better protect children and young people from sexual exploitation by ensuring that relevant offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 cover the live streaming of images of child sex abuse
  • increase the maximum sentence from 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment for those convicted of the most serious cases of stalking and harassment
  • confer an automatic pardon on deceased individuals convicted of certain consensual gay sexual offences which would not be offences today, and on those persons still living who have had the conviction disregarded under the provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

 In anticipation of these changes, a number of revisions to the PACE Codes of Practice were also presented to Parliament in December.

For further detail on the Policing and Crime Act 2017, go to https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/policing-and-crime-bill.

The current texts of the  PACE codes as amended can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/police-and-criminal-evidence-act-1984-pace-codes-of-practice.

Written by lwtmp

February 24, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Independent Office for Police Conduct

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Following a review of the governance arrangements for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and a Government Consulation held in 2015, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 provides in section 33 and Schedule 9 for the Commission to be renamed the Independent Office for Police Conduct. It will continue to investigate complaints against the police, but will have a clearer governance structure.

This change is in part a response to survey evidence showing a lack of public confidence in the current IPCC.

The review is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/governance-of-the-independent-police-complaints-commission.

The consultation, published on the same date, is at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reforming-the-independent-police-complaints-commission-structure-and-governance.

 

Written by lwtmp

February 21, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Improving policing standards: the College of Policing

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Last year, I noted in this blog the creation (in December 2012) of the College of Policing – replacing the National Police Improvement Agency.

Following the enactment of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the College is now recognised in legislation. (See Part 11, sections 123-130.) The College is given specific statutory power to issue Codes of Practice.

The core areas of responsibility of the College are:
• setting standards of professional practice
• accrediting training providers and setting  learning and development outcomes

• identifying, developing and promoting good practice based on evidence
• supporting police forces and other organisations to work together to protect the public and prevent crime
• identifying, developing and promoting ethics, values and standards of integrity.

The College has set itself ambitious aims. For example it is seeking to extend its networks beyond the traditional boundaries
of policing – to include the public, further and higher education, the private sector, charitable organisations and the wider public sector – and make the most of all opportunities to work with others to support policing.

It wants to create open and transparent development opportunities for police officers and staff at all levels. These will include:
• being part of a network with local academic institutions to gather evidence and test new approaches
• participating in a community of practice
• providing peer support to share experiences
• working in the College or with one of our partner organisations to gain new skills and knowledge, while sharing learning and experience.

Further detail of its plans can be found in its statement of strategic intent at http://www.college.police.uk/en/20801.htm.

The reason for the creation of the College lies in a number of difficult issues that have affected police forces in recent years which has led to falls in public trust in the ability of the police to work effectively and fairly in carrying out its work.

Responding to these worries, one of the first actions of the new College was to develop and publish a new Code of Ethics for the police service (similar in aim to codes of ethical practice which apply to most professional groups). The Code was published in July 2014.

It is based on 9 core policing principles (themselves based on the Nolan Principles for Standards in Public Life). They are

  • Accountability: You are answerable for your decisions, actions and omissions.
  • Fairness: You treat people fairly.
  • Honesty: You are truthful and trustworthy.
  • Integrity: You always do the right thing.
  • Leadership: You lead by good example.
  • Objectivity: You make choices on evidence and your best professional judgement.
  • Openness: You are open and transparent in your actions and decisions.
  • Respect: You treat everyone with respect.
  • Selflessness: You act in the public interest.

Perhaps surprisingly this is the first time that a set of ethical standards for policing has been published.

Naturally it will be asked what difference publication of the Code will have on day to day policing. This question certainly cannot be answered at this stage. However, as the College itself notes, its effect will become clearer if the public starts to acknowledge that standards of police integrity have started to improve.

The Code is available at http://www.college.police.uk/en/20972.htm

More detail about the work of the college is available on its website at http://www.college.police.uk/en/home.htm

Written by lwtmp

October 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

Posted in Chapter 5

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Stop and search – code of guidance

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In August 2013, I wrote about the very critical report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary on the use of Stop and Search power by the police, and the annoucement by the Home Secretary of a consultation on the use of these powers.

In April 2014, the Home Secretary announced that there would be a new ‘Best use of stop and search scheme’ which had been drawn up by the Home Office and the College of Policing. In August 2014, it was announced that all 43 police forces had agreed to abide by the scheme and the scheme was published.

The headline features of the new scheme are:

• Data Recording – forces will record the broader range of stop and search outcomes e.g. arrests, cautions, penalty notices for disorder and all other disposal types. Forces will also show the link, or lack of one, between the object of the search and its outcome.
• Lay observation policies – providing the opportunity for members of the local community to accompany police officers on patrol using stop and search.
• Stop and search complaints ‘community trigger’ – a local complaint policy requiring the police to explain to local community scrutiny groups how the powers are being used where there is a large volume of complaints.
• Reducing section 60 ‘no-suspicion’ stop and searches by: raising the level of authorisation to senior officer (above the rank of chief superintendent);  ensuring that section 60 stop and search is only used where it is deemed necessary; and
and making this clear to the public;
• in anticipation of serious violence, the authorising officer must reasonably believe that an incident involving serious violence will take place rather than may;
• limiting the duration of initial authorizations to no more than 15 hours (down from 24); and
• communicating to local communities when there is a section 60 authorisation in advance (where practicable) and afterwards, so that the public is kept informed of the purpose and success of the operation.

It is obviously hoped that greater transparency in the use of these controversial powers will make their use more acceptable in the communities particularly affected by their use. Given the past history, there must be some doubt as to the potential effectiveness of the new scheme. But it does represent an attempt to prevent the use of stop and search powers having the deleterious impact on individuals and communities that it has had in the past.

The scheme is accessible at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/best-use-of-stop-and-search-scheme

Written by lwtmp

October 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

Dealing with serious crime: the Serious Crime Bill 2014

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The National Crime Agency started work on 8 October 2013. (See blog for that date).

Its launch was accompanied by the publication of a Government paper setting out a strategy for dealing with serious and organised crime.

The paper defined organised crime as including:

  • drug trafficking,
  • human trafficking, and
  • organised financial crimes, counterfeiting, organised
    acquisitive crime and cyber crime.

The paper stated that the strategy also deals with serious crime which demands a national coordinated response, notably other fraud and child sexual exploitation.

The paper out reasons why dealing with organised crime is important.

” Organised crime is a threat to our national security. It costs the United Kingdom at least £24 billion each year, leads to loss of
life and can deprive people of their security and prosperity. Crime groups intimidate and corrupt and have a corrosive impact on
some communities. Cyber crime undermines confidence in our communications technology and online economy. Organised
immigration crime threatens the security of our borders. We regard human trafficking as a pernicious form of modern slavery.
Financial crime can undermine the integrity and stability of our financial markets and institutions.

Overseas, organised crime undermines good governance and the stability of countries of strategic importance to our national security. Organised crime groups overseas can facilitate or engage in terrorism.”

To counter this, the Government states that the aim of its strategy is:

“to substantially reduce the level of serious and organised crime affecting the UK and its interests.”

The strategy uses the framework developed for counter-terrorist work. It has four components:

  • prosecuting and disrupting people engaged in serious and organised crime (Pursue);
  • preventing people from engaging in this activity (Prevent);
  • increasing protection against serious and organised crime (Protect); and
  • reducing the impact of this criminality where it takes place (Prepare).

The Government has undertaken to publish annual reports setting out the extent to which these objectives have been achieved.

Looking at these issues from the perspective of the English Legal System it seems clear that the balance between policing activity being delivered locally to local communities – which has until recently been the predominant model – and being delivered nationally to deal with new forms of criminality is bound to change. This shift is not a question that has been widely discussed in public media.

In June 2014, the Government has started the process of giving the strategy more legal backing through the Serious Crime Bill 2014. It will be some months before this reaches the statute book. But in outline the Bill seeks to

  • Improve the Government’s ability to recover criminal assets by amending the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
  • Amend the Computer Misuse Act 1990 to ensure sentences for attacks on computer systems fully reflect the damage they cause.
  • Create a new offence targeting people who knowingly participate in an organised crime group.
  • Extend the scope of Serious Crime Prevention Orders and gang injunctions.
  • Establish new powers to seize, detain and destroy chemical substances suspected of being used as cutting agents for illegal drugs.
  • Clarify the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to make it explicit that cruelty which is likely to cause psychological harm to a child is an offence.
  • Create a new offence of possessing ‘paedophilic manuals’.
  • Extend the extra-territorial reach of the offences in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (and the equivalent Scottish legislation) so that they apply to habitual as well as permanent UK residents.
  • Allow people suspected of committing an offence overseas under sections 5 (preparation of terrorist acts) or 6 (training for terrorism) of the Terrorism Act 2006 to be prosecuted in the UK.

For further details on the strategy, see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/serious-organised-crime-strategy.
For details on the Bill, see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-powers-to-tackle-serious-and-organised-crime-announced

Written by lwtmp

July 30, 2014 at 3:02 pm

National Crime Agency: open for business

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The long awaited launch of the National Crime Agency occurred on Monday 7 October 2013. It brings together, in a single body, four formerly separate activities under four Command heads. These are:

Border Control Command, designed to increase security at border entry points.

Economic Crime Command covering a range of crimes including:

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) Command which aims to protect children from sexual exploitation on the internet.

Organised Crime Command (OCC)  which leads, supports and co-ordinates the national effort to identify, pursue and disrupt serious and organised criminals.

The Agency also contains the National Cyber Crime Agency, which aims to provide a joined-up national response to cyber and cyber-enabled crime.

Critics of this new initiative argue that this is largely a ‘re-branding’ exercise for pre-existing bodies with a rather underwhelming track  record, which is also likely to struggle because it has had its funding cut. My view is that it is far to early to assume that this will be the case. The Agency has to have some time to establish itself before we can determine whether it is delivering the benefits planned for it.

There is quite a lot of information about the agency available on-line. Go to http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/ and follow the various and varied links.

Written by lwtmp

October 8, 2013 at 8:30 am