I have been campaigning for some time for the strengthening of the authority carried by the PACE Codes, particularly following statements by Cambridgeshire Police in which they have made clear they consider the PACE codes are merely guidance and they believe they do not have to follow them. I have corresponded with you previously on this matter. I have argued that there are many important safeguards intended to protect people when they are stopped, searched, arrested, questioned and detained by the police contained only within the PACE codes.
You will no doubt have been in Parliament today and heard the Speaker say that he felt it was wrong that the police attending the House of Commons to search Damien Green‘s offices did not make it clear to the Sergeant at Arms that she could have insisted on a search warrant.
Section 5.2 of PACE Code B which deals with searches of premises conducted on the basis of consent, rather than with a warrant, states:
“Before seeking consent the officer in charge of the search shall state the purpose of the proposed search and its extent. [...] The person concerned must be clearly informed they are not obliged to consent and anything seized may be produced in evidence.
Had the police been required to follow the PACE codes then I believe it is likely a warrant would have been requested, this would probably have given time for reflection on the appropriateness and proportionally of the police response.
I believe the police ought, to a degree, have a duty to advise people of the extent of the police’s powers. While the Sergeant at Arms certainly ought to have been confident in her ability to deny the police entry without a warrant, her lack of awareness of her ability to refuse the police entry without a warrant clearly illustrates the need for the police to follow the requirements of Section 5.2 of PACE code B.
In relation to Cambridgeshire Police’s decision to abolish the stop and account form in a manner contrary to PACE code A, I note that an order has been passed permitting a variation to PACE Code A to enable a pilot, trialling the abolition of the current stop and account form; however the list of forces in which this applies does not include Cambridgeshire. Stop and account forms are not in use in Cambridgeshire, the protocol in use is not in my view compliant with PACE Code A.
I hope that now the importance of the PACE Codes has been clearly shown to Parliament as Parliament has itsself come to require the safeguards they provide, Parliament will now act to strengthen them. The notes to PACE Code B also already deal with the one of the aspects of the search of Mr Green’s offices which I expect you will be considering as they state: “A search should not be made solely on the basis of the landlord’s consent unless the tenant, lodger or occupier is unavailable and the matter is urgent”, I believe you can extrapolate from this to Mr Green’s situation.
Perhaps you would consider requesting a ministerial statement simply clarifying that the police ought follow the PACE codes?
Noting that the requirements of the PACE codes were ignored in Damien Green’s case would perhaps strengthen the codes simply by showing you take a breach of them seriously.
It would be a positive outcome if it were not just MPs, but also the wider public, who were to benefit from improved safeguards protecting their right to privacy and a respect for their personal property. Ensuring the police follow due process is important in relation to everyone in the UK, not just MPs.
I do not require a reply, if you do reply I would prefer a reply by email.
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