16 comments/updates on “Stop and Account – Compliance with PACE codes in Cambridge

  1. Richard Article author

    I wrote to Kevin Wilkins and Olive Main of the Police Authority with a very similar email to the above suggesting the Police Authority take the below action.

    1. Require Cambridgeshire police to comply with the PACE codes.
    2. Be involved in assessing the success or otherwise of the trial, ensuring that the effect on public perception of the police is assessed and taken into account.
    3. Ensure the results of the Cambridgeshire trial are collated with the official Home Office trials, which I believe are quite different to the apparent complete abolition trialed in Cambridge, so that the results of this trial can inform the national debate.
    4. Review why the Police Authority wasn’t consulted prior to the trial commencing.
    5. Consider if the re-introduction of the form following the trial period would be a good time to enact some improvements to the form and associated system, such as including the person’s explanation for their actions on the form, receipt, and record on the force intelligence database, keeping records for proportionate periods of time, and reviewing the wording used by the police during a stop and account so as they don’t imply a power to demand a name and address when they do not have that power.
  2. Richard Article author

    I have also written to Alan Travis, of the Guardian along with Michael Zander the law professor at the LSE who I quote above and who writes articles for the Guardian suggesting the subject might warrant some press coverage.

    I also wrote to the Cambridge Evening News, Newsdesk, having already written to an individual reporter.

  3. Richard Article author

    A report to the Police Authority meeting on 30 June 2008 from the Scrutiny and Audit Committee meeting held on Thursday 22nd May 2008 includes the section:

    3.35 The Committee noted that a 3 month trial programme would commence on 1st April 2008 to cease the recording of ‘encounter only’ information.

    So a committee of the Police Authority did know about the trial before it commenced.

    A review of all stops (Encounters) proportionality was tabled at that Scrutiny and Audit Committee meeting which included the statement:

    Cambridgeshire Constabulary are undertaking a three month trial programme starting 1st April 2008. The expectation being that basic details of encounters will be recorded in Officers pocket note books only – no form will be completed unless specifically requested by the person being stopped. An impact analysis of this trial will be undertaken at its conclusion, which should consider any impact on the intelligence picture.

    There has been a significant increase in the use of the all stops tactic in the period 1st October 2007 to 31st March 2008 compared to the same period last year. … Stop and Encounter makes up 67% (n=16581) of all stops activity for the period.

  4. Richard Article author

    David Howarth has replied:

    Section 67 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides that failure to apply a code of practice issued under the Act shall not in itself give rise to any criminal or civil liability, but that provisions of such a code are relevant to any question arising in any legal proceedings. The Cambridgeshire Police are obviously taking risks in ignoring the provisions of a PACE Code, but there is nothing inherently unlawful in what they are proposing.

    I agree with you, however, that the police ought to be more clearly under democratic control – except, of course, that it would not be acceptable for politicians to be able to instruct the police about what to do in individual cases – and I therefore also agree with you that the process by which the police came to this decision is not satisfactory.

    But I am not sure that the PACE Codes themselves should be directly legally binding in the way you propose. Because the PACE Codes are secondary legislation the effect would be that the Secretary of State would be able to change the law about vital civil liberties without full-scale parliamentary debate. There is a case for making some parts of the Codes primary, but giving the present Codes the force of law would be to hand over an unacceptable amount of power to the government.

    I am however, happy to pass your comments on to the Home Office and the Police Authority.

    I am happy that Mr Howarth has considered the current position. I agree with him that giving too much power to an individual minister would be undesirable, that was not my proposal.

  5. Richard Article author

    Mr Howarth has sent me a further reply today; he forwarded me a response from the police he had obtained when he wrote to the Chief Constable and the Home Secretary asking for: “Information about the All Stops recording Trial”.

    He noted he is still awaiting a response from the Home Secretary.

    The police’s reply was written by Jeff Hill on the 28th of August 2008.

    The new (to me) information contained within it is:

    “This initiative commenced on the 1st of April and was due to conclude on 30th June this year but has been extended further to allow for the completion of appropriate results analysis which will assist Mrs Spence in assessing whether the benefits to the citizen outweigh the loss of performance data in this area. It is anticipated that a decision will be made on the future of All Stops recording mid way though next month. ”

    I wrote to Mr Wilkins of the Police Authority to keep him updated. I sent him the salient items of my latest correspondence and said:

    I hope the Police Authority will be involved in the decision on the future of All Stops recording to be made in the next week or so.

    Jeff Hill of the police apparently sees the primary con associated with the scrapping of the form to be the loss of performance data. I disagree.

    I agree the old form took too long to complete and over-formalised trivial encounters with the police. I strongly support replacing it with a much more streamlined system

    I do think encounters ought be recorded, and the opportunity to collect statistics though sampling ought be considered.

    I have made my letter from Mr Howarth available online via this link.

  6. Richard Article author

    Mr Howarth has passed on to me a letter from Tony McNulty, Minister of State at the Home Office. The minister has told me he will be looking to amend PACE code A when Parliament returns, this will give proper authorisation for the formal trial abolition of the time consuming current encounter forms, and is what I have been lobbying for.

    However it appears this will not give authorisation for the trial which is currently still on going in Cambridge where no stop and encounter receipts are given as a matter of course. This development should provide further leverage for the Police Authority to use to bring Cambridgeshire police back under democratic control.

    Dear David,

    Thank you for your letter of 6 August to the Home Secretary on behalf of Mr Richard Taylor, of [my address] about the status of the PACE codes. This letter also responds to Mr Taylor’s earlier contact with the department.

    The introduction and application of the PACE Codes of Practice are subject to the statutory provisions set out in Part VI of PACE. This requires that the contents of the Codes are subject to public consultation and Parliamentary approval before the Code or any revised Code comes into effect.

    It is a matter for the chief officer to determine the operational practices within their force area are subject to the provisions of the law. Whilst the Codes deliberately do not have the status of statute, compliance with their content is recognised by the courts as critical in determining the admissibility of evidence. That is why we will be looking to amend PACE Code A when Parliament returns to enable pilot studies to be carried out in four force areas to provide a receipt in respect of encounters carried out under PACE Code A and to record only information on ethnicity. This is to take forward recommendation 24 of the Flanagan Review of Policing. The pilot sites will be in West Midlands, Surrey, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.

    We launched a public consultation on PACE in 2007. The final element of consultation on the PACE Review will be launched shortly but it is clear from the responses and consultation taken place to date that there is strong support for retaining the existing statutory framework with supporting codes. This view is widely shared accross the criminal justice system.

    Tony McNulty.

    I have made the letter from Tony McNulty available here.

    The letter supplies some of the information I had previously requested from the Home Office.

  7. Richard Article author

    Michael Zander has written me to say:

    You are absolutely correct in stating that Tony McNulty’s reaction to the issue was wholly inadequate.

    I am still going to try to get a Ministerial statement that it is not permissible for forces to go their own way in regard to the PACE Codes – and promise to keep you informed of any developments in that regard. I will raise it at the next meeting of the PACE Review Board in November.

  8. Richard Article author

    A Home Officer minister has passed an order permitting a variation to PACE Code A to enable a pilot, trialling the abolition of the stop and account form.

    The list of forces in which this applies does not include Cambridgeshire, even though stop and account recording does not occur in Cambridgeshire.

    The pilot areas are: “Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Surrey, West Midlands, Essex, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, South Wales, West Yorkshire and Thames Valley”.

  9. Brian Johnson

    Ok, so they think they might have an IT solution for the ‘problem’ they have at the moment of there being no record of stop and account being kept at all. And that solution may be reported upon in 6 months time.

    That’ll be interesting.

    And this Cambridge ‘trial’ will have run for about 18 mths?

    Meanwhile, the HO will have brought forth their own solution. Nice timing.

    (In the PDF of the PACE review, stop and account appears to be called ‘Stop’ or ‘Stop and Search’. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-2008-pace-review/cons-2008-pace-review-pdf?view=Binary or, smaller, http://is.gd/w8bi Page 9 )

  10. Brian Johnson

    On reading that PDF, it appears that the person being stopped has to *ask* for a written receipt.

    “The pilot also showed that those stopped or stopped and searched rarely requested a written record of the stop.”

  11. Richard Article author

    Brian,

    The quote refers to a trial electronic stop and account procedure run by the British Transport Police. That trial was run properly in that the PACE code was amended to permit it.

  12. David Rapp

    It is not just Cambridgeshire who are picking and choosing which parts of PACE to apply. I have been told by more than one officer at Stevenage Police Station in Hertfordshire that the provisions in PACE Code C in relation to the detention and interview of suspects who claim to have a mental health issue are routinely ignored because the officers involved feel that they are being abused by suspects who claim a mental health issue.

    The downside to this is of course that when a suspect is detained with a mental health issue the police do not follow the code which can lead to suspects being interviewed, accused, cautioned or charged and taken to trial because of evidence obtained by what is at best negligent and at worst utterly criminal behaviour.

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