Changes to the Police Codes of Practice – more Protection for teachers!

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and specifically the Codes of Practice contained within it, govern all that the Police do in respect of how they treat suspects throughout the course of an investigation.   All Criminal Law practitioners and Police Station representatives will be familiar with these Codes of Practice and will have these in mind when considering whether the Police have acted lawfully in respect of a matter.  At Emery Johnson, we regularly advise, assist and represent persons who are suspected of an offence, including those suspected of terrorism offences, both at home, at the Police Station and at court following a summons or charge.  We know how important it is to keep abreast of any changes in the law.

There are currently 8 ‘Codes’ from A to H, which have been in effect since the Act was enacted in 1984.  However, changes have recently been made to Codes C (in respect of detention), H (in respect of the detention of terrorist suspects) and G (in respect of arrest), which we introduced on 12th November 2012.

The changes to Code C and H mirror each other.  The main changes emphasise that the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on the ‘protected characteristics’ (such as sex, age, race, religion or sexual orientation); sets out procedures to be followed when searching transgender individuals; revising arrangements concerning the notification required when a foreign national is detained; and allows custody officers to direct other custody staff to provide specified information to, and obtain specified information from, the detainee during the initial booking-in process.

Other changes are specific to Code H and reflect changes to terrorism legislation, powers and procedures.

The changes to Code G place additional emphasis on the consideration by a police officer of the two key elements of lawful arrest, whereby an arresting officer must have reasonable grounds to:

a) suspect that an offence has been committed and that the person has committed it; and

b) believe that arrest is necessary for one or more of the reasons specified in section 24 of PACE

The amended Code G sets out that, in order to establish grounds to suspect a person of committing an offence, officers should consider facts and information which tend to indicate the person’s innocence as well as their guilt.  It also sets out that, if an offence involves the use of force and a person claims to have been acting in self-defence, an officer contemplating an arrest must take account of the circumstances under which the law allows the use of reasonable force.

This consideration would also apply to the power given to school staff by Section 93 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 to use reasonable force to prevent their pupils from committing offences, causing personal injury or damaging property and to maintain good order and discipline. This change reflects concerns raised by one of the teaching unions and the coalition commitment that ‘we will give heads and teachers the powers they need to ensure discipline in the classroom and promote good behaviour.’

Other changes arise from the need to clarify and expand support for each of the statutory reasons for arrest in section 24(5) PACE, with particular regard to the need to arrest to interview, arrests for ‘continuing offences’ and emphasising that arrests may not be made solely to obtain biometric data.

Therefore, if you believe the Police want to question you in connection with an allegation, it may be in your interests to contact us, rather than wait until the Police catch up with you, so that we can try to arrange a voluntary interview at your home or at the Police Station.  Once we have made contact with the Police, it may be difficult for them to justify the need to arrest you.