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The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)

August 21, 2019 by in category News with 0 and 0
Home > News > News > The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is a hugely important piece of legislation, brought in to establish a balance between the powers of the police and the rights of the public. The Act created a Code of Practice for police behaviour (PACE) in an attempt to restore the British public’s confidence in the police force.

The act was brought in, partially in response to the 1981 Brixton Riots, which was a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protestors in Brixton, South London. A public inquiry into the riot, the Scarman Report, found disproportionate use of ‘stop and search’ powers against black people. Further high profile cases of miscarriages of justice, such as the ‘Birmingham Six’ meant that there was a need for accountability by the police in such situations.

Provisions of PACE

There are currently 8 Codes of Practice, covering different police powers and rights of detainees:

  • Code A: Legal powers for police to stop and search a member of the public
  • Code B: Police powers to search premises and seize items
  • Code C: Legal requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects (not related to terrorism). This covers the rights of a detainee whilst held in custody
  • Code D: Powers governing the identification of suspects and retention of criminal records
  • Code E: Audio recording of interviews with suspects in the police station
  • Code F: Visual recording with sound of interviews with suspects
  • Code G: Powers of arrest
  • Code H: Legal requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects in relation to terrorism

Compliance with PACE

A central theme in any criminal defence matter will be to establish whether PACE was complied with, when a suspect is arrested and detained at a police station.

Where PACE has not been complied with, the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act allow for applications to be made to exclude evidence that may not have been obtained correctly. For example, in Osman v Southwark Crown Court, a search was held to be unlawful because the officers searching him did not give their names and station, contrary to PACE requirements.

Under s.78 PACE, the court may refuse to allow evidence if it appears to the court that, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the circumstances in which the evidence was obtained, the admission of the evidence would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit it.

Updates to PACE

Consultations are routinely held regarding PACE to ensure that the police are continually able to exercise their powers freely whilst ensuring that appropriate safeguards for suspects are in place.

Recently, proposals were made to amend Code C and H, which will come into force on 21 August 2019.

The revisions are to ensure that menstrual needs of female and transgender detainees, and the health, hygiene and welfare needs of all individuals in police custody are protected.

Of particular note, in all cases, the following proposal was made:

Custody officers must ask all detainees if they wish to speak in private with a member of custody staff about any matter concerning their personal needs relating to health, hygiene and welfare. If the detainee wishes, this member of staff may be of the same sex.

This is an important protection and will be monitored closely in practice to ensure that this is complied with. It is vital that detainees are looked after properly in custody and are given the opportunity to fully present any issues to their welfare. We have been involved in many cases where breaches of PACE Code C have been vital in obtaining acquittals.

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