The police & criminal evidence act

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The Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 (PACE) institutes a clear framework for the powers of police officers in England to combat crime, as well as providing codes of practice for exercising those powers.

The primary aim of PACE is to establish a clear balance between the powers of the police in England and Wales and the rights of members of the public.

Police and PACE

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The police use a set of rules known as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which was designed to strike a balance between the powers of the police and the rights and freedoms of the general public.These codes of practice clearly denote police powers, including custody and stop and search rights. Despite its safeguards, the introduction of PACE was somewhat controversial, as it gives considerable extra powers to the police.

Specials, CSOs and PACE

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Specials are volunteer police officers who possess full police powers.

Community support officers (CSOs) work alongside police officers and specials. They have fewer powers than police officers and specials, however. For example, they have the power to issue fixed penalty notices for antisocial behaviour but not to conduct a "stop and search."


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Criminal liability may arise if the specific terms of PACE are not conformed to, and failure to conform to the codes of practice while performing an investigation may lead to any evidence obtained during the process becoming inadmissible in court.

PACE is applicable not just to police officers but for anyone with the ability to conduct an investigation, such as revenue, customs and military agents. Also, all persons with a duty of investigating criminal offences are required to follow the provisions of PACE as far as is practical and relevant.

PACE Codes

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According to the U.K. National Archives, "Code A deals with the exercise by police officers of statutory powers to search a person or a vehicle without first making an arrest. It also deals with the need for a police officer to make a record of a stop or encounter.

"Code B deals with police powers to search premises and to seize and retain property found on premises and persons.

"Code C sets out the requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects not related to terrorism in police custody by police officers.

"Code D concerns the main methods used by the police to identify people in connection with the investigation of offences and the keeping of accurate and reliable criminal records.

"Code E deals with the audio recording of interviews with suspects in the police station.

"Code F deals with the visual recording with sound of interviews with suspects. There is no statutory requirement on police officers to visually record interviews. However, the contents of this code should be considered if an interviewing officer decides to make a visual recording with sound of an interview with a suspect.

"Code G deals with powers of arrest under section 24 the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 as amended by section 110 of the Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005.

"Code H sets out the requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects related to terrorism in police custody by police officers."

PACE in Practice

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In practice, PACE has a varied history of contributing to the outcome of an investigation as shown by the two very dissimilar cases:

The Osman vs. Southwark Crown Court (1999) case held that the search of Osman was unlawful because searching officers did not give their names and station, contrary to PACE codes.

In the R vs. Longman (1988) case, it was held that police entry, with warrant, of a premises to execute a search for drugs was lawful, even though deception had been utilised to gain entry, and upon entering, the police had not identified themselves or shown the warrant.

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