This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Clear? Then Read It Again

If anyone wants a summary of how screwed up the Criminal Justice System is in this country, go to three different neighbouring police forces and ask them how they plan to implement the recent High Court ruling by Justice McCoombe, the story to be found here

Without boring my non-police readers, from time to time an important legal precedent is set in a High Court or above, and it becomes binding on all future cases.  In this case, the judge has overturned an interpretation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that has been in place since 1984 with no quibbles.  The decision could potentially transform the way the police have to deal with suspects who need to be bailed for further enquiries.

That in itself is one issue, and there's an informative debate on the repercussions on Inspector Gadget's blog.

What I find far more fascinating is that Blandshire has taken a totally different stance to other forces around it, and to Gadget's Ruralshire.  While Ruralshire has decided to wait and see what an appeal or emergency legislation might bring, Blandshire's legal department have told us to immediately implement the change, even though they don't quite understand what the change is or how it should be actioned.  

If the thought of police forces next door to each other taking such a radically different approach is mind-boggling, I booked a prisoner in last night and the custody sergeant  on the back desk hadn't yet logged into his email, and was unaware of any change at all.  Whereas the one at the front was already actioning it.

This inability to swiftly act on vital legal information is not new.  When our powers of arrest were totally overhauled in 2005, most of us were lucky if we got the link to the online training package, let alone any face-to-face input on our new powers.

To make matters worse, senior officers in Blandshire aren't even consistent in what they think the new precedent applies to: whilst the case in question clearly relates to those who are detained under a warrant of further detention issued by a court, our legal department has decided it applies to all prisoners.

Not only that, but the decision was actually made on 19th May 2011, but it's only this week that we're talking about it.  Members of the shift were most perturbed, on reporting for duty, to find that the PACE clock of people they bailed a couple of weeks ago has now run out, and it is now questionable whether they can be detained when they answer bail, whether for reinterview, charge, or re-bail.

Happy days if you are one of the numerous criminals whose general approach to custody in any case is to cooperate in no way with any aspect of the Criminal Justice process: you will now be rewarded by being released from your bail.  Unless you are arrested in Ruralshire, in which case you can look forwards to putting in your claim for compensation if the decision is upheld on appeal.

Our force strap-line may have to change from "Blandshire Constabulary - Keeping Communities Safe Whilst Observing Human Rights and Health and Safety", to "Blandshire Constabulary - We're a Bit Confused".

Watch this space.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Blogger TonyF said...

"We're a Bit Confused"

Is that an synonym for "screwed"?

28 June, 2011 17:22

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My force say this affects all detention. No more arresting and bailing. Anyone currently returning on bail has to be charged within 10 minutes or reported for summons at the front counter.

From now on, the whole investigation needs to be done to charging standards within 24 hours of arrest.

This at a time when there is no overtime.

My force's stand is based on ACPOs legal advice. Only in the UK!

28 June, 2011 18:19

Blogger Noddy said...

Meanwhile we have a constitutional nightmare in Scotland viz THIS

28 June, 2011 19:08

Anonymous ginnersinner said...

I've read the transcript, available here
Essentially the judge's view is that, if someone is bailed, it's in order to gain further evidence. If that evidence is forthcoming, then the person is re-arrested on fresh evidence as per PACE, and a new clock starts. If that evidence is not forthcoming, then the case is NFA'd. It doesn't actually appear to be as bad as people are suggesting. If you've collected your new evidence and the CPS have authorised charges, then the person's detention can be authorised under sec 37 Pace in order to charge them. It may not be as big a deal as we're all thinking.

28 June, 2011 21:08

Anonymous Paul UK said...

Here is the transcript from British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII)

I think the thing which is most relevant is in the Judges summing up.

"It seems to me however, for reasons identified, the consequences are not as severe as might be feared in impeding police investigations in the vast majority of cases. This is simply because in the usual case a suspect returning on bail will either be released because the evidence is not sufficient to warrant a charge or he will be re-arrested under statutory powers because new evidence has come to light. However, for the reasons that I have endeavoured to explain, the present application must be dismissed."

28 June, 2011 21:36

Anonymous Jimbob said...

This judgement clearly on applies to warrants of further detention issued by a Magistrates' Court. I have to say (as a serving PC) I think the actions of GMP are a little bit lax. You can't ask the Mags to extend detention one minute and then bail a couple of hours later. Either you need the extra custody time for expedient investigation or you bail with conditions and do your enquiries in slow time.

Any forces interpreting this as affecting the normal 24hrs or even a Supernintendo's extension are idiots. Oh and there's not been a peep about it in my force yet. Which just goes to highlight how Bloggs' is right about different approaches.

28 June, 2011 22:30

Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Probably the only thing you have ever been sincere about in your sad little life. Just remember capital"T"in Tang0 (and don't miss out the 0 to replace the o.

Re the op, the judge states specifically that it shouldn't affect bail, its just a pity that some of our custody sgts have chosen to misunderstand it. Stand by for a bunch of abuse of progress arguments when we get charging decisions for the scrotes that have been nfa'd rather than rebailed.

Tang0 (sic ;-)

29 June, 2011 09:17

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Tang0, it isn't custody sgts misunderstanding it, it's ACPO and CPS guidance.

30 June, 2011 18:40


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