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.
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. -------------------------------------------------------------------------
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