Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News and other Busyness

Wider Powers Given To Police In New Act

Your Squall guide to the Police Act 1997

Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 11.

IN FEBRUARY this year, Jack Straw had meetings with Michael Howard in order to make sure the Police Act reached statute before the general election. On March 27th, in the last five minutes of House of Commons business, the Act was waved through along with 27 others.

The Police Act 1997, which still requires implementation by the new Labour Government, contains powers which:

1) Establish a National Crime Squad (NCS) for England and Wales which will investigate organised and serious crime* occurring across force boundaries within England and Wales and also abroad. It will also support individual forces in investigations into serious crime.

2) Puts the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), previously part of the Home Office, on a UKwide statutory footing, allowing it to develop its role in collecting and analysing criminal intelligence to tackle serious and organised crime. Independent authorities will be created to maintain the National Crime Squad and NCIS.

3) Puts 'intrusive surveillance' operations by the police and customs on a statutory basis, thereby increasing the admissibility of intrusive surveillance information in court. Police and customs will only be required to seek prior approval from a special commissioner for authorisations in cases involving private dwellings, legal privilege, journalistic or medical confidentiality and spiritual counselling - except in cases of "urgency". The team of special commissioners, made up of three high court judges, will also oversee the arrangements and investigate complaints. They will report annually to parliament but will not be required to mention anything which will prejudice an ongoing investigation.

4) Enables a Criminal Records Agency to supply information to individuals and registered bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, this will be undertaken by the Scottish Criminal Records Agency. A code of practice will be introduced for employers eligible to seek full checks. This allows employers in selected professions to request a copy of a person's criminal record before employing them.

5) Puts the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) - previously part of the Home Office - on an independent statutory footing.

* 'serious crime' is defined by the Act as that which carries a three year sentence or more for a first time, over 21, offender, or that which “involves violence, results in gain or is conduct by a number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose".