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Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE)

Volume 458: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2007

Last July the Home Secretary announced his intention to review the criminal justice system to ensure that there was the correct balance in favour of the law-abiding majority and the victim, and to ensure that offenders are properly and effectively punished.

The police service is the point of entry to the criminal justice system and we must have proportionate and balanced powers to allow the investigation of crime and criminality and sufficient enforcement powers to deal with those who break the law.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 was introduced to standardise and professionalise police work. It provides a core framework of police powers and safeguards around stop and search, arrest, detention, investigation, identification and interviewing suspects.

However, PACE has been subject to continued change since it was first introduced. There is now a need for rationalisation. We know from stakeholders and practitioners that PACE has become unduly complex and bureaucratic.

That is why the Government are announcing today the formal launch of the review of PACE. This is a major and significant programme of work examining one of the fundamental statutes of our criminal justice system. The review will look to examine how we can:

Re-focus the investigation and evidence gathering process on serving the needs of the victim and the witness

Reduce unnecessary bureaucracy

Help tackle re-offending

Raise police efficiency and effectiveness

Increase the ability for police officers to be engaged in operational frontline activities

Rather than set out detailed ideas we may have, we are inviting stakeholders, practitioners and the public to let us know what they consider needs to be changed, amended or introduced.

Based on the results of that exercise we will discuss the findings from the public consultation through bilateral meetings, group meetings and forums with stakeholders and practitioners.

When that exercise is completed around the end of 2007, we will then put the final proposals back out on public consultation. That is expected around spring 2008.

I very much hope and welcome constructive proposals and suggestions on what we can do to help make sure that victims and witnesses are at the heart of the system and that their interests are paramount.