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PACE (Codes of Practice Revision)

Volume 569: debated on Monday 21 October 2013

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has today laid an order under section 67(7A) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (‘PACE’) which brings into operation amended versions of six of the PACE codes. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Revision of Codes A, B, C, E, F and H) Order 2013 will bring these revisions into operation on 27 October.

The codes which have been revised are A (stop and search), B (search of premises and seizure of property), C (detention of suspects), E (audio recording of interviews), F (visual recording of interviews) and H (detention of terrorism suspects). The revised codes have been laid before the House today and have all been subject to statutory consultation as required under section 67(4) of PACE. I will place a copy of the Government response to consultation in the Library of the House. Copies of the revised codes are available from the Vote Office.

The main changes to code A are the removal of references to stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 as a consequence of the introduction of amended terrorism stop and search powers in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and an associated statutory code of practice. Powers under the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (‘TPIMS Act’) which are outside the scope of the terrorism stop and search code but which are subject to sections 2 and 3 of PACE have been added. Annex F (on gender and searching) has been deleted and superseded by annex L in code C.

Code B has been amended to include the powers under schedule 5 to the TPIMS Act to enter and search premises. We are also clarifying the default period within which a search warrant issued under PACE must be executed.

Both codes A and B are being amended in line with section 48 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 which reduced the threshold for searching individuals on school premises for weapons from having a reasonable belief to having a reasonable suspicion.

Revisions to codes C and H follow from two legal obligations. The first is to transpose the legal obligations in the European Union directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings into UK domestic legislation. The amendments clarify and make explicit the requirement to ensure that suspects who need help to communicate with officers, and to understand the reasons for their detention in custody and the charges laid against them, are given access to an interpreter and written translations of documents as necessary. These revisions do not affect Welsh language schemes. The transposition date for the directive is 27 October 2013.

The second change to codes C and H is to comply with the High Court ruling in the judicial review HC v. (1) Secretary of State for the Home Department and (2) Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. In compliance with the ruling, we are extending to 17-year-olds the current requirement that 10 to l6-year-olds detained in police custody are provided with an appropriate adult to assist them, and that a person responsible for their welfare (usually a parent or guardian) is informed.

Codes E and F are being amended to include new provisions for the conduct and recording of voluntary interviews of suspects who are not under arrest. These provide for a sergeant to be responsible for such interviews and for giving the authority for them not to be audio recorded. They also correct a number of cross-references to the code of practice for the video recording of interviews of terrorist detainees, and make amendments concerning the security of master interview recordings, in order to ensure consistency between codes E and F and the new terrorism code.

The amendments to the codes are required in order to achieve consistency and to comply with domestic and EU legislation as well as the High Court ruling. As such, I consider these revisions to be straightforward and consequential rather than controversial.

We have sought and secured the agreement of the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), as Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, that these straightforward and consequential revisions to the codes might be brought into force, as per section 67(7A) of PACE, without the approval of a resolution by each House and there will, therefore, be no debate on the floor of the House.

This overall package of revision to the codes will strengthen, clarify and embed the safeguards available to the public where the police exercise their powers.