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Arrests for all offences proposed

community socialist | 12.08.2004 21:31 | Repression | Social Struggles | Liverpool

All offences could prompt arrest under Home Office proposals

Police in England and Wales could be given powers to arrest people for minor offences such as graffiti or litter.

Police can currently arrest people only for crimes with sentences of at least five years, meaning breach of the peace is often used as a "catch all" offence.

A Home Office consultation paper also proposes to allow drug tests of people when arrested, and to make it easier to search suspects and their property.

Home Office minister Hazel Blears says the aim is to modernise police powers.

But shadow home secretary David Davis dismissed the proposals as "another headline grabbing initiative from a gimmick crazy home secretary".

All offences to be arrestable
Search warrants to cover more than one property, one search and to stay in force longer
Community Support Officers to get range of new powers, including to search detainees
Drug tests allowed on arrest rather than only when a suspect is charged
Fixed penalty fines to pay for more use of automatic number plate recognition technology
New offence of having an incorrectly registered vehicle
New power to stop and search under-18s suspected of carrying fireworks
Allow police to take DNA, fingerprints, shoeprints covertly

Key points of police plans
The measures are now out for consultation, with comments invited by the Home Office until 8 October.

Under the new plans, all offences including minor "anti-social behaviour" ones could in theory lead to an arrest, but there would be strict guidelines to determine when an arrest was appropriate.

Officials described their consultation document as a "tidying-up exercise" which would resolve confusion over the law, rather than result in many more arrests.

"What we are saying here is that in future all offences will be arrestable but that does not necessarily mean that everybody will be arrested because there will be a necessity test," Ms Blears told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"A constable could come upon an offence and he might not be sure whether it is arrestable or not. In future that would be very clear.

I have yet to hear any serious voice in policing in this country say that the problem the police faces is that they don't have powers to arrest people for dropping litter

Shami Chakrabarti

Head to head: Wider arrest powers

"The range of offences on the statute book, some are serious arrestable offences, some are prosecutable by a summons - that's the way our legal system is .

"We are saying [we could make] every offence arrestable but what we are also saying is that you have to show that it was necessary in these circumstances," she added.


But Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said it was "disproportionate" to make offences which could not carry a prison sentence arrestable.

What is the point? I've not seen a policeman on the streets in ages.

Gary Davey, Colchester

Send us your comments

The broader the powers the police were given, the more they were used in an arbitrary and racially discriminatory manner, she claimed.

"I have yet to hear any serious voice in policing in this country say that the problem the police faces is that they don't have powers to arrest people for dropping litter," she told Today.

Keith Taylor, Principal Speaker of the Green Party, said: "These proposals are the latest in a series of attacks on civil liberties by a government that already monitors its citizens more closely than any in Britain's history."

Civilian wardens

The government is also considering allowing police to test anyone they have arrested for drugs, regardless of whether they have been charged with an offence.

Police believe that testing suspects at an earlier stage would help isolate drug users more efficiently.

The paper also proposed giving more powers to community support officers.

They could get greater powers to direct traffic, tackle beggars, search people for weapons and enforce bylaws, so that police officers were free to concentrate on front-line duties, the consultation paper said.

We hope that by having a full range of powers available to us, we can deal effectively with antisocial behaviour, be one step ahead of the criminal

Chief Constable Denis O'Connor
Association of Chief Police Officers

Police could also have the power to fingerprint drivers at the roadside, as well as at police stations.

The Home Office suggests changes the way search warrants work so they would be granted for any address connected to a suspect, not just a single address.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said it had not asked for all offences to be made arrestable, although there was a need to rationalise some powers and strengthen others.

A spokesman said making minor offences arrestable could act as a deterrent as it sent a strong message to perpetrators.

Acpo vice president Chief Constable Denis O'Connor welcomed the consultation on the power to take fingerprints by the roadside and take footwear impressions without consent.

But he sounded a "note of caution" on plans to extend the powers of community safety officers.

"We hope that by having a full range of powers available to us, we can deal effectively with antisocial behaviour, be one step ahead of the criminal and give people the confidence to live safely," he added.


community socialist


Hide the following 5 comments

600 new offences since this government first came to power

12.08.2004 22:24

The time is short my friends
We are all being herded
Enumerate the strikes back



13.08.2004 10:51

I reckon George Orwell must be turning in his grave at this Stalinist repression.


George Orwell - notorious anti-communist and agent of the state!

13.08.2004 11:52

The 'Moderate' (sounding like a pro-capitalist) wrote:

"I reckon George Orwell must be turning in his grave at this Stalinist repression."

George Orwell, the notorious anti-communist and state agent? More likely he'll
be pleased to believe socialism and communism have been defeated by imperialism,
if only in the short-term.

Kai Andersen
mail e-mail:


13.08.2004 12:34

A NEW INVENTION - They are called telescreens, and they are 100% interactive screens which you can watch, and which watch you! This will help us fight terror, and all those nasty Asylum Seekers. THey also give you wake up calls...the government expects every household to have one by 2005.

Mr. Blunkett

It's a fair cop?

18.08.2004 21:41

Am I being more paranoid than usual, but is this not just going to lead to everyone (people 12 ~ 40ish and not conventional looking) likely to be arrested finger printed and DNA’d over the next few years?

Further consider that the high court has ruled that it is ok to keep DNA samples even if a conviction is not secured.

Further still given that we are, it seems, likely to all have to carry ID I find this totally horrifying.

I’m sure it will be backed up by some ballcocks about terrorists lurking behind every dropped fag end but the likely outcome is that not only is big brovver tracking your mobile phone, logging your credit card purchases but now has a copy of your dna.

The only comforting factors that I can see are that some multi national is likely to win the contract under PPI and inevitably fork it up, and, people refreshed and empowered from the recent GM win will do summat to turn back the tide.

beyond cheese butties