Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

As this will be my final post for 2005, and will almost take me up to the blog's anniversary, I should have liked to look forward to the legal year ahead. The Serious Crime and Police Act 2005 comes into force tomorrow, and I had intended to talk about the changes that will follow down at the grubby end of the criminal justice system. Unfortunately I know nothing at all about it other that what I have gleaned from the Interweb, as I have had no training, nor even a memo, about these far-reaching changes. I suspect that my legal advisers, under pressure as they are, are no wiser than I.

As a layman I am cautious about venturing into serious law, but I did look up the Act here. It looks as if the power of arrest has been widened to cover pretty much any offence that a police officer thinks appropriate. How this will impact street-level manpower remains to be seen, bearing in mind that an arrest can take an officer out of circulation for many hours. The power granted to police by the issue of a Search Warrant has also changed radically, if I read aright. A warrant no longer needs to relate to a particular address, but can be broadened to anywhere that the suspect may have been connected with. The Laura Norder fan club who think that the unpleasantness of a police raid will never happen to them need to have a good think about this one. Let us imagine that a fraud is suspected at a business. The senior managers might all find their houses being turned upside down at 6 a.m., and their computers seized, in the search for information, even though there is no suspicion or evidence to implicate them.

It also looks (and I stress that I am just a layman so I stand to be corrected) as if powers of a constable are to be given to some administrators, and that even custody officers who authorize detention in police stations, need not necessarily be trained policemen.

It’s going to be yet another year in which the judges will have to intervene to protect the Englishman’s historical freedoms.

Happy New Year.

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