Powers of Entry, Search, Seizure and Inspection

Deals with police powers to enter and search a private property and to seize and retain property found on the premises or a person within the premises . In order to conduct searches lawfully they are required to seek permission to enter the building, declare the reasons why they wish to do so and seek further permission to conduct a search. If they are unable to do these or believe that doing so will jeopardise the case, the police are required to seek a warrant in advance of conducting a search.

These elements of the act are certainly aimed at protecting the human rights of any suspects or anyone related to a suspect. Despite this, however, David Brown’s research into the effectiveness of PACE, Ten Years On, revealed that, “It is doubtful whether all searches are conducted on the basis of reasonable suspicion”. Such a finding certainly implies that PACE is not entirely successful in ensuring investigations are conducted in a just manner; if there is no real reason to suspect an individual why are these searches being conducted?

PACE Code C: Detention and Interrogation PACE Code C determines the requirements for detaining suspects and the treatment and questioning of them thereafter and is perhaps one of the most frequently debated parts of the legislation. Detention and questioning powers formed a key component of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure report, which detailed three components that were required to be present in order to ensure that detention and questioning were carried out in an approved manner; fairness, openness and workability .

The aim of these was to ensure that detainees’ rights were made clear to them and honoured, that all decisions made by the police were recorded and communicated to the detainee and that the police should be clear and transparent in their actions. Through protecting the rights of the detainees it was hoped that the increased police powers provided by PACE would be balanced and thus a fair and just system fostered. There remains a great deal of debate however, as to whether or not this has been truly achieved.

One key element of the process is the role of the Custody Officer, who is charged with admitting the suspect and overseeing the conditions of his/her retention. However, the effectiveness of this role has been questioned on numerous occasions and many studies have established that Custody Officers will often be bias towards the Police Officers as a result of social relationships . Brown’s research findings supported this and he ascertained that the admission of a prisoner was rarely questioned by police and thus there was a failing on behalf of Custody Officers to adequately uphold the prisoners’ rights.

One of the most important rights afforded to detainees under the PACE legislation is the right to legal representation and advice. Whilst the police have the right to delay an individual’s access to representation by up to 36 hours, this is intended to be an exception to the norm and should only be enforced in circumstances whereby it is believed that access to a solicitor will impinge upon evidence. Research conducted by Sanders et al however, reveals that in up to 25% of cases they studies access to a solicitor was delayed .

A number of cases have emerged that support these research findings and suggest that police purposely delay legal representation without due cause. An example of this can be found in the case of R v Samuel (1988) where the defendant, who was arrested for robbery, requested the services of a solicitor but was refused on the grounds that the case involved other potential charges that solicitor involvement may jeopardise.

A solicitor, who was informed of Samuel’s incarceration by his family, also had his request for access to his client refused on the same grounds. Sammuel eventually confessed to the crimes and was convicted. However, his sentence was overturned by the Court of Appeal on the basis that he had been denied access to a solicitor and thus the appropriate legal advice he may need before making such an admission of guilt.

A further example can be observed in the case of R v Absolam (1988) where a previous court decision was overturned on the basis that the accused had not been informed of his right to a solicitor. In the latter case the issue of knowledge of rights raises its head. Whilst PACE is aimed at improving the fairness upon which investigations and completed, it is often the case that the suspect themselves require knowledge of what their rights under the act actually are. Without this knowledge the intentions of the act may not be realised.