A nervous disposition
Five years on from the Crime and Security Act of 2010, the Home Office submitted, at the end of last year, a preliminary assessment of the operation of Act. Amongst other things, the Act covers: stop and search; domestic violence; retention, use, destruction of biometric data; gang-related violence; ASBOs; private security; and prison security. In a memorandum to the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Home Office set out the overriding objectives of the Act:
It confirmed that in its view the “majority of the Act’s measures have been implemented and have yielded positive results”.
The memorandum acknowledged that whilst many of the provisions included in the Act have been subsequently replaced or superseded by other legislation in the interim period, areas which continue to be monitored by the Act are: the taking of fingerprints and samples; domestic and gang-related violence, prison security, air weapons and compensation of victims of overseas terrorism. The Home Office seeks to persuade MPs that these provisions “largely met the original objectives of the policy.”
Stop and Search
A provision was made for the police in relation to stop and search powers, which allows the search record to become a part of the custody record and reduces the number of items to be recorded. This is deemed to have saved police time, although figures vary from force to force.
Fingerprints and non-intimate samples
The Act provides police with the powers to take fingerprints and non-intimate samples from those arrested, charged or convicted of a recordable offence, and from offenders convicted overseas of “qualifying” offences. Section 5 allows speculative searches against databases to include DNA samples and fingerprints and s.2 allows the police to retain the biometric data of more individuals than was possible in the past. The memorandum states that figures published in the National DNA Database Strategy Board Annual Report 1009/11 showed the biometric data retained for 11 people convicted for criminal damage, went on to commit murder. There were no figures available for the additional number of crimes solved as a result of this section of the Act and, therefore, it is unclear whether it has achieved policy objectives. However, speculative searches conducted under s.5 were regarded as “invaluable” with 24,953 routine and 214 urgent matches.
Sections 24-33 deal with domestic violence, allowing the police to issue a domestic violence protection notice (“DVPN”) and magistrates to grant domestic violence protection orders (“DVPO”). A DVPO was intended for use where there is insufficient evidence to charge by preventing the perpetrator from attending a residence and having contact with the complainant for up to 28 days, thus allowing the complainant to consider available options. DVPNs are issued by police where there is reasonable belief that violent or threatening behaviour has occurred and it is necessary to protect the victim from further violence. An application to the magistrates for a DVPO must be heard no later than 48 hours after the DVPN has been issued. A pilot ran from July 2011 to September 2012 in three police forces (Greater Manchester, West Mercia and Wiltshire) and found that DVPOs succeeded by reducing re-victimisation.
The Act extended the use of injunctions for the purposes of preventing gang-related violence to people under the age of 18, and allowing the court to make a supervision or detention order where an injunction is breached. Only two occasions of such an injunction having been taken out against a person under 18 was known about at the time the memorandum was drafted.
Recorded crime on the up?
Recently released crime figures in England and Wales for the year ending September 2015 show an increase of 6% in police recorded crime compared with the previous year amounting to 4.3 million offences. The rise is thought to be down to an improvement in the compliance with national recording standards, resulting in a greater proportion of reports of crime being recorded.
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