Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Ms Prentice: I see the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but if that big event is taking place in Brighton, and there is only one police car to cover the other three areas anyway, there are not enough police officers either. At least the presence of a CSO on the streets would reduce the possibility of crime in the first place.

Norman Baker: I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady, but they should not have the power of detention, which would exacerbate the situation. Having a CSO on the streets will help, and I am fully in support of that. I want to see CSOs on the streets, but they do not need that power of detention.

The Minister talked about the police's power of arrest and the discretion used by officers. Of course, CSOs should use discretion; that point was well made by the Minister and I accept it. However, it often happens that police do not make arrests or bring

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people into detention for that reason. They are confronted with 30 or 40 people and they have to deal with that. The way to deal with it is not to deal with it until reinforcements come, which is very sensible. CSOs may not necessarily have that same level of training from the two or three weeks that they have.

It is clear that there are many question marks about the power to detain. The power to detain was removed on a cross-party basis in the House of Lords. It has been opposed by ACPO, by different shire authorities throughout the country, and by Liberal Democrats and Conservatives today. I believe it is a step too far. I hope that the Government will think again about the power because I am confident from what I understand of the situation that there is unlikely to be a change of mind in the Lords if the Government insist on reinserting the provision here in the Commons. Having said that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 169, in page 35, line 14, leave out subsection (10)—[Mr. Denham.]

Clause 35, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4

Powers exercisable by police civilians

Amendment made: No. 170, in page 123, line 34, leave out 'under section 35'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Amendment proposed: No. 171, in page 124, line 20, at end insert—

    'Power to detain etc.

    1A (1) This paragraph applies if a designation applies it to any person.

    (2) Where that person has reason to believe that another person has committed a relevant offence in the relevant police area, he may require that other person to give him his name and address.

    (3) Where, in a case in which a requirement under sub-paragraph (2) has been imposed on another person—

    (a) that other person fails to comply with the requirement, or

    (b) the person who imposed the requirement has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the other person has given him a name or address that is false or inaccurate,

    the person who imposed the requirement may require the other person to wait with him, for a period not exceeding thirty minutes, for the arrival of a constable.

    (4) A person who has been required under sub-paragraph (3) to wait with a person to whom this Part of this Schedule applies may, if requested to do so, elect that (instead of waiting) he will accompany the person imposing the requirement to a police station in the relevant police area.

    (5) A person who—

    (a) fails to comply with a requirement under sub-paragraph (2),

    (b) makes off while subject to a requirement under sub-paragraph (3), or

    (c) makes off while accompanying a person to a police station in accordance with an election under sub-paragraph (4),

    is guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

    (6) In this paragraph ''relevant offence'', in relation to a person to whom this paragraph applies, means any offence which is—

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    (a) a relevant fixed penalty offence for the purposes of the application of paragraph 1 to that person; or

    (b) an offence the commission of which appears to that person to have caused—

    (i) injury, alarm or distress to any other person; or

    (ii) the loss of, or any damage to, any other person's property;

    but a designation applying this paragraph to any person may provide that an offence is not to be treated as a relevant offence by virtue of paragraph (b) unless it satisfies such other conditions as may be specified in the designation.'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 7.

Division No. 8]

AYES
Baird, Vera
Borrow, Mr. David
Challen, Mr. Colin
Denham, Mr. John
Follett, Barbara
Heppell, Mr. John
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Lucas, Ian
Munn, Ms Meg
Prentice, Bridget
Stinchcombe, Mr. Paul

NOES
Baker, Norman
Brooke, Annette
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Osborne, Mr. George
Paice, Mr. James

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 172, in page 124, line 22, leave out 'under section 35'.

No. 173, in page 124, line 28, leave out '2' and insert '1A'.

No. 174, in page 124, line 33, leave out 'under section 35'.

No. 175, in page 124, line 43, leave out '2' and insert '1A'.

No. 176, in page 125, line 2, leave out '2(2)' and insert '1A(2)'.

No. 177, in page 125, line 7, leave out '2' and insert '1A'.

No. 178, in page 125, line 12, leave out 'under section 35'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Mrs. Annette L. Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole): I beg to move amendment No. 45, in page 125, line 21, at end insert—

    '(2) This paragraph shall only apply where a designated person reasonably suspects that the person to whom section 12 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (c.16) (alcohol consumption in public places) applies has not attained the age of 18.'.

The Chairman: With this we may discuss amendment No. 29, in schedule 5, page 136, line 37, at end insert—

    '(2) This paragraph shall only apply when an accredited person reasonably suspects that the person to whom section 12 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (c. 16) (alcohol consumption in public places) applies has not attained the age of 18.'.

Mrs. Brooke: This is an important issue on which we have already touched, and I shall be careful not to repeat the arguments that have already been put.

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We are all aware of the enormous problems that alcohol abuse causes for the individual, the community and society, and it is undoubtedly a major contributor to antisocial behaviour. One of the amendments applies to CSOs and the other to accredited community safety officers, and their purpose is to distinguish between the treatment of minors and adults. Given my experience of these matters, I shall put the case rather strongly. I also want to make the point that this is an issue on which we can think about the great strengths of both community support officers and community safety officers.

I have been a local councillor for a very long time and I represent a relatively affluent ward in which alcohol abuse by young people is a big problem.

Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell): Will the hon. Lady address the question of how a designated officer can ascertain the age of an alleged minor if they cannot detain them for a short while?

Mrs. Brooke: I shall come to the question of age, but first I want to make some points of principle.

I am endeavouring to speak strongly in support of the use of community support officers. A few years ago there was a situation in my ward that was totally out of control. It involved more than 100 young people who had bottles of vodka and every other expensive spirit of which one can think. Young people were swinging from trees and, sadly, police officers had to be brought in from other areas, which was bad news for them, because the situation was totally out of control. It would have been a tremendous advantage to have had community support officers or, in the case of minors, community safety officers.

A multi-agency approach is necessary in such situations, particularly when young people are involved. A lot of training is required, even when dealing with minors, to treat such situations satisfactorily. I welcome the extra support as far as minors are concerned because innocent young people can be tempted into binge drinking, which can make them seriously ill unless adults are around. There are many strong reasons why an extra presence will be helpful in dealing with a major problem for society that is a feature in my part of the world.

I would appreciate help from the Minister with an issue that is, perhaps, an aside, but which may have relevance to the debate. Our local police superintendent told me that one of his greatest frustrations in dealing with under-age drinking was that his police officers are able to take open containers of alcohol and just tip the contents away on the spot but, if a container has not been opened, they must confiscate it, take it to the police station and deal with a lot of paperwork. Again, I can see how support officers might help at that point. Often, just to add insult to injury, the parents will come and collect the alcohol. It would be useful to know whether community support officers would improve that situation for everyone concerned, because it seems an inordinate amount of work to do in dealing with a situation with minors.

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However, I wish to move on to the main subject of the amendments, which is adults. I acknowledge the intervention of the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Mr. Challen). I believe that community support officers can deal with minors in a park in the middle of a residential area. However, just outside my constituency, on the quayside, there are many public houses, very close together, and many outside areas where drinking takes place. I do not think that it would be practical to send community support officers into such a situation, particularly in the early hours of the morning. That is one of the most severe problems in my area, and senior police officers are always needed to deal with it. A distinction must be made between drinking situations involving minors and those involving adults. They are different in many ways.

To pick up on the hon. Gentleman's point, the amendment says ''reasonably suspects.'' I accept that it is exceedingly difficult to judge whether someone is 17 or 18, but the issue must be covered. It may be that the amendment is not phrased as it should be to deal with it, but I am sure that the Minister can address that. I agree that a judgment would have to be made, but the principle has been addressed by hon. Members.

The situation that I described of heavy, sometimes riotous drinking down on the quay is not for low-level policing. Dealing with it requires considerable skills, training and experience and, as has been said before, we would undermine all the pluses of bringing in civilians if we put them in confrontational situations that are very difficult to handle. I anticipate the reply that, in such a case, one would send police officers out. However, I do not think that the situation in my part of the world is quite as it is in London, because we would be very fortunate to get a policeman out in half an hour. There is a shortage: at night, there are sometimes only three patrol cars on duty. It is very tight. Yes, we need extra resourcing, but community support officers cannot deal with such difficult matters. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the amendments and to my queries.

 
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