Select Committee on Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence


Sections 560-579

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Wednesday 19 February 2003

560. LORD ELTON: Have there been occasions when it has been necessary for the parks police to call in the Metropolitan Police and, if so, when and for what reason?

(Mr Stratton) If there is any serious crime we would always call the Metropolitan Police and their specialist knowledge in dealing with serious crime is second to none and we would not wish to get involved with that. We would just call them in and leave it at that. If there was a break-in we would still inform the Metropolitan Pollie because they would want to come in the following day with their forensic people and carry out forensic tests. We see ourselves very much there, if you like, policing them on a minute-to-minute basis but where crime is committed we will call in the Metropolitan Police.

561. LORD ELTON: Thank you.

562. CHAIRMAN: So, in other words the arrests which are listed in the table, your parks constabulary would have made the original arrest and the person would have to be handed over to a Metropolitan Policeman?

(Mr Stratton) The person is arrested and then taken in a parks police vehicle to the Metropolitan Police at Battersea.

563. Thank you.

(Mr Stratton) Or the closest Metropolitan Police station.

564. LORD ELTON: At the beginning of the presentation we were told that there was uncertainty about the extent of the powers under the old London Authorities but I understand that now the powers relate only to offences under the bylaws, is that correct?

(Mr Stratton) That is correct, my Lord.

565. What power of arrest is used? I presume a break-in is not covered under a bylaw, it is covered under the statute, so what is the power of arrest then used?

(Mr Stratton) By and large, any person power.

566. CHAIRMAN: Citizen's arrest?

(Mr Stratton) There is a citizen's arrest. There is a section under PACE if people refuse to give their name and address when they have transgressed a bylaw The can be arrested for that

567. CHAIRMAN: Then taken to a Metropolitan Police Station. You have the power of arrest but not detention. Thank you.

568. MR LEWIS: Just going back on something you said, Mr Stratton, I think you said that the Metropolitan Police do not patrol the parks. Is that actually right or do they have a minimal patrol capacity or is really all of the patrolling done by the parks constabulary?

(Mr Stratton) Patrolling is done by the parks constabulary. If there is a large event which is either run by the Borough or by some outside organisation we would liaise with Metropolitan Police and explain to them what we believe their presence should be and we would request that presence. This is exceptional and it happens really at very large events such as the Borough Show, which is no more, or fireworks night where we might get 50,000 people in Battersea Park. While the parks police will look after inside Battersea Park there is a fairly substantial Metropolitan Police endeavour on the outside. Liaison between the two is very, very close.

569. MR LEWIS: Can you now explain why an increase in the parks constabulary powers is necessary?

(Mr Stratton) The parks constables patrol the parks open spaces, both in uniform and in plain clothes, in order to enforce bylaws, the criminal law and some traffic law and, of course, to reassure the public. They deal with a range of offences using the powers available to them, including vice related offences, offences involving drunkenness, violence, public order and lesser nuisance offences, including litter, dog fouling and cycling.

570. Historically there has been considerable confusion amongst the general public and colleagues in the Metropolitan Police regarding the limited and restricted powers available to parks constables and this has led to conflict and misunderstanding, and misunderstanding, on occasion, continues.

571. For example if a parks police officer take a prisoner to a police station following an arrest the Metropolitan Police officers are frequently, and unnecessarily, called back to the police station to rearrest the offender. This process causes resentment amongst the Metropolitan Police, who should be out on patrol, and the parks police officers. The efficiency and the effectiveness of both services is reduced.

572. If the parks police were provided with additional powers it would not be necessary to enlist the assistance of additional Metropolitan Police Officers, who are already a scarce resource in our Borough.

573. MR LEWIS: Could you now go on to explain the existing powers of the parks constables in more detail?

(Mr Stratton) They are empowered to enforce bylaws in parks and open spaces and if making an arrest use the power available to constables through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, section 25.

574. MR LEWIS: That is only in relation to bylaw offences?

(Mr Stratton) That is correct. The general arrest conditions are that the name of the relevant person is unknown and cannot be readily ascertained by the constable and the constable has reasonable grounds to doubt whether a name furnished by the relevant person as his name is his real name and that the relevant person has failed to furnish a satisfactory address.

575. In addition the parks police use powers available to any person under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 section 24(4) and (5). Parks constables also use the powers available to any person provided by statute. For example, any person may arrest an offender for an offence of being drunk and disorderly.

576. It is important to note that the powers available to constables generally, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act section 24(6) and (7), in other words reasonable grounds are not available to parks constables and this reduces the effectiveness of the service to the public and results in additional work for the Metropolitan Police.

577. To be more specific, where a parks constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that an arrestable offence has been committed he or she cannot arrest the person they believe to be guilty of the offence as this power is only available to constables.

578. MR LEWIS: And you mean police constables?

(Mr Stratton) In addition a parks policeman cannot arrest a person who is about to commit an arrestable offence or any person who he or she has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an arrestable offence.

579. MR LEWIS: The offence has had to have been committed.

(Mr Stratton) And witnessed by the parks constable. This anomaly can result in offenders going free and others, in particular Metropolitan Police Officers, being put in danger as the power to detain and search is not available to the parks police. When the offender is taken to Metropolitan Police he may well still be armed.


 
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