London Local Authorities Bill [HL]
Wednesday 19 February 2003
620. MR LEWIS: Could you name the other three boroughs
that have the strategy?
(Mr Stratton) The Royal Borough of Chelsea
and Kensington, Sutton and Newham, Greenwich Parks Police was
formed but it has been disbanded for about two years, again their
training was carried out by us.
621. CHAIRMAN: Could I just ask a question, I was
going to ask which other boroughs did have similar forces to your
own, you have mentioned training, you said that most of them,
apart from Hammersmith and Fulham, have been conducted by yourself.
How could we be assured if this power was spread across London
that there would indeed be uniform standards within all of the
different boroughs of Wandsworth to do this? Is there anything
in the Bill? Perhaps a direct question to you, Mr Stratton, if
you see what I am getting at?
(Mr Stratton) My Lord, those parks police
organisations or local authorities, and some are outside London,
who are currently considering going down the same avenue as we
have all come to Wandsworth to discuss how they should set about
it and how they should carry out their training.
622. It is my intention in the near future not to
create an association of parks police constabularies but something
similar so that like minds can sit down and certainly annually
talk together about various issues.
623. The training is pretty standard amongst all
of us and I would certainly wish to see that standardisation continue.
If a local authority did not want to have the powers that they
are proposing there is no reason why they should. There is no
reason why they should go to a Magistrate and be sworn in as a
constable. If the local authority abuses the power then that must
be for the courts to resolve. I cannot see that a local authority
in this day and age would take on and wish to have a constabulary
without having such a constabulary well trained, wanted and financed
by the community, answerable to the community and able to carry
out their functions in as good and able a way as Wandsworth Parks
624. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. We have a number of questions
I do not know whether now is the best time to ask them.
625. MR LEWIS: I was going to ask Mr Ausling to briefly
go through a few recent examples where deficiencies have been
highlighted. I do not think that will take very long. Maybe questions
can follow of the two witnesses. Then perhaps Deputy Assistant
Commissioner House could come and answer questions after that.
626. CHAIRMAN: What about the Home Office?
627. MR LEWIS: Of course. I am in your hands as to
who goes first.
628. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps we will hear from Mr Ausling.
629. MR LEWIS: For Mr Ausling we have another document
to hand in. It is a short, two page document where Mr Ausling
has listed 7 recent examples which give you a demonstration of
the sort of activities carried out by parks constables and also
will hopefully explain how the Bill could help to have made some
of these situations a little easier to deal with. If you can go
through each example.
630. My Lords, I ought first to introduce Mr Ausling
so that he can be on the record and explain to your Lordships
who he is and what he does in Wandsworth.
MR DAVID AUSLING
Examined by MR LEWIS
631. MR LEWIS: Mr Ausling?
(Mr Ausling) My Lords, up until August 1998
I was a serving officer with the Metropolitan Police. I served
there for some 33 years and at the time of my retirement I was
in charge of one of the busiest child protection teams in the
Metropolitan Police area, the Croydon and Sutton team. Before
that, during my 33 years I spent 30 of those years as an operational
detective working for 15 years on the Metropolitan and Civic Police
Company Fraud Department and working in other departments that
work very closely with the Crown Prosecution Service.
632. Having retired for a short while, in May 1999
I took up post with the local authority, Wandsworth, as their
Legal and Training Officer. The job has digressed slightly since
I have been there, and I have taken on other responsibilities,
but still basically my core tasks are that of Legal Adviser to
the parks police service and to assist and co-ordinate and give
training as and where necessary.
633. MR LEWIS: If you would like to go through certain
(Mr Ausling) My Lords, I have gone through
our records and taken some examples of arrests that have been
effected by the parks police in the last 12 to 14 months. The
first item I have mentioned there was of public interest towards
the end of last year, when the offenders were successfully prosecuted.
It started in one of the car parks on Tooting Common, close to
the Lido. Two officers patrolling on night duty saw a van parked
in one of the car parks. Looking rather suspicious, they started
to make some inquiries about the vehicle and realised that there
were a number of youths inside. Initial inquiries revealed that
the vehicle was of interest to the Metropolitan Police, that the
youths inside had possibly been involved in a racist incident
earlier that evening and the officers chose to speak to the youths
to find out the reasons why they were parked up on the Common.
634. Eventually the Metropolitan Police officers
arrived, searched the vehicle and it was found that the youths
had a number of weapons and other items with them and it was their
intention at some stage, during the course of the night, to abduct
an Asian or Muslim person and commit him to some form of abuse
or assault. In this instance, my Lords, the powers of parks police
were somewhat restricted because they did not have any powers
to officially stop and search the vehicle or its occupants, nor
could they arrest the occupants on suspicion of committing any
crime, although they were intent on doing something during the
course of the night.
635. MR LEWIS: In other words, they could have just
driven off and there was nothing the constables could have done
(Mr Ausling) That is absolutely correct, my
Lords. In fact, what the constables did here was park the vehicle
across the entrance to the car park which would have prevented
these people from escaping. My Lords, the second incident that
I have highlighted is early one Saturday morning two of the parks
police dog handlers were patrolling the borough visiting various
open spaces and they saw two youths attempting to start and were
seen pushing a motor vehicle away. As soon as the youths saw the
officers they ran off but they were stopped and detained. It was
later established that the vehicle had been previously stolen
by the two youths and they were attempting to re-start it for
another day's joy-riding around the borough. Here there was a
power of arrest which the officers effectively used, and that
was defined within Section 24 of PACE because they actually found
the people committing the offence at the time and they had reasonable
grounds to suspect that the persons had committed the arrestable
offence. The third item here is one summer's evening last year
two parks police officers whilst on patrol in Battersea Park came
upon - for want of a better phrase - a hue and cry. A number of
younger males were chasing three older black males on mountain
bikes. Initial investigation revealed that one of the youths had
gone to one of the pursuing group, punched him a number of times
in the face and body, pushed him off his cycle and robbed him
of it. A chase ensued and eventually the youth was arrested and
charged with robbery. Here the officers had no problems with their
powers. In fact, they had evidence of reasonable grounds to suspect
that the person was guilty of the offence by virtue of Section
24(5)(b) as set down in PACE.
636. On another occasion during the summer a young
woman was walking through Battersea Park. She was accosted by
a youth who immediately indecently assaulted her. He then stole
items of her personal property and made off into the park. The
park police were called, and she with the officers toured the
park in a parks police vehicle and later positively identified
the young offender. The youth was arrested but suddenly the victim
refused to substantiate the allegation and subsequently the youth
was released without charge. If it had not been for the positive
identification being made and working on the grounds as previously
mentioned, the officers had no power to arrest this offender on
suspicion of having committed the two offences which had taken
637. On another occasion during the busy Chelsea
Flower Show week last year two officers were patrolling traffic
in the park where the park is used for car parking during the
show. Again, their attention was drawn to a security officer who
was chasing two men into the park. The two men went to ground
in bushes and under parked vehicles and it was established from
the security officer that he believed strongly that they had committed
a burglary in a nearby office complex. As a result of this the
parks police officers actually detained the people, arrested pending
the arrival of the Metropolitan Police. It is interesting here,
perhaps, again, to mention that if the parks police had full powers
they could have arrested the persons on suspicion of having committed
a burglary, not just relying on the evidence of the security officer
which, at the time, was slightly scant as his attention had been
drawn to the two men by other people in the building. During an
evening in August a youth was seen walking through Battersea Park
by one of the parks police safety instructors. The officer noticed
that possibly the youth had with him a knife-like object protruding
from his waistband. The officer here, having no powers to actually
stop and search the person, merely engaged the youth in conversation.
As a result of which the youth handed over a four-inch, bladed
knife that he was carrying with him. The youth was arrested and
subsequently taken to the police station and charged. Again the
issue here is one of stop and search.
638. MR LEWIS: In that case it was a matter of pure
luck that the chap decided he would engage in conversation, but
you have no powers to engage him in conversation.
(Mr Ausling) That is correct, my Lords. Finally,
mention has been made by Mr Stratton of the drink-drive problem.
Early one morning over the Christmas period last year there are
a number of scheduled events which take place on the British Genius
Site. Parks police were policing this very large event in the
early hours of one morning, and a man left the tented structure,
obviously the worst for wear for drink. He was seen to get into
his wife's brand new Lotus sports car and then proceeded to give
a display of wheel-spins and handbrake turns in the car park.
He lost control of the vehicle, crashed through a fence and ended
up embedded in one of the trees in the park. Parks police officer
went over and took the uninjured person from the car and merely
had to detain him - hold on to him, for want of a better phrase
- until the Metropolitan Police arrived to apply the breath-test,
where they arrested him for a drink-drive matter. In recent years
parks police have been involved in many such incidents within
the park where people have attended events and tried to drive
off. Sadly, I have to say that on one recent occasion officers
were forced to let a person go because the Metropolitan Police
could not respond to a call for assistance and they felt it abusive
to detain this person for much longer.
639. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr Ausling.