Saturday, 19 December 2015

Arrested and refused to give names and addresses ~ Police Reform Act 2002 section 50 ~ charges discontinued.

On 9th November I blogged about three individuals who had been charged with failing to provide their names and addresses to the Police - Law and Lawyers - Arrested and refused to give names - DailyMail complains that they got unconditional bail.

The Police Reform Act 2002 section 50 created a NON-imprisonable summary offence.  It is triable only in the Magistrates' Court and carries a maximum penalty of a fine of £1000 (Level 3).

The three were granted unconditional bail and a trial date set for next year.  It is now reported that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has discontinued proceedings against them due to "evidential grounds" - see Daily Mail 19th December.   No further detail is offered.

Section 50 (taking into account amendments) states:

Persons acting in an anti-social manner

(1) If a constable in uniform has reason to believe that a person has been acting, or is acting, in an anti-social manner ... he may require that person to give his name and address to the constable.

(2) Any person who -

(a) fails to give his name and address when required to do so under subsection (1), or

(b) gives a false or inaccurate name or address in response to a requirement under that subsection,

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

The term anti-social manner was orginally defined by reference to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 section (Anti-social behaviour orders).  It is now defined by reference to section 2(1) of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.  (Note: section 2(2) is to be ignored for this purpose).

Section 50(1) does not use the phrase "reasonable belief" but simply states that the constable must have "reason to believe."  In November 2009 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published "Adapting to protest - Nurturing the British Model of Policing" and this called upon the Home Office to clarify the scope and application of section 50.   Interestingly, referring to section 50, page 119 of that document referred to "reasonable grounds to believe."

Parliament has usually been careful to specify whether "reasonable belief" is required - e.g. Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 section 1(3) on stop and search powers; PACE 1984 section 24 (powers of arrest for constables) - see the grounds in section 24(1)(c) and 24(1)(d).  By way of contrast, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1998 section 60 expressly dispenses with reasonable grounds for suspicion when conducting an actual section 60 stop and search - see section 60(5).  

For the section 50 power, one might expect evidence of a link between proven anti-social conduct by the defendant and the constable's belief though precisely what is needed is not clear.  Is the constable's - (or, in practice, it may be a PCSO) - belief to be the sole judge of this?  Proof of failure to provide the name and address would obviously also be required though this is probably not too difficult to establish in the majority of cases.  

It never ceases to amaze how these apparently straightforward powers turn out to lack clarity when subjected to even moderate scrutiny.

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