Police Powers Essay

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During the late 1970s a number of high profile miscarriages of justice – such as the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four etc – came to light. One of these cases, involving the murder of Maxwell Confait, led to the government setting up the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. Note – Maxwell Confait had been found murdered – strangled by the flex of an electric lamp and then partially burnt as the killer(s) had attempted to cover up the crime. Three boys were convicted of the murder but three years later it was proved that the police had fabricated their confessions. The Royal Commission reported back in 1981 and came to the conclusion that a better balance between bringing criminals to justice and protecting the innocent was needed. Many people believed that this report would lead to restrictions on police powers but when the POLICE AND CRIMINAL EVIDENCE ACT 1984 was passed it actually increased and consolidated the powers of the police to stop, arrest, search, detain and question suspects. In order to answer the criticisms raised about increasing police powers (when there was obvious evidence that these powers could be abused) Parliament explained that PACE 1984 had extended police powers as they need those powers to be able to do their job effectively but at the same time it imposes safeguards to protect the suspects from possible abuse. In fact the whole area of police powers is about the balance between the police’s need to be able to prevent and detect crime and thus the need to question members of the public and a citizen’s right to go about their lawful business without interference. Are you obliged to answer questions? Do you have to go to a police station? Can you be detained by the police without being arrested? Rice V Connelly (1966) The Appellant was acting suspiciously in an area where burglaries had taken place. He was asked where he

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