PACE: The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

What is PACE?

PACE is the short form for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This Act governs the major part of police powers of investigation including, arrest, detention, interrogation, entry and search of premises, personal search and the taking of samples. Also part of this legislation are the PACE Codes of Practice, which police officers should consider and refer to when carrying out various procedures associated with their work. The Act attempts to strike a fair balance between the exercise of power by those in authority and the rights of members of the public.

PACE Codes of Practice

The PACE Codes of Practice are set out under eight different sections labelled A to H. Each deal with a different aspect of the police’s duties as follows:

Code A

Code A deals with a police officer’s legal powers to search a person and or any vehicle prior to making any arrest. They must also make a note of the encounter.

Code B

Code B outlines the police’s powers to enter and search premises and seize any possessions found on a person or premises. The powers under this code are conferred to find anyone wanted by police for questioning, arrest or, in relation to any crime; to find any property and material relating to the commission of a crime or; to find any children who should be in local authority custody where they have been remanded or placed following a court order.

Code C

Code C lays out the requirements for detaining suspects and how they should be treated and questioned while in custody. Includes the requirement to explain a person’s rights while detained.

Code D

Code D relates to the processes used by police for the identification of persons in relation to the commission of a criminal offence and the police’s obligation to maintain accurate and dependable information regarding criminal records.

Code E

Code E governs all audio recording of interviews carried out at the police station. Any interview concerning the following scenarios must be audio taped; interviews with a suspect who is cautioned in relation to a criminal offence; extra questions that may be put to a suspect after they have been charged with a criminal offence; when an interviewer wants to tell a person, after they have been charged with a criminal offence, about any other written statement or interview with another person.

Code F

Code F covers the visual recording with sound of an interview. An interview may be recorded visually in all the circumstances outlined under Code E or, in the presence of a deaf, or deaf/blind or speech impaired person who uses sign language to communicate; or in the presence of a minor or anyone else who requires an appropriate adult or; in any case where a visually recorded interview is requested by the suspect or their representative.

Code G

Code G deals with police powers to arrest any individual suspected of committing or connected with the commission of a criminal offence. Police powers of arrest are set out in s 24 of PACE (as amended by s 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005) and they should only be exercised when absolutely necessary or, they risk interfering with a suspect’s right to liberty as outlined in the Human Rights Act 1998.

Code H

Code H lays out the requirements for the detention of suspects arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 and how they should be treated and questioned whilst in custody. Includes the requirement to explain a person’s rights while detained in connection with terrorism. This Code stops applying when a suspect is charged with an offence, released without charge or transferred to a prison.

What happens when the police fail to adhere to PACE and its Codes?

Failure by a police officer to adhere to the Codes of Practice does not render them liable to criminal or civil proceedings. However, their failure to adhere to what the Codes state can be introduced as evidence in civil and criminal proceedings (PACE, s 67). Additionally, any evidence obtained by the police in relation to the investigation of any criminal offence where they have failed to adhere to PACE, can be deemed inadmissible in court thus harming the case against the defendant.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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