If this police officer can’t get the search right, how can you have any confidence he can get an arrest right?

Should you be pleading guilty just because the police say you are guilty?


Every once in a while, I’ll get a phone call someone’s father. Son or daughter is in trouble with the police. Big trouble – and father will ask, “The police say s/he’s guilty. Shouldn’t s/he just plead guilty and get this over with?”

None of them have seen any of the police evidence – they are just repeating what the police have told them.

They presume that the police are accurate. They presume that the police have enough reliable, credible and admissible evidence to prove the case.

Would it surprise you that sometimes, the police don’t know what they are talking about?

Yesterday’s post about a s5 Public Order Act offence that never was is one example: this is another.

Here’s why the officer is wrong:

Members of the Executive branch of Government (like police officers), can only exercise powers given to them by Parliament, or in some rare examples, under the common law.

The police power to search citizens is granted to police by Parliament by way of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

PACE powers to search are limited. An officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect s/he will find stolen or prohibited items.

This officer hasn’t said one word about his, “reasonable grounds” or what stolen or prohibited item he thinks he’s going to find. Instead, this officer tells the driver that he stopped him because he is black and, “just to see what you were up to, basically”.

PACE Code A (which is Government policy on how PACE stop and search powers should be exercised), sets out what officers should and should not be doing. The short answer is that police don’t get to stop on search people because they are black and that they want to, “see what they are doing“:

2.2B Reasonable suspicion can never be supported on the basis of personal factors.
This means that unless the police have information or intelligence which provides
a description of a person suspected of carrying an article for which there is a power
to stop and search, the following cannot be used, alone or in combination with each
other, or in combination with any other factor, as the reason for stopping and searching
any individual, including any vehicle which they are driving or are being carried in:
(a) A person’s physical appearance with regard, for example, to any of the ‘relevant
protected characteristics’ set out in the Equality Act 2010, section 149, which are
age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or
belief, sex and sexual orientation (see paragraph 1.1 and Note 1A), or the fact that
the person is known to have a previous conviction; and
(b) Generalisations or stereotypical images that certain groups or categories of
people are more likely to be involved in criminal activity.

That officer sure sounds confident. Would you know he had breached the PACE rules in several different ways before I told you about them?

Yesterday’s s5 post and today’s breach of PACE are just two examples of how the police can get the law spectacularly wrong.

If the police officer cannot get the search right, how can you be confident that he’s got anything else right? Isn’t your son or daughter worth more than this? Why would’t you want the peace of mind of knowing from a Criminal law expert whether the police are right or not?