Wednesday, November 24, 2004

U.K. Government To Make Every Offence Arrestable

U.K. Government To Make Every Offence Arrestable
London Independent | November 24 2004

Plans to make every offence arrestable, including minor crimes such as littering or spraying walls with graffiti, were criticised yesterday by solicitors for giving the police excessive powers.

The proposal is contained in a Bill that includes the setting up of a national crime agency that is expected to become Britain's version of the FBI.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill is expected to give the police many new powers including allowing officers to take DNA samples and fingerprints from minor offenders arrested on the street.

One of the controversial measures is to allow officers to arrest a suspect for any offence. At present, a police officer can only arrest someone suspected of an offence that could result in a prison sentence of at least five years.

Janet Paraskeva, the chief executive of the Law Society, which represents all solicitors in England and Wales, said: "The police would have a power to arrest however minor the suspected offence. That is not an appropriate balance between the liberty of the citizen and the needs of the police."

The Bill extends the powers of community support officers.

In addition it will create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred to protect faith groups - particularly Muslims - from hate attacks.

Police powers are also to be strengthened to combat harassment by animal-rights extremists against scientific and medical establishments that use animals. The Bill would strengthen the existing police power to prevent protesters from demonstrating outside people's homes.

The Bill is one of the few pieces of legislation that is likely to become law before the expected general election in May and highlights the importance the Government places on the measures, which are likely to win popular support.

Powers to test offenders on arrest rather than when charged is to be contained in the Drugs Bill. The Bill will give the police powers to tackle dealers who hide evidence or claim drugs are for personal use.