The Abolition of Arrestable Offences

I’ll start this post with a short conversation between Ben Sixsmith and me which took place yesterday:

One of the worst pieces of domestic legislation passed under Blair was the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which abolished the concept of an arrestable offence. Up until then, there were categories of offence for which specific powers of arrest existed (or not): arrestable, non‐arrestable, and serious arrestable offences. These categories were introduced by the Criminal Law Act 1967 to replace the ancient term felony. They were then updated by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which defined an arrestable offence as:

1. An offence for which the sentence is fixed by law; i.e. murder.
2. Offences for which a person 18 years old or older, who had not previously been convicted, could be sentenced to a term of 5 years or more. This constituted the vast majority of offences, including [rape][theft]], serious assault, burglary and criminal damage.
3. Offences that were listed in Schedule 1A of the Act, which contained a long list of offences that do not attract a 5-year sentence but were considered to require the powers an ‘Arrestable Offence’ designation confers. Examples included possession of an offensive weapon, ticket touting and driving whilst disqualified.

It is worth noting that with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 police powers of arrest increased significantly from the Criminal Law Act 1967, and the 1984 act was itself amended several times to increase these further. Nevertheless, the idea that only certain offences could result in an arrest remained on the statute books. This is probably why for years many visa forms have asked this question (the one below is from a Russian visa application):

The question supposes that people aren’t arrested willy-nilly for trivial matters, but following New Labour’s aboliton of the term “arrestable offence” with the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, it’s an assumption that is no longer valid. Consider this tweet from whom I assume is a lawyer:

Can you imagine the person concerned having to explain on a visa application form why he was arrested? He will also have had his fingerprints and DNA taken, which (I think) will remain on record for life (even if only at the local police station). He will also face the choice of either lying on application forms or risking being automatically rejected for telling the truth, all because Plod is drunk on their powers of arrest.

Of course, this is a feature, not a bug. The police know that anyone arrested will have to spend a lot of money, exert a lot of time and effort, suffer a loss of reputation, and face a lifetime of administrative difficulties even if they are wholly innocent. What’s more, Plod can make arrests with impunity (the two who arrested the person for liking a Facebook post should be fired immediately, along with their superiors). Nowadays securing a conviction is unnecessary: the process is the punishment, just as it was in the Soviet Union.

The creeping powers of police arrest may have started before Blair, and things weren’t looking good before the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (a student was arrested before it came into force for calling a police horse “gay”), but it was under New Labour that it was cemented into law and encouraged. I have not been able to find statistics on the increase in number of arrestable offences during Blair’s time in office, but I would be surprised if it were less than tenfold. Now the British police take a positive delight in arresting ordinary citizens for minor “offences”.

What makes it more depressing is that this appalling rise in authoritarianism happened in full view of the public, many of whom were cheering at the time. I’ve been arguing for some time that the sooner the British people wake up to the nature of their police forces and start treating them accordingly, the better.

UPDATE

See also this from my friends at Samizdata.

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21 thoughts on “The Abolition of Arrestable Offences

  1. “Now the British police take a positive delight in arresting ordinary citizens for minor “offences”.”

    It used to be the role of the Police to arrest criminals for actual crimes. However, they have now worked out that is simply too much work, and with so many women on the force, often simply impractical. The simple solution has been to arrest the public for non-crimes instead and pretend it’s Policing.

  2. I have long held the view that Blair’s domestic policies were far more damaging and pernicious than his foreign policies. I think he was so vain and such an airhead that he may not have actually realised the implications of what he was doing. When he announced as Shadow Home Secretary that a Labour government would be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime it transformed the public perception of him. This was a striking break with the past when for instance looney left councils did not allow police officers on school premises. Suddenly it seemed a Labour MP understood the public’s concerns about crime. How wrong can you be. (PS It’s abolition)

  3. It was things like that – NuLab’s entire civil liberties approach was terrible, and laid the groundwork for the current soft-authoritarian approach that May had been taking at the Home Office and then as PM.

    Combine that with an absolutely rigid and rather radical non-discrimination policy (e.g. the immigration laws not being able to tell the difference between a professional, working Western spouse of a decade and a new-arrival import bride from a tribal region in Upper Kakistan who marries and then disappears back to be an indentured house slave to the father’s parents back home while flying over occasionally for conjugal visits and NHS hospital births), and you’ve got what you’re seeing now…

  4. So many legacies for just one leader, the Human Rights Act 97 aided and abetted by Jack Straw his bad lieutenant multicultural czar, the lawyers getting on board the tax funded immigration gravy train, which may have been the greatest criminal offence committed by the establishment of his time.

    Have we heard the last of this detestable lying cunt is the only unanswered question.

  5. Housing costs going through the roof is another part of his legacy. Fortunately for him Chavez takes the prize of being the worst politician elected in the 1990s or Blair would win.

  6. I recall a line from the Sean Connery/Donald Sutherland Film “The First Great Train Robbery” when the Judge asked them why they robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is”.

    Why do Police arrest the law abiding while allowing the lawless (e.g. “Travellers” that occupy car parks for weeks on end and leave literally a ton of rubbish behind but arrest people for dropping crumbs from eating a sandwich or overstaying their paid for time by a few minutes) to remain undisturbed to carry out their antisocial activities?

    “Because that’s where the money is”.

    And law abiding people stand still for the process. The Police are the enemy of the law abiding and for anyone that thinks otherwise, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

  7. A very good thought provoking post.

    The trouble is all the thoughts it provokes are of the desirability of exacting extreme violence on Blair and his successors, including PMT May who is a fully paid up member of the so-called hate crime crackdown brigade, which is a flimsy cover for abolishing free speech and is possibly an even more gratuitously lethal legislative change than the original subject of your post.

    More power to your elbow Tim and the others of you fighting the good fight on your blog and on twitter and so on.

  8. “Because that’s where the money is” is quite a good line, but Michael Crichton’s original is even better:

    Judge: “Now, on the matter of motivation , sir, I ask you: why did you conceive, plan and execute this dastardly and shocking crime?”
    Pierce shrugged: “I wanted the money,” he said.

  9. One of the Magistrate blogs (yea, yea, yea, there’s a genre for everything) that I read but can’t remember the name of (probably: The Law West of Ealing Broadway) had a lengthy post quite some years ago on the explosion under Blair’s Law of first time (or “virgin”) convictions for people aged in their 40’s.

    Apparently pre-Blair about 0.0001% (or something) of people aged 40+ being convicted were receiving their first conviction.

    Under Blair this exploded to 20% or something, mainly due to the criminalising of things such as spilling breadcrumbs while eating a sandwich, “liking” a picture on Facebook, carrying a scythe in the back of your Landrover (which has painted on the door: T Newman – Landscaper & Weed Control, phone Pembroke 123) thus you breached the “Offensive weapons in Public Act” or somesuch, and you’re nicked.

  10. ***Health warning. Normally, I read this blog with great interest and have done for for years. I am not a troll (so please don’t react like I am one) and my politics broadly agree with most of the folks here.***

    However, the data on Police arrests does not back up the gist of the article. Links included below, but the headline is that Police detained 658,113 people in 2016, compared to 1,273,104 in 2008.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/26/police-arrest-half-many-people-did-decade-ago-despite-record/

    https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/818547/police-cut-fears-number-arrests-halved-eight-years

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/police-arrests-uk-down-stats-figures-decade-a8022336.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/cannabis-arrests-fall-almost-50-since-2010-but-police-say-they-are-taking-a-more-liberal-approach_uk_57028153e4b069ef5c0097f5

    Google for yourself if the above does not satisfy (I can see why they wouldn’t they were high and relevant for my own google search results).

    Greater Police powers have no resulted in more arrests along with other important points that have changed.

    Police numbers have dropped over the last few years. I have read was a reduction of 140,000 cops down to around 120,000 cops.
    So that could account for some of the drop in arrests.

    Huge amounts of new law has been made by Parliament since 2008, so there are more offences, which should push arrests to ever higher levels unless those new crimes were in fact occurring in numbers so small it wasn’t worth the law being written….

    The new arrest powers coming in from SOCAP were actually aimed as lining up PACE 1984 with the Human Rights Act 1998 and keeping more investigations from ever going to custody or court, because those things cost to much.

    There has been a huge expansion of the use of out of court disposals such as penalty notices, cautions and restorative justice and diversion to NHS Mental Health and Social Service teams.

    There are doubtlessly some muppet/dishonest cops arresting for stupid stuff and muppet/dishonest judges convicting for it. I just wanted to fill in the broader data driven background.

  11. Normally, I read this blog with great interest and have done for for years. I am not a troll (so please don’t react like I am one) and my politics broadly agree with most of the folks here….I just wanted to fill in the broader data driven background.

    Thanks for the informative contribution!

  12. One of the Magistrate blogs (yea, yea, yea, there’s a genre for everything) that I read but can’t remember the name of (probably: The Law West of Ealing Broadway) had a lengthy post quite some years ago on the explosion under Blair’s Law of first time (or “virgin”) convictions for people aged in their 40’s.

    I’ve had a look on that blog (it changed it’s name but it’s still online but couldn’t find the post in question. It is a seriously depressing scenario, anyway.

  13. “the headline is that Police detained 658,113 people in 2016, compared to 1,273,104 in 2008.”

    (BTW are those individuals or numbers including those arrested more than once?). None of this is inconsistent with a wish to criminalise the ‘bourgeoisie’, with a ‘the process is the punishment’ ethos, and to defer to the criminal classes, e.g. disposing of shop-lifting offences (when they bother to respond to them at all) by post, whilst hunting down people who post some thought-crime on social media, so undermining the rule of law, private property, and freedom.

  14. I do believe that Blair – but no other British politician that I can think of – should be cautioned, arrested, charged, tried, convicted, sentenced, and hanged.

    It might need a bit of retrospective legislation but that’s OK – that sort of authoritarian behaviour is just up his street.

  15. Dearieme – It is a shame that the private prosecution brought brought by relatives of Iraq casualties failed.

    Cold legal logic doubtless prevailed and I have no doubt the decision that there were no proper grounds to proceed was right, but the sheer quantity and brazenness of the lies and the general stench of corruption that surrounds everything he touched really does lead one to believe that really hanging drawing and quartering would be eccessively lenient in his case.

  16. Totally coincidently, on your topic of Tony Blair, I found a couple of days ago a press cutting I had taken a bit over two years into his primeministership: from the Sunday Telegraph on 3 October 1999. It had the title “This man is a very important nonentity” and was by Theodore Dalrymple.

    I have been unable to find a copy on the WWW, but did find a reference to Dalrymple’s article, under the title: Tony Blair: ‘Mediocrity worshipping itself’

    Given that this article pre-dates Blair’s ‘decisions’ over Iraq and WMD (and the gross change to arrestable offences), to say nothing of Blair’s then and current reputation with the UK public, it strikes me as at least somewhat perceptive.

    Also, perhaps, Dalrymple’s criticism is worth viewing in comparison with the various ones against Trump.

    Best regards

  17. “See also this from my friends at Samizdata.”

    Airdrie Sheriff Court for fucks sake, I have been there, they couldn’t spell anti-Semite never mind hear a case about it. Okay the Jocks may be accused of being tight arsed orange bastards but for the 6,400 or 0.13% of the population Jewish Jocks and all of them being gold traders living in Newton Mearns ghetto to claim anti-Semitsim is a striking example of how farcical this is becoming in the UK, any self respecting bigoted Jock should just put the heed on them. Maybe the local MacJews didn’t and it was just the old bills doing , but the Jewish community should shut it down either way.

    A bird I was seeing in Scotland had a German Shepard that used to bark at short, balding people with crooked noses and loads of money, just as well youtube wasn’t around in those days.

  18. Maybe the local MacJews didn’t and it was just the old bills doing

    This, I expect.

    but the Jewish community should shut it down either way.

    Yes, but in the past when they’ve tried to do that they’ve been ignored.

  19. I really dont get this so called anti-Semite witch hunt that is gaining momentum, that they consider that youtube as an offence says it all, and if as you say, its merely plod doing the accusing that is a new low point reached.

    I do get this though:

    “One day a leading Nazi said to me: “I tremble when I think of England. You are on the verge of a precipice and nothing but ruin awaits you. Do you know why?”

    I waited for the reply, and it came “You are doomed because of the Jews who are working your downfall.”

    I almost rubbed my eyes. Here was man of influence in the government of Germany, and he was talking in the terms of the Middle Ages. He continued in strains of fantastic ignorance, and his eyes sparkled as he enumerated the sins of the Jews. As I listened to him I felt as if I had been transported back many centuries, to an age of witchcraft and black magic, so unreal was his description of the so-called machinations of the Hebrew race.

    When I got out into the streets of Berlin I almost imagined that a pogrom might take place, so burning had been the hatred which the Nazis had expressed for the Jews. But nothing happened, and the streets were as quiet and orderly and the people as calm as ever.”

    http://www.garethjones.org/german_articles/under_hitler_3.htm

  20. MacJews

    I’m stealing it 😀

    I really dont get this so called anti-Semite witch hunt that is gaining momentum

    What’s not to get? The I-am-a-victim marathon has been on for a while now. Some Jews feel that they are being pushed from their (our) long-held position of The Most Victimized Group Ever, and are doing all they can to avoid being left behind. It is pathetic, but competition is part of human nature, and word is Jews are human after all 😀

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