I have intending to write some short blogs based on specific public order legislation for a while and recently drafted two different Section 60 notices for events I was providing tactical advice for; one was eventually enforced, whilst there wasn’t disorder to justify signing the other.
Section 60, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994 is an item of legislation developed to increase police powers in times of public disorder or potential disorder and provides police with wide powers to stop and search people, vehicles and vessels and to require the removal of face coverings or disguises (60AA, Sub-section 4A in Scotland). It also provides the power to seize anything which could be used as a weapon or disguise. In order to counter balance this, the authorisation must be made for a specific geographic area and by an officer of at least the rank of Inspector and for a maximum duration of 24 hours. If made by an officer below the rank of Superintendent, the officer must notify a superintending rank as soon as practical.
The conditions are
(a)that incidents involving serious violence may take place in any locality in his police area, and that it is expedient to give an authorisation under this section to prevent their occurrence, or
(b)that persons are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons in any locality in his police area without good reason,he may give an authorisation that the powers conferred by this section are to be exercisable at any place within that locality for a specified period not exceeding 24 hours. (Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994 Sec 60)
An officer of at least superintending rank may continue the authorisation for a further 24 hour period if they believe that crimes of violence have taken place within the area during the duration of the authorisation.
Failure to comply with an instruction given under this Section or obstructing an officer enforcing powers under this Section is an offence.
This section was originally enacted to deal with football related violence, but over the years it’s use has developed to encompass knife crime (Shiner, 2012). The Metropolitan Police guidelines for its use specifically state
A significant increase in knife-point robberies in a limited area is not considered a routine crime problem and the authorisation of s.60 should be considered.’ Walker (2013)
The powers conferred by this act are unique (Walker, 2013) in that they give power without recourse to independent scrutinity; for example a search under the Misuse of Drugs Act requires ‘reasonable suspicion’ to search and that reasonable suspicion must be directed towards the person searched and can be subject to court scrutiny. These sections provide a general power to stop and search and there is no court scrutiny of the decision. My personal experience is that senior officers set a very high standard for the ‘reasonable belief’ significantly higher than that set for ‘reasonable suspicion’ under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
However, there is a general feeling that, specifically in England and Wales, this power is used too often and in an unethical manner. Dr Michael Shiner (2012), in a report compiled at the behest of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, provides an interesting examination of the potential misuse of these powers. However, the High Court appeal upheld the legality of the Section 60 powers and ruled they were not a breach go the Human Rights Act. This judgement has been appealed and, at the time of writing, no findings have been issued.
The Section 60 authorisation must be made in writing and must include
– The area covered by the authorisation, either in terms of Police boundaries or delineation by street. The area must be easily understood.
– The timescales should be clearly defined and must be the minimum amount of time for the issue to be resolved.
– The authorisation should be Human Rights compliant, that is, Proportionate, Legal, Accountable and Necessary (PLAN)
Aston, J. ‘Judges reject Julie Anne Roberts stop-and-search claim’, The Independent, 17th July 2012, downloaded from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/judges-reject-ann-juliette-roberts-stopandsearch-claim-7953234.html, accessed 5th January 2014
Shiner, M. ‘Report on the use of section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 by the police’ Stop Watch, 2012, downloaded from http://www.stop-watch.org/uploads/documents/Shiner_expertwitnessstatement_s60.pdf on 4th January 2014
Walker, a., ‘S.60 CJPOA – Q & A’s’, Metropolitan Police, 2013, downloaded from http://www.met.police.uk/foi/pdfs/priorities_and_how_we_are_doing/corporate/stop_search_s60_q_as.pdf on 6th January 2014