Summary Powers!


Civil rights groups yesterday slammed calls from police chiefs for summary powers to dish out ‘instant justice’.

Surrey Police chiefs went on television and gave interviews to the press yesterday, saying they are considering asking the Blair government for more powers to impose on the spot punishments.

The police chiefs want a range of powers to dole out instant punishment without going to court.

They said these issues were being discussed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

The powers are largely aimed at youth described as ‘yobs’ but should they come into force, will apply to anyone.

Civil rights group Liberty described the proposals as ‘dishing out arbitrary justice on the street’.

They include:

• Powers to exclude specific youth from town centres for an ‘appropriate period’ while they are given an informal warning or made to pay a fixed-penalty fine

• Powers for a ‘neighbourhood constable’ to hand out a three-month ban from associating in public to groups of youth allegedly causing disorder on an estate.

• The ability for police to seize and crush cars driven by those repeatedly driving without registration or insurance, no driving licence or MOT.

Plus on the spot powers to take away the driving licence of drivers suspected of bad driving, ahead of a court appearance.

• Re-introducing police stop and search powers based on ‘reasonable suspicion’ from previous convictions.

Liberty Director Shami Chakrabati warned: ‘When you do decide that someone’s been so criminal and behaved so badly and harmed other people that you need to punish them, that really is something that in a democracy belongs with the courts.’

ACPO claimed that any plans were at an early stage but said it may formally submit proposals to ministers in the new year.

A spokeswoman confirmed: ‘ACPO is exploring the possibility of extra powers for police.

‘Following a period of consultation, these proposals need to be accepted before any are formalised.’

Surrey assistant chief constable Mark Rowley claimed the time is right ‘to debate whether constables should be given substantial additional, discretionary, summary powers to meet these challenges.’

He added that ‘such powers would effectively bring existing criminal justice system powers to the street’.

Surrey chief constable Robert Quick – echoing prime minister Blair’s recent call to ‘rebalance the justice system’ – added yesterday that ‘these are the type of questions we have to ask in the 21st century, policing the society we have today’.

Quick said police chiefs are discussing ‘powers to set preventative conditions or restorative conditions at the time of the conduct’.

He claimed there were people who ‘who’ve shown themselves generally impervious to conventional police powers and criminal justice approaches, we need to modernise those powers’.