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Is it really necessary?

April 23, 2007
Hi folks – remember me?

The good weather has had me out in the garden, rather than stuck in front of the computer. I do enough of that at work, as do most police officers these days. It beats getting wet, getting complained at or getting flat feet though.

I’ve also been revising for the forthcoming Part 2 of the Inspector’s promotion exam. I’ve had enough of filling out claims for overtime and being paid to work on bank holidays and promotion is the best way out of it.

Anyway – back to the title of this post.

Those of you in the job will know that the law changed last year, giving police the power to arrest for virtually any offence, providing that the arresting officer could satisfy him or herself that the arrest was necessary for one or more of a number of reasons. The most commonly used part of the necessity test is to allow for the “prompt and effective investigation of the offence or behaviour of the suspect.

There is apparently a new necessity test. You won’t find it in the statute books, but it must exist because it is being used all the time. The unwritten necessity test allows officers to arrest people “where it is necessary to get my performance figures up for this month”.

How does this work? Imagine you have been given a crime report for a poxy damage. Due to your workload, this report has been prioritised down to the bottom of your list and is now covered in cobwebs. It keeps popping up for air and you know you’ve got to do something with it, because it is on the crime system and cannot be deleted (short of taking a large axe to a server or two). This crime report is now five months old and your sergeant is advising you to take some action.

You know who the suspect is. You know where they live. You know that they are going to deny it and there is no independent evidence to counter the suspect’s anticipated account, so you know that the chances of getting the report detected are slim to none. So how do you get rid of this report?

Common sense says you go round to the suspect’s house, caution them, ask them if they did it, warn them about their language when they reply “F*** off, of course I didn’t”, then go back to the nick and file the report as undetected.

Performance culture requires you to arrest the suspect, take them to custody, wait for their brief to arrive, have consultation, write out a prepared statement (or rehearse the order of the words “comment” and “no” to ensure that they get it right in the interview) and then go in for a five minute interview. Hopefully, you will have a custody officer with the nouse and backbone to NFA the report, otherwise you have to go through the charade of obtaining CPS advice. The ultimate outcome? The report is filed as undetected, but you have scored one more in the “Arrests this month” column and you have wasted four hours in custody for a no hope job.

The only reason for the arrest is to get an statistic on the sheet. It wasn’t necessary, yet up and down the country, these sort of arrests are taking place all the time. Juveniles are being put into the system for a playground spat, because officers are claiming it is “necessary” to arrest them for a minor assault, even though no-one wants to make a complaint, but a crime report has been generated and the pressure is on to get it sorted.

One of these days – and I hope it is soon – someone somewhere is going to challenge the necessity of an arrest. I hope they win. The outcome will be that a new Powerpoint presentation will have to be put together to show officers how it should be done. Never mind a proper training session – that should have been done before the law came into effect but forces couldn’t be arsed, so there’s no point doing it now.

The necessity test is being abused in order to satisfy the demands of performance management. It isn’t providing a better service to the public, in fact it is alienating and criminalising more and more people.

Can we please go back to the old days, where we used to interview some people in our pocket books and report them for summons? It makes life so much easier for the officer on the street and gives them more time to do what they are paid to do – persecute motorists.

I’m back!!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    April 23, 2007 16:22

    Bloody marvellous post.

    Thanks, and welcome back.

  2. M&MBM permalink
    April 23, 2007 18:30

    And who pays for the brief?

  3. Stan Still permalink
    April 23, 2007 18:33

    You do – and they will thank you for it when they see you.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    April 23, 2007 20:03

    Well said

  5. ReallyEvilCanine permalink
    April 23, 2007 20:36

    I think you’re missing something here. More arrests mean there’s more more crime, necessitating an increase in police numbers. Fewer detections also necessitate an increase in police numbers to help deal with the massive increase in crime. The icing on the cake is the ability to arrest any twonk for no reason whatsoever and make his day just a little bit more miserable much as he does to yours. If I could earn anything near what I do in my current line of work I’d consider a career change.

    Good to see you back.

  6. Stan Still permalink
    April 23, 2007 20:43

    Canine – I understand your point, but it will be one of those twonks who employs a solicitor who will start the ball rolling and get some poor bugger into trouble for not having the gumption to realise that the arrest they made was not necessary

  7. Penbwlch permalink
    April 23, 2007 21:49

    This con has been going on too long. It is about time that the press did what they say they do; investigate stories that are in the public interest. This one should be near the top of their list. This government needs pressure to be put on it to stop this confidence trick.

  8. ReallyEvilCanine permalink
    April 23, 2007 22:51


    If the law allows arrest on the suspicion of being suspicious then the twonks can throw as much work to the solicitors as they can afford. They’ll still lose. Everyone else wins. Twonks are bothered, police aren’t spread thinner than something which is spread very, very thin indeed, and twonks use the money that they would have otherwise spent on spirits and other behaviour-altering substances on said legal representation. I don’t see the downside.

  9. 30down92go permalink
    April 24, 2007 11:38

    Nice post Stan, that would explain a lot. Thankfully the Met aren’t YET playing this game tho I’m sure we’ve just as many devious ways to produce “ethical” stats.
    Glad to see you here as well

  10. Donna permalink
    April 28, 2007 08:21

    Welcome back. An axe isn’t necessary. Just find the array of hard disks and pull one out. The large array of “RAID” redundancy can cope with that, but pull a second one out and the whole thing falls completley on its backside … as a force somewhere in the U.K. found out recently … the hard way!

  11. Stan Still permalink
    April 28, 2007 10:05

    Thanks for the technical solution Donna, but I do believe that my suggestion would create a greater feeling of satisfaction! 🙂

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