Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

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The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or PACE is an Act of Parliament that specifies the framework for how the police in England and Wales are to pursue their duties and to safeguard the public from abuse of police power. The provisions of PACE include rules that cover a variety of common situations for law enforcement officers both in the Police service and in other services. This includes on-street "stop and search" of persons and vehicles, the search of premises, the seizure of property during investigations, the identification of suspects, arrest, audio and video recording of interviews with suspects and the extra powers covering the investigation and detention of suspects in terrorism investigations.

In Northern Ireland, similar provisions are made by the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (SI 1989/1341), a statutory instrument.

Code A: Stop and Search

Code A regulates the use of stop and search of persons and vehicles. This must be exercised "fairly, responsibly, with respect for people being searched and without discrimination". Stop and search may be conducted by an officer if he has "reasonable grounds for suspicion". Reasonable grounds as defined by Code A must have an "objective basis for that suspicion based on facts, information and/or intelligence which are relevant". This may be based on the behaviour of the person. The Code gives the example of an officer encountering "someone on the street at night who is obviously trying to hide something". While the officer does not know what they are trying to hide, "the officer may (depending on the other surrounding circumstances) base such suspicion on the fact that this kind of behaviour is often linked to stolen or prohibited articles being carried".

Searches must be "carried out with courtesy, consideration and respect for the person concerned" and "[e]very reasonable effort must be made to minimise the embarrassment that a person being searched may experience". Except for searches conducted under §45(3) of the Terrorism Act 2000, the officer may remove or ask for the removal of the outer coat, jacket and gloves. If they have grounds for conducting a search that requires the removal of more articles of clothing, it must be done at a police station or inside a police van, out of the view of the public. These intimate searches may only be conducted by an officer of the same sex as the suspect, although an officer of the opposite sex may be present if the suspect requests it.

Before a search is conducted, the person being searched must be informed of the grounds and authority for the search, the purpose of the search, and - in most cases - the name, station and warrant number of the officer. After a search has been conducted, the officer must provide a written record of the search to the person being searched (an exception is made for public order or 'riot' situations where this would be impractical). A full record of the search is available for up to twelve months after the search.

Considerable controversy has existed regarding stop and search powers specifically due to perceptions of racial bias. Black and minority ethnic communities have accused the Police of misusing stop and search powers in a racially selective way. The search record must now contain a "note of the person's self-defined ethnic background" using the ethnic categories in the 2001 census. The current Code states that if the "fundamental principles" of stop and search "are not observed the use of stop and search may be drawn into question. Failure to use the powers in the proper manner reduces their effectiveness".