The Police and Criminal Evidence Act was created in 1984, owing to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure that was chaired by Sir Cyril Philips in 1981. During the 1970s, claims of police misconduct when handling suspects emerged from the public and the judiciary. Two major cases, the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, were used as the foundation for the law’s establishment. The police used physical and psychological abuse against the suspects, eliciting harsh criticisms and raising calls for reforms.
Changes were necessary because the justice system declined to recognize the police officers’ misconduct, as this would have created a precedent of mistrusting the police. The major objective of the legislation is to create a single code of practice that would amalgamate police powers and create a balance between the rights of citizens and the authority of the police to enforce the law in the United Kingdom. According to the law, it was a requirement for the police to document through audio records all suspect interviews. In addition, the suspects were given the right to legal representation and limited detention periods before being charged.
The PACE codes of practice cover several areas that regulate police conduct. These include stop and search, arrest, detention, investigation, identification, and interviewing of detainees. The various codes clarify to police officers the scope of their powers so that they cannot violate the rights of the people they deal with while enforcing the law. PACE Code A outlines the statutory powers of the police to conduct a search and the need to record such encounters. PACE Code B deals with the search, seizure, and retention of property. PACE Code C gives the requirements for the detention and questioning of suspects.
PACE Code D covers the identification of suspects and the creation of accurate criminal records. PACE Code E and F address the necessity of creating audio and visual recordings of interviews with suspects, respectively. PACE Code G covers statutory powers of arrest, while PACE Code H addresses the confinement of terrorism suspects. The Act has several safeguards that protect people’s rights. However, it has been controversial as critics argue that it gives too much power to the police. In that regard, various reviews have been done, such as the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. This law substituted the majority of the existing powers of arrest with the general power of arrest.