Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Knowing the law

In my entry regarding taking photos Orphi asked

what exactly can members of the public do to avoid being pushed around like this?
I replied that they can stop accepting it by knowing the law; with that in mind here's the basics.

Again first off I Am Not A Lawyer; however the best bit is that no-one needs to be because the basics really are that easy to understand.

The base of law in the UK is that anything and everything is legal unless stated not to be. The law is then split into two main sections - case and statute. Statute law is that enacted by the state, for the UK that would be the Crown via the government; case law is made up of the decisions taken by previous courts.

Both sets of laws can then be dealt with in one of two ways - civil or criminal. Civil is deemed to be between citizens; criminal that between a citizen and the state.

The police can be involved in either types of law, but their powers derive from Statute Law; this defines what they can and cannot do under given circumstances. To take Law A detailing Circumstance A and Law B detailing Circumstance B a police officer cannot use the powers granted by Law A under the circumstances from Law B. In the case of the father taking photos the Prevention of Terrorism Act deals with the circumstances of control orders on specific individuals as this wasn't the case it didn't matter whether the Act gives an officer the power to confiscate property as it did not apply in this instance.

It is also worth remembering that the police are held just as liable under the law as non-police; should the officer in the incident above have taken the phone and/or deleted photos they could be accused of theft and/or criminal damage because they had no right to do so.

Now not everyone can memorise all the laws, however as the police act with powers granted under Statute Law should they wish to exercise such powers a member of the public being confronted with them can ask for the details. The officer is not obliged to provide them, but failing to do so or providing incorrect information could be considered prejudicial to their case

How does this apply to private security? Private security have no additional powers and no additional rights beyond that of the ordinary citizen. They can detain a person if they think they've committed a criminal act, but only temporarily until the police arrive. They can use reasonable force to escort a person from private grounds if they are representing the owner. They can refuse entry to private grounds if they are representing the owner and use reasonable force to prevent such entry. They have no rights to confiscate goods and no rights to search a person or their property.

Quite simple really.