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Law enforcement in the United Kingdom

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Title: Law enforcement in the United Kingdom  
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Law enforcement in the United Kingdom

Law enforcement
in the United Kingdom
Types of agency
Types of agent
Statutory Instruments
Mounted officer of the Metropolitan Police at Buckingham Palace, London

Law enforcement in the United Kingdom is organised separately in each of the legal systems of the United Kingdom: England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (administration of police matters is not generally affected by the Government of Wales Act 2006).

In the British model of policing, police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of those fellow citizens. "Policing by consent" is the phrase used to describe this. It expresses that the legitimacy of policing in the eyes of the public is based upon a general consensus of support that follows from transparency about their powers, their integrity in exercising those powers and their accountability for doing so.[1][2]


  • Jurisdictions and territories 1
    • Types of law enforcement agency 1.1
    • Cross-border powers 1.2
      • Arrest with warrant 1.2.1
      • Arrest without warrant: offences committed in home country 1.2.2
      • Arrest without warrant: offences committed in other countries 1.2.3
      • Other situations 1.2.4
  • Initial training 2
    • England and Wales 2.1
      • Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPDLP) 2.1.1
      • Initial Learning for the Special Constabulary (IL4SC) 2.1.2
      • PCSO National Learning Programme 2.1.3
    • Scotland 2.2
  • Powers of officers 3
    • Territorial police constables 3.1
    • Other constables 3.2
    • Police staff 3.3
    • Accredited Persons 3.4
    • Members of the armed forces 3.5
    • Other civilians 3.6
  • History 4
  • Accountability 5
    • Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Constabulary 5.1
    • Crown dependencies and overseas territories 5.2
  • Ranks 6
  • Uniform and equipment 7
  • Height 8
  • Organisation of police forces 9
  • Issues 10
    • Deaths after contact with the police 10.1
      • Controversial shootings 10.1.1
      • Deaths in police custody 10.1.2
    • Issues since 1984 10.2
      • Racism 10.2.1
      • Privacy 10.2.2
      • Freedom of speech 10.2.3
      • Photography of police 10.2.4
      • Policing of protests 10.2.5
    • Fixated Threat Assessment Centre 10.3
    • Police force mergers 10.4
      • Proposed mergers for England and Wales 10.4.1
        • Greater London
        • Merger abandonment
        • Other police forces
        • List of proposed mergers
      • Creation of a single Police Service in Scotland 10.4.2
    • Border and Immigration Agency/UK Border Agency 10.5
      • Border Force 10.5.1
    • National Crime Force (England and Wales) 10.6
    • Police pay 10.7
  • Overseas police forces in the UK 11
  • See also 12
    • Topics 12.1
    • Bodies 12.2
    • Databases 12.3
    • Other 12.4
  • References 13
  • External links 14
    • National Police Resources 14.1
    • Staff Associations 14.2
    • Complaints against police 14.3
    • Non-official and independent sites 14.4

Jurisdictions and territories

In the United Kingdom, every person has limited powers of arrest if they see a crime being committed: at common law in Scotland, and in England and Wales if the crime is indictable[3] – these are called "every person powers", commonly referred to as a "citizen's arrest". In England and Wales, the vast majority of attested constables enjoy full powers of arrest and search as granted by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. All police officers are "constables" in law, irrespective of rank. Although police officers have wide ranging powers, they are still subject to the same laws as members of the public. However there are certain additional legal restrictions on police officers such as the illegality of taking industrial action and the ban on taking part in active politics. Recruits joining the police force as a constable must take an oath of allegiance to the Queen, this is done in the presence of a magistrate who will then award the recruit with the authority of a constable. This ceremony is called an attestation and is usually followed by the issue of a warrant card, allowing the officer to execute their powers and duties.

Types of law enforcement agency

There are four general types of agency, the first mostly concerned with policing the general public and their activities and the rest concerned with policing of other, usually localised, matters:

  • Territorial police forces (45 as of 2013), which carry out the majority of policing. These are police forces that cover a "police area" (a particular region) and have an independent Police Authority (England and Wales) or local authority or joint Police Board (Scotland). The Police Act 1996, the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, prescribe a number of issues such as appointment of a Chief Constable, jurisdiction and responsibilities, for police forces in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. Since the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners in November 2012 the police forces in England and Wales no longer have a Police Authority and this work is done by the Police and Crime Commissioners who are elected every four years.
  • special police forces".
  • Non-police law enforcement agencies whose officers, while not police constables, enforce laws.
  • Miscellaneous police forces, mostly having their foundations in older legislation or Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, the British Transport Police was such a force.

The list of police forces of the United Kingdom details the various forces.

Cross-border powers

Territorial police constables have certain powers of arrest in countries other than the one they were attested in. There are four main provisions for them to do so – arrest with a warrant, arrest without a warrant for an offence committed in their country, arrest without a warrant for an offence committed in another country, and mutual aid. Note: this section applies to territorial police constables only, and not to others – except the British Transport Police, who also have certain cross-border powers in addition to their natural powers.

Arrest with warrant

Certain warrants can be executed by constables even though they are outside their jurisdiction: arrest warrants and warrants of commitment (all); and a warrant to arrest a witness (England, Wales or Northern Ireland); a warrant for committal, a warrant to imprison (or to apprehend and imprison), and a warrant to arrest a witness (Scotland).[4] A warrant issued in one country may be executed in either of the other two countries by a constable from either the country where it was issued, or the country where it is executed.[4]

When executing a warrant issued in Scotland, the constable executing it shall have the same powers and duties, and the person arrested the same rights, as they would have had if execution had been in Scotland by a constable of a police force in Scotland. When executing a warrant issued in England & Wales or Northern Ireland, a constable may use reasonable force and has specified search powers provided by section 139 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.[5]

Arrest without warrant: offences committed in home country

If a constable suspects that a person has committed or attempted to commit an offence in his country, and that person is now in another country, he may arrest (and in the case of a constable from Scotland, detain) them in that other country.[6]

A constable from England & Wales is subject to the same necessity tests for arrest (as under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984[7]) as he would be in England & Wales, a constable from Scotland may arrest/detain if it would have been lawful to do so in Scotland and a constable from Northern Ireland is subject to the same necessity tests for arrest (as under Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.[8]) as he would be in Northern Ireland.[6]

A person arrested under the above powers:[6]

  • in Scotland, shall be taken to the nearest convenient designated police station or to a designated police station in a police area in which the offence is being investigated (England & Wales or Northern Ireland),
  • in England or Wales, shall be taken to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland), to the nearest convenient designated police station (Northern Ireland) or to a designated police station in which the offence is being investigated (Northern Ireland), or
  • in Northern Ireland, shall be taken either to the nearest convenient designated police station (England & Wales) or to a designated police station in a police area in which the offence is being investigated (England & Wales) or to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland).

A person detained under the above powers:[6]

  • in England or Wales, shall be taken to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland), or to the nearest convenient designated police station (England or Wales), or
  • in Northern Ireland, shall be taken to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland), or to the nearest convenient designated police station (Northern Ireland), as soon as reasonably practicable.

Detention under these powers, which in Scotland normally lasts for twelve hours, can be extended for up to twenty four hours.[9]

Arrest without warrant: offences committed in other countries

A constable from one country has, in the other countries, the same powers of arrest as a constable of that country would have.[10]

A constable from England & Wales has:[10]

  • in Scotland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Scotland
  • in Northern Ireland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Northern Ireland would have under Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (necessity test).[11]

A constable from Scotland has:[10]

  • in England and Wales, the same power of arrest as a constable from England & Wales would have under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (necessity test).[12]
  • in Northern Ireland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Northern Ireland would have under Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (necessity test).[13]

A constable from Northern Ireland has:[10]

  • in Scotland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Scotland
  • in England and Wales, the same power of arrest as a constable from England & Wales would have under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (necessity test).[12]

When a constable arrests a person in England & Wales, the constable is subject to the requirements of section 28 (informing of arrest),[14] section 30 (taking to a designated police station)[15] and section 32 (search on arrest).[10][16] When a constable arrests a person in Scotland, the arrested person shall have the same rights and the constable the same powers and duties as they would have were the constable a constable of a police force in Scotland.[10] When a constable arrests a person in Northern Ireland, the constable is subject to the requirements of Article 30 (informing of arrest),[17] Article 32 (taking to a designated police station)[18] and Article 34 (search on arrest).[10][19]

Other situations

Police forces often support each other with large-scale operations, such as those that require specialist skills or expertise and those that require policing levels that the host-forces cannot provide. Referred to as mutual aid, constables loaned from one force to another have the powers and privileges of a constable of the host force.[20] Constables from the Metropolitan Police who are on protection duties in Scotland or Northern Ireland have all the powers and privileges of a constable of the local territorial police force.[21] A constable who is taking a person to or from a prison retains all the powers, authority, protection and privileges of his office regardless of his location.[22] Regardless of where they are in the United Kingdom, a constable may arrest under section 41[23] and may stop and search under section 43[24] of the Terrorism Act 2000 on suspicion of terrorism (defined by section 40[25]).

Initial training

England and Wales

There are three curricula for new police constables, special constables and police community support officers:[26]

  • Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP) for police constables
  • Initial Learning for the Special Constabulary (IL4SC) for special constables
  • PCSO National Learning Programme for police community support officers

Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPDLP)

Successful completion of the IPLDP over two years will result in a (mandatory) Diploma in Policing (Level 3 Qualifications and Credit Framework) consisting of ten mandatory units.

Initial Learning for the Special Constabulary (IL4SC)

Derived from the IPLDP and although not linked to a formal qualification as such; IL4SC requires the learning outcomes and National Occupational Standards (NOSs) are met in order to become compliant. This curriculum will bring an officer to the 'point of safe and lawful accompanied patrol'.[27] This course equates to roughly 3.5 weeks of direct learning.

PCSO National Learning Programme

Successfully completion of the PCSO NLP over a period of six months to a year will result in a non-mandatory Certificate in Policing and this equates to 10 weeks of direct learning and consists of six mandatory units. Four of these units also feature within the IPLDP and being a QCF qualification, this can allow for officers wishing to become police officers for 'Recognition of Prior Learning' (RPL) and the transfer of such units to the IPLDP scheme.[26]


All initial probationer training in Scotland is undertaken at the Scottish Police College (or SPC) at Tulliallan Castle. Recruits initially spend 12 weeks at the SPC before being posted to their divisions and over the next two years return to the SPC a number of times to complete examinations and fitness tests.[28] Training is composed of four distinct modules undertaken at various locations with some parts being delivered locally and some centrally at the SPC.[29]

Training for Special Constables is delivered locally at seven locations throughout Scotland over a series of evenings and/or weeekends. The training is split into two parts, with the first phase being delivered in a classroom environment before being sworn in as a Special Constable and the second phase is delivered after being sworn in. Upon successful completion of both parts of the training programme Special Constables are awarded a certificate of achievement and would be eligible to complete an abbreviated course at the Scottish Police College should they later wish to join the Police Service of Scotland as a regular officer.[30]

Powers of officers

Territorial police constables

An officer of the Metropolitan Police with an officer of Merseyside Police during a football game between Everton and West Ham at Goodison Park
Police Constables and an Inspector of Greater Manchester Police on the beat in Manchester city centre after the 2008 UEFA Cup Final Riots

Most police officers are members of territorial police forces. Upon taking an oath for one of these forces, they have all the powers and privileges, duties and responsibilities of a constable in one of the three distinct legal systems - either England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, and the territorial waters of that country. The limited circumstances where their powers extend across the border are described below.

Other constables

There are many constables who are not members of territorial police forces. The most notable are members of the three forces referred to as special police forces: the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Such officers have the "powers and privileges of a constable" in matters relating to their work.[31][32][33] BTP and MDP officers have additional jurisdiction where requested by a constable of another force, in which case they take on that constables jurisdiction.[34][35] Upon request from the chief police officer of a police force, members of one of the above three forces can be given the full powers of constables in the police area of the requesting force.[34][36] This was used to supplement police numbers in the areas surrounding the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles.

Many acts allow companies or councils to employ constables for a specific purpose. There are 10[37] companies whose employees are sworn in as constables under section 79 of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847. As a result, they have the full powers of a constable on land owned by the harbour, dock, or port and at any place within one mile of any owned land. There are also forces created by specific legislation, such as the Port of Tilbury Police (Port of London Act 1968), Mersey Tunnels Police (County of Merseyside Act 1989) and the Epping Forest Keepers (Epping Forest Act 1878).

Under Article 18 of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967, London Borough Councils are allowed to swear in council officers as constables for "securing the observance of the provisions of all enactments relating to open spaces under their control or management and of bye-laws and regulations made thereunder". These constables are not legally police constables and have no powers to enforce criminal law other than those afforded to every citizen.[38] and so should not be considered as police officers, but as individuals paid to enforce common statute.

Police staff

Police forces employ civilian staff who perform many functions to assist officers and support the smooth running of their police force. They do not hold the office of constable. In England & Wales, the chief police officer of a territorial police force may designate any person who is employed by the police authority maintaining that force, and is under the direction and control of that chief police officer, as one or more of the following:

They have a range of powers given by the Police Reform Act 2002,[40] and their chief police officer decides which of these powers they may use. Unlike a police constable, a PCSO only has powers when on duty and in uniform, and within the area policed by their respective force.

Until 1991, parking enforcement was primarily conducted by police-employed traffic wardens. Since the passage of the Road Traffic Act 1991, decriminalised parking enforcement has enabled local authorities to take on this role and now very few forces still employ Police Traffic Wardens, these include the Metropolitan Police Service however they have combined the role with PCSOs as Traffic Police Community Support Officers.

In Scotland, Police Custody and Security Officers have powers similar to those of detention officers and escort officers in England and Wales.[41] Similar powers are available in Northern Ireland.[42]

Accredited Persons

Chief police officers of territorial police forces[43] (and the British Transport Police[44]) can also give limited powers[45] to people not employed by the police authority, under Community Safety Accreditation Schemes. A notable example are officers of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, who have been given powers to stop vehicles.[46] This practice has been criticised by the Police Federation who described it as "half-baked".[47]

Members of the armed forces

In Northern Ireland only, members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces have powers to stop people[48] or vehicles,[49] arrest and detain people for three hours[50] and enter buildings to keep the peace[51] or search for people who have been kidnapped.[52] Additionally, commissioned officers may close roads.[53] They may use reasonable force when exercising these powers.[54]

Under the Customs Management Act 1979, members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces may detain people if they believe they have committed an offence under the Customs & Excise acts, and may seize goods if they believe they are liable to forfeiture under the same acts.[55]

Other civilians

Some employees of local authorities have powers of entry relating to inspection of businesses under the Sunday Trading Act 1994[56] and powers to give Fixed Penalty Notices for offences such as littering, graffiti or one of the wide ranging offences in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. Such powers may be granted under local bylaws or acts of parliament.

When carrying out an investigation, staff of the Independent Police Complaints Commission have the powers and privileges of constables throughout England and Wales and territorial waters.[57] Similarly, staff of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland have certain powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Application to the Police Ombudsman) Order (Northern Ireland) 2009[58]

Employees of the

  • British police slang and acronyms
  • UK Police news and information portal
  • UK police crime map and statistics

Non-official and independent sites

  • Independent Police Complaints Commission (England and Wales)
  • Complaints Against the police (Scotland)
  • Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland

Complaints against police

  • Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland
  • Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Police Federation of England and Wales
  • Scottish Police Federation
  • Police Federation for Northern Ireland
  • Christian Police Association
  • Gay Police Association Website
  • National Black Police Association
  • Catholic Police Guild

Staff Associations

  • National Wildlife Crime Unit
  • UK Human Trafficking Centre
  • National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA)
  • The National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO)
  • Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
  • The National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU)
  • UK Police National Missing Persons Bureau
  • National Mobile Phone Crime Unit
  • Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit
  • Forensic Science Service
  • LGC Forensics - Laboratory of the Government Chemist
  • Truckpol
  • Police guidelines (ACPO) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Police Could You?

National Police Resources

  • Scottish Police College
  • Association of Police Authorities (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
  • Government site on police reform
  • Crown Prosecution Service
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • Security Service - MI5
  • Serious Organised Crime Agency
  • Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency
  • Northern Ireland Organised Crime Taskforce

External links

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  4. ^ a b section 136, Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994
  5. ^ section 139 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  6. ^ a b c d section 137, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  7. ^ section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
  8. ^ Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989
  9. ^ section 138, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  10. ^ a b c d e f g section 140, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
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  15. ^ section 30
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  111. ^ Wales police merger to go ahead. BBC News. 4 March 2006.
  112. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "Hansard, 20 March 2006, Column 6WS". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  113. ^ Police forces set to be slashed to 24. The Independent. 20 March 2006.
  114. ^ Police forces 'to be cut to 24'. BBC News. 20 March 2006.
  115. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (2006-03-21). "Hansard, 21 March 2006, Column 15WS". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  116. ^ Police merger plan given go-ahead. BBC News. 11 April 2006
  117. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "Hansard 18 April 2006, Col 328W". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  118. ^ Battle to merge London's Police. The Guardian. 8 October 2004.
  119. ^ Future of the British Transport Police HoC Transport Committee. 16 May 2006
  120. ^ London City Police Tap Bankers to Help Fight Takeover Bloomberg 20 March 2006
  121. ^ Review of the British Transport Police DfT, 20 July 2006
  122. ^ Interim Fraud Review LSLO, January 2006
  123. ^ Final fraud Review Report Published LSLO, July 2006
  124. ^ Commissioner of the Metropolis (2003-02-17). "MPS merger with Royal Parks Constabulary". Metropolitan Police Authority. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  125. ^ "Royals Parks Constabulary merge with MPS". Metropolitan Police Service. 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  126. ^ Home Secretary delays police force mergers, Home Office, 20 June 2006
  127. ^ Forces back out of merger plans BBC News 10 July 2006
  128. ^ Merger of police forces is scrapped. The Times. 11 July 2006.
  129. ^ Police mergers still on agenda. BBC News 12 July 2006
  130. ^ Plan to cut police forces to 12. BBC News. 10 November 2005.
  131. ^ Scottish police force merger plan outlined - BBC News, 12/01/11
  132. ^ Scots ministers to reform police, jobs and alcohol laws - BBC News, 08/09/11
  133. ^ A single Scottish police force: paving the way to independence? - The Guardian, 07/09/11
  134. ^ "'"Police and fire service merger 'would save £1.7bn. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012. 
  135. ^ "UK Borders Act 2007 (c. 30) - Statute Law Database". 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  136. ^ "Border Policing Strengthened". Home Office Press Office. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  137. ^ Edwards, Richard; Hope, Christopher (23 June 2008). "Britain to get 3,000-strong border force to fight terrorism and illegal immigration". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  138. ^ "Ministers float border force plan". BBC News. 23 June 2008. 
  139. ^ "Theresa May to split up UK Border Agency". BBC News. 20 February 2012. 
  140. ^ "'"Wiltshire police chief Brian Moore 'will be greatly missed. BBC News. 21 February 2012. 
  141. ^ Tories unveil police reform plan BBC News, 3 April 2007
  142. ^ Police in protest rally over pay BBC January 24, 2008
  143. ^ Cross-channel Policing New York Times, 4 May 2001.
  144. ^ Irish Sellafield appeal ruled illegal The Guardian, 30 May 2006
  145. ^ TISPOL - Crossing Borders to Save Lives TISPOL
  146. ^ North Wales Police Chief Constable's Blog, 24 November 2006






See also

There are certain instances where police forces of other nations operate in a limited degree in the United Kingdom:

Overseas police forces in the UK

The decision by the Home Secretary to refuse to implement, in England and Wales, the recommendation of the Police Arbitration Tribunal of a 2.5% increase in pay has caused widespread anger, especially as this decision stood in sharp contrast to the decision of the Scottish Government to fully implement the award for police officers in Scotland by backdating it to 1 September 2007.[142] By instead implementing the award with effect from 1 December 2007, the Home Secretary effectively reduced it to 1.9%, claiming that this was necessary to control inflation, despite the fact that police authorities had already made provision for the full 2.5% increase from their revenue budgets. There were marches on Westminster by off-duty officers as a result.

Police pay

In addition, the proposals made clear that on the issue of serious crime the 43 police forces in England and Wales would either have to have greater cooperation, or that the serious crime elements of their function would be invested in a National Serious Crime Force.[141]

  • Replacing police authorities with directly elected police commissioners. These individuals would have control over budgets and target setting, with the Chief Constable retaining operational control of policing.
  • Giving the public the right to discuss local policing issues with their local police officers at regular meetings.

In April 2007, the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron announced the Conservative Party's proposals for reform of policing. These included:

National Crime Force (England and Wales)

Following a major enquiry into the [139] Brian Moore, the former Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, was appointed as the first head of the new UKBF.[140]

Border Force

Within months of this, the Home Secretary revealed (in a 16-page response to a report by Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of UK terrorism legislation) that the Home Office will issue a Green Paper proposing to take forward proposals by the Association of Chief Police Officers (England & Wales) for the establishment of a new 3,000-strong national border police force to work alongside the Agency.[137][138]

The Government has effectively admitted the shortcomings of the Agency by making a number fundamental changes within a year of its commencement. On 1 April 2008 the BIA became the UK Border Agency following a merger with UKvisas, the port of entry functions of HM Revenue and Customs. The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) "...will bring together the work of the Border and Immigration Agency, UK Visas and parts of HM Revenue and Customs at the border, [and] will work closely with the police and other law enforcement agencies to improve border controls and security."[136]

As part of the wide ranging review of the Home Office, the then Home Secretary, John Reid, announced in July 2006 that all British immigration officers would be uniformed. On 1 April 2007 the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) was created and commenced operation. However, there were no police officers in the Agency, a matter that attracted considerable criticism when the Agency was established - agency officers have limited powers of arrest. Further powers for designated officers within the Agency, including powers of detention pending the arrival of a police officer, were introduced by the UK Borders Act 2007.[135]

Border and Immigration Agency/UK Border Agency

Following the passing of an Act of the Scottish Parliament in 2012, a new single force for the whole of Scotland - to be known as Police Scotland - came into effect on 1 April 2013.

According to the Scottish Government, approximately 25% of the total police budget in Scotland is spent on Headquarters costs. The Scottish National Party has made a commitment to increasing numbers of police officers by up to 1,000. Both Labour and the Conservatives have come out in favour of a single force, while the Liberal Democrats are against this proposal.[131] Following the 2011 Holyrood election, in which the SNP gained a majority, the proposal for a single police force in Scotland was introduced as part of the Scottish Government's new legislative agenda in September 2011.[132] This created a force of approximately 17,000 police officers, the second largest in the United Kingdom after the Metropolitan Police in London.[133][134]

  1. The eight existing police forces are retained, but with "increased collaboration"
  2. Policing in Scotland moves towards a more regional structure, with the number of individual forces reduced
  3. All eight Scottish police forces are merged to form a single Scottish police service

In 2010, the Justice Secretary in Scotland, Kenny MacAskill, outlined plans for reform of policing in Scotland. Under a consultation, three proposals would be discussed in light of the financial situation and the need for some level of budget cuts:

Creation of a single Police Service in Scotland

Region Proposed force
Eastern Merge Bedfordshire Police, Essex Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary
Merge Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Norfolk Constabulary and Suffolk Constabulary
East Midlands Merge Derbyshire Constabulary, Leicestershire Constabulary, Lincolnshire Police, Northamptonshire Police and Nottinghamshire Police
London London not included in the review of policing, so City of London Police and Metropolitan Police unaffected.
North-East Merge Cleveland Police, Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police
North-West Merge Cumbria Constabulary and Lancashire Constabulary
Merge Cheshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police
Greater Manchester Police unchanged
South-East Kent Police unchanged
Merge Surrey Police and Sussex Police
Hampshire Constabulary unchanged
Thames Valley Police unchanged
South-West[130] Option 1: Merge Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, Gloucestershire Constabulary, Dorset Police and Wiltshire Constabulary
Option 2: Merge Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Gloucestershire Constabulary, Wiltshire Constabulary and Dorset Police
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary unchanged
Wales Merge Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police and South Wales Police
West Midlands Merge Staffordshire Police, Warwickshire Police, West Mercia Constabulary, West Midlands Police
Yorkshire and Humberside Merge Humberside Police, North Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police
Note: these mergers have all been suspended in the long term while a further review and consultation into policing in England and Wales takes place
List of proposed mergers

Policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland does not come under the purview of the Home Office, and so would have remained unaffected by these proposals. Likewise, the major non-territorial forces (British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Ministry of Defence Police) are responsible to other government departments, and so would not have been affected by this review.

Other police forces

On 11 July 2006, it then emerged that the entire proposal for police mergers might be ended, following the decision by the only two forces to have agreed to amalgamation, Cumbria and Lancashire, not to proceed.[127] The announcement of this was followed by the head of the ACPO stating that "The necessary financial support has not materialised and mergers, including voluntary ones, will not take place".[128] On 12 July 2006, the Home Office confirmed that the mergers were to be abandoned, with the entire proposal taken back for consultation.[129]

On 20 June 2006 the new Home Secretary, John Reid, announced that the contested mergers would be delayed for further discussion,[126] and no mergers would be ordered before Parliament's summer recess on 25 July other than the agreed Lancashire/Cumbria one.

Merger abandonment

Separate from the proposals raised by the Mayor of London and Metropolitan Police Commissioner was a plan by the government to reform policing in the Royal Parks. Since 1872 this had been the responsibility of the Royal Parks Constabulary. A report by former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Speed provided three options to reform the RPC, with the decision taken that it should be merged with the Metropolitan Police.[124] The Met took over responsibility for policing the Royal Parks on 1 April 2004 with the formation of the Royal Parks Operational Command Unit. The full merger and abolition of the Royal Parks Constabulary took place in May 2006.[125]

Upon the publication of the proposals, the Greater London area was not included. This was due to two separate reviews of policing in the capital - the first was a review by the Department of Transport into the future role and function of the British Transport Police. The second was a review by the Attorney-General into national measures for combating fraud (the City of London Police is one of the major organisations for combating economic crime).[117] Both the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, and the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, stated that they would like to see a single police force in London, with the Metropolitan Police absorbing the City of London Police and the functions of the British Transport Police in London.[118] However, the proposal to merge both the BTP and City forces with the Met caused significant criticism from several areas; the House of Commons Transport Select Committee severely criticised the idea of the Metropolitan Police taking over policing of the rail network in a report published on 16 May 2006,[119] while the City of London Corporation and several major financial institutions in The City made public their opposition to the City Police merging with the Met.[120] In a statement on 20 July 2006, the Transport Secretary announced that there would be no structural or operational changes to the British Transport Police, effectively ruling out any merger[121] The interim report by the Attorney General's fraud review recognised the role taken by the City Police as the lead force in London and the South-East for tackling fraud, and made a recommendation that, should a national lead force be required, the City Police, with its expertise, would be an ideal candidate to take this role.[122] This view was confirmed on the publication of the final report, which recommended that the City of London Police's Fraud Squad should be the national lead force in combatting fraud, to "act as a centre of excellence, disseminate best practice, give advice on complex inquiries in other regions, and assist with or direct the most complex of such investigations"[123]

Metropolitan Police officers on the beat in London's Trafalgar Square
Greater London

A second batch of merger proposals were made on 20 March 2006, with the Eastern, East Midlands and South East regions covered. A deadline of 7 April 2006 was set for responses, after which it was expected that the process above would be followed.[112][113][114] The following day, the Home Secretary proposed a merger of all four forces in the Yorkshire and the Humber region.[115] The consultation period on this second batch of mergers started on 11 April 2006, and would have finished on 11 August, with a target of 1 April 2008 for the mergers coming into effect.[116]

On 6 February 2006, preferred options for several regions were announced by the Home Secretary in a written ministerial statement,[106][107] and set a deadline of 24 February for forces to agree to the mergers. By this dead-line the only merger to have the agreement of all forces involved was the Cumbria/Lancashire merger. Cheshire was opposed to a merger with Merseyside, and West Mercia and Cleveland were holdouts in their regions, whilst all the Welsh forces opposed the creation of a single Welsh force.[108] The Home Secretary had the power to order the Cumbria/Lancashire merger to proceed by statutory instrument under the Police Act 1996, and also to force through the contested mergers, given a four-month consultation period. In a Written Statement made on 3 March 2006,[109] he announced that the Lancashire/Cumbria merger could be ordered in May, and that the consultation period on the others was starting, and would end on 2 July 2006. The new forces would come into being on 1 April 2007.[110][111]

Draft options were announced in November 2005.[101] The Home Office offered money to police authorities that decided to voluntarily merge ahead of schedule, and was consequently accused of attempting to "bribe" unwilling Chief Constables into compliance.[102] The proposals were debated in the House of Commons on 19 December 2005.[103] Most Chief Constables and police authorities did not back the measure,[104] and some suggested that cross-regional mergers would make more sense (for example, Hampshire Constabulary in the South East suggested it could merge with Dorset Police in the South West, whilst there was also a suggestion of North Wales Police increasing co-operation with Cheshire Police)[105]

In September 2005, in a report[99] delivered to the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary suggested that the forty-three force structure in England and Wales was "no longer fit for purpose" and smaller forces should be merged. In 2005 nineteen forces had fewer than 2,000 regular officers each, and the report suggested that forces with 4,000 or more officers performed better and could save costs.[100] Forces were asked to produce proposals for mergers, within Wales and the English Government Office Regions. Nearly all the existing forces were under the 4,000 limit, with only the Metropolitan Police, Greater Manchester Police, Merseyside Police, Northumbria Police, Thames Valley Police, West Midlands Police and West Yorkshire Police over the limit - see Table of police forces in the United Kingdom for a full list.

A 2004 proposal by the Police Superintendents' Association for the creation of a single national police force, similar to Garda Síochána na hÉireann was objected to by the Association of Chief Police Officers. The government did not accept the proposal at the time.[98]

In 1981 James Anderton, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, called for 10 regional police forces for England and Wales, one for each region that would be adopted as Government Office Regions in England, plus Wales.[97]

As of 2013 there were 45 territorial police forces in the UK.

Proposed mergers for England and Wales

Police force mergers

In the United Kingdom, the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre is a joint police/mental health unit set up in October 2006 by the Home Office, the Department of Health and Metropolitan Police Service to identify and address those individuals considered to pose a threat to VIPs or the Royal Family. [96] They may then be referred to local health services for further assessment and potential involuntary commitment. In some cases, they may be detained by police under the section 136 powers of the Mental Health Act 1983 prior to referral.

Fixated Threat Assessment Centre

In April 2009, a total of 145 complaints were made following clashes between police and protesters at the G20 summit.[89] Incidents including the death of 47 year old Ian Tomlinson,[90] minutes after an alleged assault by a police officer,[91] and a separate alleged assault on a woman by a police officer,[92] has led to criticism of police tactics during protests.[93] In response, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson asked Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) to review policing tactics,[94] including the practice of kettling.[95]

Policing of protests

Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 came into force on 15 February 2009[87] making it an offence to elicit, attempt to elicit, or publish information "...of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" about:[88] a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces; a constable, the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, or Government Communications Headquarters. Any person found guilty faces 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.[88] It is a defence for a person charged with this offence to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.[88] It is not otherwise illegal to photograph or film a police officer in a public place per se. It must be noted however that any film or photography recorded whilst a constable is dealing with an incident may be seized as becomes evidence under section 19 of Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Photography of police

A number of recent cases where police intervened in matters of free speech have also given rise to allegations that the police are in danger of becoming thought police. In December 2005, author Lynette Burrows was interviewed by police after expressing her opinion on BBC Radio 5 Live that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children.[85] The following month, Sir Iqbal Sacranie was investigated by police for stating the Islamic view that homosexuality is a sin.[86]

Freedom of speech

At the beginning of 2005 it was announced that the biometric identification technology.[83] PITO are also planning to use CCTV facial recognition systems to identify known suspects; a future link to the proposed National Identity Register has been suggested by some.[84]


In 2003, ten police officers from Greater Manchester Police, North Wales Police and Cheshire Constabulary were forced to resign after a BBC documentary, The Secret Policeman, shown on 21 October, alleged racism among recruits at Bruche Police National Training Centre at Warrington. On 4 March 2005 the BBC noted that minor disciplinary action would be taken against twelve other officers (eleven from Greater Manchester Police and one from Lancashire Constabulary) in connection with the programme, but that they would not lose their jobs. In November 2003, allegations were made that some police officers were members of the British National Party.

Despite attempts to end what the Macpherson Report described as "institutionalised racism" in the police since the 1993 death of Stephen Lawrence, there have been ongoing problems. At the same time, some commentators and academics have claimed that political correctness and excessive sensitivity to issues of race and class have reduced the effectiveness of the police force, not least for people living in deprived areas or members of minority groups themselves.


  • The coal miners' strike (1984–1985) saw thousands of police from various forces deployed to maintain public order and to prevent intimidation of those continuing to work during a national strike by miners, frequently resulting in violent confrontation.
  • The presence of Freemasons in the police caused disquiet in the early 1990s.
  • The Fettesgate scandal in the early 1990s concerned the theft (and allegedly the subsequent recovery) of sensitive documents from the Edinburgh headquarters of Lothian and Borders Police. Nobody has ever been charged, and, at least publicly, no officer was disciplined.
  • The perceived absence of a visible police presence on the streets also frequently causes concern. This is partially being addressed by the introduction of uniformed Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), following the passing of the Police Reform Act 2002, although some have criticised these as for being a cheap alternative to fully trained police officers.[80]
  • Undercover TV programmes, the BBC's 2003 The Secret Policeman[81] and the Channel 4 Dispatches 2006 Undercover Copper[82] raised questions of standards within UK police forces.

Evidence of corruption in the 1970s, serious urban riots and the police role in controlling industrial disorder in the 1980s, and the changing nature of police procedure made police accountability and control a major political football from the 1990s onwards.

Issues since 1984

  • when suspects are being interviewed by the police but have not been detained;
  • when persons are actively attempting to evade arrest;
  • when persons are stopped and searched or questioned by the police; and
  • when persons are in police vehicles (other than whilst in police detention).

Category B: Where the deceased was otherwise in the hands of the police or death resulted from the actions of a police officer in the purported execution of his duty.

  • s/he has been taken to a police station after being arrested for an offence, or
  • s/he is arrested at a police station after attending voluntarily at the station or accompanying a Constable to it, and is detained there or is detained elsewhere in the charge of a constable, except that a person who is at a court after being charged is not in police detention for those purposes.

Category A: This category also encompasses deaths of those under arrest who are held in temporary police accommodation or have been taken to hospital following arrest. It also includes those who die, following arrest, whilst in a police vehicle.

There are two defined categories of death in custody issued by the Home Office:[79]

In 1997/98, 69 people died in police custody or following contact with the police across England and Wales; 26 resulted from deliberate self-harm.[78]

Deaths in police custody

The policy under which police officers in England and Wales use firearms has resulted in controversy. Notorious recent examples include the Stephen Waldorf shooting in 1983, the shooting of James Ashley in 1998, Harry Stanley in 1999, Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 and Abdul Kahar in 2006.

Controversial shootings

stated in 2009: The Economist after these events. Independent Police Complaints Commission by the (in England and Wales only)The police service is sometimes criticised for incidents that result in deaths due to police firearms usage or in police custody, as well as the lack of competence and impartiality in investigations

Deaths after contact with the police


  • All police forces have specialist departments that deal with certain aspects of policing. Larger forces such as Greater Manchester Police, Strathclyde Police and West Midlands Police have many and varied departments and units such as traffic, firearms, marine, horse, tactical support all named differently depending on the force. Smaller forces such Dyfed Powys Police and Warwickshire Police will have fewer specialists and will rely on cross training, such as firearms officers also being traffic trained officers. The Metropolitan Police, the largest force in the country, has a large number of specialist departments, some of which are unique to the Metropolitan Police due to policing the capital and its national responsibilities. For example, the Diplomatic Protection Group and Counter Terrorism Command.
  • Criminal Investigation Departments (CID) can be found in all police forces. Generally these officers deal with investigations of a more complex, serious nature, however this again can differ from force to force. Most officers within this area are detectives. Depending on the force in question this area of policing can be further divided into a myriad of other specialist areas such as fraud. Smaller forces tend to have detectives who deal with a wide range of varied investigations whereas detectives in larger forces can have a very specialist remit.
  • Most local areas or wards in the country have at least one police officer who is involved in trying to build links with the local community and resolve long term problems. In London, the Metropolitan Police Service addresses this area of policing with Safer Neighbourhood Teams. This entails each political ward in London having a Police Sergeant, two police constables and a few PCSOs who are ring fenced to address problems and build community links in their respective wards. Other police forces have similar systems but can be named 'Area officers', 'Neighbourhood officers', 'Beat Constables' and a number of other variations.
  • All police forces have teams of officers who are responsible for general beat duties and response to emergency and non-emergency calls from the public. These officers are generally the most visible and will invariably be the first interface a member of the public has with police. In general terms these officers will normally patrol by vehicle (though also on foot or bicycle in urban areas). They will generally patrol a sub-division or whole division of a police force area or in the case of the Metropolitan Police Service, a borough. Nearly all police officers begin their careers in this area of policing, with some moving on to more specialist roles. The Metropolitan Police Service calls this area of policing 'Response Teams', whilst other forces use terms such as 'patrol', 'section' and other variations.

As all police forces are autonomous organisations there is much variation in organisation and nomenclature, however outlined below are the main strands of policing that makes up police forces:

Organisation of police forces

In the 19th and early 20th centuries most forces required that recruits be at least 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) in height. By 1960 many forces had reduced this to 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm), and 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm) for women. Many senior officers deplored this, believing that height was a vital requirement for a uniformed constable.[74] Some forces retained the height standard at 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) or 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm) until the early 1990s, when the height standard was gradually removed. This is due to the MacPherson report of 1999, as the height restriction was seen to possibly discriminate against those of ethnic backgrounds who may be genetically predisposed to be shorter. No British force now requires its recruits to be of any minimum height. The shortest officer in the UK, PC Sue Day of Wiltshire Police, is 4 feet 10 inches (147 cm) tall.[75] The tallest is PC Anthony Wallyn of the Metropolitan Police who is 7 feet 2 inches (218 cm) tall.[76] Both officers had to have their uniforms specially made for them due to their size. In May 1990, the minimum height requirement was dropped by the Metropolitan Police, and all Provincial Police Forces followed suit by September 1990.


London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) firearms unit is the Specialist Firearms Command (SC019 - formerly SO19 and C019), but every force in the United Kingdom has firearms-trained officers available should the need arise. Metropolitan and City of London Police operate with three officers per Armed Response Vehicle (ARV), composed of a driver, a navigator, and an observer who gathers information about the incident and liaises with other units. Other police forces carry two Authorised Firearms Officers instead of three. Armed Police carry a combination of weapons, ranging from German Heckler & Koch MP5 carbines, Heckler & Koch PSG1 Sniper rifles, Heckler & Koch Baton Guns (which fire baton rounds) and Heckler & Koch G36Cs to a number of specialist weapons such as the Remington pump-action shotgun. Marksmen in the London Metropolitan Police,[73] Police Service of Northern Ireland and other also use Accuracy International Arctic Warfare. Since 2009 Tasers have also been issued to members of response teams for use when deadly force may not be warranted.

Every territorial force has a specialist Firearms Unit,[72] which maintains Armed Response Vehicles to respond to firearms-related emergency calls. One territorial force (the Police Service of Northern Ireland) and two of the special police forces, (the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police), are routinely armed.

Uniforms, the issuing of firearms, type of patrol cars, and other equipment, varies by force. Unlike police in most other developed countries, the vast majority of British police officers do not carry firearms on standard patrol; they carry Extendable "Asp" or fixed Monadnock PR-24 batons and CS/PAVA spray.

Uniform and equipment

Throughout the United Kingdom, the rank structure of police forces is identical up to the rank of Chief Superintendent. At higher ranks, structures are distinct within London where the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Police have a series of Commander and Commissioner ranks as their top ranks whereas other UK police forces have assistants, deputies and a Chief Constable as their top ranks. All Commissioners and Chief Constables are equal in rank.


The Sovereign Base Areas Police; as the SBAs' existence is solely for the benefit of the British armed forces and do not have full overseas territory status, the SBA Police are responsible to the Ministry of Defence). Because they are based on the British model of policing, these police forces conform to the standards set out by the British government, which includes voluntarily submitting themselves to inspection by the HMIC.

Crown dependencies and overseas territories

  • Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) - this organisation is responsible to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

There are two similarly named organisations:

Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Constabulary (HMIC) are the official bodies responsible for the examination and assessment of police forces to ensure their requirements are met as intended.

Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Constabulary

Police harbour patrol boat in Poole Harbour, Dorset

The British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary had their own police authority established in 2004. These forces operate across national jurisdictions but their responsibility is to the specific activities they were established to police.

In Scotland, Police Scotland is overseen by the Scottish Police Services Authority.

In Northern Ireland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is supervised by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

From 22 November 2012, police authorities outside of London were replaced by directly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners. In London the City of London Police continued to be overseen by City of London Corporation, whilst the Mayor of London has responsibility for the governance of the Metropolitan Police.[71]


Since the 1940s, police forces in the United Kingdom have been merged and modernised.

The police historian Charles Reith explained in his New Study of Police History (1956)[68] that these principles constituted a philosophy of policing "unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public".[70] This approach to policing became known as "policing by consent".[69]

Nine principles of policing were set out in the ‘General Instructions’ issued to every new police officer in the Metropolitan Police from 1829. However, it has been suggested this list was more likely authored by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the first and joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police.[68][69]

  • Every police officer should be issued an identification number, to assure accountability for his actions.
  • Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.
  • Above all else, an effective authority figure knows trust and accountability are paramount. Hence, Peel's most often quoted principle that "The police are the public and the public are the police."

The Peelian Principles describe the philosophy that Sir Robert Peel developed to define an ethical police force. The principles traditionally ascribed to Peel state that:

In the 18th century law enforcement and policing was left entirely to local initiative based on watchmen and constables; there was no nationally organised police force. The Metropolitan Police.[67] Legislation in the 1830s introduced policing in royal boroughs and many counties and, in the 1850s, policing was established nationally.

A police officer on lunchbreak.


Civilian Security Officers (CSO) of the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service whilst on duty hold similar powers to those of a Police Constable, as allowed by the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1947. A CSO has the powers of arrest under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (PACE).[64]

Prison officers have the powers, authority, protection, and privileges of a constable when acting as prison officers.[63]

Employees of public fire and rescue services have extensive powers in the event of an emergency, and more limited powers in other circumstances, such as fire investigations.

Wildlife inspector have certain powers of entry and inspection in relation to wildlife and licenses relating to wildlife.

Traffic officers are employed by the Highways Agency and maintain traffic flow on trunk roads and some bridges and tunnels. There are different types of traffic officer and they are appointed under separate Acts. They have limited powers to direct traffic and place road signs, close lanes of an active motorway, and stop vehicles if they believe them to be unroadworthy for the road and condition they are driving in.

In England & Wales, water bailiffs employed by the Environment Agency have powers in relation to enforcement of fishing regulations. Scottish water bailiffs have similar powers. There are also seven types of court officer - two in Scotland and five in England & Wales, commonly referred to as "bailiffs", who can enforce court orders and, in some cases, have powers of arrest.

Employees of the Border Force may be Immigration Officers and/or customs officers and hold certain powers of arrest, detention and search.

These designations can be unconditional or conditional; time limited or limited to a specific operation. [62] and immigration officer.[61] Revenue and Customs officer[60] the powers of a constable,[59]

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