Removal of articles which pose a danger to persons

16 November 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

Officers attend an address whereby a person threatens to end their life using specific items. Can the items used in the threat by the person be seized in order to safeguard and remove the threat?

My understanding is these items would not be covered under the powers of seizure under section 19 of PACE as they are not items used or obtained in a criminal offence, is there a legal basis for this seizure to be made?

Answer:

Section 19 of PACE (D218 on PNLD) provides a power of seizure, but only in certain circumstances. Subsections (2) and (3) provide details of this:

'19(1) The powers conferred by subsections (2), (3) and (4) below are exercisable by a constable who is lawfully on any premises.

19(2) The constable may seize anything which is on the premises if he has reasonable grounds for believing -

(a) that it has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence; and
(b) that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent it being concealed, lost, damaged, altered or destroyed.

19(3) The constable may seize anything which is on the premises if he has reasonable grounds for believing -

(a) that it is evidence in relation to an offence which he is investigating or any other offence; and
(b) that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence being concealed, lost, altered or destroyed.'

Lawfully on premises

 Section 23 of PACE (D222 on PNLD) outlines the meaning of premises as:

'23 In this Act premises includes any place and, in particular, includes -

(a) any vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft;

(b) any offshore installation;

(ba) any renewable energy installation;

(c) any tent or movable structure; '

This includes premises which may be deemed public or private. The officer has to be lawfully on them i.e. to have gained lawful entry either by consent or other lawful power.

Evidence in relation to an offence in (3)(a) means facts to support an investigation.

Reasonable grounds to believe - please see D2900 on PNLD which gives some information on this concept.

In any situation, should any officer rely on the power of this section to seize items, they must be able to provide their justification for doing so by evidencing they have fulfilled all the above requirements of this section.

With regards the situation you describe, being that this particular incident did not involve any offence, we would agree that section 19 would not have applied. However, in our view, in such a situation, where an officer takes 'action' they believe is for the purpose of preventing a person attempting to take their own life, this would be in accordance with their legal obligation as a police officer, the obligation being to protect life and limb. Please see link below which contains guidance provided by the College of Policing on such issues:

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/mental-health/suicide-and-bereavement-response/

The guidance states:

 Legal obligations for police response to suicide

The police have various legal obligations to become involved in suicide prevention and response:

the primary objective of an efficient police force is the protection of life and property (defined by the first commissioners of police for London in 1829).

the duty to protect life, reinforced by Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (the right to life), and how this extends to people at risk of suicide (Keenan V United kingdom 27229/95 [2001] ECHR 242).

the duty of care that might exceptionally arise when the police assume responsibility towards a particular member of the public (see When do the police have a duty to respond?)

when considering the requirement to keep and analyse data for preventing suicide, the Management of Police Information (MOPI) codes of practice stipulates that police data will be recorded, stored and used to support public protection.

To read more legislation about this, login to the legal database. 

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