Taking footwear impressions from a suspect

20 November 2019

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

A suspect was arrested and subsequently bailed. During his period of detention, his footwear was seized but not scanned. It has since been identified that his footwear needs scanning, for comparisons with footwear impressions found at the scene of the incident (domestic burglary). Can we obtain footwear impressions of the seized footwear whilst the suspect is on bail?

Answer:

In our view, it would be prudent to allow the suspect to answer his bail, so that you can follow the procedures outlined in section 61A(3) of PACE, which permit impressions to be taken without consent, but only where an individual is in police detention. The section allows footwear impressions to be taken where:

(a) the suspect is detained in consequence of his arrest for a recordable offence, or has been charged with a recordable offence, or informed that he will be reported for a recordable offence; and
(b) he has not had an impression taken of his footwear in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police.

Where a suspect has answered bail by attending at the police station, they are again in police detention, as made clear by section 47(6) of PACE. Although the section relates to the calculation of detention periods it makes specific reference to a person who has answered their bail by attending at the police station as being in 'police detention', with the original custody clock continuing.

Even where footwear impressions are taken without consent, there is a requirement for the suspect to be informed of the reasons for doing so. These requirements are provided in section 61A(5) and (6):

'61A(5) If an impression of a person's footwear is taken at a police station, whether with or without the appropriate consent –

(a) before it is taken, an officer shall inform him that it may be the subject of a speculative search; and
(b) the fact that the person has been informed of this possibility shall be recorded as soon as is practicable after the impression has been taken, and if he is detained at a police station, the record shall be made on his custody record.

61A(6) In a case where, by virtue of subsection (3) above, an impression of a person's footwear is taken without the appropriate consent -

(a) he shall be told the reason before it is taken; and
(b) the reason shall be recorded on his custody record as soon as is practicable after the impression is taken.'

This section does not specify what this reason should be, so could include taking the impressions to compare to those at the scene of the incident. Force may be used to take impressions if it becomes necessary in the circumstances.

Paragraph 4.16 to 4.19 of PACE Code D provide further guidance regarding taking footwear impressions.

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