For some time now Tony Blair has been behind a drive towards what he has described as a “re-balancing” of the criminal justice system.

This week we hear that Mark Rowley, Surrey’s Assistant Chief Constable and ACPO’s spokesman on modernising police methods, is pressing for new powers that would effectively make front-line police officers unaccountable to the courts.

These include:

the power for cops to exclude individuals from certain areas “for an appropriate period” when they have been issued with an informal warning or a fixed penalty fine (by the same officers);

giving neighbourhood constables the right to prohibit individuals from participating in free association if they are deemed by those same officers to be “gang members”;

enabling “reasonable suspicion” for stop and search to be based on previous convictions.

All of which combine to facilitate the conception of a front-line operative who effectively wields all the power of legislator, judge and jury, without any of the constraints applicable in a court of law.

“We could move from the police referring and the courts sentencing to the police solving and the courts providing scrutiny,” says Mr Rowley.

But “scrutiny” would only come into the picture, presumably, if the individuals concerned were to complain to the courts, which they would have to do, it would seem, via the police.

This looks like instant police justice to me; it might also be construed as a return to the discredited sus laws, which were discarded as being open to abuse and fuel to police corruption.

The bulwarks between law enforcement and punishment exist for a reason and their erosion will do nothing to “re-balance” the criminal justice system; on the contrary, loss of separation will almost certainly create an opposite and detrimental effect.

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