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Title: Police crime : a constitutional perspective
Author: Smith, Graham Richard
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1998
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It is held that the police officer is liable at criminal and civil law the same as the citizen; given constitutional expression in the common law office of constable. Yet, in the execution of their duty police officers are prone to committing a range of criminal offences - assault, false imprisonment, perverting the course of justice - defined in this thesis as police crimes. Statistical analysis reveals that police officers are rarely prosecuted for these offences, suggesting that criminal liability is an illusion, and civil proceedings have become an increasingly popular remedy for police wrongdoing. This thesis holds that ss.48 and 49 of the Police Act 1964 played a prominent part in undermining the police officer's accountability to the law. This was achieved under s.48 by removing the police officer's personal responsibility for his wrongdoing at civil law, and introduction of a vicarious liability rule. And, under s.49, by definition of reports of alleged criminal offences committed by police officers as complaints, and codification of a separate criminal procedure. Since the 1964 Act, statute and case law on police wrongdoing have caused further damage to the constitutional position by emphasising the internal police complaint and disciplinary processes and devaluing issues of liability. It is argued that there is a conflict between the ancient office of constable and the recently developed doctrine of constabulary independence, and it is proposed that a 'balance model' accurately reflects the constitutional position of the police. This thesis examines recent developments at common law alongside the statutory trend, including intended reform of the complaint and discipline processes, and concludes that the integrity of the constitutional position has been seriously damaged. It is proposed that the police officer is no longer accountable to the law for his wrongdoing in like manner as the citizen, and the office of constable survives as a constitutional fiction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Police wrongdoing; Crimial law; Civil law