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Updating the law around the arrest and questioning of suspects

We are modernising the law around the arrest and questioning of suspects by:

  • introducing a new power of arrest on suspicion of having committed a crime
  • setting the total period someone can be kept in police custody without charge at 12 hours. Currently the time period is 12 hours with the possibility of an extension for a further 12 hours, if authorised by a senior police officer
  • providing the suspect with a right to have a solicitor present during police interview
  • ensuring that anyone kept in police custody, without charge, must have their custody reviewed by a senior officer within six hours. This will mean that people are not unduly held for prolonged periods when police enquiries could be completed while the person is at liberty
  • providing the police with the power to allow someone, who is still suspected of having committed an offence but has not been charged, to be freed from police custody, with or without conditions. If conditions are applied on liberation, those conditions can apply for a period of up to 28 days and will need to be authorised by a senior police officer. This is a completely new system which balances the individual’s right to liberty against the ongoing police investigation.
  • providing the police with the power to allow someone who has been charged or officially accused, to be freed from police custody with or without conditions, similar to the current provisions in Section 22 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. This not only allows for relevant conditions to be set for the accused but also provides a date when they must attend court
  • provides that a judge, if it is in the interests of justice, can permit the police to question a suspect after s/he has been charged with an offence – at the moment, the police cannot question someone after they have been charged
  • introducing a 'letter of rights' which explains a person’s rights whilst held in police custody in Scotland, particularly the right to access a lawyer

Many of these changes are proposed in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill