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Cover Human Rights Law Directions

20. Applications: police powers  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. It discusses European Convention law and relates it to domestic law under the HRA. Questions, discussion points, and thinking points help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress and knowledge can be tested by self-test questions and exam questions at the chapter end. This chapter focuses on the authority of the police in the United Kingdom and on issues which are affected by human rights law under the HRA. Police powers are exercised with the authority of both common law and statute—the latter (e.g. the Police and Public Evidence Act 1984) must be interpreted for compatibility with Convention rights so far as section 3 HRA allows. The police are considered a ‘core’ public authority, and policing is self-evidently a public function. The following sections also discuss the extensive powers of the police in relation to, in particular, Article 5, regarding arrest and detention, and Article 8, regarding searches and seizure. English and Welsh courts adjudicating on these powers have generally found them to be compatible with Convention rights at the general level. Some important cases, such as over the retention, storage and use of personal data, have led to disagreements with Strasbourg and consequential changes to the law.