28 July 2021
The decision to arrest someone is never taken lightly. The individual’s fundamental right to freedom and liberty is being taken away and therefore has to be justified. When an individual is brought into police custody they have certain rights and entitlements which include free and independent legal advice, the right to tell someone they have been arrested and a right to read all the codes of practice about how they must be treated and what the police have to follow.
Additionally, if a person arrested is a vulnerable adult with physical or mental difficulties which affects communication or understanding, or a child, then an appropriate adult is required to help support the individual and take an interest in their wellbeing.
All of this is covered by the Police and Criminal Evidence Ordinance which is available on the St Helena Government website: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Police-Criminal-Evidence-Ord-Updated-010621.pdf.
The law is always being reviewed and updated to ensure that it meets the needs of the public. In June 2021 amendments were made to strengthen the protection of victims, witnesses and the public through the granting of powers for the Police to place conditions on those who have been released from the Police Station on bail whilst inquiries are ongoing. Conditions could include not to contact a victim or witness to prevent them from being intimidated or encouraged to drop the case, not to enter licenced premises, to remain at home overnight to prevent further crimes being committed, especially useful if the investigation relates to public disorder involving alcohol.
Breaching these conditions is serious and could lead to prosecution or having to remain in custody overnight until the next available court hearing, which is any day other than a Sunday, Good Friday or Christmas Day. The investigating officer must satisfy the custody officer that keeping this person in custody overnight is necessary.
Changing the law is always a balancing act and the welfare of those under investigation is always a concern for the Police especially if investigations are likely to go on for some time. The stress and uncertainty of what might happen can and does impact the mental health and wellbeing of individuals on Police bail. The June 2021 amendments have taken this into account and now place time limits on how long a person can be on bail before being charged. There is now a requirement for the Police to apply to the Magistrates Court for any extension past three months with an absolute limit that the Court can grant of up to 12 months.
St Helena Police welcome the changes which we see as serving the public’s best interest in protecting our victims of crime whilst ensuring that matters are investigated and where appropriate brought before the courts as promptly and effectively as possible.
28 July 2021