Ex Senior Police Officer petitions against police’s ‘Sweeping powers’

In his blog today Henry Porter has published a petition launched by retired senior police officer David Gilbertson, who has spoken of his concern regarding the police powers to ‘arrest any person for any offence’.  Mr Gilbertson became concerned with the introduction of section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which has since allowed members of the public to be arrested for “not wearing a seatbelt, dropping litter, shouting in the presence of a police officer, climbing a tree, and building a snowman.”

Below is a copy of the email petition Mr Gilbertson has posted, and Henry Porter encourages those who are interested in the cause to ”copy, paste and circulate it to as many people as you can, and of course sign the petition yourself.” The Convention’s co-director Anthony Barnett has also signed, and it seems the petition expresses many of the concerns that were there on the 28th.

From: David Gilbertson 
Sent: 04 March 2009 14:02
Subject: Excessive Powers of Arrest by Police – Petition to the Prime Minister

Dear Friends and Colleagues,


Most people are unaware that in 2005 a fundamental change in police powers was quietly passed into law; a change that directly affects the life and liberty of you and every person in this country.

Section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was ‘tacked onto’ an otherwise acceptable piece of legislation and allows ANY police officer in England and Wales to arrest, (i.e. physically detain, handcuff and take to a police station for a DNA sample), ANY person, for ANY offence, no matter how trivial and whether or not a power of arrest previously existed for that offence. People can now be, (and have been), arrested and detained under Section 110 for not wearing a seatbelt; dropping litter; shouting in the presence of a police officer, climbing a tree, and building a snowman. Whereas police officers used to have to justify every arrest and be aware of whether or not a particular piece of legislation gave them power, they no longer have to do so. The power to deprive someone of their liberty should only be exercised in the most extreme circumstances, yet young and inexperienced police officers, (and soon, PCSO’s), are being trained that arrest and detention of a suspect is the first option in most encounters with the public. This sweeping power is being roundly abused on a daily basis in all of the 43 police forces in this country and puts you, your wife, husband or partner, your children and your friends at risk of arbitrary action by the police.

I spent 35 years of my adult life in the Police Service and am appalled by what it has become, largely as a result of powers such as those granted under Section 110.

Petitioning the Prime Minister will probably do little to stop the drift of this country to what has been described as a ‘Stasi State’ but I would nonetheless ask that you consider placing your signature on the petition – if only to see how the government responds to genuine concern from thoughtful citizens.

If you are sympathetic to this project, please forward this message and link to other friends, colleagues or bodies concerned about civil liberties.

The link to the petition is below:


Thank you,

David Gilbertson QPM
(formerly Assistant Inspector of Constabulary
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary,
Home Office (retired 2001))

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