Blunkett plans to allow arrests for minor offences

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Indy Politics

Radical proposals to make every criminal offence arrestable will be published by Home Secretary David Blunkett today.

Radical proposals to make every criminal offence arrestable will be published by Home Secretary David Blunkett today.

The measure, set out in a consultation document, would be a major departure from the traditional patchwork of arrestable and non-arrestable offences in England and Wales.

"There is a reasonably complicated set-up at the moment regarding whether an offence is arrestable or not, which is not immediately clear to the public," said a Home Office source.

"This document looks at whether we can simplify that situation and whether we should look at making all offences arrestable."

He added: "It does not mean police could make an arrest willy-nilly. It will still have to be reasonably serious for an arrest to be made."

At present, officers can generally arrest a member of the public if they suspect them of committing an offence which carries a punishment of at least five years' imprisonment, although the situation is made more complex by a number of exemptions for lesser offences which have been introduced in recent years.

The source said: "Why not just say that if you are committing an offence you can be arrested for it?"

Today's consultation paper will also propose significant reform of the search warrants system, in a bid to make them less restricted.

At present, warrants are linked to specific addresses and expire after a certain amount of time.

"The paper will be looking at whether it ought to apply to a person rather than to an address and whether the court which grants the warrant should be able to set an appropriate time limit, whether that should be longer or shorter than it is at the moment," said the source.

A further issue covered by the document will be whether people suspected of certain property crimes should be tested for Class A drugs - including heroin, crack and cocaine - when they are arrested rather than when they are charged later in the process.

Police believe that testing suspects at an earlier stage would help isolate drug users more efficiently, the source said.

The consultation paper is due to be published later this morning.

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