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NCJ Number: 62871 Find in a Library
Title: SUS (SUSPECTED PERSON) - A REPORT ON THE VAGRANCY ACT 1824
Author(s): C DEMUTH
Corporate Author: Runnymede Trust
United Kingdom
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 65
Sponsoring Agency: Runnymede Trust
London, WC2N 4HG, England
Sale Source: Runnymede Trust
62 Chandos Place
London, WC2N 4HG,
United Kingdom
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: THE REPORT EXAMINES HOW ENGLISH POLICE AND COURTS INTERPRET THE OFFENSE OF BEING A SUSPECTED PERSON (SUS) AND WHY A DISPROPORTIONATE NUMBER OF BLACKS ARE ARRESTED ON THIS CHARGE.
Abstract: ALTHOUGH THE VAGRANCY ACT WAS PASSED IN 1824, MANY OF ITS PROVISIONS ARE STILL IN USE, INCLUDING THE SECTION PERMITTING A CHARGE TO BE BROUGHT AGAINST AN INDIVIDUAL OBSERVED ACTING IN A SUSPICIOUS MANNER ON TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS. TO ASSESS THE IMPACT OF THE STATUTE ON CIVIL LIBERTIES, POLICE/BLACK RELATIONS, AND CRIME PREVENTION, SEVERAL RESEARCH METHODS WERE USED WHICH FOCUSED ON THE LONDON AREA. INTERVIEWS WERE CONDUCTED WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT PROFESSIONALS AND DEFENDANTS, AND 24 CASES WERE SELECTED FOR CLOSE EXAMINATION. OFFICIAL STATISTICS ON SUS CHARGES AND MAGISTRATES' COURTS RECORDS WERE REVIEWED AND HEARINGS IN ONE COURT OBSERVED. AN EXAMINATION OF 19 CASES DID NOT REVEAL ANY CONSISTENT EXPLANATION OF CONVICTIONS VERSUS ACQUITTALS. A HIGH RATE OF NOT GUILTY PLEAS TO 'SUS' CHARGES COMBINED WITH HIGH CONVICTION RATES INDICATES THAT INNOCENT DEFENDANTS ARE NOT RECEIVING PROPER TREATMENT IN THE MAGISTRATES' COURTS. SINCE MANY DEFENDANTS WERE ALSO CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED THEFT, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THE LATTER CHARGE WOULD BE SUFFICIENT TO HANDLE KNOWN CRIMINALS. THE STUDY ALSO FOUND THAT 'SUS' CHARGES WERE USED PRIMARILY IN LONDON, MANCHESTER, AND LIVERPOOL AGAINST PERSONS ACCUSED OF TAMPERING WITH CAR DOOR HANDLES OR LOITERING WITH INTENT TO STEAL FROM HANDBAGS. IN THE LATTER CASE, MOST DEFENDANTS WERE BLACK AND HAD BEEN PICKED UP IN LONDON'S WEST END BY PLAINCLOTHES POLICE. ALTHOUGH THE POLICE MAY BE USING THE VAGRANCY ACT IN SINCERE ATTEMPTS TO PREVENT CRIME, THEIR ACTIONS HAVE CONVINCED YOUNG BLACKS AND THEIR COMMUNITIES THAT THE BRITISH LEGAL SYSTEM IS DISCRIMINATORY. RECOMMENDATIONS INCLUDE REPEAL OF THE ACT, MORE PROTECTION FOR SUSPECTED PERSONS' RIGHTS AFTER ARREST AND RIGHT TO TRIAL BY JURY, EMPHASIS ON ALTERNATIVE CRIME PREVENTION METHODS SUCH AS MORE UNIFORMED CONSTABLES, AND TRAINING IN RACE RELATIONS FOR POLICE. APPENDIXES CONTAIN INFORMATION ON 'SUS' AND CHILDREN, POLICE POWERS OF SEARCH AND ARREST OF SUSPECTED PERSONS, AND ORGANIZATIONS PROMOTING THE ACT'S REPEAL. REFERENCES AND STATISTICAL TABLES ARE PROVIDED. (MJM)
Index Term(s): England; Laws and Statutes; Police community relations; Public order offenses; Race relations; Rights of the accused; Vagrancy
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=62871

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