Council officers to get police powers

COUNCIL officers in an Essex town are to be given police powers to issue fines to people who they think are causing anti-social behaviour.

James Hore

COUNCIL officers in an Essex town are to be given police powers to issue fines to people who they think are causing anti-social behaviour.

Chelmsford Borough Council will carry out the role as part of Essex Police's “community safety accreditation scheme”.

The scheme, originally launched in 2002, allows organisations and their employees to be given police powers to deal with incidents such as anti-social behaviour and nuisance.

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However, last night civil liberties pressure group, Liberty, said there were concerns about the scheme.

Once council officers have been trained they can then confiscate alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco from youngsters.

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They can also fine under-18s who are attempting to buy or consume alcohol and fine anyone believed to be causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Chelmsford joins nine other local authorities across the county which are “accredited organisations”.

Ian Grundy, Chelmsford borough councillor, said officers would work alongside police officers, sharing information in a bid to improve neighbourhoods.

He said: “Community safety accreditation schemes are a further aid to improving the quality of life in the county.

“Accredited persons will be able to share information with the community police constable and contribute to the solving of problems that affect you and make an area a safer and more pleasant place to live, visit and work.”

A council spokesman added: “The Accredited Persons will support Essex Police with helping to improve quality of life issues such as littering, underage drinking and graffiti in the local community.

“They will be instantly recognisable by a distinctive badge on their uniform and the public will know that the individual has reached approved standards. These standards will also provide additional reassurance to the public.”

Accreditation is valid for one year and then has to be renewed every two years.

Anita Coles, policy officer at Liberty, said: “Legislation introduced in 2002 allows wide policing powers to be given to non-policing bodies, including security firms and council officials.

“While the police are properly trained and accountable to the public, private companies are not. Many people will be rightly surprised that private security guards and clipboard-wielding bureaucrats are now able to impose criminal penalties.”

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