in the United Kingdom
|Types of agency|
|Types of agent|
There are a number of agencies that participate in law enforcement in the United Kingdom which can be grouped into three general types:
Most law enforcement in the United Kingdom is carried out by territorial police forces that police the general public and their activities. The other types of agencies are concerned with policing of more specific matters.
Over the centuries there has been a wide variation in the number of police forces in the United Kingdom, with a large number now no longer in existence.
Most policing in the United Kingdom is conducted by the 45 territorial police forces of the 4 nations. These forces are ultimately responsible for all law and order within their respective police area (a legal term which defines the geographic area of primary responsibility). This is not the same as legal jurisdiction, see below. Two nations of the United Kingdom, Scotland and Northern Ireland, have national police forces. The breakdown of all territorial police forces across the United Kingdom is as follows:
Except in Greater London, each territorial police force covers one or more of the local government areas (counties) established in the 1974 local government reorganisations (although with subsequent modifications), in an area known in statute as a police area. These forces provide most of the policing services to the public of England and Wales. These forces have been known historically as "Home Office police forces" due to the central government department, the Home Office, being responsible for and providing most of the funding these police forces. Despite the implication of the term, all police forces are independent, with operational control resting solely with the chief officer of each force (the Chief Constable or with regard to the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police forces, their respective Commissioners); each force was overseen by a Police authority until these were replaced by Police and Crime Commissioners in 2012.
The Police Act 1996 is the most recent piece of legislation, which outlines the areas of responsibility for the 43 territorial forces of England and Wales (found in Schedule 1 of the Act).
Constable is the lowest rank in the police service, but all officers, whatever their rank, are "constables" in terms of legal powers and jurisdiction. Police officers in territorial police forces in England and Wales derive their jurisdiction from Section 30 of the Police Act 1996. This section outlines that such officers have jurisdiction throughout England and Wales and also the adjacent United Kingdom waters. Special Constables, who are part-time, volunteer officers of these forces, used to have a more limited jurisdiction – limited solely to their own force areas and adjacent forces. Since 1 April 2007, however Special Constables of England & Wales have full police powers throughout those two countries. This means that, in contrast to most countries, all UK volunteer police officers now have exactly the same powers as their full-time colleagues. There are a number of situations in which the jurisdiction of a constable extends to one of the other countries, and constables of one jurisdiction do have reciprocal powers of arrest in each other's jurisdictions as a matter of course – see the main article for details.
As of September 2020[update], the police forces in England have:
As of September 2020[update], the police forces in Wales have:
Most police powers and functions have been inherited by the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament from the Scottish Office. Areas for which legislative responsibility remains with the UK Government include national security, terrorism, firearms and drugs. The Police (Scotland) Act 1967, as amended, was the basis for the organisation and jurisdiction of the eight former territorial forces in Scotland that were formed in 1975. These forces covered one or more of the areas of the local government regions established in the 1975 local government reorganisation (and since abolished), with minor adjustments to align with the post-1996 council area borders. These forces provided most of the police services to the public of Scotland, although Scottish police officers also have limited jurisdiction throughout the rest of the United Kingdom as required (See above comments under English and Welsh forces).
In 2011, the Scottish Government announced that it planned to amalgamate the eight territorial forces in Scotland, along with the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, into a single agency. The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, an Act of the Scottish Parliament, codified this amalgamation and brought about the new Police Service of Scotland (to be known as "Police Scotland"). The new force was established on 1 April 2013.
In 2017, plans were being debated in the Scottish Parliament to merge railway policing with Police Scotland.
As of December 2019, police numbers in Scotland were:
Community Support Officers, commonly referred to as "Police Community Support Officers", were established by Section 38(2) of the Police Reform Act 2002, which applies only to England and Wales. There are therefore no Community Support Officers in Scotland.
County and borough based police forces were not formed in Ireland as they were in Great Britain, with instead a single Royal Irish Constabulary covering most of Ireland (the exceptions being the Dublin Metropolitan Police, which was responsible for policing in Dublin, and the Londonderry Borough Police and Belfast Town Police, both replaced by the RIC in the late Victorian period). The Royal Ulster Constabulary was formed in 1922 after the establishment of the Irish Free State, and served until the reforms of the police under the terms established initially by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 undertaken by the Patten Commission, which led to the renaming of the RUC in 2001. The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 sets out the basis for the organisation and function of the police force in the province. Until 2010, police powers were not transferred to the devolved Northern Ireland Executive, unlike Scotland, instead remaining with the Northern Ireland Office. However, in January 2010 agreement was reached between the two largest parties in the Assembly, the DUP and Sinn Féin, over a course that would see them assume responsibility for policing and justice from April.
As of April 2007 police numbers in Northern Ireland were:
Police in Northern Ireland do not employ Police Community Support Officers
The following three government agencies are defined in legislation as "special police forces". As these forces are responsible to specific areas of infrastructure, they do not answer to the Home Office, but instead to the government department responsible for the area they police. All three forces do voluntarily submit themselves to HMIC inspection:
The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 gave the British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence Police a limited, conditional authority to act outside of their primary jurisdiction, if the situation requires urgent police action and the local force are not readily available, or if they believe that there is risk to life or limb, or where they are assisting the local force.
Main article: Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
The use of investigatory powers is controlled by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Up to 792 public authorities have powers that are restricted by RIPA.
These police forces generally come under the control of a local authority, public trusts or even private companies; examples include some ports police and the Mersey Tunnels Police. They could have been established by individual Acts of Parliament or under common law powers. Jurisdiction is generally limited to the relevant area of private property alone and in some cases (e.g. docks and harbours) the surrounding area. This, together with the small size of the police forces, means they are often reliant on the territorial force for the area under whose jurisdiction they fall to assist with any serious matter. The statutory responsibility for law and order sits with the territorial police forces even if there is a specialist police force in the locality. These police forces do not have independent Police Authorities and their founding statutes (if any) do not generally prescribe their structure and formation.
There are two types of port police in the United Kingdom — most are sworn in under the 1847 Act, but a few have Acts specific to their port.
For every port/harbour, an individual Act of Parliament (or, more recently, a Harbour (Revision) Order) can incorporate parts of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847 (HDPCA) and apply them to that specific port/harbour. Officers of port police forces are sworn in as "special constables" under section 79 of the 1847 Act, as incorporated by the individual local Act. As a result, officers have the full powers of a constable on any land owned by the harbour, dock, or port and at any place within one mile of any owned land.
The Marine Navigation Act 2013 has potentially enabled ports contables in England & Wales to act as constables beyond this one mile limit, in relation to policing purposes connected with the port only, in a police area where consent has been obtained from the relevant Chief Constable. This act does not however give general police powers to ports constables beyond their core jurisdiction as set out in the 1847 act, merely in relation to policing purposes connected to the port as set out in the Act. As of 2014, 3 ports police forces (Dover, Teesport and Bristol) have sought and received consent from the local Chief Constable, with a fourth (Liverpool) in the process of applying for it. This has enabled these 3 ports forces to act as constables, in relation to policing purposes connected to the port, throughout the police area in which they are geographically located. There are 224 constables sworn in under the 1847 Act. Serious or major incidents or crime generally become the responsibility of the local territorial police force.
These small constabularies are responsible for policing specific land and parks. Officers of these forces have the powers of a constable within their limited jurisdiction. They are not constables as dealt with in the general Police Acts.
The Parks Regulation Act 1872 provides for the attestation of parks constables.
Over history, a number of local authorities outside London have maintained their own parks police forces, the most notable being Liverpool (Liverpool Parks Police) and Birmingham (Birmingham Parks Police). No local authority parks police forces currently exist outside London, although the legal powers for them to do so (granted by various local Acts of Parliament) survive in a limited number of cases.
There are some remnant organisations of the old Parks Constabularies/Parks Police, such as the Birmingham Parks Ranger Patrol.
In London, these constabularies are responsible for enforcing byelaws within the parks and open spaces of their respective local authorities. Members of the constabularies are sworn as constables under article 18 of the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Order 1967.[a] Members of the constabularies are constables only in relation to the enforcement of the parks byelaws (which, by definition, apply only in the parks).
Some of these constables have (or have had) a shared role as security staff for their own local authority's buildings and housing estates with appropriate changes of badges and/or uniform being made when changing to/from park duties.
Cathedrals that have their own Constabularies consisting of attested constables that keep the peace at each Cathedral.
Traditionally, markets would employ constables to look after markets. Most no longer exist, or exist in a form without attested constables (see below).
Main article: Military police of the United Kingdom
Each branch of the military has its own service police, though the powers of a service policeman are identical and reciprocal across all three services. The service police is made up of the:
In the UK, the service police exercise jurisdiction over those serving in the military in any capacity and those civilians subject to service discipline as defined by the Armed Forces Act 2006. They are not 'constables' and do not have any policing powers in relation to the general public in normal circumstances. In British Forces Germany, under the Status Of Forces Act, military police have jurisdiction over British Forces personnel, their families, MOD contractors, and NAAFI staff.
Service Police are Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) trained and all investigations are PACE compliant. They make regular use of civilian police facilities often conducting joint investigations where necessary. The Service Police are able to investigate all crime within their jurisdiction, up to and including Murder, however within the UK, offences of murder and sudden deaths are passed to the local police force as per national jurisdiction agreements.
Whilst operating in conflict zones, the military police will conduct the full range of policing including murder investigations as evidenced by the Sgt Blackman investigation.
Other agencies exist to provide security to MOD and military bases in the UK and abroad.
There are also non-police (of any type) organisations who have been given certain powers to enforce rules, regulations and laws.
Under the community safety accreditation scheme (CSAS), there are many different people involved, such as council staff, park rangers or private security staff that work for councils and local authorities and many different titles are used:
(Officers with powers under both national byelaws and RSAS)
|Isle of Man Constabulary
(Meoiryn-Shee Ellan Vannin)
|Isle of Man||Civilian main police force for the Crown Dependency|
|Isle of Man Customs and Excise Division||Isle of Man||Administers all Customs and Excise duties|
|Isle of Man Prison and Probation Service||Isle of Man||Administers HM Prison and probation on the Isle|
|States of Jersey Police
(Police d'États de Jersey)
|Jersey||Main civilian police force for the Crown Dependency|
|States of Jersey Customs and Immigration Service||Jersey||Administers all Customs and Immigration duties|
|Honorary Police (French: Police Honorifique)||Jersey||maintain law and order in their parish|
|Jersey Prison Service||HM Prison La Moye||run HM Prison|
|States of Guernsey Police Service
(États de Guernesey Service de police)
|Jersey||Main civilian police force for the Crown Dependency|
|Guernsey Border Agency||Guernsey||Administers all Customs and Immigration duties|
|Honorary Police (French: Police Honorifique)||Jersey||maintain law and order in their parish|
The British Overseas Territories (BOTs) are generally speaking small nations, mostly islands, which are administered internally, but which the United Kingdom has responsibility for serious matters, such as defence.
Consequently, law enforcement in these territories closely mirrors the UK, with some influence from other nations. Some of these agencies are very old and were setup centuries ago.
Almost all BOTs have a civil police force. Some forces may serve more than one island or territory. See below for details.
|Name of Territory||Flag of Territory||Arms of Territory||Civilian Police force/service||Military or Defence Police||Location||Motto||Information|
|Sovereign Base Areas, Cyprus||Military Cyprus Joint Police Unit (CJPU) (includes
||Cyprus, Mediterranean Sea||Civilian defence police and British service police police the SBAs|
|Anguilla||Royal Anguilla Police Force (RAPF)||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean|
|Bermuda||North Atlantic Ocean between Cape Hatteras, Cape Sable Island, the Caribbean, and the Azores|
|British Antarctic Territory||N/A||None||Antarctica||No police force||n/a|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||Indian Ocean||BIOT police are serving military police NCOs and officers from the British Armed Forces|
|British Virgin Islands||Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF)||None||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean|
|Cayman Islands||Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIP)||None||Caribbean|
|Falkland Islands||Royal Falkland Islands Police (RFIP)||South Atlantic Ocean||"Integrity, Fairness and Respect"||JSPSU on the island are sworn in as RFIP reserve constables, so that they have full civil police powers during their tour of duty.|
|Gibraltar||Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP)||Gibraltar Defence Police (GDP),
||Iberian Peninsula, Continental Europe||"Delivering a Safer Gibraltar through Excellence in Policing" (RGP)|
|Montserrat||None||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean|
|Pitcairn Islands||see Law enforcement in the Pitcairn Islands (seconded officers from New Zealand Police)||None||Pacific Ocean||Serious sexual abuse history. New Zealand police and prison officers carry out services on the Island(s).|
|Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha||Saint Helena Police Service police all three islands||None||South Atlantic|
|South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands||See Information box||JSPSU of British Forces South Atlantic would carry out any MP functions needed||South Atlantic Ocean||Reserve police officers. Chief of Police is the Chief of Royal Falkland Islands Police (RFIP), any full-time officer needed is also RFIP|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF)||None||Lucayan Archipelago, North Atlantic Ocean, West Indies||“To make the Turks and Caicos Islands a safe and secure country in which to visit, invest, work, and live”||One of the oldest forces - founded in 1799|
N.B. "Her Majesty's" is often shortened to HM.
There are certain instances where police forces of other nations operate in a limited degree in the United Kingdom:
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