"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear", is an increasingly trendy comment in the era of state surveillance and counter terrorism.
It seems some people are happy for their civil liberties to be eroded in the name of crime prevention, but with vast amounts of personal information out there already people should be, in our opinion, cautious about handing over any more.
Here in England and Wales very few people are aware that you do not legally need to provide your name and/or address to a police officer, save for a few exceptional circumstances.
A person driving any mechanically propelled vehicle on the public highway, including a peddle cycle, is legally required to give their name and/or address to a police officer on request, in accordance with section 165 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
But ordinarily a person walking along the street does not need to give their name and/or address to a police officer unless they are relying on a little-known piece of legislation called section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002.
Under section 50 a uniformed police officer (not PCSO) has the right to demand a person's name and/or address if they are reasonably suspected of committing anti-social behaviour. It is an arrestable offence if a person refuses to give their name and/or address, or provides a false or inaccurate name and/or address.
Behaviour is considered as anti-social if it falls within the description given in section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 - namely that the behaviour caused, or was likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to at least one other person not in the same household as the perpetrator.
Having seen several YouTube examples of police officers taking umbrage at people refusing to provide their personal details, we were interested to learn the number of prosecutions for offences under section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002.
We asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to provide information about the number of cases taken to court and the outcome of those cases. The CPS confirmed that less than one hundred people a year are prosecuted for the offence. It refused to provide the outcome of each of those prosecutions, but it would be implausible to suggest that they all resulted in a conviction.
The full text of our request appears below:
Crown Prosecution Service
Their Reference Number:
Request by FOI By Proxy (sent 12th February 2017):
Dear Crown Prosecution Service,
I am making this request in accordance with the terms of section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Please provide the following information:
1. The number of charges brought under section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002. Please give an annual breakdown since 1st January 2014 to the present time.
2. The outcome of those charges brought under section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002. Please give an annual breakdown since 1st January 2014 to the present time. Please indicate how many charges were withdrawn, resulted in convictions and were unsuccessful (e.g. the defendant was found not guilty or no case to answer).
In accordance with section 11 of the Act, please provide your response in electronic format to the return email address associated with this request.
Many thanks for your assistance.
On behalf of FOI By Proxy
Response by Crown Prosecution Service (received 13th March 2017):
The Crown Prosecution Service provided the following information:
Number of offences charged under section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 and reaching a first hearing at the Magistrates' Court:
- 2014: 67 cases
- 2015: 78 cases
- 2016: 50 cases (to the end of September)