List of law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom

List of law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom

There are a number of law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom. There are four general types mostly concerned with policing the general public and their activities and a number of others concerned with policing of other, usually localised, matters.

* Territorial police forces, who carry out the majority of policing. These are police forces that cover a 'police area' (a particular region) and have an independent Police Authority. Current police forces have their grounding in the Police Act 1964 (in England and Wales), the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 or the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, which prescribe a number of issues such as appointment of a Chief Constable, jurisdiction and responsibilities.
* Special police forces, which are national police forces that have a specific, non-regional jurisdiction, such as the British Transport Police. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 refers to these as 'special police forces'.
* Non-police law enforcement agencies, whose officers are not police officers, but still enforce laws.

* Miscellaneous forces, mostly having their foundations in older legislation or Common Law. These have a responsibility to police specific local areas or activities, such as ports and parks and before the passing of recent legislation such as the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 were often referred to as 'special police forces'; care must therefore be taken in interpreting historical use of that phrase. These constabularies are not within the scope of the legislation applicable to the previously-mentioned organisations but can still be the subject of statutes applicable to e.g. docks, harbours or railways. Until the passing of Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, the British Transport Police was such a force.

Over the centuries there has been a wide variation in the number of police forces in the United Kingdom, with a huge number now no longer in existence. See List of defunct law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom for these.

Territorial police forces

England and Wales

The territorial forces use the boundaries of the local government areas (counties) established in the 1974 local government reorganisations (although with subsequent modifications). These forces provide the majority of policing services to the public of England and Wales. These forces are known as "Home Office police forces" due to the Acts of Parliament that established them. It should be noted, that despite the implication of the term, all police forces are independent, with operational control resting solely with the Chief Constable of each force (or the Commissioner with regard to the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police), with oversight from a Police Authority for each force.

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). The Act also outlines the jurisdiction of constables of these forces.

"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 Home Office 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 April 1st 2007, however Special Constables of England & Wales have full police powers throughout those two countries. This means that, in contrast to the majority of countries, all UK volunteer police officers now have exactly the same powers as their full time colleagues.

Generally, constables from English and Welsh Home Office forces do not have jurisdiction in Scotland or Northern Ireland and vice versa. However, limited powers exist to pursue and arrest where a person flees over the border into Scotland in certain situations. Legislation is also in place for "mutual aid" situations, which extends constables' jurisdiction into any part of the United Kingdom when they are on loan to the receiving force. An example of this was the G8 conference at Gleneagles, Scotland, where 14,000 officers from every force throughout the United Kingdom were involved and had full police powers under Scots law for the period of the operation consequent to being on loan to Tayside Police, the local police force for the area.

A minor oddity to jurisdiction is that police officers of the Metropolitan Police who are responsible for Royalty and VIP protection have jurisdiction in any part of the United Kingdom whilst performing those functions.

As of September 2006 police numbers in England and Wales were: [ Police service strength in England and Wales at September 2006] ]
* Police officers: 141,354
* Police Community Support Officers: 8,517
* Other staff: 74,585

Police Officer numbers in England and Wales are at their highest ever levels. [ [ Police numbers reach record high.] ]


:"see also List of police forces in England sorted by county

As of March 2005, police numbers in Scotland were: [ [ Police service strength in Scotland at March 2005] ]
*Police officers: 16,175
*Special constables: 1,186
*Other staff: 7,207

Northern Ireland

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 Belfast Town Police force, which was replaced by the RIC in the 1880s). 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. Unlike Scotland, police powers have not been transferred to the devolved Northern Ireland Executive, instead remaining with the Northern Ireland Office.
#Police Service of Northern Ireland

As of April 2007 police numbers in Northern Ireland were: [ [ Police service strength] ]
*Police officers: 7,244
*Part time police officers: 888
*Other staff: 2,701

The PSNI does not employ PCSOs.

pecial police forces

These forces (except the SCDEA) operate in more than one jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. Within the multiple jurisdictions, the remit of some of the forces is further limited to the areas that they police, such as railway infrastructure or military/defence property. The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 gave the British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence Police a limited, conditional jurisdiction 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. 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. Both the MDP and BTP do voluntarily submit themselves to HMIC inspection:
# British Transport Police - Department for Transport and Scottish Government; the BTP operates only in Great Britain. As of September 2006, the BTP establishment was 2,492 police officers, 235 PCSOs and 997 other staff
# Civil Nuclear Constabulary - Department of Trade and Industry; the CNC does not usually operate in Northern Ireland. As of April 2007, the CNC establishment was 758 police officers and 96 other staff [ [ CNPA/CNC Annual Review 2006-07] ]
# Ministry of Defence Police - Ministry of Defence; the MOD police operates on Ministry of Defence estate throughout the UK. As of March 2006, the MDP establishment was 3,489 police officers (plus 291 probationers) and 530 other staff. [ [ Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency Annual Report 2005-2006] ]
# Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency; the SCDEA operates in Scotland and although nominally an agency it is controlled by a police authority and Scottish police legislation [ [ Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006] ] . As of March 2007, there were 197 police officers seconded to the SCDEA from the eight territoral police forces in Scotland, plus a further 77 police staff [ [ SCDEA Annual Report 2006-07] ] These forces are now defined in legislation as "special police forces".

Non-police law enforcement organisations

Bodies with limited executive powers

These organisations are not police forces and do not have police powers. They do have certain defined executive powers, however, in practice, these organisations will generally enlist the support of police officers from the territorial police forces should they need to execute arrest/search powers through a joint operation.
*Health and Safety Executive
*Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs
*Marine and Fisheries Agency (England and Wales only)
*Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency

Bodies with investigatory powers

The following have quasi-police, investigative powers conferred by the "The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) (Additional Functions and Amendment) Order 2006" [ [ Statutes on Line] . Retrieved 20 November 2007]
*Air Accidents Investigation Branch
*Criminal Cases Review Commission
*Gambling Commission
*Gangmasters Licensing Authority
*Information Commissioner's Office (UK)
*Marine Accident Investigation Branch
*Rail Accident Investigation Branch
*Serious Fraud Office
*The Post Office Investigation Branch

Bodies with limited police powers

Independent Police Complaints Commission

The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigates complaints against police officers and staff of the UK's police forces, and staff of HM Revenue and Customs, the Serious Organised Crime Agency in England and Wales and the UK Border Agency. Staff of the IPCC, for the purposes of the carrying out of an investigation and all purposes connected with it, have all the powers and privileges of constables throughout England and Wales and the territorial waters [ [ Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30) ] ] .

Serious Organised Crime Agency

The Serious Organised Crime Agency is responsible for tackling organised crime with jurisdiction throughout England and Wales and some jurisdiction in Scotland and Northern Ireland (usually requiring permission or co-operation of the relevant government or police force). SOCA is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body sponsored by, but operationally independent from, the Home Office.SOCA Officers can either be designated with the powers of a constable, Customs Officer and/or Immigration Officer. These designations can be unconditional or conditional: time limited or limited to a specific operation. Whilst SOCA Officers do not hold the office of constable, those who have been designated with the powers of a constable would enjoy the same powers and privileges of a police officer (except powers only available to a constable in uniform). During armed operations SOCA refer to themselves as 'police' and have the word 'police' on their body armour to avoid confusion.

UK Border Agency

Designated Immigration Officers (DIOs) employed by the UK Border Agency at a port in England, Wales or Northern Ireland may detain an individual if the immigration officer thinks that the individual may be liable to arrest by a constable under section 24(1), (2) or (3) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or Article 26(1), (2) or (3) of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, or if there is a warrant for their arrest [ [ UK Borders Act 2007 (c. 30) ] ] . They can be detaind for up to three hours, and can be pursued if they leave the port. If a DIO detains a person, they must arrange for a constable to attend as soon as is reasonably practicable. A DIO may arrest a person who has assaulted another DIO [ [ UK Borders Act 2007 (c. 30) ] ] . A DIO may search premises for nationality documents [ [ UK Borders Act 2007 (c. 30) ] ] and seize such documents if he finds them [ [ UK Borders Act 2007 (c. 30) ] ] .

Miscellaneous constabularies

These constabularies 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 constabularies, means they are often reliant on the territorial force for the area under whose jurisdiction they fall to assist with any serious matter. These constabularies do not have independent Police Authorities and their founding statutes (if any) do not generally prescribe their structure and formation.

Ports police

; Ports police operating under the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847Officers of these forces are sworn in as 'special constables' under section 79 of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847. 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. There are 224 constables sworn in under this act. [] Serious or major incidents or crime generally become the responsibility of the local territorial police force.

* Belfast Harbour Police, Belfast harbour, Belfast. Includes George Best Belfast City Airport.
* Larne Harbour Police, Larne Harbour Ltd., Larne.
* Port of Bristol Police, Port of Bristol, Bristol. Includes Avonmouth Dock, Bristol, Royal Portbury Dock, North Somerset, and 3 islands in the Bristol Channel: Denny Island, Flat Holme, Steep Holme.
* Port of Felixstowe Police, Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk.
*Port of Portland Police, Portland Harbour, Isle of Portland

* Falmouth Docks Police, Falmouth Docks, Falmouth, Cornwall. Additionally provided for by Falmouth Docks Act 1959.
* Port of Dover Police, Port of Dover, Dover. Additionally provided for by [ Dover Harbour Consolidation Act 1954] and [ The Dover Harbour Revision Order 2006] . Given the large amount of property owned by the port, their jurisdiction effectively extends to all of Dover.

; Other ports police
* Port of Liverpool Police, Port of Liverpool, Liverpool. Sworn in under Mersey Docks and Harbour (Police) Order 1975. []
* Port of Tilbury Police, formerly the Port of London Authority Police, Port of Tilbury, Essex. Founded before 1808, and oldest police force in England. Current authority derives from the Port of London Act 1968, and constables' jurisdictions extend throughout England & Wales in pursuance of an offence that has been committed within the Port of Tilbury. []
* Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Harbour Police, Tees and Hartlepool. Current authority derives from Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Act 1966, and constables' jurisdictions extend to two miles beyond the harbour. []

Parks, Gardens and Forests not controlled by local authorities

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.
* Epping Forest Keepers:Current powers derive from regulations made under Epping Forest Act 1878
* Kew Constabulary (formerly Royal Botanic Gardens Constabulary):Kew Gardens has existed in some form for hundreds of years; the original powers might thus derive from Common Law but modified by more recent legislation.
* Royal Parks Constabulary:On 1 April 2004, following a review of the Royal Parks Constabulary by Anthony Speed, the Metropolitan Police took on the responsibility of policing the Royal Parks in Greater London and the RPC was abolished in England.:In Holyrood Park, Edinburgh the powers of a Royal Parks constable are now reserved to some staff of Historic Scotland.

The Parks Regulation Act 1872 provides for the attestation of "parks constables".

Local Authority Parks and Open Spaces in Greater London

These constabularies are responsible for enforcing bye-laws within the parks and open spaces of their respective local authorities in Greater London. Members of the constabularies are sworn as constables under section 18, Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provision Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967. However, constables of these parks constabularies are not 'constables' as defined in the Police Acts applicable to England and Wales and any powers above that of a 'person other than a constable' depend on the relevant byelaws and any legislation applicable to their limited territories.

* Hammersmith and Fulham Parks Constabulary
* Hampstead Heath Constabulary
* Haringey Parks Constabulary
* Hillingdon Parks Patrol Service
* Newham Community Constabulary
* Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Parks Police
* Sutton Parks Constabulary
* Wandsworth Parks Police

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.


* Belfast International Airport Constabulary
* Cambridge University Constabulary
* Mersey Tunnels Police
* York Minster Police
* Birmingham Market Police [ [ Birmingham City Council Website] . Retrieved 10 November 2007]

Crown dependencies and Overseas Territories

Crown dependencies

*Honorary Police, Jersey
*Isle of Man Constabulary ("Meoiryn-Shee Ellan Vannin")
*States of Guernsey Police Service
*States of Jersey Police Service

Overseas Territories

*Bermuda Police Service
*British Indian Ocean Territory Police
*Gibraltar Services Police
*Pitcairn Islands Police
*Royal Cayman Islands Police Service
*Royal Falkland Islands Police
*Royal Gibraltar Police
*Royal Virgin Islands Police Force
*Saint Helena Police Service
*Sovereign Base Areas Police

Military police

In British Forces Germany, under the Status Of Forces Act, military police have jurisdiction and primacy over British Forces personnel, their families, MOD contractors, and NAAFI staff. In the UK, they also enjoy similar powers.
*Royal Air Force Police
*Royal Navy Police
**Royal Marines Police
*Royal Military Police (Army)

Overseas law enforcement agencies in the UK

There are certain instances where police forces of other nations operate in a limited degree in the United Kingdom:
*Garda Síochána na hÉireann - Under an agreement with the British Government under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Garda Síochána and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland are allowed to inspect the Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria.
*Police aux Frontières - As part of the Channel Tunnel agreement between the British and French governments, the Police aux Frontières have jurisdiction at St. Pancras International, Ashford International Terminal and on Eurostar trains. The British Transport Police have a reciprocal arrangement at the Gare du Nord in Paris.
*Military Police of visiting forces while present within the terms of the Visiting Forces Act 1952

Fictional police forces

In the majority of crime fiction, in print or on screen, set in the UK, real police forces are often used as the basis of the drama (though often set in fictional locations). However, there have been some works of fiction that have created their own police forces:
*Cardiff City Police - the local police force for the City of Cardiff, South Wales in the television series "Torchwood". The real Cardiff City Police was merged with several others in the 1960s to form the South Wales Police.
*County Police or County Constabulary - a non-specific identity occasionally used for police dramas and sketches set in fictional or unspecified places on television, sometimes with matching uniforms and badges.
*Dee Valley Police - the local force in Channel 4's "Hollyoaks".
*East Tyne Police - the local force in "Close & True" a legal drama starring Robson Green.
*Heddlu Valleys/Valleys Police - the local police force in the BBC Wales television series "High Hopes"
*Midsomer Constabulary - the local police force for the fictional county of Midsomer in the "Midsomer Murders" book and television series.
*Newtown and Seaport - the towns patrolled by the characters in Z Cars, a UK television series from the 1960s. Set somewhere in Northern England to the north of Liverpool but possibly with no police force name actually mentioned.
*Sandford Police Service - the police force for the village of Sandford in the film "Hot Fuzz". Interestingly "Sandford" is also the fictional town used for training scenarios by most police forces. Hence most UK police officers were already familiar with the name before the film was released.
*Thamesford Constabulary - the local police force for the fictional county of Thamesford in the television series "".
*Tyneside Police - the police force for Tyneside used in "55 Degrees North" police drama. The badge and uniforms were identical to Northumbria Police, the actual police force for Tyneside.
*Wyvern Constabulary - the local police force for the fictional county of Wyvern originally seen during 1967 in the television series "Softly, Softly" and now featuring in the series "Casualty", "Holby City" and "HolbyBlue".

ee also

*Battenburg markings
*List of former police forces in the United Kingdom
*Policing in the United Kingdom


Further reading

* Helen Gough, "Police and Constabulary Almanac (Police & Constabulary Almanac)", Shaw & Sons (21 Feb 2007), 500 pages, ISBN-10 0721916627, ISBN-13 978-0721916620 []

External links

* [ Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales & N.Ireland]
* [ Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland]
* [ Police Federation of England & Wales]
* [ Scottish Police Federation]
* [ Scottish Police Forces Website]
* [ The UK Police Service - Forces]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • List of defunct law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom — Due to various Parliamentary Acts the numbers of law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom has varied drastically since the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 set up the first modern police force in London. There are currently over 60 law… …   Wikipedia

  • List of law enforcement agencies — A law enforcement agency (LEA) is any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It could also refer to a… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom Parliament, 1940-1959 — This is an incomplete list of Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the years 1940 1959. For acts passed prior to 1707 see List of Acts of Parliament of the English Parliament and List of Acts of Parliament of the Scottish… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom Parliament, 1980-1999 — This is an incomplete list of Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the years 1980 1999. For acts passed prior to 1707 see List of Acts of Parliament of the English Parliament and List of Acts of Parliament of the Scottish… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom Parliament, 1960-1979 — This is an incomplete list of Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the years 1960 1979. For acts passed prior to 1707 see List of Acts of Parliament of the English Parliament and List of Acts of Parliament of the Scottish… …   Wikipedia

  • Maritime law enforcement agencies in the People's Republic of China — The People s Republic of China (PRC) operates several separate maritime law enforcement agencies. These services operate ships as well as their own small aviation units to assist their maritime patrol capabilities. Contents 1 Services 1.1 Coast… …   Wikipedia

  • Law enforcement in the United Kingdom — Crime in the UK · Terrorism in the UK Topics …   Wikipedia

  • List of Statutory Instruments of the United Kingdom, 2006 — This is an incomplete list of Statutory Instruments of the United Kingdom in 2006. NOTOC 1 100* Public Contracts Regulations 2006 S.I. 2006/5 * Utilities Contracts Regulations 2006 S.I. 2006/6 * M6 Motorway (Junction 36, Town Head Bridge Parapet… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Statutory Instruments of the United Kingdom, 2007 — This is an incomplete list of Statutory Instruments of the United Kingdom in 2007. NOTOC 1 100* Cider and Perry and Wine and Made wine (Amendment) Regulations 2007 S.I. 2007/4 * Customs and Excise (Personal Reliefs for Special Visitors)… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Statutory Instruments of the United Kingdom, 1984 — This is an incomplete list of Statutory Instruments of the United Kingdom in 1984.1 100101 200* Gaming Act (Variation of Fees) Order 1984 S.I. 1984/166201 300* Legal Advice and Assistance (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1984 S.I. 1984/210 *… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”