Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 60 - 75)



  60. So it is really the later arrest that this clause is talking about?
  (Sir David Phillips) Yes.

  Mr Malins: That explains why they have been added. Thank you.

Bob Russell

  61. Sir David, we have not had the outcome of the ballot on the new pay and conditions package but how critical is that, do you think, to the whole proposals?
  (Sir David Phillips) I am not sure that the pay agreement is vital to many— Are you saying in relation to the Bill or the whole of the reform?

  62. The whole of the police reform, the whole package. Surely that cannot be in isolation, can it?
  (Sir David Phillips) There is clearly a connectedness but I am not sure that this package would cripple the reform programme. The issues in the reform programme that I believe are the most significant are not necessarily included in the Bill. The real issues that matter to me are to create a more professional police service. If you want outcomes in terms of better handling of cases, better investigation and the like and, indeed, a better ability to handle sensitively community and neighbourhood order issues you need to shift away from the concept of a police force of generalists and recognise that you need people with professional skill and high levels of training, that is the nature of the business we are in. For me the great significance is that we move towards qualification and the building up of doctrine that we train people in. The connectedness to that package is there needs to be flexibility in the workforce, but as to whether this rate of overtime is paid or another, that does not hugely determine the fate of the modernisation programme.

  63. So, in summary, it is not critical?
  (Sir David Phillips) Some parts of it are more critical than others. I think the bits that are most critical are not ones that are greatly contended.

  64. Just moving on, is it possible that the task force looking at reducing burdens and bureaucracy will conclude, may conclude, that some change to legislation is needed, for example the Police and Criminal Evidence Act?
  (Sir David Phillips) I am cautious about this. I think I know where most of the logjams are in this system because I have looked at it several times. I am not entirely convinced by the simple argument that there is too much bureaucracy. If you arrest someone and take away their liberty and if you intend to prosecute them so they might be imprisoned you have a responsibility to create proper records around what is done and you cannot deal with these kinds of serious interventions of the law without proper procedures. The notion that you can simply arrest people and any bit of paper will do is not acceptable in our society, as I see it. Let us depart from the notion that there is a very simple solution: dispense with record keeping. You have to put together evidence properly. Somebody in a supervisory position has to be sure. It is a very serious business to charge someone with a criminal offence. I would not want to weaken the level of scrutiny and authority that goes with doing that. I do not think it is simply about removing those things. The issues in PACE that are a problem are not issues of principle around PACE, they are issues around the way in which sometimes PACE can produce delays because we have to wait long periods of time for people to attend, say. In my view, most of the ways around this consist of having better technology and an adequate support staff capable of doing the things that the police officer does not need to do. So, for example, if a prisoner comes in and you are going to take their fingerprints and their DNA and their descriptive details and to search them and to put all these particulars on the police national computer and all that, I do not think it is necessary for the investigating officer to do that, in fact I would say it is better if he does not because if there is any argument in the charge office between the parties, it is usually between the arrested and the arrester and the sooner you separate them the better. So what I would see is not so much wholesale changes to PACE but proper staffing and recognition that these procedures need to be done and that they are probably not best done by the arresting officer. I am afraid there will always be a level of procedure there.

  65. The actual arrest, the charging and taking someone's liberty away, I believe you are stating quite firmly that must always be under jurisdiction of a police officer?
  (Sir David Phillips) The decision to charge and to further detain is a critical one. If the custody sergeant was not to be a police officer it would at least have to be someone of equivalent responsibility and stature. For example, if you were to say to me "Could a retired experienced police officer employed as a custody officer do it?", in all probability yes, provided they were subject to some level of accountability. One of the benefits of it being a police officer from the public's point of view is the actions they take, they take within the context of the police disciplinary code, they are investigatable, they are accountable, they have to behave according to the rules.


  66. Sir David, are there any points that you would like to make which we have not given you an opportunity to make this afternoon?
  (Sir David Phillips) If there are, Chairman, I cannot think of them.

Angela Watkinson

  67. I do just have a question about the pay and conditions package and what effect you think it will have on morale in general and would it assist in the retention of long serving and experienced officers?
  (Sir David Phillips) The package as it stands?

  68. Yes?
  (Sir David Phillips) I am not sure. The impression I have is that officers have viewed it with some hesitation. I think in part it comes within the context of a police pay settlement, for which there is no equivalent budget support. Officers have been saying to me "Well, how do we know it will be funded in this context?" I think it is fair to say too that any change of this order is bound to cause people to be concerned, these changes do not come easily. I hope there are many things in these provisions which on mature reflection people will see are not against their interests. Indeed I think there are many which will be in the interests of the rank and file constable.

  69. With the recent boost in recruitment, are you worried that there might develop an imbalance in the Metropolitan Police Force weighted heavily towards newly recruited and newly qualified inexperienced officers and not enough experienced long serving officers at the other end?
  (Sir David Phillips) I think it is inevitable, whatever we do, the demographics of it are that over the next few years there will be a considerable replacement of police officers naturally, by natural wastage. It is true to say that we are always policing with a relatively inexperienced front line. If you ask me, Chairman, one thing which I would have liked to have seen within the modernisation programme if not in the Bill, it would be this, I do not think we take enough care in the training of our recruits. I think we push them in to the front line too quickly. I think we ask them to take responsibility too quickly on their own. The difficulty is that effectively our establishments are built around a need to survive with a pretty thin police force. I would like to take officers, if you like, off the books for the first 12 months of their service so that we can regard that first 12 months as training time and not regard them as essential members of the front line strength. It seems to me the real thrust that I want to see in this whole modernisation programme is about developing people with professional confidence and competence. The way we take them in and throw them straight in at the deep end is not the best way to produce that. One way or another, particularly if we are going to take so many in, as we are, I would like more time to train these people properly.


  70. Is there already a probation period?
  (Sir David Phillips) There is a probationary period, Chairman, of two years. The reality in policing is that after a relatively short period of time from leaving a training school they will be fulfilling routine patrol duties. They will be given assistance. There will be a sergeant watching what they do but frequently they are out on individual patrol answering difficult calls.

  71. Surely in doing that with a more experience police officer?
  (Sir David Phillips) Not necessarily.

  72. As a single person?
  (Sir David Phillips) Yes. For most of their time as a probationer, certainly in the daylight hours, they will be on their own. The truth is that in many police forces, given the level of recruitment over the last couple of years, when you look at the night shift parade, more than half of them will be probationer constables, so who is leading whom? This puts terrific responsibility on the sergeants.

  Chairman: Okay.

Angela Watkinson

  73. I understand the pass out rate in the Metropolitan Police at their training school now is approaching 100 per cent. I know that some years ago it was probably very much lower than that. Would you care to comment?
  (Sir David Phillips) I am sorry. I do not really know any of the circumstances of the Metropolitan Police recruitment.

  74. I have attempted to get an answer to this question. It means either that the quality of recruits is very much higher than it ever used to be or the standard is lower.
  (Sir David Phillips) You may be right. I cannot comment.


  75. Okay. On that note, I must say when we visited the police training college we thought the standard was really high of the recruits we met.
  (Sir David Phillips) Good.

  Chairman: This was two or three years back. What was particularly impressive was that many of them had not just left school or college, they had done something else in the world before wanting to become police officers. On that note, Sir David, thank you for coming. That concludes this session. We have another session in a moment with the Police Superintendents' Association.

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