Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



  220. I am sorry to interrupt but is there anything in the Bill that the Federation are thinking "yes, this is going to improve policing"?
  (Mrs Berry) There are the starting arrangements certainly for the National Policing Plan, which will be co-ordination. There are the arrangements for the Standards Unit and we have talked about how that might be co-ordinated with HMIC. In reality most of the rest of the Bill is about the Community Support Officers who we clearly have not supported. The rest of the Bill is about the Independent Police Complaints Commission and, whilst we support the principle of it, we do not believe what is contained within the Bill will provide the independence which we believe the public are expecting and has been promised in a variety of different ways.

Mrs Dean

  221. Following on from that, and looking at police powers for other civilians. Could you explain how you see the proposed case manager role working?
  (Mrs Berry) The case manager role has actually been operating in a pilot in some forces. We believe this is a person who when an individual is brought into custody, a custody sergeant will clearly need to authorise that detention and then after that, the police officer having given the precis of why the individual has been arrested can then go back on patrol and the rest of the paperwork and interviews and taking of statements can be conducted by a case manager with a case building team.

  222. I think I would like to examine and look at who you think would be best used as case managers. I think the Federation welcome the use of case managers but have reservations about giving police powers to civil case managers, is that right?
  (Mrs Berry) We do not believe that a case manager will require police powers in order to conduct their work. There are a number of forces which at this moment in time are employing case managers and many of those in fact are retired police officers who are able to continue to use the skills and expertise they have gathered during their service.

  223. The Federation would be happy with either retired police officers or experienced civil staff carrying out that work?
  (Mrs Berry) Yes but we do not believe they need police powers in order to do that.

  224. Are there other ways in which you could reduce the bureaucratic burden on police officers?
  (Mrs Berry) Many people have tried over a long period of time. Every review of bureaucracy has normally ended up with even more form filling. I think that might take us back to a question that Clint answered earlier with regard to performance indicators. The more performance indicators you have the greater the bureaucracy will be because there will be another accountancy system for it. What the police service has been very poor at over the years is establishing and using technology to collate that. So, the ideal for a police officer is that when you have arrested somebody you arrive at a custody suite, you book your prisoner in and the custody sergeant enters the person's name on the record and it goes through the whole system right the way through, if that person is then sent to prison, through to prison. At this moment in time that cannot take place. Just that one improvement, with all the technology that entails, would save an awful lot of time and bureaucracy.
  (Mr Elliott) Can I just expand slightly on that. We have been promised for some considerable time compatible computer systems within the criminal justice system, and there is a smile coming from the left of you. Promises are really very good but they are no good unless they are delivered. I think we have been working on this—somebody has been working on this—for in excess of ten years. It is one of the solutions which would greatly reduce bureaucracy if we just had a really good IT system that was compatible across the criminal justice system. The Police Information Technology Organisation is working on this currently. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm of that group. Police officers more and more, as they get promises about information technology are more and more cynical about it because we are good at promising but we are not very good at delivering. I think that might be a public sector problem as well as a police service problem. That is a key issue, if you could walk into a custody suite, the forms are designed for a computer but we have not got one that goes with the forms. The forms are designed to put the name in once and it goes down the 15 forms. What happens now is you put your name on once, twice, three times, so that would be the key. If that could be across the whole system that would be really good.

  225. Where do you then lay the blame for the fact you have tried to get that for years?
  (Mr Elliott) I think you would probably know better than us because I think there are similar problems across the whole public sector with the information technology projects in the public sector, they just do not seem to deliver. I think what happens is as we get close to a solution somebody comes up with another bright idea and because we are living on the edge of technology and technology is improving all the time, instead of getting a damn system which works, we are continually pushing forward to get the ultimate.

  226. Is it not the fact that even between police forces there are different technologies?
  (Mr Elliott) That is right. If the right one was there and it worked, I tell you what, there are 43 forces which would take it, there is no question about that I do not think.

  227. It is not a question of those 43 forces all believing their's is the right one?
  (Mr Elliott) The damn thing is not being delivered nationally, that is part of the problem. If you have not got something delivered nationally you are tempted to find the solution locally and that is exactly what has been happening and that costs as well.
  (Mrs Berry) I think there is an element of local decision making taking over as far as what might be in the national good. What is proposed is this new scientific and technical project board which would need to okay all of the future products in that line. Now that sounds all very well and good provided it does not add another layer of bureaucracy to the system. What we would not want to see is that in some forces they will trial a new piece of equipment, that needs to be done in a co-ordinated way so that other forces can then benefit. What it does not need to be doing is forces tend to own a piece of equipment which then puts them above other forces. I think that is what we would like to see improved upon and where there is a piece of equipment that is going to be of good use throughout the service then that needs to go through the service as quickly as possible.
  (Mr Elliott) Just one more point. The Government recently did a diary of a police officer which showed up some of the shortfalls in bureaucracy. We are doing all we can to assist Sir David O'Dowd as part of that group to try and see if we can get some quick wins. There are lots of issues identified in the diary about inhibitors and we are working hard through that group to try and see if we can get some quick wins. It is a key area, really it is a demotivator for police officers.

  228. Can I move on to Clause 42 which deals with offences for which a person may be arrested without warrant. This adds to the list of arrestable offences assaulting a police officer, making off without payment and driving whilst disqualified. Why have these three offences not been arrestable in the past?
  (Mrs Berry) Mainly because of the penalty that is attributed to them. In order for them to be arrestable offences it has to be five years or more imprisonment and I think those offences carry less than five years. So, therefore, they came under the banner of being powers of arrest which was a conditional power. Certainly, from our point of view, we felt they were serious enough to warrant being an arrestable offence. There were a number of offences which were classified as being arrestable offences even though they did not fulfil the five years or more punishment and those were ones which we felt should be added, in fact I think they are probably proposals from the Federation that they should be added to the list.


  229. That is something you are happy with?
  (Mr Elliott) Absolutely.
  (Mrs Berry) We fully support it.

Mr Malins

  230. Are you right about that last point? All these offences have previously been arrestable, have they not?
  (Mrs Berry) Taking without consent, what used to be an arrestable offence but then it was deemed not to be an arrestable offence and I think it is going back to being an arrestable offence again.

  231. No. Driving while disqualified is an arrestable offence.
  (Mrs Berry) It is an offence for which there is a power of arrest, it is not necessarily an arrestable offence.

  Bob Russell: You need a lawyer to sort that out.

  Mr Malins: This is for another day.

  Chairman: What we have at the moment is a Crown Court judge.

Mr Malins

  232. The point made last week, what we have got now is a position where the arrest can take place subsequently at the person's home.
  (Mrs Berry) That is absolutely right, yes. Where it is a power of arrest it has to be found committing and for an arrestable offence it does not have to be found committing.


  233. Just going back to the figures for the number of police officers, this is for the record really. We have looked it up. The numbers peaked in March 1993 at 128,290 and then fell to a low point of 124,170 in March 2000 and by April this year they will exceed the previous highest level and are expected to rise to 130,000 by April next year.
  (Mrs Berry) That is certainly the target, yes.

  234. That is the position?
  (Mrs Berry) Yes.
  (Mr Elliott) I think that some forces have done better than others. Globally your figures are absolutely right but some forces have done better than others in that respect.

  Chairman: I am sure that is right, thank you very much. Mrs Watkinson has some miscellaneous items for you.

Angela Watkinson

  235. Thank you, Chairman. The first one relates to nationality requirements. The new Clause 60 in the Bill removes the existing restriction that police officers must be British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens. Are there any records to indicate how much of a bar this has been to recruitment in the past and what effect do you think it might have on recruitment in the future?
  (Mr Elliott) I do not think we have got any records about what a bar it has been in the past. We have certainly had some concerns about this particular clause. We were concerned that if you were a police officer you were a police officer and you swore allegiance to the Crown but our concerns in that respect have been dealt with. We were also concerned that whoever did join the service should have similar vetting procedures, no matter what their nationality. We had some concerns about that which I think have been addressed. So far as what a bar it has been to people coming into the English and Welsh Police Service, I really do not know. I do not know who it is targeted at either. I do not know that there is a queue of people waiting to fly over here and join. I cannot answer your question, I am sorry.

  236. There have been some amendments to the declaration, are you happy with those?
  (Mr Elliott) The oath of allegiance?
  (Mrs Berry) The attestation. I think we were concerned in the earlier stages because there was a fear from us that our relationship with the Crown was to be removed. We feel that it is the part of British policing that is important, that provides policing with independence from political control. The tripartite arrangement of Government, police authorities and chief officers, we feel, is important and it is that loyalty to the Crown that provides that. We have now been given assurances, and I think the attestation contained within the Bill retains the swearing of allegiance to the Crown.

  237. Yes, it does. It is slightly watered down or modernised.
  (Mrs Berry) It takes out "our sovereign lady, the Queen", I think.

  Angela Watkinson: It still refers to the Queen and you are quite happy with that. Could I move on to the recovery of cost for events such as football matches and nightclubs. In the case of nightclubs I have a particular interest as my neighbouring constituency has the largest concentration of nightclubs outside the West End of London which makes an enormous demand on the local police. There is a recovery of cost issue there. With apologies to anyone who happens to be a Chelsea supporter, an example given here is a low-grade game—

  Bob Russell: They are all low-grade games.

Angela Watkinson

  238. —at Chelsea Football Club costs £13,705, but the contribution from the club would only be £397. What new arrangements would you like to see for these sorts of social events?
  (Mrs Berry) I think that is really a matter for chief officers because—

  239. This is your opportunity to say.
  (Mrs Berry) I know it is but I think one of the difficulties we have is that police officers' duties are changed incessantly in order to police football matches and other events like that. We know that police forces receive an income for that. Sometimes the way in which that money is then passed through the system means that it does not necessarily go to the officers who are inconvenienced by continually having to work every single weekend. As far as how much money should be paid then clearly there needs to be a more realistic sum than the sum that you have just read out. I know that the arrangement many years ago was that policing had to be paid for on the inside of the ground only and what has happened is football clubs have far more professional stewarding arrangements today than they have ever had before, so they have reduced the commitment inside the ground. The arrangement has always been that outside the ground it is the responsibility of the police because it is a public thoroughfare and, therefore, the police have to pick up the bill for doing that. The difficulty with that is that most of the problems now are outside grounds rather than inside grounds so if we were not to put the right number of police officers outside the ground then other liabilities come into play. How that can be arranged in a statutory way, that organisations who put on large public events, or even public/private events, then have to pay a greater proportion of the policing costs is an interesting proposal.
  (Mr Elliott) There are also knock-on effects about policing in the area outside where the football ground is, for instance. In small and medium sized forces you may have to pull people into the centre denuding other areas, which I have always had a personal concern about. Clubs do get a service below that which it costs the force, there is no doubt about that. The problem is that most clubs are not as rich as Chelsea.

  Bob Russell: Absolutely, especially Colchester.

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