Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480 - 500)




  480. Can you name one Home Secretary in the last 30 years who has enjoyed the confidence of the rank and file police?
  (Dr Henig) Yes, one Home Secretary. I think James Callaghan did because, if you remember, he was an adviser to the Police Federation.

  481. That is just inside the 30 year mark.
  (Dr Henig) He did have very good relations with the police actually.

  482. He was their paid representative for many years.
  (Dr Henig) He was.

  483. Do you agree that there are two lots of confidence? Obviously it is desirable for the police to have confidence in the Home Office and it is also desirable for the public to have confidence in the service provided by the police and those things are sometimes in conflict.
  (Dr Henig) Absolutely, yes.

  484. Have some of the scams started to disappear in your time?
  (Dr Henig) Were you thinking of any in particular?

  485. Yes, I was. The TICs, for example, taking into consideration, where a force has, say, 20 or 30, 40 even in one case I can think of, dedicated detectives touring the nation's jails signing up convicted felons to put their hands up to offences that are unsolved.
  (Dr Henig) I was about to answer.

  486. I thought you wanted an explanation.
  (Dr Henig) I was going to say in my own force, as in many others I think, there is a change in the way that crimes are now recorded. We are now recording crimes differently, certainly in Lancashire we are, and that has resulted in the last year in quite a major increase in levels of crime but the police have been very good about communicating across the country the reasons for this, what they are doing differently, what the outcome has been. I think we are all happier with the way that crime is now being recorded. There are, I think, five or six forces who are now recording crime in a different way. As from the beginning of April, I think.
  (Mr Peel) 1 April.
  (Dr Henig) This is a change that should be taking place throughout the country. I actually think it is a very good change and it should then result in increased confidence. I take your point absolutely and certainly we in Lancashire, and I am sure it is done in other counties, put a lot of stress on trying to get opinions from across the county through our Life in Lancashire Citizen's Panel and other means about confidence issues: do they have confidence in the police; what are the issues that affect the verdict that they give; why? The issue of confidence is a crucial one for us as police authorities because if the people out there do not have confidence this is a major, major problem. While levels of confidence are perhaps going down somewhat, say from 80 per cent to 70 per cent, nonetheless the levels of confidence that people have in the police are still significantly higher than the levels of confidence they have perhaps in other groups in society, if I can put it in those terms.

Bob Russell

  487. Like Members of Parliament.
  (Dr Henig) It is something of concern and we do monitor it, it is not something we take for granted. That is part of our role, I think, to measure confidence, to try to find out what affects it and what we should do.


  488. Are there still forces that record TICs in the way that used to happen?
  (Mr Peel) I can only speak for Essex. We make it quite clear that if they want to tell us about other offences in prison we shall prosecute them for them. No, we have given that up. I think that is probably fairly national.
  (Ms Leech) I think we can only answer your question in the negative, as it were, by saying, as Dr Henig has said, that all forces and authorities are committed to moving to the new recording standard and to common reporting standards by 1 April.

  489. And no-one is holding out as far as you know? It does do wonders for the clear-up rates.
  (Dr Henig) Shall we say it will be a test of our corporacy, I think, to try to make sure that change does take place.
  (Mr Peel) It will mean, of course, that crime figures apparently go up and detection rates apparently come down.

  490. Yes. At least there will be honest accounting.
  (Dr Henig) Which we fully support.

  491. You have made that very clear.
  (Mr Peel) We are in the process of making that clear now to the public, the press and anybody else who will listen to us, hence we will say it here.

Mr Prosser

  492. Medical retirements and ill-health. We touched on ill-health and early retirement. We have had conflicting evidence about the way it is triggered. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has effectively said to us "nothing to do with me, guv, I get the certificate from the medical officer and that is a done deal", but when we have talked to others, such as the Police Federation, they say that it is down to the police authority. Can you clear that up?
  (Ms Leech) I think they are probably making a process point and probably the process point is less interesting than the underlying issue, as it were. I think the issue here is around not just medical ill-health retirements but around occupational health generally in the police service where this is certainly an area which police authorities have recognised as one of genuine concern raised by the Police Federation but also raised by senior managers as well and from police authority oversight of the force. Policing is a people business so you need to make sure you have the right processes and strategies in place to get the best out of your people and that covers a variety of issues but one of those must clearly be to have an appropriate occupational health strategy for the force in place and that will cover a whole range of things about ill-health and how you deal with it, injury indeed and how you deal with it, and the consequence of that will be part of an occupational health strategy.
  (Mr Peel) I am sure we all include in our policing plan targets to reduce those figures. As an authority we do have targets to make sure that the force does reduce the numbers of days off from sickness.

  493. How much discretion is there when the certificate comes to the chief constable or the commissioner, how much discretion does he have?
  (Mr Peel) We have taken on now what we call health advisers and we will say to the medical officer "make it clear in your certificate whether this man is totally incapable of doing anything at all or whether he is capable of taking on lighter duties". Indeed, many of them we do then employ in an office, whatever, rather than out on the streets while they are recuperating. We do have at least three grades of medical certificate. We do not just take a certificate that says "you are off duty, go away". What is more, we do actually visit them by telephone or physically at least once a week. That is a policy we, as the authority, have asked the force to put into effect. We do have fairly tight control over that particular exercise and, I am glad to say, are reducing fairly significantly. We have not hit the target yet but we are reducing fairly significantly the numbers of days off for sickness.

  494. After that process do you recommend to the chief constable or is it the other way around, does he start the process?
  (Mr Peel) No, he starts the process, he runs the process, we simply keep an eye on it.

  495. You have probably answered my last question then, that is the massive disparity between the portion of people who go out under ill health, medical severance in different forces, is it all down to the way the authorities manage their retirements?
  (Dr Henig) I think if we were being honest we would say that in the past police authorities have not always strictly overseen this process. If I was being honest I would have to say that some managers in forces up and down the country have used retirements as a way of managing the force and helping to resolve difficult situations. Certainly I think in the last two or three years there has been a much clearer understanding by the authority of what it needs to do and how it needs to oversee this process, and of course that has been coupled with a much stronger focus from national bodies, the Audit Commission, HMI. So I think in the last three years all of us have been much more effective in monitoring this and I think generally the trend is down. There are still quite significant variations. Now it is conceivable that this can be affected by different types of operational policing because clearly in some areas there may be a much greater danger of officers getting injured, getting sick. There could be legitimate reasons for some variations is what I am saying but clearly it has got to be monitored locally and we have got to work together to drive it down.

  496. Finally from me, do you think the Bill can be modified or changed in order to bear down on these areas?
  (Dr Henig) Again I think you are in danger of managing from the centre something which is probably most effectively managed from the locality.

David Winnick

  497. Incidentally your earlier remark about James Callaghan I am sure will hearten him because I think he will be 90 later this month. If I can ask you one or two questions arising from remarks made yesterday by Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He seems to take the view very strongly that much police work is being undermined by the courts, it is almost a sort of game. Is that in any way the view of your organisation?
  (Dr Henig) It is not something that we have highlighted. We know that it is an ongoing concern of ACPO. We know it is something that David Phillips has flagged up on a number of occasions and certainly in discussions with ACPO, ACPO have voiced their concerns. Those of us who are magistrates—and of course I can come at this from the advantage of being a magistrate—can see the problems when we sit in magistrates courts. I think a lot of John Stevens' remarks were actually directed at criminal courts, crown courts, but nonetheless even at a magistrate court level you can see sometimes problems, you can see some of the issues that he is trying to get at there. All the time there is a balance between on the one hand civil liberties and the way in which rights need to operate in our structure and on the other hand the police wanting to prosecute, with the Crown Prosecution Service legitimately, offenders. It is a question of balancing the rights and making the system work. I can understand where he is coming from.
  (Mr Peel) We do have a task group, the Criminal Justice Service Task Group which actually was due to meet earlier this morning but did not, where we are considering particularly the report and in broad terms we are very much supporting that.

  498. There is somewhat of a dilemma because we live, fortunately, a million times over under the rule of law. Defence counsels have a responsibility to defend clients but I suppose the point made by Sir John Stevens is that time and again alleged offenders are brought before the courts and clever defence counsels—perhaps not so clever but carrying out their duties as we would I suppose in such circumstances—get these people off who then, of course, reoffend at every possible opportunity. There is a clash, is there not, in a law based society along the lines I have indicated without necessarily approving of what Sir John has said?
  (Dr Henig) There is also another issue though, which again I know ACPO would subscribe to and which again to some degree we have got to play our role in, and that is that the police have to be professional in the way they do their job. If you sit in court every now and again a corner has been cut or something has not happened which should have done which leads to a case being dropped and that does happen. I think it is up to the police to make sure that in everything they do they do it in a fully professional way which then, when the case comes to court, will enable that conviction to go ahead. We have to make sure that our police are operating effectively. That is part of the process as well. If you look at cases which do not come to a successful outcome, sometimes it is the sort of thing that John Stevens may have alluded to but sometimes there are processes not being carried through properly which then will enable that case not to get to fruition. There are a number of elements here I think which one could focus on.

  499. Do you find any frustration in your own two areas where senior police officers more or less fall along the same line as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police?
  (Mr Peel) I attended what we call a PCCG, that is the Policing Criminal Consultative Group, only last night. The superintendent there was saying "This is a terribly frustrating business. We had a youngster this morning, put him into the court . . ." he was a 13 year old I think ". . . at ten o'clock, he was dealt with there. By 11.30 he was seen trying more cars down the street. By 12.30 he was picked up again in another stolen car". Yes.

  500. It is a difficulty which is not easy to solve.
  (Mr Peel) No.

  David Winnick: Thank you.

  Chairman: Dr Henig, Mr Peel and Ms Leech, thank you very much for coming. The session is closed.

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