Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Sir Trefor Morris CBE, QPM, former Chief Inspector of Constabulary

  I note the recent comments of the Home Secretary, when he suggested a debate on what he asserted was his position of "having responsibility without power". I mention that point simply because I detect in the Reform Document particular issues which seem to me greatly strengthen the powers of the Home Secretary. "Nothing grows in the arid shadow of a Royal Commission" said Douglas Hurd, then Home Secretary, when he was being pressed to have such an examination of the Police Service in the late 1980's. Perhaps now is the time for a Royal Commission, particularly if the radical changes proposed are to cause a significant shift of power in the tri-partite arrangements set up in the Police Act 1964, following a Royal Commission.

  I have not carried out a detailed analysis of the Reform Document, which seems to be a "White Paper", and much of what is suggested seems to me to be a set of sensible proposals, particularly those which have to do with changes I put in place in my time as HMCIC, (eg Performance Indicators), and the technology in my time as Chairman of PITO. However, there are some specific matters, which I would regard as contentious.


  The criticism that detection rates have fallen "drastically" over recent years and that there is an unacceptable disparity between the best and worst police forces is well justified. HMIs have been challenging that position since those differences became apparent with the introduction of performance indicators. But, setting the fall in the conviction rate at the door of the police causes me great surprise. The police are the gateway to the Criminal Justice System and offenders are "handed over" in the first instance to the Crown Prosecution Service. Although I do not have the current figures, in my time the CPS decided to discontinue over 200,000 cases each year before the offender could be put before the Courts. Added to that, as I recall, of those cases going forward an even greater number were not actually prosecuted for a variety of reasons. One has also to take into consideration the diversion of cases from the Courts where cautions are administered under guidance from the Home Office as alternative to prosecution.

The Standards Unit

  My great concern with regard to the proposal to set up such a unit is that it seems to cut across the central role of HMIC. There have been great changes progressively within the Inspectorate throughout the 1990s in the way the inspection system has been conducted, both in personnel, with the introduction of Lay Inspectors in my time and in the inspection process itself, with the introduction of thematic and more careful directed inspections looking at performance in particular areas.

Most if not all of the tasks set out in the terms of reference for the Standards Unit are either directly or indirectly the responsibility of the Inspectorate and although the Reform Document proposes that they and the Unit will work closely together, I suspect many within the Police Service will see the potential for conflict. This is particularly so with the arrangements for inspection and comparison of BCUs within Forces. There has always been a complaint from Chief Constables about the amount of information they have to supply to the various bodies who now hold them to account. To set up yet another separate body will exacerbate the situation.

I mention above that some of the proposals will alter the balance of power within the tried and tested tri-partite structure. It seems to me that the setting up of the Standards Unit coupled with the proposals in the later paragraphs of Chapter 6 is bound to affect the position of Chief Constables as well as Police Authorities, (particularly the former). Although not clearly defined at this stage, the Reform Document sets out in paragraphs 6.74 et seq. a whole set of measures to improve and assess the performance of chief constables and their senior teams, most of which are admirable. But the threat of removal of the Chief Constable directly by the Home Secretary rather than the present arrangement outlined at paragraph 6.85 will have other ramifications and most certainly affect the operational independence of the chief constables. The "Sword of Damocles" is a great persuader! By all means let the Police Committee get rid of those who are guilty of misconduct or incompetence. But the implication of the proposed changes is that the Chief Constable who does not closely follow the direction of the Home Secretary may be adjudged as unsatisfactory and dismissed. I just wonder how senior members of the Civil Service would react to such a proposal affecting them.

Sir Trefor Morris, CBE, QPM

February 2002

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