Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 22

Supplementary notes submitted by the Rt Hon John Denham MP, Minister of State, Home Office following the evidence session on 21 March 2002

POLICE REFORM BILL

  During my evidence session with the Committee on 21 March, I gave a number of commitments to write. I am also taking this opportunity to clarify a couple of other matters discussed during the session.

Changes to detection rates as quoted in the White Paper "Policing a New Century" (Qq 502-6)

OFFICIAL CHANGES TO RULES

  Between 1980 and 1997, there were no official changes that impacted on detection rates, save for minor changes in the coverage of notifiable offences due to legislation.

  In 1998, changes were made to crime counting rules. The changes took effect from 1 April 1998. They:

    —  brought new offences—such as common assault, cruelty/neglect of children—into the numbers counted;

    —  changed the way some existing crimes were counted—eg cheque card fraud; and

    —  abolished collective protection (where multiple offences committed in a secure location such as a car park, were recorded singly regardless of the number of victims).

  The impact of the 1998 counting rules changes is estimated, in its first year, to have been to increase detection rates overall by two percentage points. The 29 per cent detection rate reported would have been 27 per cent had the rules not changed. The effect is not uniform across all crime. For example, common assault had a lower detection rate (58 per cent) than the overall detection rate for violence against the person (79 per cent), so its introduction would have lowered detection rates; whereas assault on a constable (97 per cent) had a higher detection rate than the overall rate for violence against the person, so would have raised detection rates.

  In 1999, guidance on detection methods was issued. It took effect from 1 April 1999. The main changes were:

    —  Criteria of "sufficient evidence to charge" introduced, for all detections.

    —  Detections as a result of interviews with serving prisoners no longer included.

    —  Offences can still be "taken into consideration" by the court—provided there is evidence of the crime having taken place, and sufficient evidence to charge.

    —  It is still possible to detect a crime as "no further action", where evidence becomes available during sentence that is, regardless of admission, sufficient to charge the offender.

  The combined effect of the 1998 and 1999 changes is estimated to have been an increase of about one percentage point in the detection rate for 1999-2000. Thus, the 25 per cent detection rate for that year would have been 24 per cent under the old counting rules and without the changes to the guidance. One might tentatively suppose the effect of the guidance on detections only to be of the order of a drop of one point in the detection rate.[22] Hence the figure of 24 per cent quoted in the White Paper for the detection rate in 1999-2000 is an attempt to make a like-with-like comparison with the 1980 detection rate by removing the effect of the 1998 and 1999 changes. In any case, it is clear that the impact of the changes on the figures is marginal and does not account for the significant drop in detection rates over the last 20 years.

"ETHICAL RECORDING" AND OTHER DRIVERS

  Increased awareness of the need for accurate data and for meaningful comparison with other forces may have lead individual forces to change their own recording practices. The main drivers for this were:

    —  Problem solving policing, intelligence led policing, crime and disorder audits rely on the analysis of accurate figures.

    —  Identification of best practice, and understanding causes of variation, rely on consistency with other forces and BCUs.

    —  There were some incidents involving the ethics and practices of crime recording that received a high profile and may well have encouraged all forces to take stock of their own crime recording. If formerly crimes might not have been recorded unless detection was likely, any change to record more crimes would lead to a reduced detection rate.

  However, it is not possible to quantify from current figures the effect of such changes.

FORCES' INDIVIDUAL RESULTS AND CHANGES

  The decline in detection rates is not uniform across all forces. In part, this will be due to local changes in response to those drivers mentioned above, at different paces in each force. Similarly, forces will have responded at different speeds to concerns about prison visits, prior to the 1999 guidance.

  Nonetheless, probably a more important reason for the variation is the "crime mix" of each force. Different types of crime, by their nature, tend to have different detection rates. Possession of drugs and shop theft, for example, require an offender to be present when the offence is reported, so tend to have high detection rates. This is unlike crime such as burglary, where evidence of an offence can be discovered long after it was committed, and the offender may be far away. One would expect the detection rate for drug possession to be higher than that for burglary. So, the overall detection rate for force A, covering an area where drug offences form a high proportion of its crime, will be inherently different from that in force B, dealing with fewer drug offences and more burglary. For this reason, it is more instructive to look at detection rates for individual offences, than the overall detection rate. It is intended to include such analysis in future assessments of crime statistics.

  The only specific change of which we are aware is that Avon & Somerset stopped using "detected no proceedings" detections from 1 April 2000. This change has yet to be formally evaluated.

ATTACHED ANNEXES

  I have included two attachments: guidance pre-1999 (Annex A), and guidance on the 1999 changes (Annex B[23]).

Purchase of Vehicles (Q 547)

  The Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) has a close relationship with the National Association of Police Fleet Managers, and working in conjunction with them offers 17 centrally negotiated framework arrangements for the supply of police vehicles. This covers the whole spectrum of police requirements, from 4-wheel drives to high and low performance vehicles. The estimated annual spend under these arrangements is £100 million per annum. It is estimated that the central negotiation of these arrangements saves the police service some £10 million annually. In addition, recognising the benefits of concentration of demand and further aggregation of purchasing power, the most recent arrangements "triple sourced" low performance police specification vehicles with three manufacturers, achieving further discounts and an additional estimated saving of £1.6 million per annum.

  Framework arrangements are also in place for additional vehicle-related services such as tyres and replacement of windscreens, although these are not always as advantageous due to local discounting.

  Forces can obtain even greater discounts by entering into sole supply agreements wherein at least 51 per cent of the fleet is provided by one manufacturer. Some forces have found this arrangement to meet their needs—for example Devon and Cornwall, and Northumbria—whereas others have not.

  Inspecting against the framework purchasing agreements forms a standard part of HMIC's inspection process within all forces. HMIC has concluded that the discounts resulting from the agreements are better than forces could negotiate individually and therefore represent good value for money. The last major study undertaken by the Audit Commission into police fleet issues was more than 10 years ago. In response to the Commission's annual consultation exercise regarding its future work, in December 2001 HMIC asked that the Commission consider re-examining this area.

  Five forces reviewed their fleet and transportation arrangements during year one of Best Value, 2000-01 (Cleveland, Gloucestershire, Kent, North Yorkshire and South Wales); three forces did so during year two (Avon and Somerset, Greater Manchester and Merseyside). HMIC undertook inspections of all five of the year one Best Value Reviews in 2001-02. The Kent and North Yorkshire reviews are instructive.

  In Kent, independent consultants found that the framework agreements represent good value for money, although they concluded that even better value could be obtained if forces combined their projected vehicle needs into one large contract annually. In practice, this could prove difficult as vehicle needs vary considerably according to local environmental and operational needs. This is clearly not a "one size fits all" issue.

  A different situation was found in North Yorkshire where the number and types of vehicle had grown rapidly over recent years. The report concluded that the fleet needed to be rationalised so that full advantage could be taken of bulk purchasing opportunities. Whilst this review had a narrower focus to the one undertaken in Kent, it demonstrates an awareness of, and commitment to, the need for developing an appropriate infrastructure so that advantage can be taken of more efficient purchasing arrangements.

Parliamentary scrutiny of regulations made under clause 7 (Q 548)

  In line with the recommendation of the House of Lords Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform (Twelfth Report 7 February 2002), clause 7 was amended at Lords Committee Stage to provide for the affirmative resolution procedure to apply on the first use of the regulation-making power. Subsequent uses of the power will be subject to the negative resolution procedure.

Medical retirements (Qq 563-565)

  We believe that the courts have made it clear that the police authority, or senior management acting on their behalf, have discretion under regulation A20 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 to decide against medical retirement if in their view the medical case for ill-health retirement is outweighed by the need, in the public interest, to ensure that disciplinary proceedings are brought to a conclusion against the officer, or in order for the officer to perform a particular job. In our view the medical evidence has to be taken into account, but is not binding.

  Although it would be unreasonable to expect all officers in a force to be fully fit for the ordinary duties of a constable, it would be equally unreasonable for a force to have no fit officers. There need to be enough fit officers available to chief constables to enable them to meet their operational demands. It is therefore necessary for a police authority to have the power to retire an officer compulsorily if he or she is permanently disabled and unable to perform the ordinary duties of a constable. There may be occasions on which a police authority will have little room for manoeuvre and have to opt for ill-health retirement, but we would expect an authority to exercise their discretion to retain a permanently disabled officer wherever that is practicable. Our policy for the reform programme is that authorities and senior management should ensure wherever possible the retention of officers in service where they are still capable of undertaking sufficient duties to justify continuing employment.

  We intend to amend regulation A20 of the Police Pensions Regulations (which gives the final say in ill-health retirement cases to the police authority) to underline the fact that the authority has the discretion to require an officer who has been certified as permanently disabled to continue in service if it believes that is the appropriate course after considering all the relevant circumstances. In this context, relevant circumstances include such factors as outstanding disciplinary proceedings against the officer or the advice of the chief constable that he has a job for the officer. As well as amending the regulations we plan to issue detailed guidance to police authorities and senior management to ensure more consistent and effective practice in applying their discretion under the regulations.

Intervention of Secretary of State in disciplinary proceedings (Qq 573-4)

  It would not be right for the Home Secretary or anyone else to be able to take further action if they thought that disciplinary action that has been taken was not appropriate. This could amount to something like double jeopardy. However, if we look at this in terms of proposed disciplinary action, then, as I indicated in my oral evidence, the IPCC will have the power to intervene if it considered the disciplinary action proposed was not appropriate. I do not believe such intervention should be extended to the Home Secretary because it could be construed as unnecessary interference into matters that are clearly the responsibility of the chief officer and the police authority. It is sufficient for the IPCC to be able to intervene in this way because it provides an independent check on decisions. This should go a long way towards building public confidence in the complaints system.

  The provisions in the Bill (as with the present system) do not allow the officer facing an allegation of misconduct to have his case looked at by the IPCC. This power is reserved for the IPCC alone following a voluntary or mandatory referral of the conduct matter by the appropriate authority (ie the chief officer or the police authority) to the IPCC. If a conduct matter was recordable, it would enable both the appropriate authority to refer it to the IPCC and the IPCC to call it in. There are different ways of making a conduct matter recordable and the Bill deals with these. One of these is by regulations made by the Secretary of State. An alleged conduct matter appearing in a press article may be recordable via this route, particularly if it involved a senior officer (ie one of ACPO rank) and if the matter attracted high public interest.

  I should add that the detailed arrangements in respect of police disciplinary procedures are all set out in secondary legislation (The Police (Conduct) Regulations 1999 and The Police (Conduct) (Senior Officers) Regulations 1999), as such primary legislation is not required to effect any changes.

Case law on meaning of reasonable force (Q 587)

  The term "reasonable force" has been considered in a number of cases, but no rigid meaning has been given to it. Case-law stresses the need to consider the facts in each individual situation in order to assess whether reasonable force was used. The facts as they appeared to the person using the force are important. Police forces instruct their officers on what is meant by reasonable force and I expect the same instruction to be given to community support officers. The Metropolitan Police, for example, give the following advice to their officers:

    —  "Officers have a duty to act professionally and should the use of force be justified, only the amount of force that is reasonable may lawfully be used. Officers may subsequently be called to defend and justify their actions and to prove that their actions were reasonable.

    —  Before resorting to the use of force, officers should consider alternative methods of achieving their objective without the necessity of a physical confrontation.

    —  Communication skills are a fundamental requirement for effective policing and must always be the first choice before resorting to the use of force.

    —  The lawful use of force in any circumstances invariably includes the overriding principle that it must be reasonable and necessary. As such, the exercise of any power for which the use of force is contemplated should also be reasonable and necessary.

    —  It is therefore extremely important that officers are fully aware of their powers in relation to the use of force. It is well proven that in stressful situations officers who have a thorough understanding of use of force legislation are better equipped to apply their powers with the necessary skill, confidence, control and within the boundaries set by legislation."

Restarting the clock after 30 minute limit on power to detain has elapsed (Q 603)

  The clock does not start again after 30 minutes. The detained person would be allowed to leave. However, if he has committed an offence there is nothing to stop the police subsequently taking appropriate action, with the CSO acting as a witness.

Police pensions (Q 620)

  None of the improvements to police pensions that we eventually want to implement will need primary legislation, since they can be made by regulations under the provisions of section 1 of the Police Pensions Act 1976. Hence the Police Reform Bill would not in any case be the vehicle for change.

Bicycles in "Open All Hours" (Q 637)

  Open All Hours does not explicitly talk about officers using bicycles. Rather, it looks at how the bureaucracy surrounding the police receiving lost and stolen bicycles can be reduced. However, I agree that officers on bicycles can increase reassurance and visibility. One of the small number of reassurance pilot projects we funded last year involved providing some officers in Lewisham, South London, with bicycles to increase their visibility and the areas they covered whilst on patrol.

The Rt Hon John Denham MP, Minister of State, Home Office

April 2002






22   It is not possible to completely disaggregate the two changes, as the effects overlap, as do "bedding in" periods. Back

23   Not printed. Back


 
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