Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

3. Memorandum from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary


1. Introduction

1.1 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary supports the government's drive to improve and modernise the police service. Members of the Inspectorate have had opportunities to comment on, and contribute towards, many of the elements of the Bill and Police Reform White Paper throughout the process. The notes below represent comment on areas of particular relevance to HMIC or where prior comment has not been made.

2. Greater central control

2.1 Despite the sensitivities of some proposals relating to the balance of the tri-partite arrangement, HMIC welcomes the clarity promised by the introduction of the three distinct levels of direction (namely regulatory, guidance and advice).

2.2 There is particular support for the widening of the powers of the Secretary of State to require specific inspections. This fits comfortably with HMIC's current practice under risk assessment of targeting our efforts rather than scrutinising the whole of a force.

3. National Policing Plan

3.1 Part 1, 1(1) & (2). The principle of a high level national statement of priorities is supported, but the following issues will require consideration—

  —  The content must remain strategic and avoid short-term volatility and last minute changes to address topical issues

  —  The 'final' content should be made known to forces by late summer if the priorities are to be truly integrated into local planning and appropriately consulted with, and owned by, local communities

  —  There is a strong need for some consistency within the 1-year national plans if they are to effectively dovetail with the 3-year crime & disorder strategies and the proposed 3-year force strategies. There is clearly an argument for a 3-year national strategy to ensure this consistency

  —  It is felt appropriate for HMIC to be involved in the consultative process for the National Policing Plan

3.2 HMIC has been consistently encouraging forces to cost policing plans, thereby showing how operational planning is linked to resources. Any national plan should take a lead in establishing a link between resources, priorities and required outcomes.

4. Complaints and misconduct

4.1 Part 2 of the Reform Bill enacts the long-awaited changes around complaints and misconduct. The introduction of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has been well rehearsed and subject of wide consultation. Part 3 is far more contentious and aims to tighten significantly the powers of Secretary of State around removal, suspension and disciplining of police officers, including Chief Officers. These new powers are broadly supported by HMIC.

4.2 Clauses 28-32. Clarity is required as to the definition of "chief officer" in the disciplinary code. There now exist "support staff" in Forces with titles such as "Assistant Chief Officer" who have associated ACPO status, and their status within the disciplinary code is unclear.

4.3 Clause 29. Power of police authorities to suspend chief officers. This should also involve consultation with HMIC who will have a wealth of professional experience they can bring to bear in such situations. An attempt has been made by Home Office to draft a suspension protocol which would seems a sensible way forward.

4.4 Clause 25 essentially provides an opt-out clause negating the effect of the Complaints and Misconduct regulations on IPCC staff. This could have the effect of undermining the value of the regulations, and creating resentment amongst those subjected to any misconduct on the part of IPCC staff. There appears to be no compelling reason why IPCC staff should not be bound by the same regulations.

5. Extended powers to support staff and civilians

5.1 Clause 33 and Schedule 4. HMIC support the powers given to civilian support staff enabling them to function as Detention Officers and Escort Officers—this clarifies and strengthens existing good practice. However clarity is needed with regard to the provision of such services by private companies—the Bill appears to restrict such post-holders to being employees of the police authority.

5.2 Schedule 4. HMIC supports the introduction of Community Support Officers as a further weapon in the armoury of the police service and local authorities in tackling crime and the fear of crime. There are already successful schemes nationally and these have been shown to support visibility and public reassurance.

5.3 Should the government introduce Community Support Officers, the following points will need to be addressed—

  —  Schedule 5 and Clause 34. Community Safety Accreditation schemes. These schemes will require co-ordination and HMIC would suggest that Statutory Crime and Disorder Partnerships should play a lead role in this, and be held to account for their performance

  —  Clause 40 (1) and Schedule 6, paragraph 22. Assaults on Designated and Accredited persons. It might be thought appropriate to add assault on designated and accredited persons as an arrestable offence. By carrying out many of the functions of a police officer they will be putting themselves at potential risk, and should be accorded the same protection.

6. Police Standards Unit (PSU)

6.1 The element of the Police Reform Bill which has most direct impact on HMIC as an organisation is the introduction of the PSU. Prior to the reform programme HMIC has achieved hard-fought progress in police performance and service delivery largely through the weight of professional credibility and persuasive argument. The inspection protocols and recommendations from thematic inspections have been increasingly used as surrogate national standards against which to measure police forces' progress. However there has been an absence of statutory or mandatory direction to support HMIC's work.

6.2 HMIC welcomes the introduction of the PSU to bridge this gap and to provide the more formalised codes and standards against which HMIC will continue to carry out inspections. It will be important to the functioning of the PSU and HMIC, and to remove any confusion at force level, that the respective roles of the two organisations are clear. HMIC is committed to working with the PSU to establish working protocols.

7. Further clarity required

7.1 The issues listed below are considered in need of further clarification—

  —  White Paper-6.81. The role of the Police authority in the appraisal of chief officers

  —  White Paper-15. Guidance on the application of payments to particular posts (to avoid inconsistency)

  —  Clause 40. Whether accredited/designated persons will be able to prosecute offenders

  —  Schedule 4. Police powers exercisable by police support staff.

8. Other issues of comment

8.1 Clause 52 and 53. Removal and Retention of vehicles. There should be explicit recognition that the role of removal and storage can be undertaken by an 'approved' garage operating under a contracted or similar scheme for the police. Such garages should be permitted to charge a set fee for the service to the registered owner of the vehicle. This will negate the requirement for the police to store vehicles and administer the scheme. There are valid reasons why the police should not perform this role, including cost, health and safety and the requirement for specialist secure storage facilities.

8.2 Clause 68. Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships. The merging of DATs with CDRPs is sensible and welcome. The arguments extended in favour of this apply equally to Youth Offending Teams (YOTs). It might be helpful therefore if the Government would consider including YOTs as a statutory member of CDRPs, in addition to DATs. In all cases, the various plans and strategies should be closely aligned and co-ordinated. In the fullness of time, the local Crime and Disorder Plan should contain sections relating to youth and drugs, thus removing the need for different plans.

8.3 Clause 70 - PITO

  —  The opportunity should be taken to remove a VAT anomaly that has cost the service dearly. In simple terms Police Authorities can recover their VAT if they buy computer systems (as they are local authorities). If PITO buys the systems (e.g Airwave) then VAT cannot be reclaimed. With the likely increase in centrally provided IT this anomaly needs to be removed. A possible solution could be to provide the framework in legislation for all 43 Police Forces (the same position does not apply to BTP, NIPS, etc) to form a Joint Committee (which would be a local authority body) to purchase on behalf of the service with PITO appointed as their agent.

  —  This Clause is an attempt to enact reserve powers so that in the future the Secretary of State may adjust, alter or widen the roles and responsibilities in virtually any way he/she may see fit. In itself the clause is not contentious and given the ACPO and APA declaration to the 'new deal' on national IT solutions and central procurement contained within the final report of the IT Review it seems a prudent step to take.

8.4 "Good practice" is a phrase which occurs repeatedly throughout the White Paper. There must be an objective set of criteria against which proposals for "good practice" are measured. This is work for the Standards Unit to do in conjunction with CPTDA, and its responsibilities through NCPE.

8.5 The Bill allows the Secretary of State to require that HMIC inspects a force. In the light of the creation of the CPTDA and the new provisions, under CJPA 2001, for inspection by HMIC, it is felt that this new power should extend also to CPTDA ( perhaps an addition to Clause 3 which covers NCS and NCIS?). This will be particularly relevant in light of NCPE and the Secretary of State's powers under clause 2.

11 March 2002


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