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The roles of the police support staff are important, particularly in such a sensitive area as policing in Northern Ireland. It is crucial that support staff continue to get the best support and training. This is one of the areas where policing suffered in the past.
Training has always been the first area to be cut when budgets are under pressure. I would be most grateful for a full assurance that training will take on a much enhanced and central role in policing activities.
The amendment is designed to get out of the Government what is meant by "adequate training" and how it compares to the training received by someone who will become a full constable. We need to know how long the training will be, how these people will be trained and what they will be trained in, and so forth. I beg to move.
We want to provide an assurance that a Chief Constable, on designating any person, has to ensure that that person has received the appropriate training fit for that purpose. The training will vary, of course, according to the particular function being carried out.
In practice the Chief Constable will have to determine the level of training that is adequate to enable the person to undertake the duties and powers conferred on him. I believe that the Chief Constable is the best person to come to that conclusion. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said, circumstances change and retraining may be necessary. It may be of comfort to the noble Baroness and to the Committee to be assured that the term "adequate training" is that which is found in Section 39(4)(c) of the Police Reform Act 2002.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I am grateful for that reassurance. However, as I stated, it is and has been the first thing to go when budgets are stretched. It is crucial that support staff are viewed in the same way as police officers and that their training is considered in the same way. I understand what the Minister said. I shall reflect on that and may come back later on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: Given the police shortages on the streets and the public disorder problems that Northern Ireland has faced over the past months, we agree with the Government's plans to increase civilian staff where possible. Indeed, it is one of the criticisms in the latest report of the Oversight Commissioner that that has not yet been sufficiently implemented. We have heard of the severe difficulties surrounding this matter.
The concerns we have relate to the powers that these officers will have. Article 56(6) of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 states that unless someone of the rank of superintendent considers that it is not practicable, an intimate search shall be carried out by "a suitably qualified person". I assume that that relates to someone with some sort of medical qualification. If that is not practicable, the search shall be carried out by a constable.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his letter of clarification on that point. However, Schedule 1(13) confers that power to a detention officer. That is different from what is proposed in Clause 24 of the Bill, which relates to people with suitable medical qualifications taking intimate samples. It is suggested that detention officers would have medical qualifications, and that the Bill simply gives them the powers of a constable. We can assume only that this is a presumption, as it is not on the face of the Bill nor in the 1989 order that under those circumstances a detention officer or constable would have medical qualifications. I need to be clear on whether or not detention officers will have medical qualifications. I would be grateful for the Minister's assurance on that point. I beg to move.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: In reply to the noble Baroness, perhaps I may go through the statutory scheme and give her an undertaking just before I conclude. Article 56(5) of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 sets out that an intimate search (other than one which is only a drug offence search) must be carried out either by a medical practitioner or a nurse registered as such under the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1997 unless an officer of at least the rank of superintendent concludes that that is not practicable.
Article 56(6) states that if it is not practicable it shall be carried out by a constable. In either case the search has to be carried out by a person of the same sex as the person being searched. It is not the intention of the Bill to change those roles but to increase the powers of the nurses and doctors concerned. Nurses and doctors at the moment cannot call on constabulary powers where the use of reasonable force would be appropriate. Therefore, they are vulnerable to accusations of assault if carrying out an intimate search.
The effect of allowing designated civilian detention officers to carry out such searches would be to allow a designated nurse or doctor to draw on constabulary powers when carrying out such a search. I give the undertaking that the noble Baroness was looking for: it is not the intention of the Bill that civilians other than doctors or nurses should be involved in this work. However, I concede that there is a proper case for re-examining the issue.
I can tell the Committee that my officials are urgently considering with legal advisors whether there is a better way of expressing the matter. I know that the noble Baroness does not dissent from the conclusion that only nurses and doctors should be involved, and I am actively engaged in having the matter researched. I hope to be able to report further when we come to the next stage of the Bill in the Chamber.
The noble Baroness said: The amendments in this group are similar to ones that we tabled in the Police Reform Act last year. Again, in principle, we have no objections to escort officers, but we are concerned that they should have a power of search. Amendments Nos. 62 and 63 would limit the power to the circumstances that we describe in the amendments. I beg to move.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I recognise that concern. Schedule 1 relates to provisions in Clause 20. As I said, the powers are similar to those made available in England and Wales through the Police Reform Act 2002. The schedule allows escort officers to have the same powers as a constable under paragraphs 7 and 8 of Article 55 of the 1989 order. They allow a non-intimate search to be undertaken where the person has with him anything that he could use to interfere with evidence or to assist him to escape.
The carrying out of such a search under the provisions of the 1989 order is not subject to any requirement for reasonable suspicion that such an object is in the detained person's possession. The restriction is not appropriate because it may be necessary to search detainees in order to ensure the protection of the individual and to prevent any of the items listed in Article 55 from being retained. It is the case that reasonable specific suspicion will not necessarily exist in individual cases.
The noble and learned Lord said: I promise not to tease officials, who are extraordinarily patient. This amendment is in my name and the instruction that I have is to resist my own amendment. I did give them warning. The amendment would simply make a minor change to correct an error in the original drafting. The same point arose in relation to Amendment No. 15. I beg to move.
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