|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I wish I could give a simple answer. I cannot do thatnot because I wish to evade the question, but because the number of possible circumstances is huge and the extent of liability would reflect those circumstances. It is the case with police forces now that there are some areas where there are outcomes of actions that are covered and some that are not, depending on the level of responsibility in any situation. But I am willing to ensure that I can answer her question as precisely as I can, despite the diversity of such circumstances and I shall write to the noble Baroness with further indications. I hope that it will not be an overly long and complex letter when it arrives, but we can imagine many such circumstances. They potentially range from the police making a simple mistake to driving so fast and recklessly in
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the care and attention he has taken in answering questions on this complex issue. It is very dear to the heart of the Police Federation both in its current form and when translated into the new one and is an issue I take extremely seriously. This is a body that is trying its very best to act in the best interests of the public, not just for the businesses it is protecting.
I am grateful for the Minister's further clarification on the three amendments I brought back from Grand Committee. He has made the Government's current position clearer. I accept the government amendments. They improve the Government's position, but not enough. However, they are still stuck in the same mindset. The Government's overall approach to my amendments seems to be, "Yes, we know we've done this to other police, MoD and British Transport Police, but we don't want to start from there." Well, we are there. We have now got a police force that will have to continue to deal with emergencies.
I certainly shall not refer to every point, but there are a couple of issues that really jump out of the page. First, the Government are saying the responsible constables in the new civil nuclear police can act as any other responsible citizen may do when faced with an emergency. Indeed they may. The constables are saying that they not only want to react, they want to have the authority to be able to react in a proper capacity as the public expect. They are faced with the difficulty of a private citizen making a citizen's arrest. That is not the same as a police arrest. If you are a policeman carrying out an arrest acting in your capacity as a constable and you are assaulted by the person whom you attempt to detain, that person could be charged with assault on a police officer. As the Minister will know, according to magistrates' guidelines that offence carries a higher starting point in sentencing terms. It is seen as a more serious crime. That is taken seriously by those who think to take a swing at a police officer. Those people may not have the same reserve when it comes to someone they think is not a police officer.
There is the other issue that my noble friend Lady Byford raised. If these constables act in a way that they consider to be proper and responsible, they might find themselves faced with a claim for compensation for any assault they carry out. They are acting in a private capacity, which puts a heavy responsibility on them when they are seen by everyone around them as being the person in authority.
The other issue that jumps out of the page is that of the Government saying that it is not needed because it will not happen. We need to consider this further. The Minister said that he will keep this matter under review. This is the Government saying, "Don't do it now, but we'll think about it." Well, that may never come to pass. Accidents may happen in the mean time. We are being told that there will be few incidents and therefore it is not justified and we need consultation
The Minister's parting shot is to tell me that this constabulary is different from the British Transport Police and the MoD because those two forces are regularly policing the public. Well, this member of the public has not been regularly policed by the MoD in 50-something years. I shall say no more than that. I do not accept the force of the argument that the Minister has sought valiantly to make today. I do not mean to be condescending but he has tried to throw every missile at me he could. However, I can tell him that with the support of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Police behind me, he has missed every single time.
"( ) A member of the Constabulary shall have the powers and privileges of a constable throughout Great Britain for purposes connected with
(a) a place mentioned in subsections (1) to (4);
(b) anything that he or another member of the Constabulary is proposing to do, or has done, at such a place; or
(c) anything which he reasonably believes to have been done, or to be likely to be done, by another person at or in relation to such a place."
After Clause 52, insert the following new clause
"JURISDICTION OF CONSTABULARY IN ASSISTING OTHER FORCES
(1) Where a member of the Constabulary has been requested by a constable of
(a) the police force for any police area,
(b) the Ministry of Defence Police, or
(c) the British Transport Police Force,
("the requesting force") to assist him in the execution of his duties in relation to a particular incident, investigation or operation, members of the Constabulary have for the purposes of that incident, investigation or operation the same powers and privileges as constables of the requesting force.
(2) Members of the Constabulary have in any police area the same powers and privileges as constables of the police force for that police area
(a) in relation to persons whom they suspect on reasonable grounds of having committed, being in the course of committing or being about to commit an offence; or
(b) if they believe on reasonable grounds that they need those powers and privileges in order to save life or to prevent or minimise personal injury.
(3) But members of the Constabulary have powers and privileges by virtue of subsection (2) only if
(a) they are in uniform or have with them documentary evidence that they are members of that Constabulary, and
(b) they believe on reasonable grounds that a power of a constable which they would not have apart from that subsection ought to be exercised and that, if it cannot be exercised until they secure the attendance of or a request under subsection (1) by a constable who has it, the purpose for which they believe it ought to be exercised will be frustrated or seriously prejudiced.
(4) In this section
"British Transport Police Force" means the constables appointed under section 53 of the British Transport Commission Act 1949 (c.xxix) (as to appointment of constables)."
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.