Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480
THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2002
480. Can you name one Home Secretary in the
last 30 years who has enjoyed the confidence of the rank and file
(Dr Henig) Yes, one Home Secretary. I think James
Callaghan did because, if you remember, he was an adviser to the
481. That is just inside the 30 year mark.
(Dr Henig) He did have very good relations with the
482. He was their paid representative for many
(Dr Henig) He was.
483. Do you agree that there are two lots of
confidence? Obviously it is desirable for the police to have confidence
in the Home Office and it is also desirable for the public to
have confidence in the service provided by the police and those
things are sometimes in conflict.
(Dr Henig) Absolutely, yes.
484. Have some of the scams started to disappear
in your time?
(Dr Henig) Were you thinking of any in particular?
485. Yes, I was. The TICs, for example, taking
into consideration, where a force has, say, 20 or 30, 40 even
in one case I can think of, dedicated detectives touring the nation's
jails signing up convicted felons to put their hands up to offences
that are unsolved.
(Dr Henig) I was about to answer.
486. I thought you wanted an explanation.
(Dr Henig) I was going to say in my own force, as
in many others I think, there is a change in the way that crimes
are now recorded. We are now recording crimes differently, certainly
in Lancashire we are, and that has resulted in the last year in
quite a major increase in levels of crime but the police have
been very good about communicating across the country the reasons
for this, what they are doing differently, what the outcome has
been. I think we are all happier with the way that crime is now
being recorded. There are, I think, five or six forces who are
now recording crime in a different way. As from the beginning
of April, I think.
(Mr Peel) 1 April.
(Dr Henig) This is a change that should be taking
place throughout the country. I actually think it is a very good
change and it should then result in increased confidence. I take
your point absolutely and certainly we in Lancashire, and I am
sure it is done in other counties, put a lot of stress on trying
to get opinions from across the county through our Life in Lancashire
Citizen's Panel and other means about confidence issues: do they
have confidence in the police; what are the issues that affect
the verdict that they give; why? The issue of confidence is a
crucial one for us as police authorities because if the people
out there do not have confidence this is a major, major problem.
While levels of confidence are perhaps going down somewhat, say
from 80 per cent to 70 per cent, nonetheless the levels of confidence
that people have in the police are still significantly higher
than the levels of confidence they have perhaps in other groups
in society, if I can put it in those terms.
487. Like Members of Parliament.
(Dr Henig) It is something of concern and we do monitor
it, it is not something we take for granted. That is part of our
role, I think, to measure confidence, to try to find out what
affects it and what we should do.
488. Are there still forces that record TICs
in the way that used to happen?
(Mr Peel) I can only speak for Essex. We make it quite
clear that if they want to tell us about other offences in prison
we shall prosecute them for them. No, we have given that up. I
think that is probably fairly national.
(Ms Leech) I think we can only answer your question
in the negative, as it were, by saying, as Dr Henig has said,
that all forces and authorities are committed to moving to the
new recording standard and to common reporting standards by 1
489. And no-one is holding out as far as you
know? It does do wonders for the clear-up rates.
(Dr Henig) Shall we say it will be a test of our corporacy,
I think, to try to make sure that change does take place.
(Mr Peel) It will mean, of course, that crime figures
apparently go up and detection rates apparently come down.
490. Yes. At least there will be honest accounting.
(Dr Henig) Which we fully support.
491. You have made that very clear.
(Mr Peel) We are in the process of making that clear
now to the public, the press and anybody else who will listen
to us, hence we will say it here.
492. Medical retirements and ill-health. We
touched on ill-health and early retirement. We have had conflicting
evidence about the way it is triggered. The Metropolitan Police
Commissioner has effectively said to us "nothing to do with
me, guv, I get the certificate from the medical officer and that
is a done deal", but when we have talked to others, such
as the Police Federation, they say that it is down to the police
authority. Can you clear that up?
(Ms Leech) I think they are probably making a process
point and probably the process point is less interesting than
the underlying issue, as it were. I think the issue here is around
not just medical ill-health retirements but around occupational
health generally in the police service where this is certainly
an area which police authorities have recognised as one of genuine
concern raised by the Police Federation but also raised by senior
managers as well and from police authority oversight of the force.
Policing is a people business so you need to make sure you have
the right processes and strategies in place to get the best out
of your people and that covers a variety of issues but one of
those must clearly be to have an appropriate occupational health
strategy for the force in place and that will cover a whole range
of things about ill-health and how you deal with it, injury indeed
and how you deal with it, and the consequence of that will be
part of an occupational health strategy.
(Mr Peel) I am sure we all include in our policing
plan targets to reduce those figures. As an authority we do have
targets to make sure that the force does reduce the numbers of
days off from sickness.
493. How much discretion is there when the certificate
comes to the chief constable or the commissioner, how much discretion
does he have?
(Mr Peel) We have taken on now what we call health
advisers and we will say to the medical officer "make it
clear in your certificate whether this man is totally incapable
of doing anything at all or whether he is capable of taking on
lighter duties". Indeed, many of them we do then employ in
an office, whatever, rather than out on the streets while they
are recuperating. We do have at least three grades of medical
certificate. We do not just take a certificate that says "you
are off duty, go away". What is more, we do actually visit
them by telephone or physically at least once a week. That is
a policy we, as the authority, have asked the force to put into
effect. We do have fairly tight control over that particular exercise
and, I am glad to say, are reducing fairly significantly. We have
not hit the target yet but we are reducing fairly significantly
the numbers of days off for sickness.
494. After that process do you recommend to
the chief constable or is it the other way around, does he start
(Mr Peel) No, he starts the process, he runs the process,
we simply keep an eye on it.
495. You have probably answered my last question
then, that is the massive disparity between the portion of people
who go out under ill health, medical severance in different forces,
is it all down to the way the authorities manage their retirements?
(Dr Henig) I think if we were being honest we would
say that in the past police authorities have not always strictly
overseen this process. If I was being honest I would have to say
that some managers in forces up and down the country have used
retirements as a way of managing the force and helping to resolve
difficult situations. Certainly I think in the last two or three
years there has been a much clearer understanding by the authority
of what it needs to do and how it needs to oversee this process,
and of course that has been coupled with a much stronger focus
from national bodies, the Audit Commission, HMI. So I think in
the last three years all of us have been much more effective in
monitoring this and I think generally the trend is down. There
are still quite significant variations. Now it is conceivable
that this can be affected by different types of operational policing
because clearly in some areas there may be a much greater danger
of officers getting injured, getting sick. There could be legitimate
reasons for some variations is what I am saying but clearly it
has got to be monitored locally and we have got to work together
to drive it down.
496. Finally from me, do you think the Bill
can be modified or changed in order to bear down on these areas?
(Dr Henig) Again I think you are in danger of managing
from the centre something which is probably most effectively managed
from the locality.
497. Incidentally your earlier remark about
James Callaghan I am sure will hearten him because I think he
will be 90 later this month. If I can ask you one or two questions
arising from remarks made yesterday by Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner
of the Metropolitan Police. He seems to take the view very strongly
that much police work is being undermined by the courts, it is
almost a sort of game. Is that in any way the view of your organisation?
(Dr Henig) It is not something that we have highlighted.
We know that it is an ongoing concern of ACPO. We know it is something
that David Phillips has flagged up on a number of occasions and
certainly in discussions with ACPO, ACPO have voiced their concerns.
Those of us who are magistratesand of course I can come
at this from the advantage of being a magistratecan see
the problems when we sit in magistrates courts. I think a lot
of John Stevens' remarks were actually directed at criminal courts,
crown courts, but nonetheless even at a magistrate court level
you can see sometimes problems, you can see some of the issues
that he is trying to get at there. All the time there is a balance
between on the one hand civil liberties and the way in which rights
need to operate in our structure and on the other hand the police
wanting to prosecute, with the Crown Prosecution Service legitimately,
offenders. It is a question of balancing the rights and making
the system work. I can understand where he is coming from.
(Mr Peel) We do have a task group, the Criminal Justice
Service Task Group which actually was due to meet earlier this
morning but did not, where we are considering particularly the
report and in broad terms we are very much supporting that.
498. There is somewhat of a dilemma because
we live, fortunately, a million times over under the rule of law.
Defence counsels have a responsibility to defend clients but I
suppose the point made by Sir John Stevens is that time and again
alleged offenders are brought before the courts and clever defence
counselsperhaps not so clever but carrying out their duties
as we would I suppose in such circumstancesget these people
off who then, of course, reoffend at every possible opportunity.
There is a clash, is there not, in a law based society along the
lines I have indicated without necessarily approving of what Sir
John has said?
(Dr Henig) There is also another issue though, which
again I know ACPO would subscribe to and which again to some degree
we have got to play our role in, and that is that the police have
to be professional in the way they do their job. If you sit in
court every now and again a corner has been cut or something has
not happened which should have done which leads to a case being
dropped and that does happen. I think it is up to the police to
make sure that in everything they do they do it in a fully professional
way which then, when the case comes to court, will enable that
conviction to go ahead. We have to make sure that our police are
operating effectively. That is part of the process as well. If
you look at cases which do not come to a successful outcome, sometimes
it is the sort of thing that John Stevens may have alluded to
but sometimes there are processes not being carried through properly
which then will enable that case not to get to fruition. There
are a number of elements here I think which one could focus on.
499. Do you find any frustration in your own
two areas where senior police officers more or less fall along
the same line as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police?
(Mr Peel) I attended what we call a PCCG, that is
the Policing Criminal Consultative Group, only last night. The
superintendent there was saying "This is a terribly frustrating
business. We had a youngster this morning, put him into the court
. . ." he was a 13 year old I think ". . . at ten o'clock,
he was dealt with there. By 11.30 he was seen trying more cars
down the street. By 12.30 he was picked up again in another stolen
500. It is a difficulty which is not easy to
(Mr Peel) No.
David Winnick: Thank you.
Chairman: Dr Henig, Mr Peel and Ms Leech, thank
you very much for coming. The session is closed.