Angiolini Inquiry Report - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 7:31 pm ar 5 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Doocey Baroness Doocey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Policing) 7:31, 5 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, what happened to Sarah Everard was horrific, and made worse by the fact that this callous murder was committed by a serving police officer. The report says that Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer and that numerous opportunities to end his career were ignored. It lays out a number of steps to ensure that this appalling tragedy is not repeated.

The Minister has promised decisive action and outlined several welcome measures, yet the vehicle required to take such action is available to him now. The Criminal Justice Bill is due to reach this House in the coming weeks. As it stands, the charity Refuge says it is seriously disappointed with the Bill’s measures on police perpetrators, which it believes will do very little to rid our forces of abusers.

The Government have so far resisted a series of amendments, such as one that would mean all allegations of police-perpetrated domestic abuse would be recorded —either as a police complaint or a conduct matter. This would inform vetting and any potential future investigations. Will the Minister reconsider placing such provisions in the Bill, rather than falling back on regulations and, worse still, voluntary codes of practice, which seldom if ever work?

Does the Minister accept that the time has now come to spell out, in no uncertain terms, that violence against women and girls is not acceptable if you are a police officer? That surely means being clear that domestic abuse is not just a criminal matter but a disciplinary matter within the police services themselves.

I also want to address the issue of consistency. At the moment, there is too much variation around the country, and the issue of warrant card removal illustrates this well. In some forces, officers are required to surrender their warrant cards if they are suspended; in other forces, they are not. Sarah Everard’s murder horribly underlines the power that comes with a warrant card. At the very least, surely suspended officers should be required to surrender warrant cards nationwide. This is something that the Domestic Abuse Commissioner is calling for.

Another matter of consistency is on the issue of suspensions themselves. The Government are now saying that there will be an automatic suspension of police officers charged with certain criminal offences pending trial. Can the Minister confirm that domestic abuse offences will be among those leading to suspension?

The Government are planning to change the rules to make it easier for forces to remove officers without vetting clearance. However, removing those who fail vetting or are guilty of gross misconduct will still not be a legal obligation. These measures will not be mandatory or backed by primary legislation. A Liberal Democrat freedom of information request last October revealed that 129 Metropolitan Police officers were still working on the front line while under investigation for allegations of sexual or domestic abuse, eight months on from the Casey review. This is, frankly, a disgrace.

Meanwhile, a clear issue with culture and leadership remains to be addressed. This is particularly critical in the context of an increasingly young and inexperienced workforce, a third of whom have less than five years’ service. The Police Foundation describes a

“culture of silence and complicity”,

where the default is to keep quiet if you want to get on or fit in. This report rightly says that our police must be held to a higher standard of behaviour and accountability given the powers that they have. Good officers will welcome anything that does this.

Time and again, we have had excellent reports which identify the issues and make recommendations to stop them happening again. Most of the recommendations are accepted, but they are seldom, if ever, implemented. Can the Minister explain what the Government propose to do to ensure a full and speedy implementation of the recommendations in this report? Crucially, can he also say what the consequences will be for those forces that fail to comply?