Schedule 19

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 8:30 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Police misconduct and performance procedures

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I beg to move amendment No. 227, in schedule 19, page 203, line 31, leave out ‘counsel or a solicitor’ and insert ‘a relevant lawyer’.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Llafur, Knowsley South

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 228 to 235, 240, 247 and 254 to 256.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I have 25 pages of notes on the provisions. [Hon. Members: “Oh no!”] I am only joking. It is not a good joke at this time of night.

These are technical amendments, which, for example, update the terminology used to take account of provisions used in the Legal Services Act 2007. The term “counsel or solicitor” will be replaced with the term “relevant lawyer”, which will have the meaning ascribed to it in the 2007 Act. There are a number of other such technical amendments and, with the Committee’s indulgence I will move them formally.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 228, in schedule 19, page 203, line 36, leave out ‘counsel or a solicitor’ and insert ‘a relevant lawyer’.

No. 229, in schedule 19, page 203, line 39, leave out ‘counsel or a solicitor’ and insert ‘a relevant lawyer’.

No. 230, in schedule 19, page 204, line 2, leave out ‘counsel or a solicitor’ and insert ‘a relevant lawyer’.

No. 231, in schedule 19, page 204, line 31, at end insert—

‘“relevant lawyer” means a person who, for the purposes of the Legal Services Act 2007, is an authorised person in relation to an activity which constitutes the exercise of a right of audience (within the meaning of that Act);’.

No. 232, in schedule 19, page 204, line 44, leave out ‘regulations’ and insert ‘rules’.

No. 233, in schedule 19, page 205, line 12, leave out ‘counsel or a solicitor’ and insert

‘a relevant lawyer within the meaning of section 84’.

No. 234, in schedule 19, page 205, line 20, leave out ‘Regulations or’.

No. 235, in schedule 19, page 205, line 22, leave out from beginning to ‘under’ in line 23 and insert—

‘(4) For subsection (5) substitute—

“(5) A statutory instrument containing rules’.—[Mr. Coaker.]

Question proposed, That this schedule, as amended, be the Nineteenth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Shadow Minister (Justice)

I do not wish to take up too much time. Nevertheless, it is important to register some points about this part of the Bill, albeit that it is one on which we can reach agreement, and there is consensus on the need for reform of procedures concerning police misconduct and performance in the investigation of complaints of police misconduct.

We need to avoid the situation which has been referred to in past debates and reviews as the extreme end, in which a police officer who has completed two years’ probation and become a full constable is referred to as almost unsackable. There are also other cases of low-level misconduct that need to be dealt with expeditiously, properly and with early resolution at the lowest level. We must respond to concerns that hearings should be less formal and not over-adversarial, and ensure that a quasi-judicial adversarial manner, not dissimilar from a military court tribunal, is not adopted in all cases. We welcome the moves, following the recommendation of  the Taylor review, to ensure that the mechanism for disciplining officers is proportionate, timely, transparent, fair and cost-effective.

There is a need to ensure that investigations proceed expeditiously and that time limits are in place. Concerns have been raised about the prolonged amount of time for which police officers are subject to investigation, particularly those who are suspended—they are referred to as “gated”—and subject to conditions. For example, one condition is that they cannot take on any front-line duties. The concern relayed to me is that the position has been accepted and has then continued for several months—indeed, for a year in some cases. The officers have not had a formal resolution while they have been gated, and they have been in an invidious position while not knowing the outcome of their misconduct hearing. They are suspended with conditions.

It is important to deal with the issue in a timely manner and across the board—for police officers at the lower as well as the higher end of the scale. It would be helpful to receive an assurance from the Minister about the introduction of time limits. They would be helpful in such situations and would ensure that we would proceed, as we all would wish, to a quick resolution with a proper, accountable and transparent approach throughout the hearings.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

Schedule 19 makes several amendments to the Police Act 1996 to enable changes to be made to the procedures for dealing with police conduct, efficiency and performance. The schedule also makes equivalent changes to the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 for the purposes of the Ministry of Defence police, and to the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 for the purposes of the British Transport police. The changes arise out of the recommendations of the Taylor review into disciplinary arrangements, which was published in January 2005. The recommendations are aimed at improving and modernising police disciplinary and performance procedures, and they have received the full support of the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales. Current procedures for dealing with police officer discipline and poor performance issues are set out in the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2004 and the Police (Efficiency) (Amendment) Regulations 1999. New proposed conduct and performance regulations, which are being prepared and are available for viewing, set out the proposed procedures for dealing with discipline and performance issues. The proposed regulations will implement the recommendations of the Taylor review, and they have been prepared with and approved by the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales.

The amendments to the Police Act 1996 in the schedule will permit the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out new procedures. Time limits—this has just arrived in my brain—are covered in draft regulations made under the Bill. They have been consulted on and we will share them with the Committee in due course.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 19, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 112 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 20 agreed to.

Clause 113 ordered to stand part of the Bill.