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Commons Library analysis: Policing and Crime Bill 2015-16

Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Policing and Crime Bill 2015-16 has its second reading on 7 March 2016. It includes provisions covering collaboration between police and fire services; reforms to the police complaints and discipline systems; new safeguards for pre-charge bail; powers for police staff and volunteers; and changes to firearms law. This briefing analyses the Bill and the policy background, and provides some relevant comment.

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The Policing and Crime Bill has its second reading on 7 March 2016. It covers a wide range of subjects. Some of the proposed changes form part of the Government’s manifesto commitment to develop to the role of Police and Crime Commissioners. Others are part of the Government’s response to concerns in recent years about police integrity. Other changes to police powers are in response to more specific concerns – for example over detention of people suffering mental health crises, and over the length of time people can be held on police bail before they are charged. The Bill also covers areas as diverse as firearms control; alcohol licensing; enforcement of United Nations and EU sanctions; and child sexual exploitation.

Emergency services collaboration

Part 1 of the Bill would:

  • Introduce a statutory duty on police, fire and ambulance services to collaborate to improve efficiency or effectiveness
  • Allow Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to assume greater involvement in the provision of fire and rescue services, through three different possible models
  • Bring fire and rescue services in London under the direct responsibility of the Mayor of London

Whilst the statutory collaboration duty has been broadly welcomed, the proposals to allow PCCs to assume responsibility for fire and rescue services “where there is local demand” have proved more controversial.

Police complaints and inspection

Part 2 of the Bill would implement many of the proposals in the Government’s Improving Police Integrity consultation. It would reform the system of police complaints in the following ways:

  • A major role for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in the handling of police complaints
  • Changes to the handling of complaints aimed at making the system easier to follow and more transparent
  • Changes to the role and powers of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to reinforce its independence from police forces
  • The introduction of ‘super-complaints’ to allow certain advocacy groups and charities to raise concerns over troubling systemic issues in policing

Part 2 also increases the powers of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and extends the inspectors’ remit, so that it covers private contractors.

Police discipline

Chapters 3 and 4 of Part 2 of the Bill would introduce the following reforms of the police discipline system, following the recommendations of the Chapman Review:

  • Further protection for whistle-blowers
  • The introduction of a ‘barred list’ of all those dismissed from service in the police and prohibited from working in policing
  • Closing the loophole that allows former officers and former special constables to avoid disciplinary proceedings for conduct during their time on the force
  • Empowering the Secretary of State to issue guidance on the conduct of those serving in the police and on forces’ exercise of their disciplinary functions

Police workforce and representation

Part 3 of the Bill would give chief officers more flexibility in the way they designate powers to their civilian staff, and would also allow them, for the first time, to designate police powers to civilian volunteers. Currently special constables have full police powers, but the thousands of other volunteers working in police forces have none.

Chief officers would be able to give any police powers to the new categories of police civilian and police volunteers except those from a list of powers which are reserved for sworn constables. This reverses the current position, where chief officers choose from a menu of powers for each category. The Bill leaves unchanged the position of contracted‑out detention officers and escort officers, who currently can be designated with very limited police powers.

Part 3 also strengthens the accountability and transparency of the Police Federation in response to recent concerns.

Police powers

Part 4 chapter 1 of the Bill is the Government’s response to long-standing concerns over the use by police of their powers to bail suspects prior to charge. The most significant reforms would include:

  • A presumption that suspects released prior to charge would be released not on bail
  • Time limits on bail and safeguards to prevent a person remaining on bail indefinitely

Part 4 would also make changes to the rules governing how the police deal with people suffering mental health crises. It would also ensure that 17 year olds detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes. Part 4 also includes changes to extend the reach of police enforcement powers on ships at sea, when the police are in “hot pursuit” of criminals.

Other changes

Part 5 would make some minor changes concerning the term of office of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioners and gives the Home Secretary the power to change the name of a police area by order.

Part 6 of the Bill would make changes to the law on firearms as recommended by the Law Commission in a recent report. These include providing a statutory definition of the terms ‘lethal’, ‘component part’ and ‘antique firearm’.

Part 7 would amend the Licensing Act 2003 to make clear that powered and vaporised alcohol are both covered by the Act.

Part 8 deals with enforcement of EU, UN and other financial sanctions. It would generally extend existing sentences for financial sanctions offences and introduces new civil penalties to be enforceable by the Treasury.

Part 9 contains miscellaneous changes, including to deal with live streaming of indecent images of children, and to require arrested people to state their nationality.

 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7499

Authors: Pat Strickland; Terry McGuinness; John Woodhouse; Jacqueline Beard; Tim Edmonds; Arabella Lang

Topics: Ambulance services, Crime, Emergency services, Fire services, Firearms, International law, Licensing, Police

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