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.Jump to full report >>
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.
Part 1 of the Bill would:
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.
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:
Part 2 also increases the powers of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and extends the inspectors’ remit, so that it covers private contractors.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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