Amendment 8

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 20th October 2021.

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Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 5:30 pm, 20th October 2021

My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak to Amendment 8, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and of which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is a co-signatory. It is an important amendment. I was particularly moved by the comments made by the noble Baroness, reminding us that of course it is from a police officer’s point of view but that this is also about a complainant’s point of view. It is from both sides that this debate has taken place.

Sometimes you look at an amendment and wonder whether it is as important as some others. Listening to the moving opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and others, I have been struck that this is a crucial amendment and a crucial discussion which is of huge significance to the police, communities and our country, particularly in light of issues that have arisen over the last few months. However, investigations that are delayed and drag on without resolution are completely unacceptable for the complainant and the officer in question.

I was completely unaware and absolutely astonished to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, from his experience as a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, that officers under investigation have been waiting for 10 years. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened and whether they were guilty or innocent, that cannot be right. This has got to be looked at by the Minister who now has responsibility for this, wherever you come from in the debate. I am sorry if other noble Lords knew this, and that I was the only person here who was unaware of it. I knew that there were delays, but frankly, that is astonishing. We have just had a significant and important debate on protecting the mental health of our officers. One can only imagine the mental health implications for people under investigation but also, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, reminded us, for people who have made the complaints. It does not serve justice for anybody.

There is some suggestion about delays in driving cases, but if she knows, can the Minister tell the Committee whether there is a particular delay in one area or a general problem across investigations? The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, mentioned firearms, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned some other examples, but is there a particular problem which emerges when a complaint is made in a particular area? There have been many references to certain offences not being taken seriously even when complaints were made, but it would be interesting for the Minister to come back to us on that.

I think that, at its heart, this amendment is saying that if we do not get this right, public confidence is undermined and eroded, and it is of no benefit to any of us not to be confident in the system. We must believe that the investigations which take place are fair, operate in a timely manner and are done with that integrity which people can understand and believe. We all accept that. Nobody here would disagree that this is the process which must happen and should be in place. However, as we have heard, that is not happening. Therefore, the amendment rightly asks us whether the answer is to set a time limit, to lay out a process that is better and more effective. The key question for the Minister is: what plans are there to review and update the disciplinary process, to restore public confidence and to reassure all of us that, at the end of the day, not only those who are complained against can feel confident but those who are making the complaint? That is the resolution that we all want from this important amendment.