My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this important debate, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for her support for speedy justice. Obviously, this impacts the complainant as well as the officers.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, for his contribution. It seems very strange standing here and talking about a former commissioner in that way, but I am in police mode at the moment, I think. He made a very important point about firearms officers who volunteer to take on this enormous responsibility and are then treated so badly by the system.
The Police Federation—I am grateful for its support of these amendments—accepts that there will be delays if a criminal investigation is involved. However, there are still significant delays even after the criminal matters have been dealt with, as I outlined in the examples I gave.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his promise to come back all guns blazing, as it were, if I bring the amendment back on Report.
It is interesting that there is a parallel with the Armed Forces again. I spoke to a former soldier who was resigning from the police service and asked him why. He said that he was leaving because, in the Armed Forces, when something goes wrong, the most senior officer involved takes responsibility and faces a court martial, while in the police service, the responsibility is pushed down to the lowest-possible level, to alleviate the responsibility of senior officers. That is an aspect of the culture of the police service; I agree with that officer’s conclusions.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, talked about public confidence. If there is no confidence in the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the police complaints system, this will be partly due to the undue delays. Complainants are beginning to think “What are they trying to cover up? Why is it taking so long?”. It is essential that these things are dealt with in a timely manner.
I thank the Minister for her support in principle, but the examples I gave were not complex cases; they were simple, but they still took years. They did not involve expert witnesses, yet there were still delays. These are recent cases from last year.
I am sorry but I do not accept the Minister’s assertion that this amendment would result in a rush to complete investigations. These completely independent people would assess whether there were justified reasons for investigations going on as long as they had. Clearly, if these investigations were not being dealt with in a timely manner, they would have something to worry about. This is about picking up those cases in which there is unnecessary and unreasonable delay. Of course, the same chair would not adjudicate over whether an investigation was going on too long and then chair the discipline investigation.
We are on to something here and I am very grateful to the Police Federation for bringing it to my attention. We may well need to discuss this further on Report, but at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Increase in penalty for assault on emergency worker