Amendment 114C

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Report (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:44 pm on 17th January 2022.

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Votes in this debate

  • Division number 2
    A majority of Members of the House of Lords voted to place a statutory duty of candour on members of the police workforce.

Lord Rosser:

Moved by Lord Rosser

114C: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—“Accountability of public authorities: duties on police workforce (1) Members of the police workforce have a duty at all times to act within their powers—(a) in the public interest, and(b) with transparency, candour and frankness.(2) Members of the police workforce have a duty to assist court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations—(a) relating to their own activities, or(b) where their acts or omissions are or may be relevant.(3) In discharging the duty under subsection (2), members of the police workforce must—(a) act with proper expedition,(b) act with transparency, candour and frankness,(c) act without favour to their own position,(d) make full disclosure of relevant documents, material and facts,(e) set out their position on the relevant matters at the outset of the proceedings, inquiry or investigation, and(f) provide further information and clarification as ordered by a court or inquiry.(4) In discharging their duty under subsection (2), members of the police workforce must have regard to the pleadings, allegations, terms of reference and parameters of the relevant proceedings, inquiry or investigation, but are not limited by them, in particular where they hold information which might change the ambit of the proceedings, inquiry or investigation.(5) The duties in subsections (1) and (2) are subject to existing laws relating to privacy, data protection and national security.(6) The duties in subsections (1) and (2) are enforceable—(a) by application to the relevant court or inquiry chairperson by any person affected by the alleged breach, or(b) by the court or inquiry of its own motion, or(c) where there are no extant court or inquiry proceedings, by judicial review proceedings in the High Court.”Member’s explanatory statementThis would establish a duty of candour on members of the police workforce.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Amendment 114C would place a statutory duty of candour on members of the police workforce. It would create a duty on law enforcement to act at all times in the public interest and with transparency, candour and frankness, and to assist in court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations where the activities of members of the police workforce, including omissions, may be relevant. The issue was discussed at some length in Committee and I certainly do not intend to repeat all that was said then.

In his 2017 report on the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families, Bishop James Jones proposed a duty of candour to address

“the unacceptable behaviour of police officers—serving or retired—who fail to cooperate fully with investigations into alleged criminal offences or misconduct.”

In June 2021, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, which I believe took eight years to report, found:

“There was not insignificant obstruction to the Panel’s work … the Metropolitan Police did not approach the Panel’s scrutiny with candour, in an open, honest and transparent way”.

The panel recommended

“the creation of a statutory duty of candour, to be owed by all law enforcement agencies to those whom they serve”.

The chair of the panel, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, said in this House that

“the creation of the duty of candour in matters such as this is vital for the integrity and effectiveness of policing”.—[Official Report, 22/6/21; col. 134.]

Last June, the Government told us in this House that they were still considering the duty of candour in response to Bishop James Jones’s report four years earlier. We now have before us a flagship home affairs and justice Bill from this Government, which prioritises new offences against those who protest but is silent on the failures of justice highlighted in the Bishop Jones report and by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and the resulting call, both in the report and by the panel, for the statutory duty of candour provided for in this amendment. It is time for action and a decision, and an end to this seemingly never-ending continuing government consideration of this issue. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee), Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee)

I have added my name to this amendment for four reasons. First, the need is clear: we need complete protection of victims and the public interest, and to make certain that recalcitrant are no longer able to delay. Secondly, the duty of candour is clear: there is no doubt about what it entails. Thirdly, the remedies provided in the proposed new clause are extensive and proportionate. Finally, there can be no reason for delay. Why does it need consultation? It does not. The proposed new clause and the need are clear; we should pass this amendment.

Photo of Baroness O'Loan Baroness O'Loan Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, for tabling this amendment.

Briefly, a duty of candour would bring about a change of mindset and culture by requiring openness and transparency about what has happened in investigations. It would lead to a more efficient deployment of resources, which would have a beneficial impact on the public purse. It could very much help to contradict allegations of police corruption and will grow confidence in the leadership of the police service because there would be a statutory obligation of openness and transparency, and therefore an assumption there would be compliance with the law rather than a suspicion of cover-up or, even worse, corruption. The amendment is framed to protect all necessary matters but to enable a different positive approach to the delivery of policing. I support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I welcome that the opposition is united in support of this amendment.

The police have failed to own up to many of their mistakes. I personally have experienced police evasion, police spying and police deceit. It beggars belief that there is no duty of candour on our police force already. It actually imposes their own idea of what the law says and this is completely wrong, so I very much support this amendment.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, as a former police officer, I must tell the House that leaving the failure to abide by such a duty of candour to the police misconduct process, as the Government are asking us to do, is inadequate, as the decision on whether to investigate or take misconduct proceedings will be left in the hands of the police themselves.

If it is in the interest of the police that something is covered up, they will not investigate and they will not take action against the officers responsible. As the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, has just explained, her experience of the inquiry into the Daniel Morgan murder demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt the need for this amendment, and we support it.

Photo of Lord Hogan-Howe Lord Hogan-Howe Crossbench

My Lords, I have not thought an awful lot about this, but the principle, which seems unarguable, is that police officers should have a duty of candour. They are not the only ones who should; many other groups might want to adopt a similar approach, but so far as the police service is concerned, which is what this amendment is about, it is rather unarguable. How it works ought to be clearly thought through, which I guess is why the Government are consulting on it. The only question I had, which I have just discussed briefly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, is how this would work with the criminal disclosure process and how that would impact on any ongoing prosecution or, obviously, any separate public inquiry. However, that is a matter of implementation rather than of principle. In general terms, I see no reason why it should not be implemented for the police; perhaps others may consider it too.

Photo of Lord Sentamu Lord Sentamu Crossbench

My Lords, in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, one of the challenges we faced was that the police were investigating the police—they were marking their own homework. Although Kent Police did a fantastic job, nevertheless there were areas where they could not quite press hard enough. They were very good in what they did, but it was not adequate, and therefore we proposed in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry that, whenever there is an incident, it should be investigated by an independent body.

This amendment would enhance that on the whole question of duty of candour. Again, during that inquiry we were given all the papers. There was no hidden stuff, so for that I must again congratulate the Met. However, this amendment is vital in order to support independent police inquiries, whenever there are areas of great concern. I hope nobody sees this as either intrusive or doubting that most of our police forces really want to do the best for their communities and places. Nevertheless, a duty of candour would impose a very good way of saying what concerns some people about the police, so I support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, for affording us this further opportunity to debate the case for a statutory duty of candour. They have rightly highlighted the importance of the police’s openness and transparency, which is a very serious matter. It is at the heart of public confidence in policing and ensures that the police are held to the highest standards; this is crucial to maintaining that confidence.

As I did in Committee, I start by highlighting the extensive work that has already been done and is ongoing to improve integrity and openness in policing. Back in February 2020, we introduced a statutory duty of co-operation for serving police officers as part of wider integrity reforms. This duty forms part of the standards of professional behaviour set out in Schedule 2 to the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020 and, in so doing, has the force of law. It is worth quoting in full the relevant paragraph:

“Police officers have a responsibility to give appropriate cooperation during investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings, participating openly and professionally in line with the expectations of a police officer when identified as a witness.”

A failure to co-operate in this way constitutes a breach of the statutory standards of professional behaviour, by which all officers must abide, and could therefore result in a formal disciplinary sanction. I put it to the House at this point that this duty to co-operate puts a greater onus on officers than the duty of candour provided for in this amendment, as they could ultimately be dismissed for a breach.

The duty to co-operate has been introduced since the issues that were highlighted in the Bishop James Jones report concerning the bereaved Hillsborough families’ experiences, and the issues relating to the work of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, which were later highlighted in its report. We are keen that this duty becomes fully embedded within the police workforce. The recently announced inquiry, chaired by the right honourable Dame Elish Angiolini QC, will provide a further test of this duty.

In addition to the standards of professional behaviour, the College of Policing’s code of ethics delivers a set of policing principles and ensures that ethics are at the centre of all policing decisions. The college is currently reviewing the code and intends to further promote a policing culture of openness and accountability. The Government are confident that the work of the college will ensure that candour is directly addressed through this review.

Noble Lords will be aware that a response to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and Bishop James Jones report concerning the bereaved Hillsborough families’ experiences will provide a government view on a wider duty of candour for all public authorities. Before the Government respond to these reports, it is clearly imperative that the Hillsborough families are given the opportunity to share their views. We hope that this happens as soon as is practicable.

Bishop James’s report also encouraged public bodies to sign the proposed charter for bereaved families. This has now been signed by the NPCC, on behalf of police forces, so that the perspective of the bereaved families is never lost. The charter commits forces to acting with candour, and in an open, honest, and transparent way, when facing public scrutiny, for example through public inquiries.

Regarding the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the decision on disciplinary action is not just for forces. Of course, the IOPC can also call it in.

In conclusion, we believe that the existing legislation requiring officers to co-operate already amounts to a duty of candour, and this is complemented by the further commitments that policing has made to transparency and openness. That being the case—

Photo of Baroness O'Loan Baroness O'Loan Crossbench

The Minister has described a duty of co-operation, which is not the same as the duty described by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others, in the amendment. It is not fair to explain that they are the same and that a duty of co-operation goes further than a duty of candour. They are two different duties and the obligation to comply with charters and standards is very different from the obligation to comply with the statutory duty.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

I was making the point that, in some ways, the duty of co-operation goes further because of the sanctions afforded to it, though I know that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for whom I have the greatest respect, disagrees with me.

Regarding an officer resigning or retiring, if he or she is found to have committed gross misconduct, the chair of proceedings can decide that they would have been dismissed if they had not already left the force, so leaving the force is no longer a way out, since this automatically places the officer on the College of Policing’s barred list, preventing them from working in policing again.

I know that the noble Baroness does not agree, but I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment, although I am not sure that he will.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 5:00 pm, 17th January 2022

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, for adding their names to the amendment. I also thank the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, for the Government’s response.

The fact that we are now four years on from Bishop James Jones’s report and the Government are still considering their response to the call for a duty of candour simply indicates what a relatively low priority this issue must be for the Government. The Government said in Committee, and indeed the Minister repeated it today, that:

“The Government have already made significant changes to ensure that officers can be disciplined if they mislead the public, and we are committed to properly consider and respond to the recommendations for a duty of candour, as highlighted in Bishop James Jones’s report.”—[Official Report, 3/11/21; col. 1255.]

In the light of what the Government have just had to say, which appears to be that they think that the steps they have taken are more significant than a duty of candour, there must surely now be a real likelihood that the Government will eventually decide against a statutory duty of candour, deciding that internal disciplinary codes and practices are sufficient, when, as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and others have said, they clearly are not. We now have a statutory duty of candour in the National Health Service.

I conclude by quoting the words of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in Committee, on 3 November 2021, which can be read in Hansard:

“The statutory duty of candour is vital not just to affect the culture of the police and enhance public confidence in policing but to give confidence to those police officers who face enormous internal pressures from their colleagues not to be candid. They need support; they need a statutory regime they can point to in order to justify to their colleagues what is required.”—[Official Report, 3/11/21; col. 1253.]

I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 252, Noes 179.

Division number 2 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Report (6th Day) — Amendment 114C

A majority of Members of the House of Lords voted to place a statutory duty of candour on members of the police workforce.

Aye: 252 Members of the House of Lords

No: 179 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Amendment 114C agreed.