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Clause 111 - Staff custody officers: designation

Part of Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 18th January 2005.

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Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 5:15 pm, 18th January 2005

I do not accept that. I do not think that the judgment is wrong, and it is important to set the changes in a wider context as well as dealing with the specific issues that have been raised, as I shall now do. I do not intend for a moment to patronise either the outside bodies or the Committee, as I think that the issues are important.

Training is a key issue. People need to be reassured that those who will undertake the role will be properly trained and will have the right skills to do the job. National occupational standards are being developed by Skills for Justice. They will form the basis of an integrated competency framework. I know that that is a bit of jargon, but it is an established way of making sure that we can tell which skills are required for the job and how they relate to the tasks that have to be performed. Centrex, the national centre for policing excellence, which developed a doctrine of good practice, is currently developing guidance that will set out how the national occupational standards are to be achieved. It will establish standards not only for the   new civilian custody officers, but for existing police custody officers. That will enhance the training that is available to them.

I can understand hon. Members' concerns, which is one of the reasons why, if we proceed down the proposed route, I believe that it is important to undertake a number of pilots to see how the staff custody officer role might work. I am keen for the training to relate not just to theory but to practice. I take on board the points that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar made about experience and knowledge, understanding how such decisions arise and the ability to react to them. I envisage the pilots involving not only theoretical training, but the shadowing of experienced officers, learning about judgment and getting a feel for the job.

There is no shortage of volunteers for the pilot projects. Police forces are incredibly keen to take advantage of the opportunity to release some of their custody sergeants from the roles that they now fill.