Clause 34

Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 18th January 2007.

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Code: effect

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I beg to move amendment No. 23, in clause 34, page 23, line 8, at end insert

‘, but all breaches of the code shall subject the police officer to disciplinary procedures.’.

I shall not disappoint you this time, Sir Nicholas. Having examined the Bill more closely, I realised that it was not necessary to move the previous amendment.

Clause 34(1) refers to the effect of the code and states:

“A failure by a police officer to comply with a provision of a code shall not of itself make him liable to criminal or civil proceedings.”

My amendment is designed to give us the facility to discuss why that subsection is in the Bill and what the Minister envisages would happen if a police officer did not comply with the code, which has been compiled by the Secretary of State and approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

I am happy to try to clarify the powers in the clause and explain what would happen if we adopted the amendment.

The hon. Gentleman’s amendment would mean that any breach of the code would automatically result in disciplinary action against the officer who had transgressed it. All Committee members would expect that most breaches of the code—certainly serious ones—would result in disciplinary action under the direction of the Chief Constable.

We need to bear in mind, however, that in somerare situations a very minor breach of the code by experienced officers in difficult situations may lead the Chief Constable to conclude that it is not necessary for that officer to face disciplinary action. It is important  that experienced officers doing their job in good faith and who may make a minor breach of the code can know confidently that they will get the support of their Chief Constable. We do not want minor transgressions to lead automatically to such police officers having their reputations tarnished. I remind the Committee that the issue could be subject to an investigation by the police ombudsman; if there were a complaint about the decision not to take disciplinary action, that could be investigated by the ombudsman. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I am grateful to the Minister forthat explanation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 35 to 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 38 ordered to stand part of the Bill.