Part to be inserted as Part 4A of the Police Act 1996

Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 24th March 2016.

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Amendment proposed: 199, in schedule 6, page 180, leave out lines 22 to 29 and insert—

“(c) the person ceases to be a civilian police employee by virtue of being dismissed and the reason, or one of the reasons, for the dismissal relates to conduct, efficiency or effectiveness;

(d) the person is a former civilian police employee and there is a finding in relation to the person in disciplinary proceedings that the person would have been dismissed if the person had still been such an employee.”.—

This amendment and amendments 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207 and 208 make provision for the inclusion in the police barred list and police advisory list of civilian employees of the City of London police force, in addition to members of the civilian staff of a police force for a police area listed in Schedule 1 to the Police Act 1996 and of the metropolitan police force.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 197, in schedule 6, page 180, line 29, at end insert—

“(e) the person is a former police volunteer of the police force and there is a finding in relation to the person in disciplinary proceedings that the person would have been dismissed if the person had still been such a police volunteer,

(f) the person was employed by a company or individual which had entered into a contract with a local policing body or chief officer to provide services to a chief officer and there is a finding in relation to the person in disciplinary proceedings that the person would have been dismissed if the person had still been such an employee.”.

This amendment would provide for police volunteers and privately contracted staff to be placed on the barred list.

Government amendments 200 to 203.

Amendment 198, in schedule 6, page 185, line 35, at end insert—

“(c) the person was employed by a company or individual which had entered into a contract with a local policing body or chief constable to provide services to a chief officer and the person ceases to be so employed by resigning or retiring after a relevant allegation about the person comes to the attention of their employer and the relevant authority.”.

This amendment would provide for privately contracted staff to be placed on the advisory list.

Government amendments 204 to 209.

Amendment 161, in clause 25, page 32, line 35, at end insert—

“(f) community support volunteers and policing support volunteers.”.

This amendment would require guidance concerning disciplinary proceedings issued by the Secretary of State to apply to police volunteers.

Government amendments 210 to 213.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

My apologies, Mr Nuttall; I, too, should have said that it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

Amendment 197 would provide the ability to place police volunteers and privately contracted staff on the barred list. Under the Bill, where police offers and special constables have been dismissed following disciplinary proceedings, their details will be added to the barred list held by the College of Policing. Chief officers will be barred from appointing anyone on the list as an officer, member of police staff, special constable or police volunteer. That is welcome, subject to the reservations that I am about to raise.

The Bill does not provide for volunteers dismissed for misconduct to be added to the barred list. Such volunteers are therefore not barred from taking up positions with other forces. We understand that police volunteers can be added only to the advisory list, although the legislation could make that clearer. That does not bar them from being appointed, but the advisory list is made available for vetting purposes.

The advisory list is intended to be used in the interim to record information about individuals who are under investigation or subject to proceedings. If the person is dismissed or would have been dismissed, they are effectively transferred to the barred list; however, if the matter is not proven or does not amount to gross misconduct, they are simply removed from the list. Do volunteers wrongly accused of misconduct have an opportunity to be investigated and removed from the advisory list? It is equally troubling that those who have committed gross misconduct cannot be placed on the barred list to ensure that they cannot serve with any force again.

Amendment 197 addresses the issue that the Bill does not provide for private sector staff to be added to the barred list. We find that extremely concerning, given that private sector staff can hold certain policing powers as detention and custody officers. Perhaps the Minister will therefore explain what mechanisms are in place to ensure that privately contracted staff who abuse their policing powers cannot serve again.

In 2012, Deborah Glass, the deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, told The Observer:

“We believe it is vital for public confidence that all those who perform police-like functions and powers are subject to independent oversight.”

We wholeheartedly agree. In that spirit, the purpose of amendment 197 is to ensure that anyone with warranted powers can properly be held to account and, in instances of gross misconduct, can be prevented from being appointed to a police force.

Amendment 198 is closely linked to amendment 197 and would provide for privately contracted staff to be placed on the advisory list. It is therefore a tidying-up amendment, in line with the thrust of amendment 197, to provide for private sector staff to be added to the advisory list.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The creation of a statutory police barred list and police advisory list will bring greater accountability to the police disciplinary system and ensure that those who are employed by the police but dismissed as a result of serious wrongdoing are prevented from joining another force—something that I think we all agree on. The Bill will also ensure that officers and staff who leave by resigning or retiring before disciplinary proceedings have concluded are not able to evade sanction. The Bill will achieve greater accountability and strengthen public protection in a manner that we consider to be proportionate and workable.

As the shadow Minister has explained, amendments 197 and 198 seek to include police volunteers and those in a contractual relationship with police forces in the provisions for the police barred list and police advisory list. I have concerns about the approach that he suggests in relation to both categories.

I will start with volunteers. We recognise the importance of ensuring that volunteers carry out their functions appropriately and with adequate safeguards to ensure that they are held to account when they fall short of the standards expected. To achieve that, we have introduced measures to ensure that volunteers can be disciplined if wrongdoing occurs. The Bill contains measures to ensure that volunteers are captured in the provisions for the police advisory list. That will ensure that where a volunteer’s designated status is withdrawn as a result of serious misconduct, it will be recorded on the advisory list. That is a proportionate approach that reflects the fact that we are dealing with individuals who are not paid employees and who do not hold full contracts of employment. Amendment 197 would take those protections beyond what we regard as reasonable and proportionate for a volunteering role in policing.

Turning to police contractors, the amendments fail to address the complexities associated with the role and status of contractors who are not directly employed by police forces. Those contracted individuals cannot be treated like police staff or officers for the purposes of disciplinary proceedings. As a result of that legal and practical distinction, the responsibilities for employment matters rest ultimately with the companies that employ the contractors, and are governed by employment law.

The provisions of the police barred list, with all its effects and consequences, cannot simply be added to the end of other organisations’ disciplinary processes and procedures, because the full safeguards and protections that have been developed and built into the police staff and police officer disciplinary systems that sit within the police service would be lacking. For example, there would be no guarantee of a fair process for a hearing to consider the sanction or a subsequent appeal, in line with the policies and regulated procedures followed for police officers and police staff.

To bolt amendments 197 and 198 on to the Bill would risk undermining the principles of consistency, fairness and transparency that are at the core of what we are trying to achieve on accountability.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

If specials can be barred, why not volunteers and private contractors?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is because of the contractual relationship. A volunteer is unpaid and is doing the job of their own free will. There is not the same relationship. A contractor’s employer is the company, not the police. There are issues about the contractual relationship between the employer and the police, but those are not about the individual.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I remain unconvinced. First, the fact that private contractors have their own employment and disciplinary arrangements does not mean that the police service, or the policing Minister, cannot discharge the obligations of the Government to the contractor. In a hypothetical but possible circumstance in which there was wrongdoing by a special, a volunteer and a contractor alongside one another, the special could end up barred, whereas the volunteer and the contractor would escape being barred. That is an anomaly that I do not understand.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Another anomaly is that the special is warranted, while the volunteer and the contractor are not; they do not have the ability to arrest in the same way. We are looking at how to ensure that there is trust and accountability for police and warranted officers. The volunteers are not warranted and neither are the contractors. To try to undo this, and to try to bolt on an additional disciplinary process for an individual who is employed by a third-party company, which has its own disciplinary processes—

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister; she is being very generous with her time. Can she understand why specials would feel hard done by because they are held to certain standards, while volunteers and private contractors are not?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not think this is a case of anyone being held to different standards. We are talking about warranted officers as opposed to those who are not warranted. There is a difference in what they can do; there is a difference in their position; there is a difference in the duties that they carry out. While I fully appreciate and understand what the hon. Gentleman seeks to achieve—full accountability and public trust in these arrangements—I think that trying to bolt on an additional disciplinary process for volunteers or individuals employed by a third party, who have no warranted powers, simply confuses the matter. I am afraid that I therefore cannot accept amendments 197 and 198.

Turning to amendment 161, I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham Erdington that as police forces modernise, including by taking advantage of the greater flexibility to confer policing powers on volunteers, adequate safeguards and arrangements are needed to hold designated volunteers to account when wrongdoing occurs. That issue was raised in the public consultation, which is why we have included appropriate provisions in the Bill, including in respect of guidance. Clause 30 will, for the first time, mean that if a member of the public makes a complaint against a designated volunteer, or if an internal allegation comes to the attention of the force, action can be taken to respond to that matter.

On the guidance, I assure the hon. Gentleman that clauses 25 and 30, taken together, achieve the purpose of amendment 161. The guidance will take two forms. First, under section 87(1) of the Police Act 1996, as amended, the Home Secretary may issue guidance to chief officers and others on the discharge of their disciplinary functions, including in respect of designated volunteers. Such guidance will set out the process that should be followed in circumstances where there has been a serious breach of the standards expected of policing volunteers or where the powers designated to a volunteer have been misused. Separately, proposed new section 87A of the 1996 Act, which is inserted by clause 25(7), enables the Home Secretary to issue guidance, including to designated volunteers, on matters of conduct, efficiency and effectiveness.

Although the Opposition amendments are well meant, I am afraid that the Government do not support the approach suggested by the shadow Minister on the basis that to do so for policing volunteers would be disproportionate and impractical. The proposals for contractors would require wholesale changes to both the contracting model and the police disciplinary system. I am similarly confident that the provisions in the Bill on guidance fully cater for the introduction of community support volunteers and policing support volunteers. For those reasons, I ask the shadow Minister not to press his amendments.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 12:00 pm, 24th March 2016

We have aired the concerns on amendment 197. An anomaly is left in the Bill, and it is rough justice, but we have aired the issue. On amendment 161, I make one point, and one point alone. The Minister has spoken about the capacity for guidance to be issued, and she indicates that such guidance will be issued. In those circumstances, we are content not to press our amendments.

Amendment 199 agreed to.

Amendments made: 200, in schedule 6, page 181, leave out lines 11 to 15 and insert—

“(e) in relation to a person falling within subsection (1)(c), the chief officer of police under whose direction and control the person was immediately before being dismissed;

(f) in relation to a person falling within subsection (1)(d), the chief officer of police under whose direction and control the person was immediately before ceasing to be a civilian police employee.”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 201, in schedule 6, page 181, line 20, leave out “member of the civilian staff of a police force” and insert “civilian police employee”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 202, in schedule 6, page 181, leave out lines 24 to 28 and insert—

“(5) For the purposes of this section, a person is a civilian police employee if the person is—

(a) a member of the civilian staff of a police force, including the metropolitan police force (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011), or

(b) a person employed by the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as police authority who is under the direction and control of the Commissioner of Police for the City of London.”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 203, in schedule 6, page 181, line 30, leave out “member of the civilian staff of a police force” and insert “civilian police employee”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 204, in schedule 6, page 186, leave out lines 14 to 16 and insert—

“(d) in relation to a person who was a civilian police employee immediately before resigning or retiring, the chief officer of police under whose direction and control the person was at that time.”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 205, in schedule 6, page 186, line 21, leave out “member of the civilian staff of a police force” and insert “civilian police employee”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 206, in schedule 6, page 188, line 35, leave out “member of the civilian staff of a police force” and insert “civilian police employee”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 207, in schedule 6, page 188, line 40, at end insert—

“‘civilian police employee’ has the same meaning as in section 88A;”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Amendment 208, in schedule 6, page 188, leave out lines 43 and 44.—(Karen Bradley.)

See the explanatory statement for amendment 199.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 24