Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report


  PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE RELATING
TO THE REPORT


  TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER 1997

Members present:

Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair

Mr Richard AllanMs Beverley Hughes
Mr Robin CorbettMr Martin Linton
Mr Ross CranstonMr Humfrey Malins
Mr Douglas HoggMr Marsha Singh
Mr Gerald HowarthMr David Winnick

The Committee deliberated.

***

  [Adjourned till Thursday 11 December at Four o'clock




  THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER 1997

Members present:

Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair

Mr Richard AllanMr Martin Linton
Mr Robin CorbettMr Humfrey Malins
Mr Ross CranstonMr Marsha Singh
Mr Douglas HoggMr David Winnick
Mr Gerald Howarth

The Committee deliberated.

  [Adjourned till Tuesday 16 December at quarter-past Ten o'clock




  TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER 1997

Members present:

Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair

Mr Richard AllanMs Beverley Hughes
Mr Robin CorbettMr Martin Linton
Mr Ross CranstonMr Humfrey Malins
Mr Douglas HoggMr Marsha Singh
Mr Gerald HowarthMr David Winnick

The Committee deliberated.

Draft Report [Police Disciplinary and Complaints Procedures], proposed by the Chairman, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 112 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 113 read as follows:

"We have not found this issue an easy one to resolve. We are, as already noted, broadly sympathetic to ACPO's view that the disciplinary process as a whole should so far as possible equate to the management-based and non-legalistic procedures applicable in other areas of employment. Nevertheless we recognise that arguments of natural justice and the special position of police officers militate in the other direction. We note that Sir Paul Condon suggested in his oral evidence that removal of the right to legal representation might not be necessary if the other changes he and his ACPO colleagues were calling for were implemented On balance, we have concluded that, at first instance hearings, officers should retain the right to legal representation only when continuation of their job as an officer-i.e. dismissal or being required to resign-is at stake."

An amendment proposed in line 9, to leave out the words "only when continuation of their job as an officer-i.e. dismissal or being required to resign" and insert the words "when one of the three most serious punishments-i.e. dismissal, being required to resign, or reduction in rank".-(Mr Douglas Hogg.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.
Ayes, 3Noes, 7
Mr Douglas HoggMr Richard Allan
Mr Gerald HowarthMr Robin Corbett
Mr Humfrey MalinsMr Ross Cranston
Ms Beverley Hughes
Mr Martin Linton
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr David Winnick

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraphs 114 to 124 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 125 read as follows:

"As already noted, there is general consensus that the civil-rather than criminal-standard of proof should apply in determining guilt in cases where only lesser punishments are applicable. We have concluded, on balance, that the civil standard of proof should also apply where the more serious penalties (dismissal, requirement to resign, or reduction in rank) are at stake. We do not think the risk of serious charges based on false complaints being found proved against officers-although such complaints may well be made, as at present-is high. We place more weight on the principle that disciplinary and criminal procedures are different processes with different objectives, and that chief officers must have available effective means of managing their force without having to rely on a formal disciplinary system which is based on proving charges to the criminal standard of proof. We are confident that this change should also contribute to bringing about greater public confidence in the discipline and the complaints system, in the police themselves and the Police Complaints Authority. We note also that a uniform standard of proof will be more readily intelligible to the public and to those involved in the system; it will also resolve certain anomalies which could arise under a split standard system.(1)

(1) Two potential anomalies were drawn to our attention if there were to be a 'split standard. First, there might be the case where an officer was facing a charge over what was only a minor incident, but faced the severest penalties because of a previous record of misconduct: should such an officer face a hearing under the higher or lower standard? Secondly, and arising from the first example, if it was deemed that the officer in such a case should be judged on the higher standard, what should be the position of other officers charged with the same offences arising out of the same incident but who had no previous record of misconduct-should they 'benefit' from the higher standard offered to the first officer?"

An amendment proposed in line 3, to leave out from the word "applicable" to the end of the paragraph and insert the words "However, we conclude that the dangers posed to officers, and possibly to policing standards, by a reduction of the criminal standard of proof to the civil stand and in serious cases also are high enough to warrant the retention of the higher standard. We recognise that this will perpetuate the possibility that guilty officers escape punishment for their actions and that this is a matter of concern both inside and outside police forces. Nevertheless, we have to accept that, as noted earlier, police officers are not in exactly the same situation as employees in other walks of life and that, within limits, they need certain extra protections. It must be emphasised that the standard of proof is only one element in the process of identifying and disciplining officers guilty of misconduct, and that if other aspects of the investigatory and disciplinary processes are working properly then it should be possible to reach the standard of proof required to prove a charge. We accept that there are disadvantages in terms of adding a further element of complexity to an already complex process, and that certain anomalies arising from a split system will have to be addressed."..-(Mr Douglas Hogg.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.
Ayes, 3Noes, 7
Mr Douglas HoggMr Richard Allan
Mr Gerald HowarthMr Robin Corbett
Mr Humfrey MalinsMr Ross Cranston
Ms Beverley Hughes
Mr Martin Linton
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr David Winnick

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraphs 126 to 186 read and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Note by the Metropolitan Police (Example of officers subject to disciplinary hearings retiring due to ill health) be appended to the Report .-(The Chairman.)

Resolved, That the Report be the First Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chairman do make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That the provisions of Standing Order No. 134 (Select Committees (reports)) be applied to the Report.

Several papers were ordered to be appended to the Minutes of Evidence.

Ordered, That the Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee be reported to the House.

***

  [Adjourned till Tuesday 13 January at quarter past Ten o'clock


 
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