Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

61.  Memorandum from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary

  I am replying to your letter dated 21 March in which you ask specific questions relating to the work of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

  Before answering your specific questions it is perhaps worth putting the work of HMIC into context. Our purpose statement is as below:

  "To promote the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland through inspection of police organisations and functions to ensure:

    —  Agreed standards are achieved and maintained,

    —  Good practice is spread, and

    —  Performance is improved.

  Also to provide advice and support to the tripartite partners (Home Secretary, police authorities and forces) and play an important role in the development of future leaders."


  We engage in four main types of inspection.

  1.  Routine force inspection—a rolling programme of inspections to assess overall efficiency and effectiveness of forces,

  2.  BCU inspections—assessing performance and leadership at basic command unit level,

  3.  Best Value Review Inspections (BVRI)—inspecting police authorities' reviews of their services to the public, and

  4.  Thematic inspections—visits to a small number of forces on a specific theme (eg police use of firearms; investigation of rape; police integrity).

  Our entire inspection regime is based on risk-assessment. Forces to be visited in any of the four categories are selected on a risk-based process, targeting the greatest effort where there appears to be the greatest need for support or greatest likelihood of finding good practice or lessons, which will be of greatest use to the service as a whole.

  With any of our regimes, the inspection is carried out against a written inspection protocol, which clearly sets out the areas to be examined and the standards expected of those being inspected. Protocols are pre-circulated to forces and authorities to provide a transparent and non-threatening method of inspection. This also allows a measure of self-assessment and improvement in advance of or in the absence of any specific inspection.


  In our advisory role, HMIC has representatives on all national ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) and major Home Office committees. As these committees work to develop new policy or practice or to incorporate new legislation, HMIC plays a full role in advising the way forward. We also produce specific commissioned papers on individual subject areas for Ministers, as required.


  In response to your specific questions I would report as follows:

  1.  Does compliance with human rights form one of the criteria by reference to which you assess the performance of the public authorities with which you deal?

  Assessment of human rights from a number of perspectives occurs within most of our inspections, albeit not necessarily explicitly. The inspection process is guided by the use of protocols, many of which cover processes and functions where there are human rights issues. For example there are protocols covering covert policing methods, complaints and discipline, public order management, police use of firearms, custody/prisoner handling to cite just a few. The protocols, when developed, were drawn up with human rights and equal opportunities requirements in mind.

  2.  Does the establishment of a culture of human rights, including recognition among staff of the administrative and public service benefits of establishing a human rights culture, form one of the criteria by which you assess the performance of the public authorities with which you deal?

  Yes. For example, under the BCU Inspection process there is a category of questions within the protocols that cover culture and leadership, diversity and human resources. Issues relating to human rights, eg use of stop and search powers, may well be discussed with the BCU command team both formally and informally and may be commented on in any subsequent report or be the subject of a recommendation.

  3.  If Yes to Question 1 or 2, please explain the way in which your inspection of a public authority establishes and takes account of relevant matters.

  Inspections of police forces and BCUs, or Best Value reviews and thematic inspections are the subject of published reports. Progress on the action plan that is developed by a BCU in response to the recommendations in an inspection report is monitored by HMIC. Similarly, recommendations made in thematics or Police Act inspections will become the subject of a force action plan that HMIC monitor through their annual assessment of forces. In addition, inspections will often require us to scrutinise policy documents and operating procedures, and whether they are human rights compliant would be an area we would explore.

  4.  Do you maintain records of the performance of the public authorities with which you deal in (a) complying with human rights requirements and/or (b) establishing a human rights culture within their organisations?

  Most of our inspections are published, in the public domain and are readily available through the HMIC website. In any inspection a large amount of information is collected, not all of which would necessarily be included in any report. However, serious breaches are likely to be included.

  5.  Do you offer advice and guidance about (a) compliance with human rights and (b) establishing a culture of human rights?

  Yes, for example, advice and guidance is given regarding the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. We advise forces to proof all their policies and procedures to make sure they comply with HRA.

  6.  If Yes to the above do you offer advice (a) proactively or only in response to a request or (b) continuously or only at the time of periodic inspections?

  Staff officers and HMIs may discuss HRA issues during inspections and during liaison visits to forces. Similarly forces may ring HMIC for advice. The sheer amount of inspection activity means that all forces are subject to regular and intensive inspections across a wide range of functions, many of which may have human rights implications. We do not engage in very much proactive work in this area outside of inspections and ACPO and Home Office committees.

  7.  If you do not (a) currently use human rights as an assessment criteria or (b) offer advice on human rights do you plan to in future?

  HMIC inspect for efficiency and effectiveness of the police service by means of regular and robust inspection activity. Human rights issues will be relevant in many areas, eg covert policing or use of firearms. There is no specific protocol on human rights but it could easily be developed.

26 April 2002

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