Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Fifth Report



Memorandum by the Northern Ireland Office


The Police (Northern Ireland) Bill is in three parts.

  • Part 1 (Policing) makes amendments to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 ("the 2000 Act") relating to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, reports and inquiries, district policing partnerships, police functions and fixed-term appointments, and information and inquiries. It also amends the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 ("the 1998 Act") in relation to the Police Ombudsman.
  • Part 2 (Police powers) and Schedules 1 and 2 provide for limited police powers to be conferred on police support staff. Part 2 also amends provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 ("the 1989 Order") relating to persons who are authorised to take intimate samples and gives the Secretary of State a power to provide that codes of practice under the 1989 Order will have effect with modifications.
  • Part 3 (General) and Schedule 3 set out consequential repeals, the extent of the Bill, and the short title of the Bill.


Clause 18: Fixed-term appointments

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:  Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Negative resolution

Clause 18 makes provision for fixed term appointments to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Clause 18(1) inserts a new section 36A into the 2000 Act, which permits the Chief Constable to appoint someone to the Police Service for Northern Ireland for a fixed term of up to three years (new section 36A(1)). The Chief Constable may not appoint anyone under this provision to the rank of constable or to the rank of a senior officer (new section 36A(3)). The Secretary of State is given the power to modify by order the provisions of Northern Ireland policing legislation (the 1998 Act and the 2000 Act) as they apply to people appointed through this route, where he considers that to be necessary or expedient. However, before making such an order, the Secretary of State is obliged to consult the Policing Board for Northern Ireland and the Police Association. Clause 18(2) makes a consequential amendment to section 25(6) of the 1998 Act. Under section 25 of that Act the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations concerning conditions of service of members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, but section 25(6) provides that these shall not permit appointments to be made for fixed terms except at the rank of superintendent or a higher rank. The amendment provides an exception for persons appointed pursuant to the new power in section 36A.

Until officers have been appointed under these provisions it is difficult to determine what amendments might be needed to the Northern Ireland policing legislation in order to facilitate the exercise by secondees of police powers in Northern Ireland during the period of their secondment. For example, section 32 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 which deals with the Police Association for Northern Ireland. Subsection (2) allows the Association to represent a member of the police force at any disciplinary proceedings. We may wish to vary this to allow seconded Garda officers to be represented by members of the Garda Association, for example. However, such variations to current legislation is the subject of ongoing consultation with both the police and the police association.

In the Department's view an order subject to the negative resolution procedure would provide an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny.


Clause 25: Power to apply and amend codes of practice

Power conferred on:   Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:   Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Negative resolution procedure

Clause 25 inserts provisions (Article 66(6A) and (6B)) in the 1989 Order which give the Secretary of State the power to modify by order codes of practice to which Article 66 of the 1989 Order applies. Article 66 applies to codes of practice under Articles 60 (tape recording of interviews), 60A (video recording of interviews) and 65 (codes of practice in connection with (a) the exercise by police officers of statutory powers to search a person without first arresting him, or to search a vehicle without making an arrest, (b) the detention, treatment, questioning and identification of persons by police officers, (c) searches of premises by police officers, and (d) the seizure of property found by police officers on persons or premises.

The new Article 66(6B) provides that any modifications made to a code of practice must be confined to one or more of the following:

  • the effect of the code in relation to an area of Northern Ireland specified in the Order;
  • the effect of the code in relation to a period not exceeding two years specified in the Order;
  • the effect of the code in relation to offences or descriptions of offenders specified in the Order.

Under Part 2 of the Bill members of the police support staff may be designated as investigating officers, detention officers or escort officers and as such may be given limited police powers. These include powers in the areas covered by the codes of practice referred to above. The primary purpose in including the order-making power is to enable the Secretary of State to apply the relevant 1989 Order codes of practice to police support staff given limited police powers by designation under the Bill. Following the example of section 67(7A) and 67(7B) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the power to make amendments has been drafted in more general terms so as to allow the Secretary of State the flexibility of making modifications to the relevant codes of practice for purposes unconnected with the civilianisation procedures.

In the Department's view the negative resolution procedure provides an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny.

5 December 2002

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