London Local Authorities Bill [HL]
Wednesday 19 February 2003
524. CHAIRMAN: Mr Lewis, I think we have only got
two clauses to deal with this morning, plus a number of minor
amendments you want to do. Which order are we going to take them
525. MR LEWIS: My Lord, can I first deal with one
housekeeping matter, which is Clause 33? As you will remember,
this is the clause relating to flyposting where we had some last
minute discussions with ODPM yesterday. I had some swift e-mail
correspondence between myself and Mr Saunders and we have come
eventually to an agreement on the proposed amendment to Clause
33. Mr Saunders sent a revised version this morning with which
I am instructed to agree. So we are there on Clause 33.
526. I think the only other outstanding housekeeping
arrangement was the point which Lord Elton made about the defence
of due diligence. If we can, perhaps, leave that until the end
I will deal with it in a sweep-up.
527. CHAIRMAN: We will accept the amendment to Clause
33. Thank you.
528. MR LEWIS: My Lords, we now move on to Clause
32, if we may, Powers of Parks Constables. I thought we would
take this one first, seeing as the Home Office are here with a
report against this particular provision. I have with me today,
on my immediate left, Mr David Ausling from the Wandsworth Parks
Constabulary and, to my immediate right, Mr Martin Stratton, also
from Wandsworth Borough Council. I would wish to give you some
background before asking to give any evidence, but first you might
want to have the Home Office people introduce themselves.
529. MR PAPALEONTIOU: Christian Papaleontiou, Policy
Officer, Home Office.
530. MR HEPPLE: I am Tyson Hepple from the Public
Order and Reassurance Unit at the Home Office.
531. MR LEWIS: I should also mention before I start
to explain this clause, that at the end of the proceedings, of
course, yesterday Lord Elton asked whether we would be bringing
along somebody from the Metropolitan Police, and I indicated that
we had not been intending to do so. Some rather frantic telephone
calls were made last night and we do actually have here no less
than a Deputy Assistant Commissioner from the Metropolitan Police,
and that is Stephen House. I will be asking him, once we have
finished presenting our case, to come forward and answer any questions
which your Lordships may have of him. I do not intend to actually
introduce him as a witness on behalf of the Promoters. I think
you will understand why.
532. My Lords, everyone will be familiar with the
concept of the local park keeper, but it is not widely known that
London Borough Councils are also able to employ parks constables,
who are sworn in by a magistrate in the same way as police constables.
The big difference between parks constables and police constables
lies in their powers. The powers of a parks constable are set
out in the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Order 1967. It
provides that a parks constable can enforce the law, but only
in relation to the bylaws which are in operation in the park.
Obviously those bylaws (and I think we have a copy of Wandsworth's
if the Committee wishes to see them) are really only related to
park-type offences, and not more general offences.
533. My Lords, of course, the local parks constabulary
are not the only non-Home Office, if you like, police force in
the country. We also have the Royal Parks Police, the Port of
London Authority Police, there is British Transport Police, and
various other transport police forces including the Dover Harbour
Police and the Mersey Tunnels Police, and there is also, of course,
the Atomic Energy Authority Police as well.
534. It is a sad fact that a great deal of crime
is carried out in parks and open spaces - and often crime of the
most serious nature. Apart from offences against the person, we
have robbery, vice, drugs and criminal damage. Parks are also
good places into which criminals can escape having committed crimes
elsewhere. Mr Stratton and Mr Ausling will be able to provide
some evidence about the level of criminal activity in Wandsworth's
535. It is also a fact that the parks and open spaces,
at least in Wandsworth, are under-policed, in terms of the Metropolitan
Police. As Mr Ausling will explain, however, there are thriving
parks constabularies, which - to put it bluntly - are under-used
for no good reason. They do not have the powers of a police constable
to arrest and stop and search individuals, despite the fact that
parks are places to which criminals of all sorts are attracted.
536. Although difficult to prove, it is certainly
the view that in boroughs such as Wandsworth, where there is a
well-organised parks constabulary, there may be a tendency not
to cover the parks as well as would otherwise be expected, due
to a reliance on the parks constabulary by the Metropolitan Police.
Mr Stratton will provide some background about Wandsworth's constabulary
and Mr Ausling will describe some examples where additional powers
could have been useful.
MR MARTIN STRATTON, CBE sworn
Examined by MR LEWIS
537. MR LEWIS: Could you introduce yourself and say
what your position is in the Council, how long you have been there
and what you did before?
(Mr Stratton) Before joining the Council I
was in the Army for 33 years. I joined the Council at the end
of 1993 in the post of Head of Security. This looked after the
parks police and the other enforcement organisations. My area
of responsibility then in the mid-1990s expanded to take on events
and various other things, and I am now the Assistant Director
in one of the departments which looks after not only enforcement
but all the parks themselves, cemeteries and refuse and street
cleaning. So a fairly large portfolio. However, the parks police
and security remains one part of my jurisdiction.
538. The Committee may have noticed the letters CBE
follow your name. Can you explain?
(Mr Stratton) During my service as a younger
officer I was welcomed to the Order as an MBE, and then I was
given an OBE when I commanded my battalion. On my last tour in
Northern Ireland I was made a CBE.
539. Thank you. Could you now explain to the Committee
how and when the parks constabulary in Wandsworth was established?
(Mr Stratton) My Lords, in 1981 a mobile parks
security group was formed in Wandsworth to replace the traditional
park keepers. This was so they could move around all the parks
and had a measure of mobility within the parks. This was coming
at a time when the number of park keepers was being reduced and
just before Wandsworth went to contractorisation of many of its
contracts. By 1985 it was considered that these park security
officers needed some powers to enforce bylaws which were being
regularly broken. As the officers had really only a janitorial
or warden role they were not empowered, equipped or trained to
carry out any enforcement action. In 1985 suitable officers were
sworn in by a magistrate as park constables under the provisions
of the Local Government (Provisional Orders Confirmation) Greater
London Parks and Open Spaces Act 1967. The Council and the local
magistrates at that time believed that this gave constables the
powers of the police within the parks and open spaces of the borough.
When the GLC was abolished in 1986 the Council took over all the
responsibilities for Battersea Park where the bulk of the activities
of the parks police were focused. Today the parks police patrol
all the parks and open spaces within the borough and the cemeteries,
and all places are visited at least once daily.