HC Deb 15 March 1911 vol 22 cc2234-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether Inspector Syme, of the B Division of the Metropolitan Police, was in August, 1909, charged by his superior officer with being too familiar with subordinates; was such charge investigated by the Disciplinary Board, and with what result; if the charge was found to be unfounded, what steps have been taken to deal with the superior officer making the charge; will he lay upon the Table of the House a copy of the transcript of the shorthand notes of the evidence given by Chief Inspector Sherrington on this point; and if the London police have now a right of appeal to the Home Secretary against decisions of the Commissioner of Police in matters of discipline?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)

No charge of being too familiar with subordinates was framed against Inspector Syme by the Discipline Board, though one superior officer had in good faith expressed the opinion that such was the case. On account of the friction between him and other officers at Gerald Road Station, he was in his own and in the public interests, and without any reprimand, expense, or loss in seniority required to do duty at another station of the same division, and he did duty there without removing his residence. It is obviously necessary for effective administration that the Commissioner of Police should exercise an unfettered discretion in determining where officers are to do duty and in transferring them freely from station to station. This is a condition of service to which all men subscribe on joining the force, and is no more to be questioned by them than would the decision of the military or naval authorities as to where a soldier or a sailor is to serve. As I stated in answer to a question on Monday, the case cannot be re-opened, and I am not prepared to lay on the Table any papers except the Commissioner's judgment. The Commissioner of Police has been the statutory authority for disciplinary purposes ever since the formation of the force in 1827.


Is not the removal of an officer from one station to another accepted as a punishment in the Metropolitan Police?


I do not know whether it is accepted as a punishment or not; it certainly ought not to be looked at in that light. It would be absolutely impossible to conduct the Metropolitan Police or any other large public service, if every officer transferred from one station to another were entitled to demand the actual reason for his removal.


Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly give me an answer to the last part of the question, and, in doing so, will he also state whether it is not a fact that in every other police force in the Kingdom the officers have a right of appeal from the Chief Constable to the Watch Committee?


I really think I gave the answer in these words: "The Commis- sioner of Police has been the statutory authority for disciplinary purposes ever since the formation of the Force in 1827." It is, of course, true that the person who holds the office of Home Secretary is the ultimate police authority, and, that being the fact, my predecessor did not in this particular case refuse to consider the appeal, nor should I in such a case, but I do not wish it to be laid down as a general rule that the Secretary of State is the court of appeal against the Commissioner in matters of discipline.


Is it not the fact that this man was put on to do in another station work usually performed by a lower grade of officer; that that was done after his case had been brought before his superior officer; and that his transfer was looked upon, not only by himself, but by all the other men in the force as a punishment?


I do not think that is the case, seeing that no reprimand, no loss of seniority, no additional expense, and no change of residence was imposed upon this officer by the fact that he was removed from one station, where there was friction, to another. It is obvious, in the nature of things, that this power should be allowed to the authorities.


In view of the fact that the present arrangement dates from 1827, will not the right hon. Gentleman now endeavour to provide for some right of appeal?


I have been considering whether Discipline Boards, which are the means of dealing out justice to the officers of the Metropolitan Police, cannot be made more formal and elaborate, and placed rather on the model of a court-martial in the Army, in the matter, for instance, of taking evidence on oath.