§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The Lord MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 49:
§ Investigation of complaints
§ 49.—(1) Where the chief officer of police for any police area receives a complaint from a member of the public against a member of the police force for that area he shall (unless the complaint alleges an offence with which the member of the police force has then been charged) forthwith record the complaint and cause it to be investigated and for that purpose may, and shall if directed by the Secretary of State, request the chief officer of police for any other police area to provide an officer of the police force for that area to carry out the investigation.
§ (2) A chief officer of police shall comply with any request made to him under subsection (1) of this section.
LORD STONHAM moved, to leave out all words after "record the complaint and" in subsection (1), down to the end of the subsection, and to substitute
refer it for investigation by the Regional Committee of an Independent Board of Inquiry
(hereafter referred to as the Inquiry Board) constituted for that purpose by the Secretary of State".
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 35, and hope that it will suit your Lordships' convenience if I take with it Amendment No. 36, which seeks to add two more subsections to the clause. I think it is generally agreed that some change is necessary in the present methods which are pursued in investigating complaints made by members of the public against police officers. The Government at least agreed to this, because in Clause 49 they suggest one method whereby, in their view, the present system of inquiry can be improved. Later on my noble friends will be suggesting another method, and in the Amendments which stand in the names of my noble friends and myself we suggest a method which we naturally think is the only one which properly meets the requirements.
§ We believe that the present method of investigation of complaints against the police is a major cause of the lessening of public confidence in the police, because justice is net seen to be done, and there are far too many cases where it is genuinely felt, rightly or wrongly, that justice has not been done. In our submission, justice cannot be seen to be done, and public confidence cannot be restored, so long as complaints against one police officer are investigated by another police officer. That stumbling block will not be removed by calling in an officer from another police force to do the investigating, as is suggested in this clause. I submit that we need a system of inquiry which is completely fair to both police and public, and in which justice can be seen to be done to both. The system should also be one which will relieve the police of the burden of a great mass of frivolous, malicious, ill-founded and totally unjustifiable complaints. In my submission, the Amendments which I now move satisfy both these essential requirements.
I would ask your Lordships to consider the change, under the Bill as it now stands, from the present procedure. At present, without the Bill, a chief constable has wide discretion. He can, and I hope does, put a great many of the complaints he receives where they
belong—straight into the wastepaper basket. Nevertheless, at moments, complaints do take up, and to a large extent waste, an inordinate amount of time, particularly the time of fairly senior police officers. For example, on April 27 The Times reported that
Councillor William Collins, chairman of the Bournemouth Watch Committee, is to make a statement at the next town council meeting about the vast increase recently in the number of complaints about the local police force.
He is concerned about the amount of time being wasted by senior police officers in investigating frivolous and trivial complaints, and believes that criminals are behind many of them.
Under recent legislation every complaint has to be looked into by three senior police officers and the chief constable; previously the chief constable could use his own discretion in deciding whether or not to investigate.
Councillor Collins is expected to press for the restitution of the chief constable's discretion. He said today: 'It is necessary because the situation has now assumed such serious proportions that senior officers are having to work overtime to deal with the complaints. Some of these are fantastically trivial. … While they are investigating complaints, senior officers cannot be fighting crime'. He went on: 'This is fully realised by the criminals who complain, and I am quite sure that this is the motive behind a tremendous number of the complaints.'
§ The points that I would underline from that quite authoritative statement are: first, the vast increase in the number of trivial complaints; secondly, the great amount of time wasted by senior police officers; and thirdly, that while they are investigating complaints they cannot be fighting crime. This is the present set-up as conditions are now. Despite Councillor Collins' statement (I am quite sure the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will agree with me), the chief constable has discretion as to how he deals with complaints.
The gravity of the situation becomes even more apparent when one considers the reply given by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, a few days ago. In answer to a Question by my noble friend Lord Willis about the case loads of C.I.D. officers and the amount of their overtime work, Lord Derwent said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 257 (No. 70), cols. 1137–38]:
In broad terms … the average case load per operational detective in England and Wales in urban forces may be said to be in
the region of 250 a year. … In the Metropolitan Police the number of complaints of crime investigated by C.I.D. officers on divisional strength in 1963 was 322.
He went on to say that the weekly hours of overtime in provincial forces in England and Wales in the last four months of 1963 were approximately 10½ for chief inspectors, 91 for inspectors, 8 for sergeants. In the Metropolitan Police the figures were: chief inspectors, 17½ hours; inspectors, 20 hours; sergeants, 1500BE; hours; women police sergeants, 10½ hours; constables, 14 hours; and women police constables, 9¾ hours a week. That is overtime, and I do not think my noble friend Lord Willis overstated the situation when he called that an appalling picture, because experts consider (as he said) that 50 cases a year was a fair case load for a C.I.D. officer, compared with the average in the Metropolitan police of 322.
§ No one imagines that they can possibly do justice to that number of cases. I would ask your Lordships particularly to notice that inspectors in London averaged 20 hours' overtime a week. That means 64 hours every week of the most exacting and responsible work imaginable, and it is inspectors who in most cases would be called on to inquire into complaints against the police. That, I would emphasise, is the dangerous, impossible situation now—even without the changes proposed in this clause.
Last week the Scottish Police Federation held their conference at Callander in Perthshire, and on May 7 The Times carried this report:
Chief Inspector McCulloch, chairman of the joint central committee of the federation, said 'To-day we are inundated with malicious complaints, most of which are made by accused persons. It has been realised that attack is the best method of defence and any allegation will help to confuse the issue.
This destruction of the police image is bad enough in itself, but in addition, no matter how frivolous the complaint, it has to be investigated, which takes time and manpower.
The result is that far too many police officers are engaged in making inquiries about other police officers instead of serving the public in a more useful fashion.'
Surely the Home Office and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will accept that evidence from such an authoritative source as Chief Inspector McCulloch, particularly his remarks that they were" inundated with complaints" and that
"far too many police officers are engaged in making inquiries about other police officers instead of serving the public in a more useful fashion".
§ I do not think the noble Lord will dispute this expert and informed evidence, from places as far apart and dissimilar as Bournemouth and Glasgow, that the police are over-burdened with the work of investigating these complaints and that they dislike police officers investigating complaints about other police officers. Yet if Clause 49 is not radically amended the position of the police in respect to complaints will be infinitely worse than it is now, and the burden of investigation very much greater, for the chief constable will have no discretion—no convenient wastepaper basket. No matter how many complaints he receives, and however ill-founded they are, he will have a statutory duty, first, to record every one (for it says so in the clause), presumably with full details. Secondly, he will have to investigate every one. If Councillor Collins is correct, that means, in Bournemouth, an investigation by a committee composed of three senior police officers and the chief constable, with the assistance no doubt of junior officers, clerks and typists. Finally, if it appears to be a serious complaint of substance, he may call in an officer from another force—almost certainly one who is already working a 64-hour week—to spend whole days, or perhaps even weeks investigating the complaint.
§ I submit that that will be the effect of the Government's proposals, and that, we are told, is what the Police Federation want; although, according to Chief Inspector McCulloch, it is not what the Scottish Police Federation want. And I cannot believe anybody else wants it, either. Certainly not any responsible member of the public—because, while heaping fresh and unnecessary burdens onto the police, the Government's proposals do nothing at all to restore public confidence. They still call for investigation of the police by the police. They still want secret inquiries, and they still refuse to allow justice to be seen to be done. In fact, in Clause 49 the Government give us the worst of both worlds, and I say quite candidly that if my Amendments are not accepted I should prefer to leave matters as they are and 185 eliminate Clause 49 altogether, rather than heap extra burdens onto the police which do not serve any useful public purpose.
§ However, if the noble Lord and the Government wish to take a constructive step forward, begin to restore public confidence in this matter and at the same time relieve police of a heavy burden of unnecessary work, then they will accept these Amendments. They would have the effect of limiting the chief constable's responsibility to the mere recording of the complaint and forwarding it to the independent inquiry board which we propose should be set up. He could of course, if he wished, send with the complaint a note for the information of the board, whose chairman, I suggest, should be a lawyer. In most cases that would virtually be the end of the matter, because in my experience, which extends over some twenty years—and I must have seen in that time many thousands of complaint—most of them are untenable, even on the complainant's own statement. Others which were matters of internal discipline within the force would be outside the terms of reference.
§ This answers the point which is often made that these questions of discipline are always rigorously investigated. Indeed they are. I sometimes think that disciplinary offences in the police force are dealt with very much more harshly, and perhaps with less justice to the offender, than is the case with such offences in the Armed Forces. I am not concerned with complaints of that kind, but solely in relation to complaints by members of the public about the conduct of police officers towards members of the public. The inquiry board, in some cases, would ask for information on certain aspects of a complaint and, if the answer satisfied them, that would be the end of the matter. There would remain a proportionately small number of complaints which required further inquiry, and perhaps the attendance of witnesses at a hearing.
§ In our view, a properly constituted board would be competent to conduct such an inquiry, and we think that it would be right for the complainant and police officers, if they wished, to be 186 legally represented. It surely cannot be disputed that the findings of such an inquiry board would be unhesitatingly accepted by the public and, in my submission, the knowledge that complaints would be subject to such impartial investigation would completely restore public confidence. It would relieve the police of a great burden of unnecessary work, and relieve the force, also, of a small number of very unsatisfactory officers who, because they are wrongly shielded by a mistaken though understandable loyalty, do a great deal of damage to the public image of an otherwise splendid force of men.
§ It is a matter of great cost and great difficulty for innocent people to prove their innocence in the face of police testimony to the contrary. Three years ago we had the "Kiss in the car" case, in which a young couple were awarded £5,200 damages and costs. The police constable involved remained in the force. A few weeks ago the same police officer, with another, was involved in a case where two plaintiffs were awarded a total of £1,050 damages and costs. A disciplinary board found him guilty of making a false arrest and a false statement—in other words, he committed perjury—but he was allowed to resign from the force, and no word of apology was sent by the police to the decent, respectable men he placed in such jeopardy. In this case they were extremely fortunate in being able to establish their innocence, through the help of a famous pathologist, but other people are not so fortunate. It is humbug to suggest that there are not a few bad policemen, or to deny that they secure the conviction of innocent people, who, once convicted under present arrangements, need a miracle to establish their innocence.
§ The present set-up is not good enough, either for the police or for the public, but an independent Inquiry Board would put an end to injustices of this kind. If the Government want to end them, now is the chance to do so. I think that the clause as it stands is demonstrably unworkable and useless and will certainly do more harm than good, but the Amendments which we now propose would beneficially transform the clause. They merit, and I trust 187 they will receive, your Lordships' support. I beg to move.
Page 27, line 20, leave out lines 20 to 24 and insert ("refer it for investigation by the Regional Committee of an Independent Board of Inquiry (hereafter referred to as the Inquiry Board) constituted for that purpose by the Secretary of State ").—(Lord Stonham.)
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
We are discussing Amendments Nos. 35 and 36 together, and I think we had better start by seeing exactly what these Amendments do. The intention of these Amendments appears to he to require the Secretary of State to set up an independent Inquiry Board organised in regional committees, whose functions would be to investigate complaints against the police except where the chairman of the Board certified that a complaint was concerned solely with internal discipline, that there was no case to answer, or that the complaint was trivial or frivolous. On completing the investigation the Board would report its findings to the chief officer of police concerned, the police authority and the complainant.
The fundamental objection to any arrangement of this kind was summarised by the Royal Commission in paragraph 478 in this way. They said:To go further than this"—that was, the Royal Commission's own recommendations—would in our view be unnecessary and unwise, and might in the end produce much greater dissatisfaction among the public than it would remove. Above all we think that the interests of the public can best be served by resisting any innovation which may weaken the strength and resolve the police in their fight against crime.Those were the words of the Royal Commission, and the Government share this view, although the Government's own proposals do, in fact, go rather further than those of the Royal Commission to meet the interests of the complainant.
As your Lordships are capable of reading the Bill I am not going through all the procedure for deciding whether a complaint is or is not a serious one. But what has been set down in the Bill is not going to make any additional work for the chief constable. The proposals 188 in the Bill—I shall only mention one or two with reference to this point—are these. In future, every complaint received must be at once recorded—that is, put in a book—and it does not necessarily follow, of course, that the chief constable will do it with his own hand. These complaint books must be open for inspection by the Inspectors of Constabulary and the police authority, as part of their duty under Clause 50 to keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints are dealt with. So the books are available for inspection.
The only other point as regards the method of handling complaints is this. Under the Bill, the chief constable is responsible for investigating the complaints. That does not in fact mean, of course, that the chief constable rushes round and looks at each complaint himself, but he sends on officer. There may be a big inquiry, or it may be a trivial offence, but the public will then know that, not only the chief constable but two other people, an Inspector of Constabulary and one or more of the police authority, are looking into how these complaints are dealt with. That does not really involve very much extra work.
May I give my principal reasons for resisting this Amendment? First of all—and this is the least important—as drafted it is quite inadequate. The constitution and proceedings of the Inquiry Board would have to be defined in some detail if the arrangement were to be workable. Secondly, the Amendment overlooks the fact that the investigation of a complaint is of the same character as any crime investigation by the police. These inquiries may be spread over a period of time, and the investigating officer in a complicated case may be assisted by one or more officers. Really, it is very difficult to see how the Inquiry Board would have the facilities for undertaking investigations of this kind, unless they were to employ trained police officers—which, of course, would defeat the purpose of the Amendments.
The third reason, which is of the utmost importance, is that investigations into crime—and the complaint may well turn out to be crime before it is finished with—are always treated as confidential. No one can tell at the outset 189 of an investigation into a complaint, whether prima facie evidence of a criminal offence will be disclosed. It would introduce a novel and entirely unacceptable principle to have such inquiries conducted by persons appointed to a board constituted by the Secretary of State. Criminal investigations are confidential. Fourthly, it is implicit in the Amendment that the police cannot be trusted to investigate complaints properly and impartially, and the Government, at any rate, do not accept that view. The Government's own proposals are based firmly on the conviction that chief constables can properly be entrusted with these duties. But I would remind your Lordships that they will, of course, be accountable for the manner in which they handle complaints to the police authority, to the Inspectors of Constabulary and, in the last resort, to the Secretary of State. Frankly, I can find no merit at all in these Amendments, and I would ask your Lordships to resist them.
§ LORD STONHAM
I regard that as a most unsatisfactory reply, first and most importantly because it made no real attempt to answer the case that was made. One or two of the points that the noble Lord made do not really stand up. He just said that the Government do not accept the view that the police cannot be trusted to undertake these investigations impartially. But the Government themselves are implying that there are occasions when a particular police force cannot be trusted to undertake impartially an inquiry into a complaint against a member of that force: otherwise, they would not make provision for a chief constable to call in a member of another police force to make the inquiry. That is the whole crux of the difficulty that we are up against at present in these inquiries into (and this is what it boils down to) a small number of apparently bad cases. That is really what we are concerned with: neither of us is concerned with the great mass of complaints. I could not have put it more clearly: the great mass of complaints is either trivial or without foundation.
The other matter which the noble Lord quite failed to deal with is this. He brushed off the substantial evidence 190 that I produced, first of all, of the very great weight of work which is falling on the police now. This was not my evidence: this was the evidence of the police themselves and of the chairman of a watch committee, to the effect that the complaints were building up and causing a great volume of work to fall on the shoulders of senior police officers. It is quite useless for the noble Lord to say that the present Clause 49 does not mean a considerable increase in the volume of work of chief constables. I am, of course, aware that a chief constable cannot personally deal with and record every complaint. The work will devolve on officers to whom he delegates, and presumably only certain very serious matters will be referred to him personally. Nevertheless, the work falls on the Police Force as a whole, some of the senior members of which already are, as the noble Lord himself said last week, working an average of 20 hours' overtime a week.
However, under this clause, a chief constable is not merely obliged to record the complaint: he has to cause it to be investigated, and there may be a direction to him from the Secretary of State about it. It is a very much more complicated process than now applies, and the Government have deliberately introduced it in the hope that it will improve the present situation; otherwise, there is no purpose in it. I have submitted quite clearly that it will not improve the climate of public opinion, because justice will not be seen to be done; and, at the same time, it will throw a considerable extra burden on the police, which I think should be avoided at all costs. I genuinely think the Bill would be better with a clause improved in the manner I have suggested. But, if that cannot be done, then certainly it would be better without this clause at all.
§ LORD DERWENT
I will repeat only two things. What I cannot accept in any circumstances is that anyone except a police officer should investigate what may well he a crime. That is the first thing. The second thing is that criminal investigations must be confidential. Both these Amendments would prevent either of those things from happening.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.191
§ 6.4 p.m.
LORD SOMERS moved to add to the clause:
(4) For the purposes of this section the expression 'member of the force' shall be deemed to include a traffic warden.
§ The noble Lord said: I have heard it said that this Amendment is totally unnecessary, but I am afraid that I cannot look at it like that, and I will try to explain why. The British police forces are among the finest in the world. They have a very high standard of discipline and courtesy to the public, and it is very seldom indeed that any cause of complaint comes against them. Of course, there are exceptions—and, considering the inanity of the behaviour of the public as a whole, I do not think it is very surprising that the patience of the police is sometimes strained beyond breaking point. But in my view the same thing cannot be said of traffic wardens. They have not that tradition behind them, and, being a very new force, they are sometimes a little overzealous in their anxiety to obtain cases. Of course that is exactly and precisely what they have been told to do, and I am not blaming them for that: but they are sometimes a little over-officious in doing so. I think that, considering the respect that we have for the British police, to allow complaints to be made against them but to allow the traffic warden to go scot-free would be totally unjust.
§ I have a sneaking feeling that my noble friend Lord Derwent is going to say that traffic wardens are not police, and that they do not come under the legislation of this Bill. I can only say that in practice they are, since they make their reports to the local police station; and they are, of course, under the supervision of the police the whole time. I feel most certainly that, in view of the respect which we all have for the police force, this Amendment is only just. I beg to move.
Page 27. line 29, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Somers.)
§ LORD AIREDALE
I should like to support this Amendment. I understand that one of the latest Ministerial pronouncements on this matter was made in Committee in another place, when the Minister said that his advice to a person 192 in dispute with a traffic warden was to approach either the police authority or the chief constable. I should have thought that was unsatisfactory as being uncertain; and, further, I should have thought that it was somewhat academic, from the point of view of the public, whether the traffic warden was a policeman or a civilian. He is a person in uniform carrying out police duties, so far as the public can see. I should have thought that a member of the public, knowing that if he has a complaint against a police constable he can go to the chief constable, who is under a duty to investigate the matter, was equally entitled to suppose that if he had a complaint against a traffic warden he could similarly go to the chief constable and have his complaint against the traffic warden investigated. I should have thought, also, that it was most unsatisfactory that there was a chance that he might be sent from the police authority to the chief constable, or vice versa, and a danger that neither would investigate the complaint.
Then there is the question of answerability to Parliament. I understand that at any rate the practice has grown up for the Home Secretary to accept responsibility for answering questions in Parliament relating to traffic wardens employed in London, and this, I think, has arisen because the duties of traffic wardens in London have come under the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolitan Area. We know that the employment of traffic wardens is gradually going to extend throughout the provinces, and, for the sake of uniformity, the Home Secretary will presumably wish to answer in Parliament for traffic wardens employed in the provinces as he does for traffic wardens employed in London.
I should have thought the proper means for this to be possible would b3 for the Home Secretary to call on the chief constable concerned to furnish a report under Clause 30 of this Bill. If there is no duty laid upon the chief constable by this Bill to investigate complaints against traffic wardens in his area, the matter is going to be most unsatisfactory. He is going to reply to the Home Secretary, "I was not aware of any duty laid upon me to investigate these complaints against traffic wardens. If it had been 193 so, presumably it would have been inserted in the Police Act, 1964. But it is not there". It will be there if the Committee accept this Amendment; and I very much hope they will.
I should like to speak to this Amendment, which is also in my name. As I understand it, a traffic warden is screened, administered, paid and disciplined by the police. He is not a traffic meter attendant engaged by local councils; and I should have thought that the traffic warden would welcome the protection of any case against him being examined by a senior police officer. I understand, after talking to one or two senior police officers, that they are quite happy about this; and I hope that my noble friend will be able to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD DERWENT
This Amendment would apply the provisions about the investigation of complaints against a member of a police force to complaints against traffic wardens. I would not suggest to my noble friend that his Amendment is unnecessary; I would merely say that I think it is inappropriate. If this Amendment were carried, the effect would be that a chief officer of police would be required to record a complaint against a traffic warden and cause it to be investigated immediately, calling on the help of another chief officer at his discretion, or if so directed by the Secretary of State; and the report of the investigation would then be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions unless it showed conclusively that no criminal offence had been committed.
Really, these provisions are inappropriate to the circumstances in which traffic wardens are employed. They are civilians employed by the police authority; in other words, by the local authority. They do not have the same powers as police officers in relation to members of the public; they have no power of arrest, or power to stop and search; and there is no compelling reason why they should be subject, as policemen are, to a discipline code which specifies a list of offences, lays down formalised arrangements for investigation and prescribes a scale of punishment which may be awarded. That is the case in respect of the police; but no list of offences, procedure for investigation or scale of punishments is laid down in respect of 194 traffic wardens. If unsuitable for the job they are in the ordinary way discharged by the police authority.
It is true that traffic wardens act under the direction of the chief officer of police. It is therefore appropriate that the chief officer should investigate complaints against them. But the concept of an elaborate procedure for the investigation of complaints, with the submission of papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions, unless it is clear that no criminal offence has been committed, would be wholly inappropriate to the limited range of a traffic warden's duties and powers.
The remedy available to a person aggrieved by the action of a traffic warden is to complain to his employer, which is the police authority, and not to the chief constable. In respect of complaints, a traffic warden is more akin to other local authority employees than to the police. Complaints are no doubt made from time to time against all kinds of local authority employees who come into contact with the public. Arrangements are made locally for handling these complaints, without any elaborate statutory provision.
The police are in a different position. They are not local authority servants; they have their own discipline code and they have special powers and duties which make it especially important that complaints against them should be properly and adequately dealt with. None of this applies to the traffic warden. He has very limited duties. He is the servant of the local authority, the police authority; and if anyone has a complaint against him the police authority should be notified. Really, to set up this very elaborate and cumbersome procedure (which is suitable for the police) for somebody who really has limited duties seems quite unnecessary. I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD AIREDALE
I am much obliged to the Minister for what he has said, but I do not understand why he labours the point about the code of offences to which the police constable but not the traffic warden is subject. I should understand it if this clause which we are discussing had said: "Where a police constable offends against his code 195 of offences then there shall be an investigation." It does not say that. It says that where the chief constable receives a complaint from a member of the public against a member of the police, and so on. Why all this tremendous difference between the police constable and the traffic warden? Why bring in the Director of Public Prosecutions? If a complaint is made against a police constable in uniform then, admittedly, there is a possibility under this clause for reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Members of the public do not regard traffic wardens in uniform as so very different from police constables; and, although I have no evidence that it has ever happened—and I hope it never will happen—there must be a possibility, or even a probability, in this wicked world that one day there is going to be a pretty serious allegation of bribery against a traffic warden. Why not take this opportunity to have the chief constable required to have the investigation made? Why this complication? Members of the public will have to remember that in the case of a police constable they must go to complain to the chief constable and in the case of a traffic warden they have to go to complain to the police authority. Why introduce this confusion into the mind of the poor man in the street? I implore the Minister to think again about this.
§ LORD DERWENT
I am surprised to hear the noble Lord say that the public do not think there is much difference between a policeman and a traffic warden. I wonder what would happen if the noble Lord found himself arrested by a traffic warden. The police are a disciplined body with a code of offences and very elaborate procedures to deal with complaints against them. The disciplinary authority for constables is the chief constable. The authority for wardens is the police authority. It is quite a different authority. Complaints must be directed to the employers. It is no good complaining to somebody who does not employ them. To use this elaborate procedure because a member of the public wants to complain about a traffic warden is absurd.
§ LORD AIREDALE
Will the noble Lord deal with the question of answerability 196 to Parliament? Take the case of the traffic warden in the provinces particularly. The Home Secretary will not be able to call for a report from the chief constable under Clause 30 as in the case of a police constable. Upon whom is the Home Secretary going to call for information in the case of the traffic warden?
§ LORD DERWENT
The traffic warden is in this respect no different from a road sweeper employed by the local authority; and the Secretary of State is not going to answer complaints about a road sweeper.
§ LORD SOMERS
I must confess that I am very disappointed. I cannot understand the distinction which my noble friend draws. After all, a traffic warden is perfectly capable of disciplining the public. I cannot see why he should not suffer the same discipline in return. Does my noble friend really suggest that it is perfectly feasible to make a complaint against a policeman but not against a traffic warden?
§ LORD DERWENT
My noble friend is quite wrong. The traffic warden has no power of disciplining the public. He is allowed to put a ticket in a car, and to carry out duties of that kind, but he has no power of disciplining the public. A police officer has that power, but not a car park attendant or warden.
§ LORD SOMERS
Perhaps we interpret the word "discipline" in slightly different ways. If I have to pay 10s., I consider that I have been disciplined. I am not surprised that my noble friend is not accepting this Amendment—in fact, I should have been surprised if he had done, because it would have been a unique case during the day. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment
As I have my name to this Amendment, before my noble friend withdraws it (because we have no wish to divide the House), may I say that I am not sure that I am at all happy on this point? I am not sure that the Minister did not virtually say that they were an undisciplined mob, because he talked about the police being under a code of discipline
Are traffic wardens not a force? Perhaps it may be more helpful, if we were to talk this matter over and raise it on some other part of the Bill before Report stage. I am happy to join my noble friend in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS moved to add to the clause:
§ "(4) The Secretary of State shall appoint for each police area a panel of persons not to exceed ten in number composed of such persons as the Home Secretary may deem suitable for the discharge of the functions conferred upon them by subsection (5) of this section, being persons resident in the area and not being members of or employed in any police force.
§ (5) There shall be furnished to each member of such panel as soon as may be after the end of each month a copy of all entries recording complaints against members of the police force for the area for which such panel is appointed, and any member of such panel shall be entitled to have access to all reports, statements and other documents relating to such complaint whether brought into being before or after such complaint is recorded, including any report thereon furnished to the Secretary of State in relation thereto, and shall furthermore be entitled to be present when any steps are taken in the course of any such investigation into such complaint, and to be present at the hearing of any disciplinary charge arising out of any such complaint, but shall on such occasions as he is present act as an observer only and take no part in any such investigation or at the proceedings during any such hearing, save that he may put any questions to the officer of police conducting such investigation or presiding at such hearing relating to such investigation or hearing.
§ (6) The members of any such panel may report as to such investigation or hearing direct to the Secretary of State who shall take such report into his consideration but save as aforesaid the members of any such panel shall not disclose to any person other than to members of the panel to which they belong any matters coming to their knowledge concerning any such complaint investigation or hearing in the exercise of their functions under the previous subsections, and save also that before making any such report to the Secretary of State they shall furnish a copy of such report to the officer of police in charge of any such investigation or who presides over the hearing to which the report relates."
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Longford, I beg to move this Amendment. Once again this Amendment raises the key question of the relationship between the public and the police, the basic question which started off the Royal Commission on 198 its long trail many years ago. As I said on Second Reading, this Bill is a tremendous improvement and takes us a good way along the road, but I still think that it could go a little further and that the Minister and the Government have been a little half-hearted on this question of complaints. I accept a great number of the arguments the Minister raised in the debate on an earlier Amendment about the need for police inquiries of this kind to he conducted in the normal way, and for them to be confidential, because they may lead to criminal proceedings afterwards, and there is no reason why they should be on a different basis. This Amendment does not interfere with that situation, but suggests that there should be a representative of the public, an observer, sitting at these inquiries or hearings.
§ I hope that the Minister will not hold me too closely to all the wording of this rather long Amendment. The basic idea is to have in every police area a group of people who will be appointed by reason of their position, knowledge or experience, but will be independent of the police force. One of these people, we suggest, should be entitled to receive from the chief constable notices of complaints by the public, and should then be entitled to sit in, probably at the final hearing—I accept that it is impossible for an observer to trudge around in all the inquiries leading up to a hearing—in the position of an observer. It may be asked: what would this achieve, since this observer could not speak on behalf of the complainant or of the chief constable? I think that it would achieve something important, because it gets round this problem that has been raised in the debates over this Bill. The Bill still retains the old principle (although certain features have been altered) that a member of the public can make a complaint about a policeman to a policeman, and it will be investigated by a policeman and decided by a policeman. This is the objection which many people have to the whole system, and it is largely retained in this new Bill, though I accept that there are various checks up and down the line which would lead to an improvement.
§ This simple suggestion of having an observer chosen from a serious body of 199 people would mean that the chief constable would know that somebody quite independent was sitting there, watching, listening, and knowing whether the inquiry was being conducted on a completely fair and reasonable basis. We must not make idols of chief constables and bow down before them as being perfect men. We have known one or two examples in the last few years of chief constables who have fallen slightly below the very high standard which the vast majority of them accept and maintain. It is in their interests and in the interests of the police generally, and certainly in the interests of the public, that we should have some independent observers at these hearings. That is why I should like the Minister to consider this Amendment very seriously—not necessarily the complete wording, but the spirit of it. If I may borrow from the language of the discussion on housing that preceded this Committee stage, I would ask the Minister: please do not stonewall on this one. As a matter of fact, when I listened to the end of our last debate I thought that, compared to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, my noble friend Lord Derwent is like Trevor Bailey compared with Denis Compton. I hope that my noble friend will not completely stonewall this ball. He was not willing to accept my noble friend Lord Stonham's lion, but will he accept my lamb?
Page 27, line 29, at end insert the said subsections.—(Lord Willis.)
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
Before my noble friend does not stonewall, could the noble Lord opposite tell us whether he is seeking not only the safeguards which he is proposing in Amendment No. 38, but also the others in No. 39, to which his name appears?
§ LORD DERWENT
I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I repeat a certain amount of what I have already said and deal at some length with this Amendment, because it is the last opportunity at this stage of the Bill to consider this problem in detail. This Amendment was moved in another place. It would establish in each police area a panel of up to ten persons, living in 200 the area and appointed by the Home Secretary, to observe the manner in which the chief constable handles complaints against members of his force. Every member of the panel would be sent a monthly return of all recorded complaints, and would have access to all the case papers relating to each complaint, including any report sent to the Secretary of State. The members of the panel would be entitled to be present during the investigation of any complaint, and also to attend any disciplinary hearing which might arise out of it. They would act only as observers, but would be entitled to put questions to the officer in charge of an investigation or to the presiding officer at a disciplinary hearing. The members of the panel would be able to report direct to the Secretary of State, sending a copy of their report to the officer in charge of any investigation or to the presiding officer at a disciplinary hearing. The Secretary of State would be required to take any such report "into consideration".
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, will not agree with this argument, but it is true that the fundamental objection to any arrangement of this kind is that it implies a lack of confidence in the chief constable as the head of a disciplined force. Indeed, this Amendment extends this lack of confidence to officers appointed to carry out investigations. It goes further than the other Amendments in expressing this lack of confidence. The Bill entrusts the chief constable with the control and direction of his force. He and his subordinates are trusted to act impartially in investigating allegations of criminal offences, and in arriving at a decision on whether or not to prosecute individuals. I am not talking about complaints: that is what chief constables are entrusted to do in the ordinary course of their duty. A body of men trusted to discharge these duties, which affect the good name, and possibly the livelihood, of members of the community ought to be trusted to investigate complaints against members of their service fairly and impartially, subject to the general provisions as to complaints procedure, which are in the Bill.
But, apart from this fundamental objection, the Amendment, which proposes to set up a panel with a very 201 vague roving commission, would be likely to have a most disrupting effect on the police. It says nothing about the regulation of the procedure of the panel or about the allocation of cases to its members. But, leaving this on one side, nothing but confusion could result from the proposed statutory right of panel members to intervene at any stage of the investigation of a complaint. Investigating officers would never know when a panel member was going to intervene, and would constantly be diverted from their primary task of getting at the truth by means of a thorough investigation.
There are also (we have had this point before to-day, but I will repeat it) objections of principle to associating an outside person, however carefully selected, with police investigations. The procedure proposed would cover all complaints against police officers, and the investigation might therefore relate to an allegation of crime, in which case it would be of the same nature as any criminal investigation by the police. As I have said before, when an inquiry starts it is not known whether there will be a criminal offence—or not until, perhaps, the investigation is halfway through. It is of fundamental importance that such investigations should be treated as confidential: the whole basis of police inquiries would be undermined if a member of the public were entitled to be present when they were undertaken.
I would remind the noble Lord that the officer whose conduct is complained of will know nothing of the detailed course of the inquiries, except to the extent that he is directly involved: he will not know what is going on in the investigation. The report of the investigation is similarly confidential and, as a matter of principle, ought not to be disclosed. The same consideration applies equally to any report called for by the Secretary of State. It would inhibit candour in reporting if, as the Amendment proposes, a chief constable were obliged to furnish a copy of such a report to an outside person.
Apart from these objections of principle, the proposed procedure would be extremely difficult to work in practice, which perhaps is almost as important. Police investigations consist in part of a search for, and examination 202 of, material evidence (it might be a search for bloodstains, and so on; but actual material evidence), and in part of a series of inquiries by the investigating officer of possible witnesses—one investigation, as the noble Lord knows, leading on to another. Statements may be taken from a large number of people; the investigation may be spread over a considerable period of time, and in a complicated case the investigating officer may be assisted by one or more other officers. It would be difficult to afford an observer an opportunity of being present throughout such an investigation, since an investigation follows no predetermined programme and timetable. Moreover, Clause 49(1) requires a complaint to be investigated "forthwith". By the time the panel received their monthly return the investigation might well have been concluded.
Then the presence of an observer would be bound to detract from the authority of the chief officer holding a disciplinary hearing, particularly if, as is proposed, the observer could intervene by asking questions in the course of the proceedings. It would hardly make for good order in a court, for instance, if a specially designated member of the public were to have the right to put questions to the judge whenever he felt like doing so; and although proceedings before a chief constable are not as formal as those of a court, they nevertheless affect the future career, and indeed the livelihood, of the officer appearing before him. It is surely inconsistent to place full responsibility on the chief constable to decide disciplinary cases (subject to appeal to the Secretary of State) and then to proclaim in a Statute, as is now proposed in this Amendment, Parliament's lack of faith in the chief officer to conduct a disciplinary hearing with complete fairness.
I would once again emphasise that the reforms proposed by the Bill, which go beyond the recommendations of the Royal Commission, have been carefully drawn up in such a way as to give what the Government regard as the limit in reassuring public opinion that complaints will be effectively dealt with in future, without, however running risks with the morale of the police. The Amendment appears largely to disregard these new 203 constructive reforms and proceeds on the basis of complete distrust of constituted authority in this disciplined service. In my view, this Amendment is wrong in principle, and in practice it is quite unworkable.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Willis for moving this Amendment at short notice. I am quite sure that, while he may disagree with much that the Minister has said in reply, he will at least be grateful for the depth and extent with which he has dealt with the Amendment. If I am right, the Minister's main criticism of the Amendment lies in two points. The first is that the Amendment shows a lack of confidence in the police authorities and the duties which they will be required to perform under this Bill. My noble friend Lord Stonham illustrated in his speech that there have been a few cases in which police authorities have been lax, and that proper complaints that have been made, for one reason or another, were not perhaps detected and perhaps, for one reason or another, were not investigated as thoroughly as they should have been, and it was only when another incident occurred that the full story came out.
I think the noble Lord must recognise that there is in the country an unfair criticism and unfair suspicion of the police as whole. I think the Committee will recognise that, so far as the police are concerned, whereas for 99 per cent. of their life they behave impeccably and render great service, for that small fraction of 1 per cent. where they fail, they can well be quite unfairly damned. I am happy to believe that in the future, as the calibre of our chief officers increases, these investigations will take place properly. But what I think the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, must appreciate is that the public have a disquiet, and that one of the best ways of removing that disquiet is to see that (shall I say?) some independent people, unconnected in any way with the police, have some access to what may be going on and can satisfy themselves that within their area the conduct is beyond reproach.
I believe that the principle behind this Amendment, that there should be a panel of ten (it may he a different number, 204 and could even be smaller, but ten is the figure we have suggested) independent and respected persons, perhaps of something of the standing of magistrates, to whom these complaints could be sent and for them to be satisfied, is a right one. It may well be that we could find some administrative way of avoiding what the noble Lord certainly implied, because I accept from him that perhaps the system and administration that is recommended here might be cumbersome and unnecessary. But there should surely be some way, so long as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, would agree that there is some advantage in some outside independent and respected body being satisfied as to the conduct of the police and the way in which complaints have been investigated.
I was reminded a few moments ago of the fact that we in Parliament set up committees as watchdogs. Many years ago, away back in history, we know that there was abuse of political honours, and it was felt right that respected Members of Parliament should be on a committee to look at those who were recommended for political honours. This was not done through any lack of confidence in the Prime Minister or other people who might recommend persons for political honours. It was done to satisfy the concern in the public mind as to the manner in which political honours were awarded.
I would suggest that there is in some way a similar position here. There is concern in the public mind as to how complaints against the police are investigated, and because the three individuals mentioned in the Bill are persons very closely connected with the police themselves, and not independent in the strict sense. I think the public would be happier, and I think the police themselves would reflect a better image in the public mind, if this independent body could review the complaints.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, spoke about a judge. Nobody, he said, would say that we should have a committee to decide whether a judge has conducted a case properly. I think that was the point.
§ LORD DERWENT
No. I do not want to be misunderstood. I referred to just having somebody, a member of the public—mark you, a member of the public, and 205 not counsel—interrupting a judge to say what he thought.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
There is quite a difference, of course, because the judge is not a prosecutor. He is not prosecutor and judge.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
But the difference here is that in this particular case the chief of police and the inspector are members of the police, and they may well be in the position of being the prosecutor, investigator, and of course, the judge. This is quite different. I think the noble Lord must agree that the persons in the Bill who are called upon to see that these complaints are dealt with satisfactorily may well have to wear two or three different caps at the same time.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I think that would be unlikely, because the person under complaint would appoint his own defence, his own friend. I think the noble Lord must accept that these three persons may well be in the position of having to prosecute and judge, and the public may feel—
§ LORD DERWENT
I am sorry to interrupt. Whom is the noble Lord talking about when he says, "these three persons"?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
In the case of Clause 49 is it net the chief of police, and in Clause 50 is it not the inspector of constabulary and also the chairman of the watch committee? These are three individuals who are closely connected with the police.
§ LORD DERWENT
In no circumstances can the chairman of a watch committee initiate a prosecution; nor can an inspector of constabulary.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
No, but they are all within the same interested organisation, and they may have some question of loyalty involved in their decisions. I hope the noble Lord will bear that in mind. I think the main concern that we have—and I think it is shared outside—is to provide the police with the best possible image, upon which the police depend. I think that image will 206 be all the greater if there is no appearance of a closed shop; circumstances in which the public have had complaints being dealt with completely behind closed doors and by the police themselves.
I appreciate much of the case the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, made about administration and the amount of paper which may have to be passed around. But if the noble Lord would agree to consider the question of being able to create a panel (if that is the right word) of outside persons of considerable respectability (if that is the right phrase) to whom complaints could be referred, who could be satisfied (shall we say?) on the final papers, I think my noble friend would not press the question of their attending the inquiry themselves. But at least they should see some written evidence in order to know whether a right conclusion has been arrived at by the authority.
I am quite sure there is some way between the two sides in this matter, and I hope the noble Lord will not close his mind to this point. I think it is of great importance. I am quite sure my noble friend Lord Willis will not press the Amendment as it is now drafted, but if the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, would undertake to consider the case that I have tried to make out, and which my noble friend undoubtedly made out, for putting this little window into this problem, it would be much appreciated.
§ LORD DERWENT
I must state frankly that my mind is closed on this matter, and I will explain why. I quite see that public opinion has to be reassured, and we have gone as far in that direction as we want to go. I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in particular, rather forgets that what this Bill has done is quite new. Nothing can be concealed now. Although he may think that the chief constable and the inspectors of constabulary are too involved, I really cannot accept that the police authority, finding something irregular in the complaint book, and something which has not been properly dealt with, would be so in favour of the police that they would not take action. That is more or less what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said; and I cannot accept it.
When I say that my mind is closed, it is for this reason. We cannot in any 207 circumstances accept that a member of the public should be present at police investigations which may well become criminal investigations. It would make the operation of the police quite impossible, and for that reason alone, if not for all the other reasons I have given. I say my mind is closed. I am very sorry that I cannot meet the noble Lord in any way. We have gone as far as we think right. Quite apart from that, we think that if we went any further it would affect the morale of the police.
§ LORD WILLIS
I realised earlier on that the noble Lord's mind was closed—I thought I heard the doors crashing together quite early. I regret this, because I think, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd has said, that we should have been prepared to discuss the thing on a different basis. The noble Lord mentioned this question of lack of confidence implicit behind this Amendment. But lack of confidence exists now; this is the problem and this is what the Amendment, and the Police Bill come to that, were designed to try to stop; to try to call a halt to this fading image.
As I said earlier, I accept the fact that considerable steps have been taken which I think will help towards this; but we still have, to use the analogy again, the doors closed at this particular point of contact. The noble Lord used the analogy of the court, and how could we have somebody interrupting a court? I would remind the noble Lord that the court is open to the public; the public can see the operation of the court and they can see what the judge is doing.
§ LORD DERWENT
I admit that I was perhaps speaking rather without thinking. If it will help the noble Lord I will withdraw my analogy about the court.
§ LORD WILLIS
I cannot believe that the noble Lord ever speaks without thinking; but it was, in fact, a bad analogy. There is little more to say on this. I commend the Amendment to your Lordships, and I hope that we can go further forward with it.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 49 agreed to.
§ Clause 50:208
§ Information as to manner of dealing with complaints
§ 50. Every police authority in carrying out their duty with respect to the maintenance of an adequate and efficient police force, and inspectors of constabulary in carrying out their duties with respect to the efficiency of any police force, shall keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints from members of the public against members of the force are dealt with by the chief officer of police.
§ 6.52 p.m.
LORD WILLIS moved to omit all words after "shall" and to insert instead:
satisfy themselves that complaints from members of the public against members of the force are satisfactorily dealt with by the chief officer of police.
The noble Lord said: Having abandoned the lion and the lamb we now come to the mouse. This is a very tiny Amendment which is designed, once again, to fit into this general pattern of restoring the relationship between police and public, helping the public to see that justice is visibly being done. Since the police authority is to some extent representative of the public, we are proposing with this Amendment merely one thing, the strengthening of their powers, or a more direct injunction to them.
§ Once again, I would stress the fact that I do not stand on any individual word in this Amendment. It can be argued that the words "satisfy themselves" are no stronger than "keep themselves informed". But I think it is necessary in this case, since this is a new Bill and it will be going out to police authorities, that they should have a clear idea of their responsibility in this matter; that they should have a clear understanding that there is some public concern in this matter, and that they should therefore take special steps in this area where the police touch the public most nearly, on this question of complaints. I think it would be a good move if the police authority were given stronger direction on this matter through the Bill. It does not reflect any lack of confidence in the police constable, in the carrying out of inquiries or anything of this sort. In the police authority we shall have an interested body of experienced people, of whom one-third will be magistrates, and therefore eminently suitable to the noble Lord. This body could well be entrusted with this job of keeping a special eye on the question 209 of complaints; going a little further than keeping themselves informed, and satisfying themselves directly that these investigations are being carried out in a satisfactory way. I beg to move.
Page 27. line 33, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 41 and insert the said new words. —(Lord Willis.)
§ LORD DERWENT
This particular Amendment, like the others, but rather more subtly, strikes at the root of the principle which I am trying to maintain: that the chief officer of police should he responsible for handling complaints. For how could a police authority satisfy themselves that a complaint had been satisfactorily dealt with unless the authority were to have a right to call for the case papers, including confidential documents such as crime reports, and even summon witnesses so as to form their own estimate of their credibility?
§ LORD STONHAM
Will the noble Lord explain how they are going to keep themselves informed as the clause now stands?
§ LORD DERWENT
They are going to keep themselves informed that complaints have been dealt with in a proper manner.
§ LORD DERWENT
They have to keep themselves informed, under the Bill, of the manner in which a chief officer of police deals with complaints. What the Amendment seeks to do is to see that he satisfactorily deals with complaints. How can they tell whether he deals with complaints in a way that is satisfactory unless they call for case papers including (and this is the point) confidential documents, such as crime reports, and even summon witnesses? How can they know without doing that? Such a procedure would be tantamount to reopening the case after a chief constable had dealt with it. That would mean putting the officer complained of at risk twice. It is one thing to say that the police authority are to keep themselves informed as to how a complaint has been dealt with; that if they are not satisfied then there are various steps they can take. But to put it in the Statute that they have to 210 satisfy themselves that it has been dealt with satisfactorily, is going too far, because it is asking them to do something they cannot really do. It is not possible for them, without, as I say, calling witnesses and so on; and that means putting the officer complained of at risk twice.
§ LORD AIREDALE
I have never heard anything so unsatisfactory in my life. The clause says:The police authority shall keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints are dealt with by the chief officer of police —so that in the unlikely event of the chief constable dealing with complaints in a thoroughly lax and unsatisfactory manner, if the police authority keep themselves informed of the lax and unsatisfactory manner in which the chief constable is investigating complaints, then they will have fulfilled their function under Clause 50. What is the use of that? Surely we can have one of two things. Either we can say that the chief constable shall have exclusive control of this matter, and the police authority must keep out of it because, for one reason or another, they cannot have access to case papers, and so on. Alternatively, if the police authority are going to have any sensible function at all in this connection, surely they must exercise that function, not only by keeping themselves informed, but by satisfying themselves that the chief constable has acted in a satisfactory manner. If my leave is sought for this Amendment to be withdrawn, I will say, "No".
§ LORD DERWENT
I think the noble Lord is a little unwise to be so positive. It is the duty of the police authority to see how the complaints are dealt with —that the method of dealing with them is right, and so on. That is laid down in the Statute; and if something unsatisfactory appears, the chief constable at once becomes at risk with the police authority, and he may find himself losing his job. But to put in a Statute that the authority have to prove that each case has been dealt with satisfactorily is to provide for something which they cannot, in fact, do; because they have not the facilities. It is one thing if something is wrong and they find it out and notice that there has been carelessness. But, when they have not seen 211 the evidence and have not been present at the investigation, to say in a Statute that it is their duty to see that every case is dealt with satisfactorily goes much farther than ensuring that nothing is wrong with the manner of the investigations. It would be virtually impossible to fulfil such a duty, in spite of what the noble Lord says. They have to see that the complaint is dealt with properly; but to say that a particular case is dealt with satisfactorily means that they need more information than they will have or can have.
§ LORD AIREDALE
How will they "keep themselves informed"? Those are the noble Lords words and they are words in the Bill, that theyshall keep themselves informed".How can they do that?
§ LORD DERWENT
The words are:… informed as to the manner in which "—informed not about each individual case, but about the manner in which the chief constable deals with cases.
§ LORD STONHAM
That is precisely what my noble friend wants by his Amendment. Reference has been made in earlier discussions to Lord Derwent's skill at stonewalling. On this occasion it seems to me he declared his innings closed before he even went out to bat. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that the answer we have had is completely unsatisfactory. At an early stage of the first speech which the noble Lord made in reply to my noble friend, he asked how my noble friend expected members of the police authority to satisfy themselves. Where would they get the information from? They would have to call for reports and papers.
I ask the noble Lord very seriously to say how he expects Clause 50 to be implemented in practice, or is it just a form of words from which the Government expect nothing whatever to happen? It requires the police authority, in carrying out their duty with respect to the maintenance of an adequate and efficient police force, to keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints from members of the public are dealt with. They will need a good deal of information about the force if they are going to decide whether or not it is efficient, and this 212 question of efficiency is directly related in the clause to the manner in which complaints are dealt with.
The noble Lord has not yet told us how we were wrong. I submit that if the police authority are going to satisfy themselves or keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints from members of the public are investigated, then they must get information, and information is not just a glass of sherry with the chief constable and a chat about "how things are going on, old boy". It really means hard information, hard facts, which must at times consist of written reports, written information—indeed, perhaps answers to questions on specific points.
The police authority, in discharging their duty to ensure that the police force was maintained efficiently and to keep themselves informed about complaints, would be quite entitled to write to the chief constable and ask, "How do you deal with a certain type of complaint? "They could even ask him how he dealt with an individual complaint, a matter which became public in the area. It would be perfectly within the competence of the police authority to ask questions of that kind. The chief constable would have the right to say, "I must ask the Home Secretary first if I have got to answer that particular type of question". But if a body is going to keep itself informed, then obviously it must have information. Therefore that part—and it was virtually the whole—of the noble Lord's answer to my noble friend actually goes.
There is, indeed, nothing between us in the clause and the Amendment, except that we require that members of the police authority should satisfy themselves that this function is satisfactorily dealt with, and the noble Lord says that they have only to keep themselves informed as to the manner in which they are dealt with. In both cases the police authority must have information. I feel that we must know more about how the noble Lord expects Clause 50 to be carried out in practice, and what the real difference is in practice between that and the proposals of my noble friend.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I am wondering whether all this is not getting just a little out of proportion. if your 213 Lordships look back to subsection (1) of Clause 4 you will see that the general duty is laid on the police authority to see that the police force is made adequate and efficient. What the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, have been talking about seems to me only one small corner of that general duty. If you are going to try to pinpoint and lay down the manner in which every single duty should be performed, we shall be here a long time. I myself would be content to rely on the general power under Clause 4(1).
§ LORD DERWENT
May I try once more to explain the difference between the two wordings? I think the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has got it and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, have not. What the police authority have to do is to inform themselves of the manner in which complaints are dealt with. What the Amendment asks is that the police authority shall see that the complaints themselves are satisfactorily dealt with and that the police authority cannot do because they have not the facilities for doing it. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, says he does not see the difference between satisfying themselves about the manner in which complaints are dealt with and seeing whether a specific complaint is satisfactorily dealt with, which is what the Amendment says. To me they are quite different.
§ LORD WILLIS
I do not really see the objection, if you take this question of information. What I do not think the noble Lord has answered fully is what the police authority are going to do with that information when they have it, once they have kept themselves informed. Suppose they keep themselves informed about the manner in which complaints are dealt with and are not satisfied with the manner in which complaints are dealt with. They have specific duties under the Bill. They have specific duties under the Bill. They can refer it, presumably, to the Home Secretary or take other action—take it up with the Police Council, and so on. But they cannot, in fact, find out if it is unsatisfactory unless they get a certain amount of information.
This Amendment was not intended to supply the police authority with a detailed record of evidence, and so on, of every individual case, but to lay 214 upon them the clear duty to satisfy themselves—not just keep themselves informed—that complaints were being satisfactorily dealt with. There is an area of difference here, and I think it is rather important.
§ LORD DERWENT
Now I see what the noble Lord means. Then I would say that this Amendment is quite unnecessary, because the duty of the police authority is to see that an efficient force is maintained, for which purpose they are entitled to ask questions within their particular purview, and they must get an answer. If the chief constable says it is not a matter for them and refuses to answer, then the matter has to be referred to the Secretary of State. If the chief constable is wrong, then of course again he puts himself in danger of losing his job. In fact the last point, this new point which the noble Lord has raised, is already covered under the Bill. This Amendment is quite unnecessary. The actual wording of this Amendment in itself is impossible to carry out. I must make it quite clear that the police authority is entitled to ask questions and get answers on certain matters, and if they affect the efficiency, and if there is dispute as to whether they should be answered or not—I cannot see dispute arising very often, but should it arise—it must be referred to the Secretary of State.
§ LORD AIREDALE
I should have thought the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, underlined the necessity for this Amendment. He referred to Clause 4(1), the duty of the police authority to secure the maintenance of an adequate and efficient police force. I should have thought that included an adequate and efficient chief constable who adequately and efficiently investigates complaints, and that they should satisfy themselves that he does and not merely keep themselves informed whether he does or not.
§ LORD DERWENT
Perhaps I may add one last word. The noble Lord has not been listening to what I said. The word "efficiently" is not carrying out what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, wants. The Amendment is creating a new statutory duty, from the sheer wording, for the police authority, which they 215 will not be able to carry out. But the point that is worrying him is already covered under the Bill, as my noble friend said.
§ LORD WILLIS
I can assure the noble Lord that I have been listening most carefully, and I understood a great deal of what he was saying. But I am not entirely happy in the matter, so I should like to press the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 50 agreed to.
§ Clause 51 agreed to.
§ Clause 52 [Impersonation, &C.]:
§ 7.10 p.m.
LORD DERWENT moved, after subsection (1), to insert:
(2) Any person who, not being a constable, wears any article of police uniform in circumstances where it gives him an appearance so nearly resembling that of a member of a police force as to he calculated to deceive shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment makes it an offence for a person to wear police uniform (or uniform having the appearance of police uniform) in circumstances where he might so closely resemble a police officer as to be likely to be mistaken for one. Clause 52 at present provides only for the offence of impersonating a police officer and the possession of police uniform for an unlawful purpose. The new offence will be somewhat wider in scope than these offences, in that it will not depend on an intention to deceive or the existence of an unlawful purpose.
§ Nevertheless—this is important—the mere wearing of police-type uniform will not necessarily be an offence. The uniform must be worn in circumstances where it is "calculated to deceive". I understand from my legal advisers that this expression is well known to the courts and "calculated" does not mean "intended" but "likely". To paraphrase the new provision, at the cost possibly of legal precision, it will be an offence for a person to wear a police-style uniform if the combined effect of the uniform, what he is doing, and other relevant circumstances, is that he is likely to be mistaken for a policeman. Does the noble Lord wish to intervene?216
§ LORD WILLIS
I was going to ask how this would affect people on the stage who deliberately wear police uniform in order to try to deceive, and my poor friend Jack Warner.
§ LORD DERWENT
I think I have answered that by my paraphrase that it will be an offence for a person to wear a police-style uniform if the combined effect of the uniform, what he is doing —he is, remember, on the stage—and other relevant circumstances, is that he is likely to be mistaken for a policeman. Jack Warner will not be mistaken for a real policeman, as he is on the stage. I am not being offensive to him, but I think we can accept that.
The Amendment arises from a study made recently by the Home Office and chief officers of police of some problems raised by the wearing in public, by various people, of uniform which is barely distinguishable from police uniform. These people include members of organisations, notably private security organisations, as well as, sometimes, individuals who may or may not have a criminal purpose in wearing police clothing. Where a police-type of uniform is worn in public places by people who are not members of the regular police force there are two dangers which give considerable concern to chief officers of police.
One is conduct and discipline. The regular police are expected to show a high standard of conduct and discipline at all times, particularly while they are wearing their uniform in public. These standards are not always observed by other people who may wear pseudo police uniforms. Secondly, the wearing of a police-type of uniform can in itself provide favourable opportunities for crime, since the activities of someone assumed to be a police officer (for instance, trying the handles of parked cars) do not readily give rise to suspicion in the minds of passers-by, who are therefore less likely than they would otherwise be to report what they have seen.
Security organisations will have to consider whether the uniform of their guards brings them within the scope of the new offence. But provided their guards could in no circumstances be mistaken for police officers, they will 217 be unaffected by the Amendment. For instance, supposing the members of a security organisation functioned only indoors and never wore their uniforms outside the buildings they were guarding, I imagine that it would not greatly matter if their uniforms were rather like police uniforms. But if there were nothing distinguishable between their uniforms and police uniforms, and they were to go into the street they would be running a risk. They would have to consider this, and if they are in any doubt we at the Home Office are available to advise them. In fact, this is what has happened with a great many security organisations. I beg to move.
Page 28, line 19, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
I want only to say that I am glad to hear what my noble friend has said. It is a great many years ago that I acted in the chorus of The Pirates of Penzance. I was then told that I was the image of a policeman. From what my noble friend has said, I imagine that it will be all right if I receive an invitation to do this again on the stage, but that I must be careful not to walk home through the streets of my local town wearing the uniform.
§ LORD STONHAM
I agree that it is a splendid thing that the noble Viscount has had his anxieties on this score relieved, but I think there is a rather more important and serious point in this Amendment, which I say at once we warmly support and welcome. The noble Lord mentioned just the kind of case that we have in mind, where there is a real danger of persons who are not police officers genuinely being mistaken for police officers. They are the private security forces, most of whom, I should have thought, do operate outside, in the street. Many of them, as I understand it, are actually clothed in secondhand police uniforms from which the badges have been removed arid which have been cleaned up.
I submit that that sort of thing ought to be prohibited. To sell a secondhand police uniform to the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, so that he can cavort about the stage, would be perfectly all right; but it is not right to do it to the members of a private security force, who will be going about the streets in 218 vehicles and who will be dressed exactly like policemen, except that the badges will have been removed. Therefore, although the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, invited the proprietors of such private security forces to seek the advice of the Home Office to avoid infringing this requirement, I hope that he will be a little more explicit now.
For example, there is a well-known private security force which clothes its men in uniform, but in a green uniform —a totally different colour. Nobody would imagine, or for a moment be mistaken into thinking, that those uniformed men were police officers. But when men are dressed actually in police uniform apart from the badges, then most people, I think, particularly if those men act in a firm or arbitrary manner, or tell people what to do, or attempt to do so, will think of them as being policemen. I know that this would be an offence under the Amendment which the noble Lord now moves, but since the numbers of private security forces are growing I think he should be more explicit now, or perhaps agree to consult his right honourable friend about the possibility of prohibiting the sale of discarded police uniforms to organisations which propose to use them for clothing their employees, who are members of a private security force. I hope he can tell us something more on this point.
§ LORD DERWENT
I think that all I need add on this matter is that the police forces have been consulted and are satisfied. The more reputable private security forces of course differentiate themselves most vividly. But if others do not, they are now running a risk. I think this is satisfactory. It has been discussed with the police forces including the C.I.D., and I think we may take it as being all right.
I should like to ask my noble friend to clear my mind on one point. It is in relation to police motor-cyclists and the ordinary fellow in the street who may have a blue mackintosh with shoulder straps, a black crash helmet, black leggings, and a type of machine similar to that used by the police. This kind of wear is impossible to distinguish from police wear for it is very like it. These articles are sold in 219 the shops and many people type of protective clothing. those people be affected situation?
§ LORD DERWENT
I can tell my noble friend with absolute confidence that the motor-cyclist is all right. If he wears clothing that is normally worn by a civilian it is quite all right, because he has no reason to be a policeman rather than himself, if the noble Lord sees what I mean. It would neither be a uniform nor be calculated to deceive. This Amendment is aimed at distinctive uniforms which look like the uniforms of the police force; but the noble Lord's friend, or the noble Lord himself, on a motor-cycle would not be in any sort of uniform, and so would be quite safe.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 52, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 53 to 64 agreed to.
§ Clause 65 [Short title, commencement and extent]:
LORD DERWENT moved, after subsection (3), to insert:
(4) The Secretary of State may by order repeal or amend any provision in any local Act, including an Act confirming a provisional order, or in any instrument in the nature of a local enactment under any Act, where it appears to him that that provision is inconsistent with, or has become unnecessary or requires modification in consequence of, any provision of this Act or corresponds to any provision repealed by this Act; and any statutory instrument made under this subsection shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
§ The noble Lord said: I should like to speak to Amendments 41 and 41A together, because 41A is consequential on 41. This new subsection will give the Secretary of State a general power to repeal and amend local Acts in consequence of provisions of the Bill. Much of the existing law about police administration was laid down, somewhat sketchily, in the nineteenth century Statutes repealed by Schedule 10. From time to time these general provisions were filled out by provisions in local Acts, which may be unnecessary or need modification after the Bill becomes law. The Amendment enables the Secretary of State to carry out this tidying-up operation.220
Page 32, line 16, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD STONHAM
I quite understand both the need and the reason for this, and indeed there may be a whole mass of local provisions of all of which it is impossible at present to be aware. Can the noble Lord say whether the local authority associations have been consulted about this Amendment? It comes rather late in the day so far as the Bill is concerned, and it seems to me that perhaps it might have been thought of earlier. If the local authority associations have been consulted and are satisfied with it, we have no objection.
§ LORD DERWENT
I will not say that they have been consulted on any possible future Bill, but I will give an undertaking that the local authorities will be consulted before an order is made modifying a local Act.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 32, line 17, after ("under") insert ("subsection (2) of").—(Lord Derwent.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 65, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.