HL Deb 06 July 1983 vol 443 cc641-2WA
Lord Allen of Abbeydale

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they propose to take with regard to Lord Scarman's recommendations concerning lay visitors to police stations.

Lord Elton

The Government welcomed the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Scarman, that there should be random checks by independent persons on the detention of suspects at police stations as a constructive and positive suggestion for bringing the police and the community closer together, and set in hand consultations with the local authority associations and police representative bodies. These consultations revealed broad agreement about both the benefits which lay visiting schemes might confer and the practical basis on which they could operate. The police made it clear that they would be willing to co-operate in arrangements which, while not hampering their work, might help to dispel suspicions about their treatment of suspects held in their custody.

Agreement has now been reached with the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers that pilot schemes should be established in six police force areas; and with their agreement and co-operation the Home Office is issuing guidelines for the establishment and conduct of lay visiting arrangements. The police forces in whose areas lay visiting has either already begun or will be introduced are Greater Manchester, West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Humberside, Cheshire and Leicestershire. I am placing a copy of the guidelines in the Library.

In addition, my right honourable and learned friend has, after local consultation, authorised the establishment, also on a pilot basis, of a lay visiting scheme in L District of the Metropolitan Police force. I am placing a copy of the scheme in the Library. It will be brought into effect as soon as my right honourable and learned friend has appointed a panel of lay visitors, and he will be considering the names of persons suggested by the Community/Policy Consultative Group for Lambeth and others. He also proposes, with the full support of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, to establish similar pilot schemes in other districts of the force. The Home Secretary will of course keep the progress of these arrangements under review, and will consider their possible development or modification accordingly.