I’ve now had a second issue of the Blackburn with Darwen Messenger freesheet containing an article from Tony Johnson about his bid to be Lancashire Police And Crime Commissioner, but it’s unlikely this pleasure will be repeated. Mr Johnson is withdrawing from the race after learning that anyone convicted of an imprisonable offence cannot even stand for the election. Some years ago Mr Johnson says he acquired 2 convictions for drink driving, and is therefore ineligible to stand.
Well, at least he found out relatively early. There may be other candidates out there who haven’t made a point of reading the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 that created the post. I suppose some at least will be unfamiliar with finding, reading and interpreting Acts of Parliament and statutory instruments themselves, which raises the question of whether other ‘candidates’ are disqualified from standing without knowing it.
So, please note that you cannot stand for Police and Crime Commissioner if:-
- You’re not 18 by the day you are nominated in October, or you’re not on the electoral register in that area on that day, or you are nominated as a candidate in another area (section 64)
- You are a police officer (including special constables) or are a member of police staff, or work for the police or police authority through a contract the police have with your employer. ( Section 65)
- You are a judge, civil servant or member of the armed forces who would be disqualified from standing for Parliament, or you are anyone who is subject to a debt relief restrictions order or bankruptcy order, (section 66)
- You have ever been convicted of an offence which could result in a term of imprisonment if an adult was convicted of it (unless the conviction has been quashed or is under review). Note that you don’t have to have gone to prison, or for it to be possible for you to have gone to prison for that offence (if you were convicted for example when you were young), and there don’t seem to be any provisions that allow convictions to become spent after a period of time. (No mention of cautions, reprimands, final warnings, etc. as being a problem, though. Of course, if one of those comes to light, it probably won’t look good in the newspapers)
- You are a member of staff at a Council (except teachers), including County, Borough and parish councils (note that, as with police staff, even if you are not in a politically restricted post, you still can’t stand for this election). Councillors are allowed to stand, unless they are members of the police authority, who can’t. A wave of resignations from police authorities should be expected between now and the elections.
Please note, I’m not offering you legal advice, and the list above is not exhaustive. If you want to know whether you qualify either read the law yourself, or get a good lawyer who can do it for you.
Now, however you read it, that’s an awful lot of people who cannot stand, including people who usually can stand for other elections. While the Police Area Returning Officer will be able to check some of these things, will they be able to check a candidate’s criminal record? Will a statement from a candidate be enough, or will anyone actually be responsible for checking to ensure a candidate is not disqualified by virtue of, for example, their criminal record?
All this raises another thorny issue. Even if there were a dismal turnout at these elections, the size of the electorates and the supplementary voting system will ensure that each Police and Crime Commissioner automatically becomes the politician in their area with the largest personal mandate, albeit a fairly focussed one, more than MPs, and far more than Council leaders. You can see why it might be tempting to people who otherwise know next to nothing about it, and who previously showed little interest in police and crime matters.
If people are not reading the legislation, or lack the skills to understand it, what else do they not appreciate about the job?