It’s been a busy couple of weeks in PCC world, but I wouldn’t want readers to miss the latest update on the saga of Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s PCC.
Mr Bett you will remember had stepped aside from his office while being investigated over his expenses by the City of London Police, even though he legally cannot step aside, and effectively taken a holiday on full pay, one of the perks of being the boss.
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Panel had to consider an incendiary report on the issue, produced with the help of a law firm and a QC, and saying pretty much what had been said on TopOfTheCops when the Commissioner first announced he was doing it. Sadly though, I couldn’t find an online stream of the meeting, but the BBC’s Sally Chidzoy has come to the rescue with the story that Mr Bett backed down before the meeting to avoid a costly “legal wrangle” over the issue, and said it was a “grey area” as to whether he could step aside.
It’s not. Legal opinion may differ, but it’s long been said that if you pay 2 lawyers you can get at least three opinions. He can’t step aside. It’s black and white, and I’d suggest that’s why he’s back.
People have been complaining that the law around PCC’s is confusing ever since the first candidates with criminal records came unstuck 2 years ago. I’ve read it and, considering it was produced in a hurry, most of it is not unclear – you might not agree with it, but you can tell what it is saying with a little effort. It seems curious to me that people would run for PCC, or administer PCC elections, without having read and appreciated the law around the post and then, when they act outside the law, treat grey as the new black.
For those of you who are counting, that makes 2 little legal victories for TopOfTheCops in the past 2 weeks. I sense there are more to come😉