Place your Betts

After what seems like an age, and just when it looked like it had all been investigated and resolved, the issue of expenses claims by Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett has surged back into significance with the decision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to appoint the City of London police to undertake a criminal investigation into Mr Bett. Police officers will gather evidence. They will likely question Mr Bett under criminal caution. A report will be prepared for the IPCC, and one of their Commissioners will have to give attention to the question of whether the report indicates that Mr Bett may have committed an offence.

If you want to know more, including specifics about the expenses, see Sally Chidzoy's article for BBC News online here, or if you are quick, at Look East on iPlayer (here at 4 mins 30 for the next few hours) -hence the photo and this article expanding on my comments in that piece.

My concern however is with what Mr Bett did next. He issued a statement that to protect the cops, the Office of the PCC, etc., he would reluctantly be stepping aside temporarily- and while everyone was wondering whether any PCC in such a position should do the same, or whether that would invite just too many allegations, my “Say what?” expression pictured above was around the question of what it means for a PCC to step aside.

Legally, PCCs can't step aside. I don't mean that Mr Bett has done something illegal. It's just that there is no legal status for a PCC to step aside into. A PCC holds their office all the time. They are still a PCC when they are sleeping, still a PCC when they are on holiday, at the weekends and in the bath. If they step anywhere it is not aside but down. A PCC can step down by resigning, but if he or she wants to step up again they'll have to win another election, like the one they've just caused to fill the vacancy they have created. But there is no stepping aside.

A PCC could be suspended, but only by a Police and Crime Panel, and only if the PCC had been charged with a crime, and not just any old crime, but one that meets certain requirements for severity of potential maximum punishment. At that point the PCC would no longer receive their pay and pension contributions and the Panel that had decided the suspension would need to decide on a temporary replacement from among the PCC's employees.

But you'll have noticed that the PCC cannot suspend themselves, or decide their own replacement. They can't even ensure that the job goes to the Deputy they may have appointed.

So what can Mr Bett mean by “step aside”? As Sally Chidzoy reported, there seems to be a bit of confusion at Mr Bett's office, and at the Home Office, about the resultant status of Mr Bett. And while he may or may not be doing the job, he is still entitled to be paid, which should be very popular given this is all about whether he was claiming money he shouldn't have.

As far as I can see, all Mr Bett can mean by standing down is to exercise his powers to delegate as many of his functions as he can to whomever he chooses, and walk out of the building until it all blows over. Except that legally there are three functions he cannot delegate to anyone. These are:-

  1. Issuing a Police and Crime Plan – well, OK, he's done that a year or so ago and has a couple more years to go before he has to do it again.
  2. Hiring or firing the Chief Constable – and again this looks fairly trouble-free, as he's only just appointed a Chief, who has been Acting Chief for a while, so presumably he gets on with him and wasn't planning to lose him soon.
  3. Setting the budget requirement – which he needs to do to set the police bit of the Council Tax – should be safe till January/February at best on that one.

Thankfully the IPCC will treat this with the utmost seriousness and sort it all out in a few weeks, yes? You might think that, particularly if you hadn't been paying attention to what really happens, but the truth is, as someone with a gift for understatement once told me, “IPCC investigations take a long time”.

What this means in practice is that you don't measure the duration of an IPCC investigation with a stopwatch, or even with a calendar. Really you need to get yourself to Greenland and plant a flag at the current extent of the ice sheet and, when you return at the end of the affair, check to see if the word “Greenland” still sounds ironic.

The first IPCC investigation into a PCC was due to a complaint made by, er, yours truly, also about expenses as it happens, and the IPCC started to investigate it in December 2012, a few weeks after the PCC election. 18 months later, as I set off to the TV studios to talk about the situation in Norfolk, I was simultaneously receiving an email from the IPCC that referred to that as the “outstanding” investigation. OK, they had made a referral after a mere 9 months, and had a decision from the CPS after another 3, and there was another month before they gave me a copy of the report only for me to spot the obvious mistakes leading them to “further investigatory work” as a matter of priority, 4 months ago.

That might not happen in this case, but it could be best to be prepared just in case you can't set the Council Tax next year without making a nonsense of your whole “stepping aside” thing, that's all I'm saying.

It would be tempting to criticise this state of affairs as what you get when you rush legislation through Parliament, as happened with PCCs, but I can't honestly do that. I think the rush had to happen if the reform was to get through at all. No, there's a very good reason why those functions are reserved to the Commissioner, and why he can't “stand aside” from them – those three powers are fundamental to the office of PCC. The PCC as the voice of the public sets the priorities, comes up with the money to fund them, and if the PCC reasonably does not have confidence in the person charged with delivering on those priorities, the PCC can replace them with someone who does command that confidence.

So, if Mr Bett has stood aside then, even if someone else gets to put their name by the press releases, Norfolk will not have the PCC they were promised, because that person will not have those powers, unless Mr Bett resigns or is charged and suspended. If Mr Bett has done something wrong he should resign right now. Otherwise he must keep calm and carry on, though that is difficult to do when you've just issued a statement about how you accept the need for you not to be around.

Oh, and should you think this PCC's conduct, past or present, is more evidence against the PCC reform, then remember – he used to chair the Police Authority.

 

 

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Interim Comments on CPS Decision on PCC Clive Grunshaw

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have today announced their decision not to prosecute Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, after concerns were raised following a TopOfTheCops investigation of expenses claims submitted to various authorities between 2009 and 2012.

The text of the CPS statement that has been passed to me is reproduced at the foot of this post, and I thought I should make some brief comments for the benefit of all those who are asking.

In criminal trials in the UK judges ask juries to only convict when they are sure that someone is guilty. Sometimes we use the phrase “beyond reasonable doubt” to describe the level of proof that is required to establish a criminal conviction. Having worked in policing and in investigating miscarriages of justice I am glad that this is the case, even though it sets a higher standard for evidence to meet in a criminal court than in a civil court or in our everyday decisions.

The CPS note that 37 claims made by Mr Grunshaw could potentially have been proved to be incorrect. This is ample justification of the concerns raised by myself and the Sunday Times about these claims. It does not inspire confidence in a Police and Crime Commissioner who has responsibility for over a billion pounds of public expenditure in his term of office.

The CPS refer to 452 claims in total. This could create the mistaken impression that there were questions about less than 10% of the total claims. In fact, many of these other claims involve an amount for subsistence, which is basically a claim for a meal, and submission of those claims require that a receipt be obtained and retained by the claimant where possible. I have asked the authorities, but still have not seen one receipt backing any of those subsistence claims, and it is not yet clear whether the CPS or Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have seen the receipts either. This is an issue because many of the claims were to the maximum amount possible to be claimed, whereas the policies of the authorities only allow actual expenditure to be claimed when it is less than that maximum. The claims therefore suggest that expense at or above the maximum was incurred on a regular basis, and Mr Grunshaw should have the receipts to prove this. I ask “Show us the receipts, Clive“. It is imperative that the people of Lancashire should have confidence in the integrity of their Police and Crime Commissioner, and I call on Mr Grunshaw to publish those receipts so that this can happen. This is something the Commissioner has repeatedly failed to do.

The CPS make mention of Mr Grunshaw not claiming on 28 occasions where he was entitled, and that this suggests no financial gain was sought, but no details for the nature of these claims has been published in order to establish that there was an entitlement.

It is difficult to comment further as none of us yet have the benefit of the report of the IPCC investigation, hence the interim nature of my comments. However, this decision should now clear the way for the IPCC report to be published.

The beauty of the system of elected Police and Crime Commissioners, and open publication of such investigations is that we all should then be able to make our own decision about what has happened in this case, including the members of the Labour Party in Lancashire when they come to select their candidate next time, and the people of Lancashire when they consider who is worthy of their support at the next PCC elections.

 

CPS Statement

“A file was submitted in October 2013, and all evidence received in mid-November 2013, in order for the CPS to consider if potential charges of fraud by false misrepresentation should be brought against Mr Clive Grunshaw. To prosecute this offence dishonesty must be proved.

 

“The allegations concern a number of expenses claims made over a three year period between January 2009 and December 2012, during which time Mr Grunshaw was a member of both Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Police Authority. These expenses generally related to travel and subsistence claims for attendance at meetings for both authorities.

 

“The evidence has now been considered in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, and we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove that any claim had been submitted dishonestly, and therefore there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for any relevant criminal offence.

 

“During the three year period Mr Grunshaw made 37 claims, out of 452 in total, which the evidence indicates, according to the Code for Crown Prosecutors, could potentially have been proved to be incorrect. Mr Grunshaw was making claims for expenses incurred through work for three organisations, and the evidence suggests errors rather than deliberacy on his part. In addition it appears that Mr Grunshaw did not submit around 28 claims to which he was entitled and this suggests that no financial gain was sought. In the light of these factors, our assessment is that there is insufficient evidence to show that any of these claims was submitted dishonestly.

 

“In all the circumstances of this case, therefore, we have concluded that no further action should be taken.”

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Changing Roles

This site's coverage of the Police and Crime Commissioner reform has been, in a very Cromwellian way, 'warts and all'. TopOfTheCops covers the bad as well as the good, and points out the inconvenient. It should be remembered however that, overall, this writer takes the view that the PCC reform is a Good Thing, even worthy of initial capitalisation, although that places him on the opposite side of many in policing.

As one example of the good take the recent conclusion of the investigation into PCC for North Wales, Winston Roddick CB QC. Someone had suggested that Mr Roddick had been telling porkies about where he lived when he submitted his nomination before the elections. That was a serious allegation, not only against one of her majesty's Counsel, who only ever speak the truth, but also because it would have involved a criminal offence, which does not look good on your record if you are in charge of police governance and tackling crime in your area.

Happily for Mr Roddick the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigated the matter and decided not to refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service. A different PCC in another matter has suggested that referring their investigations to the CPS is just what the IPCC do, but clearly not in the case of Mr Roddick.

Now, in normal circumstances, pretty much anywhere else in public life that would be the end of it. We would not be privy to the detail of the investigation. We would not find out the reasoning that lay behind it. We would have to like it or lump it, as it were, but things are not this way in PCC world, for here we have a right to know.

Thanks to one of the better parts of the PCC reform, where the IPCC accept a case involving allegations against a PCC, including all that could be criminal, the final report of the investigator becomes a public document. We do not only see the decision of the IPCC, but also some account of the investigation and why the investigator came to the conclusions they did.

What openness! There is a facility for redaction of certain matters, and for delay in publication while criminal proceedings take place, but we actually get to see the report without it having had to go to the Home Affairs Select Committee first.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if that were the case for all criminal investigations, and not just PCCs and their Deputies. You and I, the people who pay for the investigations, and in whose name they are taken forward, could look at the results and even do a bit of “armchair auditing” to see whether there are any problems with them. Extraordinary that this happens, or perhaps more extraordinary that it doesn't!

Anyway, this development has allowed the 4 unelected candidates in North Wales to have their say, and to complain about redaction of addresses and express their doubts about the conclusion. Well, you can assess that yourself – this whole system is very, well, Protestant – virtually a Reformation in criminal investigation. Cromwell would be proud!

For my part, I struggle to agree with them. It seems to me that Mr Roddick is completely exonerated by the IPCC report. The investigator approached Mr Roddick's mobile phone provider and secured details of which mobile phone masts his phone was using for 44 critical days to see if that shed any light on where he was living. And given that, on all but a few of those days, his phone was keeping busy the mobile phone mast within 500 metres of the address that he had been claiming to live at, it appears that everything was in order. If Mr Roddick wasn't living there at that time, he would have had to plan in advance to make sure that his mobile phone was living there, just in case anyone complained. Unlikely. Case closed.

The rest of the argument seems to be about the impact of him having homes elsewhere, and how long he intended to stay, but I can see why someone might find the mobile phone evidence good enough to provide a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card, provided the right 44 days were chosen.

So, what does this tell us more generally?

1. Criminal investigations of the IPCC will result in a report for the public to read, not just a decision.

2. The IPCC will not always refer the results of their investigation to the CPS. When there is no reason to believe someone has committed an offence there is no reason to, and indeed no power to.

3. There's a good chance the IPCC and possibly anyone they investigate will have spotted that the report will be made public. This changes the dynamic. There is now less of a reason for PCCs under suspicion to say “it would not be appropriate for me to comment”, as there's a good chance their most relevant comments to the investigators will become public knowledge anyway. Maybe some will see the benefits of being open and transparent right from the start, rather than have a report emerge just as the dust was settling that then prolongs any political difficulties they experience as a result of an investigation.

4. The IPCC are quite happy to seek out mobile phone records to help tie people to places and times in their investigations. I have previously suggested one case where that might be helpful and it only took a few minutes use of the relevant OFCOM database for me to locate the phone masts most likely to assist. Have a go yourself!

5. Despite the IPCC's investigation and their internal quality-control process, no-one seems to have spotted that “electoral role” should actually have been rendered as “electoral roll”.

 

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Only a few coppers

Having decided that the time had come for a particular child of mine to stay in his own bed till morning, I have spent the past few nights enforcing this particular policy, and enduring the inevitable protests. At times these have gone on till hours of the day I last saw when I was a police officer getting up and ready for the early shift.

So it was that this morning's meeting of the Lancashire Police and Crime Panel looked like an excellent place to get a couple of hours of child-free kip. To be fair to myself, the previous meetings of this august body had done little to dispel that notion. I am a veteran of meetings and committees and, in its first year, as the Panel began to explore its area of work, apart from some unpleasant sniping from one member who has now departed, there was little in the way of 'action' to keep people awake. I duly settled into my seat and waited for the soporific effects to do their work.

But it was not to be.

I had wondered if it would be different this time. This was the first meeting of the Panel after the announcement that the investigation into Clive Grunshaw's former expense claims had been referred by the Independent Police Complaints Commission to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and therefore the first instance of feedback about the complaint being given to the Panel, albeit minimal. It was possible that some of the Commissioner's political opponents might take this as an opportunity to make a few cross words, and the presence of a couple of reporters lent itself to that possibility, but in the end the item breezed through without comment.

So, time for a snooze? Not quite. The PCC began with his by-now-familiar impression of a harbinger of doom. “So much money has been taken away”…”tipping point”…”Government moving the goalposts”, etc. and the Chief Constable joined the refrain. Then one Councillor, Simon Blackburn, Labour Leader of Blackpool Borough Council said there was a basic issue of fairness – 95% of the people who paid Council Tax wouldn't venture into the Town Centres at night, so why should they pay for the policing of the problems there? Shouldn't the alcohol industry be paying for it?

But then the awkward bit – “Why is the impetus to do this coming from local authorities and not from the police and the Office of the PCC?”

Now, even I have recognised the need for PCCs to have a little time to bed in, and so have refrained from criticising their individual performance in any detail. That comment seemed a little spiky, especially when reinforced with the suggestion that soon followed, that Council leaders were really looking for the PCC to bring authorities together, and the implication that he was failing to do this.

The Panel Chair, Kate Hollern, Labour Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, diverted the discussion onto the issue of a minimum price for alcohol, a difficult issue for Conservatives given the Government's official used-to-be-for-it/now-against-it stance. The Commissioner took the lifeline and before long we were back to the Chief Constable talking about the importance of back office staff, de minimus positions and the loss of analysts.

At which point, Cllr Blackburn intervened again, saying how nice it was to be able to talk to the Chief Constable, and how valued his contribution always is, but the Panel is really there to hold the PCC to account and it would be nice to have the PCC answer the questions, not the Chief. Ouch!

At this point, despite knowing that Cllr Blackburn was the Labour leader of Blackpool Council, the party from which Mr Grunshaw has just been suspended, I still felt it necessary to check this via Google. Yes, still Labour. Currently quitting smoking – perhaps that explains the tetchiness?

Peter Gibson, Conservative Leader of Wyre Borough, noted that, despite austerity, crime figures continue to fall, and research shows the public thinking that public services generally have improved despite cuts, and further Council leaders sought to urge the PCC to tackle problems with extended drinking hours under the Licensing Act.

There was further discussion. The PCC went on a bit about the 'bedroom tax' and how he'd like the flexibility to use the Council Tax to address some of the Police budget problems, and someone pointed out that he's already had a significant rise in Council Tax this year, and that his financial documents worked on the assumption of a further 2% rise in the next year

The PCC said that last year it was 2% “if that's a significant rise”, and that “I will be guided by what the people of Lancashire tell me”, a reference to his Office's report of some cheerful survey work suggesting 83% would be happy to pay more for policing. (At which point I should note that we don't know how many of this amiable bunch actually pay Council Tax, which is surely needed to make the answer in any way meaningful.)

Cllr Blackburn said Blackpool assumes a 0% rise and “What are the people of Lancashire telling you that the people of Blackpool are not telling me?” On remaining unconvinced by the PCC's flannelling around policing being “more tangible” than Council services, Cllr Blackburn continued, saying that if any local authority leader thought 83% of the public would support an increase, they would have had a referendum by now, not just the what-we-can-get-away-with attitude that the PCC was displaying. Cllr Blackburn felt a referendum would fail, and the survey could not safely be used in the way the PCC was using it.

Then the Chair (yes, still Labour), began to question how robust were the set of assumptions in the PCCs report, leaving Jennifer Mein, Labour Leader of Lancashire County Council to perhaps attempt to throw Clive a rope. She asked what a 1% change on the Police precept would mean for a Band D household.

Clive knows what to do with a rope, and promptly fashioned it into a noose for his own neck. Neither the PCC or his finance officer knew the answer, so Jennifer supplied her own – “Coppers”, by which I think she meant pennies, but it works either way.

The finance officer did say a 1% change was worth about £600,000 to the PCC's budget, but then the PCC was castigated by the Conservative leader of West Lancs district for having the assumption that the Council Tax payer would pick up the PCC's bill, and there was more widespread concern about his increase being added to a County increase, a District increase, etc. That's the thing with those pennies – they add up to over a million pounds quite quickly.

At which point Councillor Blackburn said to the PCC “if you come with a 2% uplift come budget time I for one will not be happy with it”. I checked. Still Labour. Looks like the PCC's proposed precept will not have the easy ride it did last year.

This was not the PCC's happiest meeting, and most of the flak came from what might previously have been regarded as his own side. This is good. I have used party labels above to illustrate this point, but actually if they do their job right they will hold him to account regardless of party, and so really this was their best meeting to date. But it also raises the question as to whether there has been what would in Tony Blair's time been described as a 'withdrawal of love' from this PCC, which does not tend to end well for the subject.

One further vignette from the meeting. The forward plan references a review of the lease on the Lockside offices formerly occupied by the Police Authority, and currently by the same people now working for the PCC. In future the PCC's staff may be split between Police Headquarters at Hutton and a public-facing office at County Hall. When asked about this the PCC said “The Lockside offices may have been functional for the Police Authority, but they are not functional for the PCC as no-one knows where they are.”

So no-one knew where the Police Authority was and it didn't matter? Was there ever a more concise argument for their abolition?

 

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Independent investigation refers Lancashire PCC to prosecutors

The Independent Police Complaints Commission have today announced the results of their investigation into concerns I raised last year about expenses claims submitted by Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw in his former roles as a member of Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Police Authority. You can see Mr Grunshaw's response here.

The IPCC has decided to refer the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The decision is based on an investigator's report and, while the law requires that the report be published, the IPCC are allowed to delay publication for a variety of reasons, including such things as the need to prevent disclosure of information relevant to prospective criminal proceedings.

As the person who discovered and reported these issues to the authorities I have provided a witness statement to the investigation and I am a potential witness in any resulting criminal proceedings. Therefore, at the moment, for legal reasons, I will not be commenting in public in any detail on the evidence in the case, which is the stance I have taken since the IPCC's investigation began.

Mr Grunshaw, however, is not restricted in that way. It is now 9 months since these issues became public, and there is a risk that public confidence in the governance of policing could be damaged. His post is all about giving the public that confidence, and he says today that he has complied fully with the investigative process. He could go further and let the people of Lancashire in on everything he has told the investigators. He could publish the receipts for the expenses claims that are under scrutiny. If he wants to do his job and maintain public confidence in the governance of policing then he surely needs to go beyond bland assurances that he never meant to do anything wrong and give us some facts. One day the investigator's report will be published, and we will see what it says, so what has Mr Grunshaw got to lose? In the meantime he needs to look more like a Police Commissioner, and less like a defendant.

I remain happy to explain the process and legislation. For clarity, readers should appreciate that the IPCC's role investigating Police and Crime Commissioners is new and their decision is the first such decision governed by a new law.

Under The Elected Local Policing Bodies (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012, (s.26) for the referral to be made, the IPCC has had to conclude that both the following conditions have been satisfied :-

 

1. that the report from their investigator indicates that a criminal offence may have been committed by the relevant office holder.

2. that the circumstances are such that, in the opinion of the Commission, it is appropriate for the matters dealt with in the report to be considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

 

The Director of Public Prosecutions will now decide whether to bring any criminal charges against Commissioner Grunshaw and, if so, which charges to bring.

In the meantime I would like to thank the officers of the Independent Police Complaints Commission for giving so much of their time and energy to investigating these serious matters. I look forward to further news from the Crown Prosecution Service, and to reading the IPCC investigator's report when it is eventually published.

 

Sam Chapman

Editor@TopOfTheCops.com

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A bit of politics

Congratulations are due today to Bob Jones, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, for outsmarting the Home Secretary on the politics of PCCs. Mr Jones, or some clever member of staff, has spotted that, while the Government went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that PCCs could not have employment contracts with people who were politically active, it conspicuously failed to ban PCCs from having service contracts with them.

As revealed by Fiona Hamilton in today’s Times, a Freedom of Information request from your favourite PCC blog at TopOfTheCops has established that what looked like a recruitment campaign earlier this year for “Assistant Commissioners” and non-executive members of a “Strategic Policing Board” was, technically speaking, not a recruitment campaign, but a procurement exercise in drag. The folk appointed are not Assistant Commissioners, or Board Members. They hold no employment or office. They are contractors providing a service, who can be dispensed with at a month’s notice, and who have no employment rights.

So what?

Well, Mr Jones, who was a Labour Councillor when elected, and who appointed a Labour Councillor as his Deputy, used the ‘recruitment campaign’ to appoint, wouldn’t you know it, 3 Labour Councillors (Faye Abbott, Judy Foster and Mohammed Nazir) to the, I guess technically non-existent, positions of Assistant Commissioners, giving them each £22,500 per year on top of their Council allowances for the two and a half days a week they spend ‘delivering a service’.

Some crumbs fell from the banqueting table for other parties too – £7,500 each for Lib Dem Councillor Ernie Hendricks, Conservative Councillor Tim Sawdon, former Independent PCC Candidate Cath Hannon and businessman Brendan Connor – all as non-executive members of the Board, but actually on service contracts.

Now, you all know the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 as well as I do, and I’m sure that when you were going through Schedule 16 of that Act and got to section 200, you noticed that any PCC employee who isn’t the Deputy PCC is automatically in a politically restricted post. So, Councillors cannot be employed by a PCC – but it turns out they can work for him, as long as they don’t count as employed.

So – general smug feelings all round in the West Midlands then? Well, maybe not. This sort of thing does not come about without certain complications….

1) Everybody else who works for the PCC is politically restricted. Everyone else. That includes the Chief Executive, of course, but also the office cleaner if the PCC employs them. It is just about the most all-encompassing political restriction I’ve ever seen. Even Civil Servants are allowed to be involved in local politics, and in local government the restrictions are themselves restricted depending on the nature and  seniority of the post, but all PCC employees are politically restricted. Which is why this law always looked a bit dodgy. It is overbroad. It shows no proportionality or consideration of degree or purpose. In its effort to be whiter than white the issue of those workers’ entitlements under Human Rights law is ignored and so the law could easily be subject to challenge. But how much more is this likely when, thanks to Mr Jones, it can be shown that someone else recruited like an employee, referred to in terms similar to an employee, and working like an employee, can through this ruse retain their active involvement in politics? This loophole undermines any Human Rights defence of just about any political restriction – as it becomes impossible to show the restriction is ‘necessary’ or ‘reasonable’ when they manage perfectly well without it in Birmingham.

2) Councillors around the country take note – here is a way to employ your political mates on decent rates without those pesky rules getting in the way. Think of what you could do – this could make politics popular again!

3) Except there are those other rules – procurement rules. Did these appointments that aren’t really appointments meet the rules that cover the award of contracts?

4) Contracts for service have previously raised their ugly heads because they allow folk to earn money in an, ahem, ‘tax efficient’ way. Are Mr Jones’s contractors paying personal income tax rates on these earnings, or perhaps less?

5) People who are not employees cannot be disciplined. They can’t be prosecuted for malfeasance in a public office because they don’t have an office. There is no established fair procedure to tease out what really happened in any given problem, and they lack the protection of employment law, which could make them overly agreeable to the PCC if their income depends entirely on his good humour.

If Mr Jones has put a nail in the coffin of the concept of political restriction, there will be few people happier than TopOfTheCops.   I note that a number of potential and actual candidates at the PCC election faced life-changing barriers to standing due to the political restriction rules. I favour registration of employees’ political affiliations, not the current pretense that they don’t have any.

But…

…you knew there would be a but…

… I also note that the West Midlands Police Authority, 17 members made up of a mixture of Councillors and Independents and led by Bob Jones, seems to have been replaced by a Strategic Policing Board, 9 members made up of a mixture of Councillors and Independents and led by Bob Jones. You could come to the view that not much had changed, that this flagship PCC policy doesn’t really apply in the West Midlands, and you might note that a net change of 8 members has only saved £30,000, meaning that on a per-member basis the new arrangements are actually more expensive than what they replaced.

The curious thing is that the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act specifically bans people on service contracts to the police or to PCCs from standing to become PCCs. In other words, when the Government were drafting the legislation, they knew about this loophole, but for some reason only closed it for those who wanted to be PCCs, leaving Mr Jones free to use it to recreate the police authority in miniature and resist the Government’s entire reform.

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Operation Hotpot

In a break with tradition, Lancashire Constabulary has today announced the launch of its 'Rebranding Rebranding' programme, under which short meaningless titles for projects will be banned, and officers will be encouraged to use descriptions that don't have to be explained, because they already mean what they say. “It's bit like the Rebranding Rebranding programme itself.” said force spokesperson Chief Inspector April Prime. “What we are doing is rebranding the very act of rebranding, which is a core part of modern policing. There will be no more Operation this or Operation that, because policing isn't just about dressing up in uniforms and playing soldier. Things will only use the term 'operation', if they involve actual operations, you know, with Doctors and Nurses and all that. We hope the scheme will save money because, while the titles will be longer, we won't have to spend time and money explaining to our staff and partner organisations what these various things are all about.

Operation Nimrod will become 'Locking up Drug Dealers”. The Tower Programme will become “Making Thieves Take Their Methadone”. Operation Summer Nights will become “Looking Busy When We've Only Got A Budget For Public Relations”.

The scheme has become controversial though, because it introduces rules for rebranding activity that are felt to limit officers' career development. Under the scheme, officers who initiate rebranding initiatives may only do so after signing a commitment not to seek promotion in the next 3 years, after an analysis of previous projects showed a correlation between the number of rebranding initiatives proposed by an officer and their rank held when leaving the force.

Chief Inspector Prime explained, “We just asked ourselves the question 'If everything is continually improving, how come nothing ever gets any better?' It turns out that a number of schemes were only successful before they were implemented, in the planning stage and not after. Where they were genuinely successful sometimes the blindingly obvious had simply been repackaged under a fancy name. Either way the person who invented it was usually then promoted.”

The force is understood to have encountered some resistance from officers with ACPO aspirations. One said on condition of anonymity “You only get thirty years to get through the ten ranks from Constable to Met Commissioner. Promotion every three years is pretty much required to ensure the force has senior leaders tomorrow.”

But Chief Inspector Prime is undaunted “Historically, we have been the first force to do many different things, from police radios to time travel. Now we're the first not to be the first with anything anymore.” It is understood that the force are already considering renaming the initiative Operation Hotpot, in the hope the Lancashire connection is preserved as the successful initiative is taken up in other forces.

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Operation Hotpot

In a break with tradition, Lancashire Constabulary has today announced the launch of its 'Rebranding Rebranding' programme, under which short meaningless titles for projects will be banned, and officers will be encouraged to use descriptions that don't have to be explained, because they already mean what they say. “It's bit like the Rebranding Rebranding programme itself.” said force spokesperson Chief Inspector April Prime. “What we are doing is rebranding the very act of rebranding, which is a core part of modern policing. There will be no more Operation this or Operation that, because policing isn't just about dressing up in uniforms and playing soldier. Things will only use the term 'operation', if they involve actual operations, you know, with Doctors and Nurses and all that. We hope the scheme will save money because, while the titles will be longer, we won't have to spend time and money explaining to our staff and partner organisations what these various things are all about.

Operation Nimrod will become 'Locking up Drug Dealers”. The Tower Programme will become “Making Thieves Take Their Methadone”. Operation Summer Nights will become “Looking Busy When We've Only Got A Budget For Public Relations”.

The scheme has become controversial though, because it introduces rules for rebranding activity that are felt to limit officers' career development. Under the scheme, officers who initiate rebranding initiatives may only do so after signing a commitment not to seek promotion in the next 3 years, after an analysis of previous projects showed a correlation between the number of rebranding initiatives proposed by an officer and their rank held when leaving the force.

Chief Inspector Prime explained, “We just asked ourselves the question 'If everything is continually improving, how come nothing ever gets any better?' It turns out that a number of schemes were only successful before they were implemented, in the planning stage and not after. Where they were genuinely successful sometimes the blindingly obvious had simply been repackaged under a fancy name. Either way the person who invented it was usually then promoted.”

The force is understood to have encountered some resistance from officers with ACPO aspirations. One said on condition of anonymity “You only get thirty years to get through the ten ranks from Constable to Met Commissioner. Promotion every three years is pretty much required to ensure the force has senior leaders tomorrow.”

But Chief Inspector Prime is undaunted “Historically, we have been the first force to do many different things, from police radios to time travel. Now we're the first not to be the first with anything anymore.” It is understood that the force are already considering renaming the initiative Operation Hotpot, in the hope the Lancashire connection is preserved as the successful initiative is taken up in other forces.

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Policing: The Only Way is Ethics

Today, you can find my comments on allegations that undercover police officers stole the identities of dead children here at MSN UK News #SocialVoices.

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The removal of local justice

Julie Iles ran as Conservative Candidate for Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner after years of service as a local magistrate.

An unexpected consequence of standing for election as the Police and Crime Commissioner in Surrey has been my resignation as a magistrate.

Regular readers of TopOfTheCops will know that when Lord Justice Goldring issued guidance, stating that magistrates were required to resign if they were standing for this office, I was part of the delegation that secured a change to this position. My concern then was not only for magistrates who had already been selected as candidates but also for other magistrates who had been, or were likely to be, appointed to serve on Police and Crime Panels as LJ Goldring had also called for them to resign.

I was always very clear that I would resign as a magistrate if I took office as PCC because I felt the two roles were incompatible and I communicated this through my blog on the campaign website in August. Throughout the campaign I was on leave of absence from the bench but I had hoped to resume sitting if I was not successful in being elected as PCC.

Having been clear on this I was surprised when a complaint was submitted to the Lord Chancellors Advisory Committee. I was less surprised when I saw that it came from a Labour Party activist who was a sub agent for the Labour candidate. His claims were that I used my role in the judiciary to validate my campaign, that I implied I would continue as a magistrate if elected and that I would use my position as a magistrate to deliver on election pledges. Having responded in writing perhaps my biggest surprise was that the Advisory Committee did not dismiss the complaint as pure political mischief making.

Taking these claims in turn surely it would have been strange if I had not referenced the fact that I was a magistrate? I had been for the best part of ten years and my desire to make a difference in the criminal justice landscape stemmed at least in part from being a magistrate. I said throughout that being a magistrate gave me a genuine experience of the impact that crime had on peoples’ lives. I did not imply that I would continue as a magistrate in fact I had publicly communicated the very opposite. Finally I was not elected to the office of PCC so any issue about using the judiciary to deliver on election promises was completely redundant and yet I was asked to attend a conduct investigation panel.

One of the qualities that used to be valued in magistrates and actively tested in the recruitment process was that of “common sense”. Convening a panel of four people plus a note taker seemed to me to be the antithesis of a common sense approach, a waste of the public purse and a case of being seen to follow the process, dot the i’s, cross the t’s and cover oneself. I attended although I had already made up my mind to resign regardless of what their findings might be.

Two other things were also raised. One was an email from the Divisional manager for Victim Support. She had written to me after the election because they were rolling out a presentation across schools and it was something she wanted me to help with as I already worked with schools in Surrey for our Magistrates in the Community scheme. My bench chairman felt it was inappropriate that this lady wanted to develop the connection we had made during the course of the campaign. I explained that I did not know this lady beforehand, we had met twice formally during the campaign and I would not see her again in the course of any court room duties. In any event if someone is known the magistrate would recuse themselves from taking any part in proceedings.

Second was a tweet I posted some weeks after the election when our Surrey PCC, Kevin Hurley, appointed his deputy. Mr Hurley is a former policeman and so is his deputy. I do hold a view that police policing the police is not what was envisaged in setting up the office of Police and Crime Commissioner – you only have to look at recent big headline stories to know that introspection has not served the public well. My tweet was simply a signpost to the announcement followed by ”another ex- policeman just what we need?” It was a question to stimulate debate on social media.

On both of these things the panel did not explain, though I asked repeatedly, in what way I might be biased in performing any court room duties. Magistrates have no dealings with Victim Support and neither the PCC nor his deputy have powers to direct arrests or how any investigation is conducted and therefore are not instrumental in matters being judged in court. However the panel did talk about the perception of bias and given the famous quote “perception is reality” how can one fight a perception that cannot be explained ergo guilty until proven innocent.

In spite of my resignation the panel have still reported their recommendations to the Office of Judicial Complaints, namely that I would require formal advice before returning to the bench. As I am not returning I can at least save the Lord Chancellor from troubling himself with this.

I am capable of independent thought, I have freedom of speech in this country and I’m not prepared to give up all outside interests in order to carry on being a J.P.

This whole sorry process sums up the spread of the nanny state and the removal of local justice. None of the people on the panel knew me much less had sat with me in court to form any opinion as to my impartiality. It’s a poor return on the investment that the court service have made in my training and development and the input that I have given back to this voluntary service. It seems that the senior judiciary are uncomfortable with the role of the PCC but if magistrates are to hold them at arms’ length we will never have a joined up approach to keeping the Queens peace, accepting community responsibility for our safety and preserving law and order.

 

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