Government introduces Policing and Crime Bill

The Home Office has introduced new legislation which will aim to finish the job of police reform.

The purpose of the Policing and Crime Bill is to enhance the democratic accountability of police forces, and fire and rescue services, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency services through closer collaboration and build public confidence in policing.

It will strengthen the protections for persons under investigation by, or who come into contact with, the police; ensure that the police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to prevent, detect and investigate crime; and further safeguard children and young people from sexual exploitation.

The main provisions of the Bill will:

  • Place a duty on police, fire and ambulance services to collaborate and enable Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services, where a local case is made.
  • Reform the police disciplinary and complaints systems to ensure that the public have confidence in their ability to hold the police to account, and that police officers will uphold the highest standards of integrity.
  • Better enable chief officers to make the most efficient and effective use of their workforce by giving them the flexibility to confer a wider range of powers on police staff and volunteers – whilst for the first time specifying a core list of powers that may only be exercised by warranted police officers – and conferring a power on the Home Secretary to specify police ranks in regulations, thereby affording the flexibility to introduce a flatter rank structure.
  • Reform pre-charge bail to put a stop to people remaining on bail for lengthy periods with no independent judicial scrutiny of its continued necessity.
  • Stop children and young people under 18 experiencing a mental health crisis being detained in police custody – and restricting the circumstances when adults can be taken to police stations – by reforming police powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

The Policing and Crime Bill aims to finish the job of police reform by freeing up police time; ensuring forces have the right people and skills to cope with the changing nature of crime; increasing public confidence in the police; and overhauling the police complaints and disciplinary systems to increase accountability, ensuring cases are dealt with quickly and effectively.

Our police reforms are working and crime has fallen. The independent Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that crime has fallen by more than a quarter since June 2010, with some 2.9 million fewer crimes a year.

We are seeing the benefits of HMIC’s scrutiny in more accurate crime recording, particularly of violence. In addition, more victims of sexual offences and domestic abuse offences are coming forward. Public confidence in the police remains high. Public perceptions of crime are improving both nationally and locally, and more people believe the criminal justice system is effective.

The reforms included in this Bill will continue this progress by supporting dedicated police officers in delivering the best service possible and continuing to enhance the public’s confidence in their local force.

The Bill brings in several new key measures, including initially limiting pre-charge bail to 28 days, placing a duty on police, fire and ambulance services to collaborate, reforming the police disciplinary and complaints systems and better enabling chief officers to make the most efficient and effective use of their workforce.

The Bill also contains provisions which will:

  • Further strengthen the independence of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and ensure that it is able to deliver end-to-end inspections of the police.
  • Strengthen the accountability and transparency of the Police Federation for England and Wales by extending its core purpose to cover the public interest and making it subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
  • Amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), including to ensure that 17-year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes, and to facilitate the increased use of video link technology.
  • Amend the Firearms Acts to better protect the public by closing loopholes that can be exploited by criminals and terrorists, and by ensuring through statutory guidance that there is a robust process for assessing suitability to hold a firearms licence or shotgun certificate.
  • Confer on the police and immigration officers a power to require an arrested person to state their nationality and to require suspected foreign nationals to produce a nationality document within a specified period following arrest and create a new offence for a failure to comply without reasonable excuse.
  • Better protect children and young people from sexual exploitation by ensuring that relevant offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 cover the live streaming of images of child sex abuse.

Police reforms since 2010 have brought in proper accountability, real transparency and much greater efficiency. The Policing and Crime Bill gives effect to the Government’s commitments to “finish the job of police reform”, “enable fire and police services to work more closely together and develop the role of our elected and accountable Police and Crime Commissioners” and “overhaul the police complaints system”.

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