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Police (Complaints)

Volume 887: debated on Thursday 6 March 1975

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13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to introduce legislation to give effect to his policy to introduce an independent system for considering complaints against the police.

As soon as the consultations, which are well advanced, are complete and parliamentary time can be found.

I am grateful for that answer, and happy to hear that the consultations are going well, but does my right hon. Friend appreciate that nothing would do more to restore and to improve confidence between the public and the police than the implementation of some system along these lines? If my right hon. Friend appreciates that, as I am sure he does, will he get on with the job as quickly as possible? It has dawdled a very long time.

In relation to the length of time that it has been under discussion, it has not dawdled for an immense time under me, though I should not wish to see it dawdle at all. There are a few points remaining to be settled in consultation. There is the problem of avoiding any question of double jeopardy—to which the Police Federation attaches great importance—while providing adequate powers to chief officers to maintain discipline over their forces and to investigate most rigorously. This bears upon the previous Question, concerning matters of discipline and possible corruption within the police. I hope that we can find a satisfactory solution. I should then wish to bring forward the legislation as quickly as is reasonably practicable. I note, as I am sure the House will, that Lord Justice Scarman, in the course of what I thought was a very distinguished report, lent his support to this view.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that in any revised procedure for investigating complaints there is effective provision for punishing those whose complaints are shown to be not only unfounded but maliciously inspired?

Certainly we wish to discourage complaints which are unfounded. It is a little difficult to have any effective system in which someone who complains is positively punished. I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but the implications sound a little far-reaching to me.