Skip to main content

Police: Private Prosecutions

Volume 752: debated on Tuesday 4 February 2014

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the concerns expressed by the Lord Chief Justice in relation to the Metropolitan Police assisting a private prosecution in return for a share of the compensation recovered.

My Lords, Section 93 of the Police Act 1996 explicitly allows the local policing bodies—for example, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and PCCs elsewhere—to receive payments in a range of circumstances. However, we understand the concern that this “slice of the cake” issue has raised and we will be revising the financial management code of practice as appropriate to take account of it.

My Lords, the Met seems to have been persuaded by Virgin to embark on a novel extension of the concept of payment by results, and one that is fraught with potential conflicts of interests. Will the Home Secretary, therefore, issue guidance to the Met and other police forces on the impropriety of such arrangements? Will the Government confirm that they will meet the concerns of the Lord Chief Justice over the dangers of more private prosecutions, as funding for the police and Crown Prosecution Service is cut?

My Lords, perhaps I may reiterate what I said in my opening response. I understand the concerns raised about the police assisting in a private prosecution with a promise of a share of compensation. We expect high standards from the police; I think all noble Lords would accept that. In particular, in this case, the Met received only overtime costs, which is right and proper. As I said, we will be updating the guidance to PCCs and the Met to make it clear that such agreements should not be entered into.

My Lords, did not the Lord Chief Justice urge police chiefs to give urgent—I stress that word—consideration to a practice that undermined the reputation of the police for independence? He was deeply concerned about it. Those are serious observations; they come from an impeccable source, do they not?

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister agrees that trust in the police is absolutely essential. To be trusted they need to be trustworthy, and to be trustworthy they need to be seen to be trustworthy.

My noble friend is right about this. The public expect the highest level of professionalism and integrity from the police. Next month will be the first anniversary of the Home Secretary’s Statement to Parliament on the College of Policing, which I repeated here. The College of Policing is setting out those measures to ensure that the integrity of the police force we share is of the highest standard. This year will see the publication for the first time of a code of ethics by the college.

My Lords, the noble Lord has told the House that the Government are taking this issue seriously and will consider it seriously. Can he tell us how long we will have to wait to see the results of that consideration?

No, I think I have given the House an assurance that the Government are seeking to act on the code of conduct of financial affairs for the police, and they will be doing so.