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Metropolitan Police: Misconduct

Volume 824: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2022


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the interim report by Baroness Casey of Blackstock on misconduct in the Metropolitan Police, published on 17 October.

My Lords, interim findings of the review done by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, set out worrying failures of the Metropolitan Police Service to operate effectively within the misconduct framework and to tackle instances of sexual misconduct and discrimination. I welcome the commissioner’s response, ensuring that action to deliver change must, first and foremost, come from within the Met. The Government have announced an internal review into the effectiveness of the police dismissals process to ensure high standards across policing.

My Lords, does not this report make the most painful reading? It is painful for the Government, who have done little to bear down on police misconduct; painful for fine and trustworthy police officers, who have discharged their duty without fault over many years; and painful above all for those who have served as Metropolitan Police Commissioners. They surely have let down their fine, trustworthy colleagues, by turning a blind eye to the spread of crime and misconduct in the Metropolitan Police. Surely, there can be no doubt that the shocking features of Met activity set out in this report go back years. Will we hear explanations and apologies from those who have served as Metropolitan Police Commissioners in recent years?

Finally, can I seek some information from the Government? How many Metropolitan Police officers are at present under suspension? How many are on long-term sick leave? How many have resigned from the force within the last year while under investigation?

The noble Lord asks a number of questions and invites a number of responses. I shall confine myself to the data that he asked for at the end—and I am grateful to him for giving me advance notice of the data so that I could get the right answers for him.

The Home Office collects and publishes data annually on police officers on long-term absence, classed as those lasting at least 28 calendar days, by type of absence, including suspension and sick leave. This data shows that, as of 31 March 2022, the Metropolitan Police Service had 449 officers full-time equivalent on long-term sick leave and seven officers were suspended. The Home Office does not collect data on the number of officers who resign while under investigation, but I remind the noble Lord that, since December 2017, resignation does not preclude the force from pursuing misconduct proceedings against an officer. In 2021-22, the College of Policing’s barred list statistics show that 14 officers who had resigned and four who had retired would have been dismissed from the Metropolitan Police had they still been serving. These individuals are still placed on the barred list and still prevented from rejoining front-line policing.

I apologise for the long answer, but I felt that it was appropriate.

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, for his fearless efforts on this front over many years. Surely, we are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, for an interim report that appears to contradict the former Met Commissioner’s “few rotten apples” theory about the Metropolitan Police. Might the Minister reflect that, in the light of this interim report, now is not the time to hand even more draconian powers to an unreformed police service. The Government might be wise to swap legislation for the reform of police discipline for the Public Order Bill currently heading our way.

I am afraid that I am going to disappoint the noble Baroness and not agree with her, but I am going to say that I think that the Metropolitan Police Service’s response to the interim report is most welcome. The new commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, has the full support of the Home Secretary in delivering his plan for transforming the Met, focusing on the key areas of more trust, higher standards and less crime. I hope that all noble Lords will welcome his initial responses, which have been broadly welcomed across the spectrum.

My Lords, Sir Mark Rowley has set out a bold plan to turn things around but, without very swift changes to police misconduct regulations and strong support from the Home Secretary, he will not achieve his objectives. Will he get them? Another review is just not good enough.

Again, I am afraid that I do entirely agree. It is also worth pointing out that the noble Lord omitted to mention the split of responsibility between the Home Office, the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The Mayor of London is the occupant of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime—MOPAC—which is the equivalent of a PCC for London. It is responsible for holding the Commissioner of the Met to account for the exercise of their functions and the function of those under their direction and control. MOPAC is also responsible for ensuring that the Metropolitan Police is efficient and effective in setting policing and crime objectives. There are a number of players in this particular space at the moment; they all have a job to do and, as I say, I welcome—and I think everybody should welcome— Sir Mark Rowley’s initial response.

My Lords, my noble friend has just rightly said that action should be taken. I think we all agree that those who transgress the high standards in public office should be dealt with and that lessons should be learned. However, is it not also right for us to acknowledge that the vast majority of serving police officers, men and women, serve this country with the highest levels of probity and public service, for which we should be enormously grateful?

I could not agree more with my noble friend and I am grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to the vast majority of our police men and women in the Met and indeed across the whole country. They do a very difficult and often thankless job in often very difficult conditions, and they do it to a very high standard. I thank my noble friend for the opportunity to say that, and I thank those officers. I am sure that they are equally upset by this report’s findings.

My Lords, it may well be that the problems identified in the Casey report go beyond the Metropolitan Police. On this side of the House, we believe that the Home Secretary needs to personally take action. Will she now require all police forces to produce data and analysis of their misconduct systems in the same level of detail as in the Casey report, so that we can know what is happening in every police force in England and Wales?

The noble Lord makes some sensible suggestions and I refer back to the review that I referenced in my Answer to the original Question. I will quote the Statement made by the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire:

“The Government will work closely with key policing stakeholders to examine evidence of the effectiveness of the system to remove those who are not fit to serve the public. As well as examining the overall effectiveness of dismissal arrangements”,

he expects the review to consider

“the impact of the introduction of Legally Qualified Chairs to decide misconduct cases; whether decisions made by Misconduct Panels are consistent across all 43 forces in England and Wales; and whether forces are making effective use of their powers to dismiss officers on probation. This focused review will be launched shortly and will be conducted swiftly.”—[Official Report, Commons, 18/10/22; col. 22WS.]

My Lords, the House will recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, has done an excellent job in producing such a challenging and far-seeing report. But does the Minister agree that that is only the first stage? The really big test is whether the report will be implemented—and implemented thoroughly. I have not spoken to the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, before I say this, but would the Minister be willing to consider ensuring that she remains involved to ensure that her recommendations are carried through?

Obviously, I cannot commit to that, but I think the noble Lord makes some very sensible points. As I have said already in answering this Question, I am very encouraged by Sir Mark Rowley’s determined statement. Obviously, delivery is slightly different from making a statement, but he has certainly set out on the right road.

My Lords, I think we have a bit of time, so let us hear from my noble friend Lord Hailsham, followed by the noble Lord.

My Lords, may I put to my noble friend a model that Parliament has established for other professions, such as doctors and nurses? He will know that when a complaint is made to one of those authorities, it can be very rapidly transmitted to an independent interim appeals body, which can make an interim order of conditions or suspension pending a proper investigation of the complaint. Is that not a model that we should consider? Although I recognise that there would have to be an independent authority to which the initial complaint is made.

My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register in respect of policing. We are grateful, of course, to the Minister for explaining the complicated arrangements for the governance of policing in London, but could we be clear? He said that the Minister said that the commissioner will have the support of the Home Office. Will that extend to looking at how legally qualified chairs of panels have overturned disciplinary decisions? And, when the going gets extremely tough, will the Home Office support the commissioner? It was the previous commissioner who brought in the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to do this excellent report; will the Home Office now support the new commissioner in making sure that this is implemented—even when it becomes controversial, as it will?

The noble Lord asked me two questions. I refer back to my previous answer on police dismissals. The review will investigate the impact of the introduction of legally qualified chairs. I believe the policy is about seven years old now and it deserves to be looked at, for obvious reasons. As for Home Office support, I think I have been very clear: Sir Mark Rowley enjoys the trust and confidence of the Home Office and the Secretary of State.