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Public Safety Updates

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 20 July 2023

College of Policing Codes of Practice

The Government are today laying two important and significant codes of practice concerning the vetting of police officers and police information and records management. Both codes of practice have been drafted by the College of Policing following extensive public and stakeholder consultation. In accordance with my responsibilities under Section 39A of the Police Act 1996,1 have authorised both codes to be laid before Parliament.

The vetting code of practice 2023 replaces the previous 2017 code, strengthening the standards that forces are expected to adhere to when vetting their officers and staff. This work was completed at the request of the Home Secretary in response to the concerning findings of the His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspection into vetting, counter-corruption and misogyny last year as well as recent high-profile cases of police misconduct and criminality.

Chief officers must have due regard to the code in discharging their functions to which the code relates. The revised code makes it clear that the expectation is on chief officers to ensure vetting standards are maintained within their force. The code includes clarification that an inability to hold minimum vetting clearance will result in dismissal proceedings, as well as emphasising that vetting clearance will be reviewed following the conclusion of misconduct proceedings which do not result in dismissal. It also sets the requirement for a full rationale to be recorded where vetting is granted with conditions, withdrawn or declined; ensuring that decision making is appropriately documented.

In addition to revising the vetting code of practice, the College of Policing is also in the process of updating the accompanying vetting authorised professional practice (APP), as well as overhauling the police code of ethics.

The code of practice for police information and records management replaces the existing code of practice for management of police information (2005), and details key principles for the management of all police information and records and reflects related legislative developments such as those relating to data protection. It will mean that a broader range of police records are retained by forces in the future, meaning there is less risk of losing important records for future scrutiny.

This code has been developed in response to recommendations made in the Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) report and Bishop James Jones’s report titled “‘The patronising disposition of unaccountable power’ A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated”, which highlighted that previously vital records relating to Hillsborough could have been destroyed and would not have been available to the HIP. The introduction of the code will mean that more police records will be retained than in the past, thereby addressing concerns expressed in both reports that the management of police records and information was variable and inconsistent.

The new code of practice is supported by complementary APP titled “Archiving of records in the public interest”, which provides specific guidance aimed at information management practitioners that defines the types of records that may be in the public interest and which forces should seek to preserve.

I am grateful to the college for its work in developing these codes and to the various organisations that provided input as part of their development or via consultation.

The codes have been laid before Parliament and are also available on the gov.uk website.

10-year drugs plan—First Annual Report

In December 2021 we published our landmark cross-Government drugs strategy, “From harm to hope”. Drug misuse costs society almost £22 billion a year and affects individuals, communities and drives crime. The strategy included over £3 billion of funding between 2022 and 2025 to break drug supply chains, deliver a world-class treatment and recovery system and achieve a generational shift in the demand for drugs. The delivery of the strategy is a whole-of-Government effort and I would like to thank the Ministers and Departments involved for their hard work and determination in delivering this collaborative effort.

In my capacity as the Combating Drugs Minister, I am pleased to announce the publication of our first annual report. The report sets out the good progress that has been made across Government during the first year of funding and delivery of the strategy in 2022-23, as well as the delivery challenges we have faced and how we have a plan to overcome them. It also sets out how we will measure our progress through our new national outcomes framework. This work lays the foundations for future success in tackling drugs over the lifecycle of the strategy.

In this first year, we have made excellent progress in disrupting drugs supply chains and tackling exploitative and violent drug distribution models. We have closed over 1,300 county lines and led nearly 3,000 major or moderate disruptions of organised crime groups supplying drugs in our communities, and made over 2,600 arrests. Our Project ADDER sites have supported nearly 26,000 arrests since January 2021, with just over 12,000 arrests in the last year.

We have continued to detect and seize drugs both at the UK border and inland, our latest published data on drugs seizures shows that, in the year ending March 2022, the quantity of cocaine seized by police and Border Force rose by over two thirds from the previous year to nearly 19 tonnes. This is the largest amount of cocaine seized in a single year on record. We are clear that we must maintain and build on the good progress made in tackling supply to date.

We are further building our treatment and recovery system, and to do this we have allocated additional funding of £96 million for 2022-23 and £155 million for 2023-24. We have recruited over 1,600 additional staff across the sector, upskilled staff and are ensuring there are clear pathways into treatment for those who need it, including for those in the criminal justice system to reduce the drug-related crime that blights our neighbourhoods. We have expanded the individual placement and support (IPS) scheme to 26 new areas to help people in recovery from drug dependence into employment, doubled the number of incentivised substance free living units in prisons and recruited staff to improve continuity of drug treatment for prison leavers.

We have established 106 combating drugs partnerships across England, each led by a senior responsible owner, to bring services together to drive multi-agency delivery of the strategy at a local level.

While we want to ensure that people who suffer from drug dependence are given the support they need to turn their lives around, we continue to do all that we can to deter people from taking drugs in the first place. We are ensuring that there is a zero-tolerance approach to drug misuse by law enforcement and that those who take drugs face the consequences, with an escalatory regime for those who continue to misuse drugs. We have launched five test and learn projects as part of our cross-Government innovation fund focused on reducing drug use.

These achievements are the first stages of a 10-year journey that demonstrates this Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling drug misuse, and I look forward to bringing future reports to this House.

The annual report has been laid before Parliament as a Command Paper (CP 906) and will be available on gov.uk.

Consultation on PACE Code A Changes

The Government are today launching a consultation on revisions to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice A. Our objective is to reflect the new powers introduced in the Public Order Act 2023. This includes extending suspicionless stop and search powers for protest-related offences and communicating a suspicionless stop and search authorisation. Separately, we will also update PACE Code A to introduce a new data collection requirement and amending the Serious Violence Reduction Order pilot start date.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) introduced a legislative framework for the powers of police officers in England and Wales to combat crime. PACE code A deals with the statutory provisions governing stop and search. These include the power to search a person or vehicle without first making an arrest and the necessity for the police to record every stop or encounter. While the suspicion-led powers introduced by the Public Order Bill are covered by existing provisions in PACE code A, PACE code A needs to be amended to implement the new suspicionless stop and search powers for protest-related offences introduced by the Public Order Act 2023.

Specifically, revisions to code A will introduce the following changes:

A new set of paragraphs which introduce suspicionless searches under section 11 of the Public Order Act 2023.

A clause on forces communicating the authorisation of suspicionless searches for protests where it is operationally beneficial to do so.

A clause on forces communicating the authorisation of suspicionless searches under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA) 1994 where it is operationally beneficial to do so.

A new paragraph which introduces a data recording requirement.

Additional self-defined ethnic classification categories in annex B.

A change to the SVRO pilot start date in annex G clause 2 from “00:00 17 January 2023 to 23:59 on 17 July 2025” to “00:00 19 April 2023 to 23:59 on 19 October 2025”.

The consultation will run for 6 weeks and the Government will publish their response later this year.

The Home Office is launching a separate consultation on PACE codes of practice following Royal Assent of the National Security Act 2023 (NSA). That consultation also included amendments to PACE code A. It includes updates to govern the use of search powers created within the state threats prevention and investigation measures (STPIMs) regime, and an update to protect the identities of police officers involved in investigating offences under the NSA.

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