Monday, November 12, 2012

In The Name Of The Law

I am in two minds over the proposed introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners. In London, where I sit in court, Boris already has the job. Where I live, we are about to vote for a PCC. It seems to be a potentially valuable reform, but its implementation is being bungled.

I never expected Inspector Gadget to be too keen on the idea; nor, for that matter, do I anticipate an ecstatic reaction from ACPO, but I certainly never dreamt  that I would be able  to invoke Godwin's Law so early on. 


  1. Replies
    1. Idiot on the village green13 November 2012 at 10:02

      Well as Inspector Gadget's name has been spoken, (a bit like beetlejuice), you must expect the resident trolls to play the first game.

      In the same spirit, I shall be the first to complain about trolls and the first game.

    2. I am not a troll. The definition of troll is not "someone who doesn't all ways agree with me".

      Although the First shout was unnecessary...

  2. Oh dear. It's contagious.

  3. Well its a goverment idea, so you can guess how it will turn out.
    John Gibson

  4. As I have received no information about any of the candidates I will not be voting as I cannot make an informed choice. Democracy without information is not democracy.

  5. In the Thames Valley, two of the six candidates are JPs, one a former Deputy Chairman of the MA, and the other a politico who has stood successively under Labour, Tory and UKIP colours at local elections and now presents himself as an independent. Another is a barrister who practises in the criminal courts.

  6. In principle I'm in favour of the introduction of PCCs, but the implementation is simply appalling, in my view.

    What concerns me is that many candidates are standing as representatives of a political party, something that seems odd, as I personally don't see the why political parties should play a direct part in managing the police service, any more than they should be directly involved in managing health care, the fire service etc.

    Looking at the candidates in my area, those representing political parties have noticeably thin manifestos, most being just meaningless platitudes. One gains the impression that they iew this position as a political stepping stone, rather than as an important role that needs solid committment from the post holder. Only one of the candidates (an independent) seems to understand what the role involves, and how he might positively contribute to the way policing is managed here.

    As the candidate manifestos only seem available to those on line, and only then if you take the time to find them, a significant number of potential voters will, I suspect, be voting blind, without knowledge of the individuals they are voting for. Many will, I'm sure, not bother to vote, some who vote do may just pick a candidate based on their own political leanings, in the virtual absence of any other information. I suspect very few will vote on the basis of an understanding of the stated objectives of the candidates, based on a quick straw poll taken amongst friends.

    For once I find myself in partial agreement with Inspector Gadget (less the 1930's reference), if not for entirely the same reasons.

    1. Your first point is spot on.
      I too agree in principle with the idea of the police being ran by local elected people, however the last thing we want or need is members of the usual suspects in those posts.

  7. The City of London still manages to hold apolitical elections. Why could this not have been one, too ?

  8. Perversely for political candidates, the incoming PCC will have to swear an Oath of Impartiality which precludes him or her from being political. It starts:

    "Full Name of Place do solemnly and sincerely promise that I will serve all the people of Police Force Area in the office of police and crime commissioner without fear or favour."

    So how will that work? It leans me towards an independent candidate choice, and here in Thames Valley we have several of those with magisterial or legal background, as Anonymous has already pointed out. But John the Lock needs needs to do what the rest of us have done, and go to where every candidate in every area is well-publicised.

    1. That "Oath of Impartiality" makes a bit of a mockery of the political party-selected candidates, doesn't it?

      Why have the political parties gone to the trouble of selecting and putting forward candidates if they cannot then bring political influence to bear on the management of the police service?

    2. That "Oath of Impartiality" makes a bit of a mockery of the candidates selected by the political parties, doesn't it?

      Why have the political parties gone to the trouble of selecting and putting forward candidates if they cannot then bring political influence to bear on the management of the police service?

    3. Like others, I have hesitated greatly over this initiative. I can see that the notion of having an identifiable individual rather than an anonymous and frankly impenetrable police authority holding chief constables to public account on the basis of open, transparent and themselves accountable public consultation measures has certain attractions, and I have little issue either with the idea that a person elected on a party political slate can represent her/his entire electorate fairly, provided the process of sounding our the views of that electorate works, but that is where I have real doubts.

      Indeed, I have the greatest difficulty seeing how it can be achieved in what are some very disparate force areas, and on a very limited budget.

      And on this point, I agree with those who say that there are probably many better ways of spending £100 million, including "pump priming" a properly funded compensation scheme for victims of crime, to which it would also be entirely logical to devote a significant proportion of the newly increased victim surcharges that are being levied by the courts, rather than for these to go into generic services to support witnesses, victims, and the provision of refuges etc., all very worthwhile, but perhaps not as effective at compensating the individual who has had their face slashed by a jealous ex-partner say than money to pay for cosmetic surgery to disguise the scar.

      The confusion so many people clearly feel reflects the widely held view that no case was made out for this change, about which the most truly positive thing I can say is that it may well have potential advantages in terms of helping ensure that policing is subject to more public control (which doesn't have to mean politicisation, though that risk is clearly felt). In this scenario, it would be perhaps easier to ensure - for example - that Chief Constables are held to account if their officers abuse the out of court sanctions / disposals system of cautions, penalty notices for disorder and the like.

      The Thames Valley has been mentioned by others, and that force's massive recourse to cautions for serious sexual assaults, including rape, for domestic burglaries, and crimes of violence, including many that would fall into the category of GBH, really does need to be exposed to public glare, along with the frankly improper use of cautions for 'assault PC' incidents; officers are just too close to act impartially in such instances.

      The big headline that PCCs will be able to fire Chief Constables is one that I hope will be only very rarely used, but it is just possible that it might be better done by an individual with a clear public mandate to do so than a reclusive committee of political appointees in the current Police Authority set-up...

      Not much time left to make up my mind. Polling begins in a few hours!

  9. So - "Godwin's law" . I learn something new every day !


  10. BS Team,

    I am very interested to know exactly which element of Gadget's stance on PCCs you disagree with. Personally, I am uncomfortable with the idea of political interference with the Police in the same way as I would not like to see Politicians selecting or influencing the Law Lords. I am, however, open to persuasion of the neccessity for such figureheads...

  11. I'm spoiling my voting form as a protest

    1. If you want to make a statement don't do that ,it will count as "turnout" . Just abstain .

  12. I decided long ago to atend the polling statio and write 'this is a complete waste of time and effort' on the paper.

    I know nothing of the candidates.

    More importantly, I know nothing of the role.

    This is a farce.

    Mind you, I don't recall voting to put any of the local magistrates in place either

  13. You didn't vote for any judges

  14. Where I live, Leicestershire & Rutland, the city is one of the most Labour-dominated in Britain, the rural counties some of the most Conservative-dominated. We only have three candidates, Conservative, Labour, and an independent.

    If the Labour candidate wins, then it's difficult to see how she'll provide an independent voice in a city with an almost 100% Labour council and with its own directly elected Labour mayor. I also don't see why she wouldn't prioritise the interests of the city over that of the rural counties, given the stark split in the vote.

    If the Tory wins, then the same arguments apply in reverse. Most of the rural counties are true-blue, and why should he look after the interests of a city that did not and never will vote for him?

    Our only hope is our independent, who seems a very well qualified chap, but seems to have almost no chance of winning without a party machine (and budget) behind him to go out and get the vote.

    That's why the whole scheme is pointless, it just adds another level of party politics to an already crowded ballot sheet. Someone in a village could end up having to choose:

    - a parish councillor;
    - a district councillor;
    - a county councillor;
    - an MP
    - an MEP;
    - a Police & Crime Commissioner.

    It all seems terribly wasteful, and even (oddly) anti-democratic, to have all these layers of government.

  15. I agree - it's less democratic because it's so confusing and apparently trivial. In the end, nobody cares. Depressingly, democratic apathy is the reason our current politicians are so devoid of...well, of anything really. Max Weber had it spot on when he said 'all politicans care about is that they can continue to get on with telling you what to do.'

    Of course, today he'd have added 'and smearing a nice lot of graft of the top.'

    I'm in the 'not voting for anything' camp, I'm afraid.

  16. We actually had hustings in our conurbation and being in favour of PCCs - anything better than the facless police authoroties which we have now - went along. It was well attended but the candidates apart from one were dire especially the has-been local MP. The really bright lively candidate belonged to UKIP and altho' I am a long-term Europhile he'll get my vote.

    1. And I am sure he will represent that as a victory for Euroscepticism as he leads the march against Europe from his nice, publicly funded (at a time when courts are being starved of resources) office.

  17. If as I read in the paper ( so it must be true) this whole process has cost somewhere near £100m then I'm sorry but I think the money would have been better spent on front line police and a couple of million each per force would have been useful.
    I'm afraid no one dynamic seems to be standing , just a motley crew of retreaded politicians and attention seekers.
    I fear this will be another well meant fiasco

  18. @Jaguar : Er, no. Where I live the Conservative candidate forgot to submit his elections statement in time so there is no mention of his views on the pcc choice site. Two local conservative councillors here have told me they will not be voting for him but for one of the independents. Shows how very valuable the whole farce really is.

  19. No-one has succeeded in explaining to me what was wrong with the previous police authorities. They were representative bodies (not directly elected, admittedly - but members were proportionately selected to reflect the political complexion of the local authorities in their area). They were not noticeably party political in their decisions, and brought wisdom and experience to their work. I cannot understand what advanatge is to be gained by their abolition and their replacement with a single commissioner, even one who is directly elected.

    For the first time in our lives, my wife and I are deliberately abstaining from today's election. We hope that there will be a shockingly low turn-out to make the point that this change is NOT wanted.

    1. Not only has no one explained why a single commissioner with his or her own opinions (or toeing a party line) is likely to come to a better decision on any policing policy issue than that arrived at by a group of people after debate, but I have yet to hear WHY it is necessary to introduce 'democracy' into the process. Also, police authority members served on a part-time basis getting on with other things when not needed for police authority duties. How is a full-time commissioner to occupy his/her time during the average week? "Work expands to occupy the time available to do it." Parkinson's Law.

    2. My understanding, from an earlier comment about the Oath of Impartiality that PCCs have swear, means that they should, if they are honest and trustworthy, take no heed of any party line (cloud cuckoo land, I know.....).

      As for democratic, then I seriously doubt that the process could be called that, given the apparently low turnout. Here the turnout was just over 15%, fairly typical for the whole country, I believe, and only 6.8% of the voting population here voted for the winning candidate.

      In my view, an election with such a low turnout can hardly be regarded as giving a ringing endorsement for the elected candidate, and one has to question whether or not candidates elected on such a small percentage can really be considered to have a proper mandate from the electorate.

    3. Well, our wish was granted. Turnout was around 15% -QED. But this was not voter 'apathy' - in my case (and I suspect for many others) it was active antipathy to the entire concept of directly elected PCCs. (Incidentally, we got an indpendent in our area - one in the eye for the politicians.)

      The only problem now is to persuade the government to abandon this ill-considered change, and to go back to police authorities. The arguments used against them ('undemocratic', 'anonymous', 'unrepresentative') were compelete nonsense. They did a good job quietly and efficiently. I simply cannot see the justifcation for paying up to £100K [if that's the right figure] to one person for doing this non-job.

  20. I wonder - is it possible/permissible to be both a JP and a PCC?
    (one of the 'candidates' in Surrey IS the former?

  21. No. JPs have to refrain from sitting during the campaign, then resign if they are elected.

  22. The Conservative party, under David Cameron, have an issue with the police.

    This is because they think that the leadership, in particular, was far too cosy with the Labour Party.

    The Damian Green affair , getting warrants to search his parliamentary office , after the expense fiddling non-entity Jaqui *spliff* got on the phone and commanded the Met to "find out who had been releasing" damaging immigration figures...

    which showed that they had lost control over our boarders , no , really , did they ? answers on a post card NOT required for that one!

    add in the former bearded lefty/liberal leadership of Blair of the yard and other Labour place men (and women) and you see the recipe baking nicely

    Cameron was a SPAD for cuddley Ken Clarke and helped with the Sheehey report of the early 1990s , where Sheehey produced a report comparing front line policing with....

    working on a shop till

    still..that didn't work and was shelved after concerted attack from a correctly enraged Federation

    and yet, the young Cameron remembered this, plenty of evidence that the old Eatonian has a temper issue, isn't there?

    he went out of his way , pre-2010 election, to write a report about *reforming the Police*

    it's all out there really


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