POLICING: A NEW BEGINNING?
THE GAP BETWEEN THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSALS AND THE PATTEN RECOMMENDATIONS
SINN FÉIN SUB-COMMITTEE ON POLICING
SINN FÉIN ANALYSIS OF ``POLICE (NI) BILL'' - SEPTEMBER 2000
This paper presents Sinn Fein's view of the current state of the policing legislation being processed in the British Houses of Parliament.
Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, MP recently said:
- ``What is required is a new civic policing service which is representative of the community as a whole, democratically accountable, working in partnership with all citizens and upholding international standards of human rights.
- ``The Patten report, if fully implemented, may give us the opportunity to do that. The current Mandelson policing bill does not. This can be redressed. It must be redressed.
- ``Sinn Fein wants a new policing service. The peace process requires one. None of us can afford to settle for anything less.''
Current British Government proposals fall short of what is required.
All of the parties to the Good Friday Agreement accepted the need for a police service which was `professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and (that) operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms'.
Goodwill Despite Reservations
Nationalist do not regard Patten as some radical panacea. Rather they are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt or to ascribe a positive potential to what Patten is prescribing. Many of the 175 recommendations made by Patten and his colleagues lack teeth and pace where positive, urgent and substantive effect are concerned. A number of important issues are not addressed by the report. Many nationalists are angry at the retention of the use of plastic bullets and that repressive legislation remains an integral part of the apparatus of state repression. Their desire for an unarmed police service, in the immediate term, was thwarted and many were outraged that serving members of the existing RUC could be retained without a human rights screening process in a new policing service. These are very bitter pills to swallow. To republicans and nationalists policing in this state is synonymous with persecution and repression. Nationalists have been on the receiving end of this for the last 80 years. Sectarianism, pogroms, torture, shoot-to-kill and human rights abuses of all kinds have been integral parts of that package. And no wonder, for the primary function of this unionist militia was to secure and sustain an undemocratic sectarian statelet.
For these reasons Sinn Fein's concerns on the policing issue also focus on a range of vital and important issues beyond the Patten recommendations which also clearly need resolution..
- the creation of an unarmed policing service;
- the banning of lethal plastic bullets as a weapon of `public order';
- the use of repressive legislation;
- independent international inquiries into the incidents of shoot-to-kill involving the RUC, murders of human rights lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, the Brian Nelson affair involving British Military Intelligence, and multiple allegations of collusion between British forces and loyalist paramilitaries;
- the root and branch reform of the justice system.
Patten in Full
The negotiations in May of this year led directly to the re-establishment of the political institutions and the IRA initiative. The British Government at that time gave a firm and publicly stated commitment to implement the Patten report. However, it was impossible to recognise the Patten Report, in the British Government proposals which were published soon afterwards.
Peter Mandelson, the British Secretary of State, attempted to sell the British Government's Bill and Implementation Plan as a faithful representation of Patten. Sinn Fein's analysis - ``Policing; A New Beginning?'' - systematically exposed this claim as empty rhetoric.
Substantial criticism of the British Government proposals has come from a wide spectrum of sources. This includes Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), the Catholic Church, the Irish Government, Irish America, Washington, the Police Authority, the Ombudsman, British Labour MPs and from members of the Patten Commission itself. The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and Séamus Mallon, Deputy First Minister and Deputy Leader of the SDLP, have categorically called for the full implementation of the Patten Report recommendations.
Nationalists have made clear that, for them, Patten is the compromise.
We have recently heard absurd accusations from the British Secretary of State that nationalist demands for the full implementation of Patten are a threat to the peace process. Absurd because what this suggests is that Sir Christopher Patten, the high Tory, the former British Governor of Hong Kong, is the creator, champion and advocate of demands which threaten the peace process. For it was Christopher Patten who initially demanded that the report's recommendations be implemented in full - with no ``cherry-picking''- in order to provide the required new beginning to policing.
We need to be very clear on this matter.
Any threat to the peace process comes from the status quo and those who resist the change that has been agreed. The status quo is not an option.
The initial bill has gone through many changes. This has reflected the widespread opposition to it. Sinn Fein has played a full part in that opposition publicly and privately with both governments and through our information and lobbying exercises at Westminster and in Washington. There have been a number of improvements in the Bill. But there remain deep-seated problems. These are dealt with in detail in the body of this paper.
Representation and Acceptability are Key
In preparing this paper, we have examined other analyses and proposals; from critics of the Bill as well as the arguments of the British government. We have also reviewed the amendments we proposed and considered whether further amendments are necessary. We are, finally, also critical that many of the issues of concern to us can only be addressed at a future date. That is, on the publication of codes of practice and regulations in relation to the Police Board, the District Policing Partnerships, a new Code of Ethics, Symbols, Emblems and Flags and policing objectives. The slowness of the British Government in this regard indicates a reluctance to do so now and breeds suspicion rather than confidence. In the interim we are also obliged to be both cautious and vigilant about the final direction of the legislation. Much more needs to be done if we are to obtain the goal our society is entitled to as required by the Good Friday Agreement.
It is still possible to secure a policing service that attracts and embraces republicans, nationalists and unionists. This is our goal. It should also be the goal of the British Government. It is their stated public objective. But to this point they have, instead, bowed to the combined demands of the UUP and the securocrats of the NIO who together seek to thwart the change required by the Good Friday Agreement. British Government commitments to `fully and faithfully implement Patten' are not being met. If the British Government is to achieve its stated objective Mr. Blair will have to face up to the securocrats in his system. They are no part of a new beginning. Their ways are part and parcel of the failures of the past.
We will test the good faith of the British Government by their response to the amendments we have formulated, in the context of the Patten recommendations. This document is being published in conjunction with:
Policing: A New Beginning
Amendments to bring the Police Bill into line with the Patten Report
This latter deals with detailed and specific amendments to the disparate clauses of the current Bill and the associated limited number of Schedules that have been published. If adopted by the British Government these would, in our view, bring the Bill into line with Patten.
However, the comprehensive British Government response to the Patten recommendations will only be visible when all Codes and Regulations associated with the Bill and the new British Government Implementation Plan, due this month, have been published.
Patten envisaged a transition from a paramilitary, unrepresentative police force - a unionist militia - to a representative democratically accountable policing service which enjoys the support of the community as a whole. This is what the Good Friday Agreement requires. Nothing less is acceptable.
Part I - Name of the Police Service
* CLAUSE 1 - NAME OF THE POLICE
The name should be strictly in line with that recommended by Patten. The bad faith political manoeuvring on this issue between 5th May and 12th July 2000, by Peter Mandelson and the British government is illustrative of the their approach to the Policing Bill to date. The requirements of the peace process, of Irish Society and the Good Friday Agreement are to create a new policing service which for the first time in its history attracts the support and membership of Irish republicans and nationalists as well as unionists.
* (Please note that references to Part and Clause numbers etc. relate to the Bill as introduced to the House of Lords on 13th July 2000)
PART II - THE POLICING BOARD
CLAUSE 3 - THE FUNCTIONS OF THE BOARD
The powers of the Board in respect of its functions need strengthened. There should be provision which enables the Board to take action on the basis of its monitoring function. There is little point in monitoring trends in complaints, patterns in crime and recruitment, and the human rights performance of the police unless action can be taken on that basis.
Sinn Fein concurs with the Patten recommendation that the `performance of the police as a whole in respect of human rights, as in other respects, should be monitored closely by the Policing Board' (para 4.12). Accordingly there should be reference in the legislation to international human rights norms and standards as well as the Human Rights Act.
The Board is required to assess the effectiveness of the code of ethics. Sinn Fein believes that the Board should be required to assess police compliance with the code of ethics. There needs to be legal provision for this.
Some functions of the Board recommended by Patten do not appear on the face of the Bill. Provision should be made in respect of:
- arrangements for inspecting all custody and interrogation suites
- arrangements to actively monitor police performance in public order situations, and
- monitoring the training, education and development strategy of the police service.
CLAUSE 4 - POLICE SUPPORT STAFF
Provision should be made to allow employees of the Board coming under the direction and control of the Chief Constable to appeal to the Board in the event of a dispute with the Chief Constable. This is to ensure that any prejudice of current senior officers will not prevent potential recruits from nationalist and republican areas from receiving a fair hearing. While the British Government has signalled its intention to allow for lateral entry to senior positions, proposals to ensure that there is a new approach are yet to be made public.
CLAUSE 6 - PROVISION AND MAINTENANCE OF BUILDINGS AND EQUIPMENT
The Board and not the Chief Constable should be in the ascendancy in respect of buildings and equipment. This is for obvious reasons of democratic accountability. Specifically the powers in respect of these matters should not be exercised on behalf of and in the name of the Board as opposed to the Chief Constable.
The current Bill is flawed and requires amendment to make this happen. There is a clear need for this democratic safeguard. It is also a matter of public confidence and especially among nationalists.
CLAUSE 12 - ACCOUNTS AND AUDIT
The powers of the British Secretary of State remain too wide in the Bill. These should be curbed so that relevant matters in respect of the statement of accounts have to be determined in consultation with the Board.
Others have also been very critical of the Bill in this area because the responsibility for keeping financial records and maintaining accounts lies with the RUC Chief Constable, and not with the Police Board. In public confidence terms it is damaging to the credibility of the new Police Board in that it removes a crucial investigatory and oversight function from the Board. The Board should retain overall responsibility for police expenditure. The day to day record keeping and production of accounts should be delegated to the Chief Constable. This is an appropriate division/allocation of power and responsibility in line with Patten's concepts of democratic accountability.
PART III - DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS
CLAUSE 14 - ESTABLISHMENT OF DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS (DPPS)
There should be a statutory timeframe of 6 months for the formation of the DPPs. This underpins the provisions in the Bill in respect of a default of a district council on this matter. Furthermore, the only way in which the implementation of Patten's recommendations on district and community policing arrangements can be fulfilled, is if the Police Bill is amended to make the establishment of four sub-groups correspond to four police districts in Belfast. Clearly, the logic of Patten requires that these have the status and functions of a DPP.
CLAUSE 15 - DEFAULT OF COUNCIL
The Bill makes provision for establishing a DPP in the event that a local government council is in default in respect of its obligations in this matter.
It gives the British Secretary of State a discretionary power to declare a Council in default and to make an order to empower the Board, to ``such extent as appears to him expedient or necessary''. This requires significant change to rebalance the power and independence of the Board and redress the imbalance in powers between the Board and the British Secretary of State in the Police Bill. In addition, the present formulation imposes the costs of securing the establishment of the DPP upon the Board, with only one quarter of the costs incurred recoverable by the Board from the Council. Conceivably, the costs could be so prohibitive as to interfere with the ability of the Board to exercise its duties. The costs incurred under an order by the British Secretary of State empowering the Police Board to secure the establishment of a DPP from a Council which is in default should, therefore, be met by the British Government.
CLAUSE 16 - GENERAL FUNCTIONS OF DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS
The capacity to facilitate enhanced community based policing by allowing an additional 3p in the pound levy on local rates was specifically raised in the Patten report. Provision should be made in the Bill to enable this. In addition, the ``bridge'' role that the District Policing Partnership is intended to play between the police and the local community is clearly important. Accordingly, this clause should be amended to incorporate the elements of Patten currently omitted from the Bill. The powers of the DPP should be enhanced to allow them to obtain such information as may be relevant to their functions in relation to monitoring the police at local district level. This is not provided for in the Bill. Examples of such information may include, trends and patterns of crime, road blocks, stop and search and arrest statistics. That is, monitoring information which clearly enhances the capacity of the DPPs to influence community policing at district level.
CLAUSE 18 - REPORTS BY DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIP TO BOARD
The emphasis in this clause of the Police Bill is very heavily upon the DPP submitting reports on request to the Board. However, it ought to be within the remit of the DPP to initiate reports to the Board about any local policing matter which the DPP feels may require greater attention by the Board. Communications between the District Policing Partnerships and the Policing Board should be a `two way street' to accord with Patten. The power for taking such initiatives should not lie only in the hands of the Board. Provision for this two way communication needs to be made to allow for such initiatives by the DPP as opposed to only responding upon request.
CLAUSE 19 - CODE OF PRACTICE FOR DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS
Amendments should be made to maximise the transparency and accountability of policing to the local community. Other amendments should be made to rebalance the influence of the British Secretary of State upon the Code of Practice to be issued by the Board for DPPs, and to make consultation on the Code of Practice more inclusive. There should be a duty to hold all meetings of the district policing partnership in public.
Members of the public as well as members of the DPP should be enabled to question the police service on the discharge of their functions and operations in the district.
The Code of Practice should be the product of a meaningful and inclusive consultation led by the Board.
It is vital that the District Policing Partnerships live up to their title and that they engage in genuine partnership with police and community. It is important to encapsulate the concepts outlined in Patten (eg. Para. 6.29) in the Code of Practice. Provision should be made for arrangements for consulting with non-governmental organisations and community groups concerned with safety issues, as well as statutory groups that have an interest in policing.
CLAUSE 20 - POLICE DISTRICTS
The Police Bill implies that a police district may be more than a district council. If this is the intention of the British government, then it represents a threat to the practice and policy of local accountability and community policing discussed and recommended by Patten. The definition of a `police district' in the Bill has other statutory consequences and more importantly impinges on the Patten recommendations. This should, therefore, be amended to facilitate, rather than undermine, the new approach to district and community policing arrangements recommended by Patten.
Moreover, the Police Bill does not stipulate, as recommended by Patten, the creation of four sub-groups for Belfast. Rather it makes four the maximum number of sub-groups and provides that `there shall be such number of police districts (not exceeding four) as may be determined by the Chief Constable; and each police district shall consist of such areas as may be so determined''
This is not Patten. Firstly, the Chief Constable has the power to determine the number of police districts, and hence the number of sub-groups and the areas to which each district relates. Presently, there are four police divisional commands in Belfast. Practical problems have been visible along interfaces such as the Springfield Road, where the RUC on one side of the interface have claimed that they are unable to apprehend loyalists attacking Catholic homes because the attackers had strayed into a separate RUC sub-divisional command. The manner in which the British government has drafted these provisions in the Police Bill represents a subversion of Patten's concept and policy of district and community policing arrangements and emasculates the influence of the DPP model upon policing in Belfast. Policing structures in Belfast must comply with Patten. (para. 6.27): `Because of the disproportionate size of the Belfast District Council area, we recommend that the District Policing Partnership in Belfast should have four sub-groups, covering North, South, East and West Belfast, and the organisational structure of the police service should reflect this.'
CLAUSE 21 - DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIP SUB-GROUPS FOR BELFAST
The Police Bill provides for the creation of sub-groups in Belfast, corresponding in number and area to the police districts determined by the RUC Chief Constable. Some of the deficiencies have already been addressed. However, an outstanding problem is the fact that the sub-groups have been afforded barely any of the functions outlined for every DPP.
The Patten report recommended `that the District Policing Partnership in Belfast should have four sub-groups, covering North, South, East and West' (para. 6.27) Patten did not envisage these sub-groups being the substandard bodies provided for in the Police Bill. This subversion of Patten was well rehearsed in the Committee Stage debate where once again, those who have long been opponents of decentralisation and community-based policing, let it be known that they would not allow such concepts to take root in any new policing structures for Belfast. In contrast, there was no suggestion in the debate at Committee Stage that the police districts in Belfast be substandard or that the district commanders in each of those police districts be relieved of some of the responsibility given to district commanders in districts outside Belfast. There is no good logic to the proposal that local communities living in different police districts in Belfast have less of a role in, or less of a right to, structures of local accountability in police districts outside Belfast. Moreover, such an approach is anathema to Patten.
The remedy to this violation of Patten's philosophy and policy of local accountability and community policing is to make provision in the Police Bill for four sub-groups in Belfast and that each of these sub-groups has the same functions as every other DPP. It must be noted that Patten specified the need for each police district to be co-terminous with a DPP Since there should be provision for four sub-groups in Belfast, there should also be provision for each of the police districts in Belfast to be co-terminous with its corresponding sub-group of the Belfast DPP.
CLAUSE 22 - THE LOCAL POLICING PLAN
Provision should be made to require the district commander to ``have due regard for'' the comments of the DPP on the local policing plan, before it would be issued or revised. The current Bill is insufficient to require that the consultation by the District Commander be effective and binding. As the Bill stands, the local policing plan remains the sole prerogative of the District Commander. This should be amended to make the issue or revision of the local policing plan the outcome of a proper consultation process in line with Patten's recommendations.
CLAUSE 23 - OTHER COMMUNITY POLICING ARRANGEMENTS
This requires a DPP to secure the approval of the Board to make arrangements to facilitate consultation with any local community . Indeed, this is one of the primary functions of the DPP, under the provisions of the Police Bill. Also, Patten envisaged that the DPPs should provide a ``focus of public consultation at district level for the annual NI Policing Plan'', and should ``be encouraged to see policing in its widest sense, involving and consulting non-governmental organisations and community groups''. In line with the requirements of Patten, provision, beyond that which is current, should be made to ensure that a District Policing Partnership shall, in accordance with the Code of Practice issued by the Board, make arrangements for facilitating consultation on local policing arrangements.
PART IV - POLICING OBJECTIVES, PLANS AND CODES OF PRACTICE
CLAUSE 24 - THE BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE'S LONG TERM POLICING OBJECTIVES
The Patten Report recommended that the British Secretary of State should be concerned with determining long-term objectives for policing. The Bill, in handing the British Secretary of State the supreme authority to determine and revise objectives for policing, gives him/her much greater powers. In this he/she would be obliged only to consult with the Board, the Ombudsman and the Chief Constable. This clearly undermines the role of the Board, the chief mechanism for democratic accountability. This is incompatible with the independent and robust Policing Board required by Patten. And while subsequent provision is made for the Board to set its own objectives, the Bill makes clear, these must be ``so framed as to be consistent with the objectives'' set by the British Secretary of State. In line with Patten the Bill should be amended to ensure that the British Secretary of State may not determine or revise any objectives under this section without the agreement of the Board, and after consultation with the Chief Constable, the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission.
CLAUSE 25 - THE BOARD'S POLICING OBJECTIVES
Changes to the Bill are required to give the Board the power to assess the performance of the police service against defined targets. These provisions would be sensible and would and should accord with Patten's vision of a strong and effective Policing Board.
CLAUSE 26 - THE BOARD'S POLICING PLAN
The Police Bill provides for the contents of the Board's policing plans to include ``such statements and give particulars of such matters as may be prescribed'' by the British Secretary of State. This provision affords the British Secretary of State an overbearing influence upon the policing plan of the Board, challenging the independence of the Board required by Patten. The Patten Commission (para.6.4) proposed a simplification of the planning process with the British Secretary of State assuming responsibility for setting long term objectives; the Policing Board devising medium term objectives; and the police service employing the `short-term tactical plans for delivering those objectives'. The balance of power in relation to the Board's policing plan should be shifted to where it properly belongs - with the Board.
CLAUSE 27 - CODES OF PRACTICE ON EXERCISE OF FUNCTIONS
Sinn Fein has publicly expressed serious concern at the failure by the British government to release all codes and regulations pertaining to the Police Bill and the Implementation Plan so as to permit a full and open assessment to be made of the British government response to the Patten report. Clause 27 of the Police Bill deepens those concerns. The provisions in this Clause give an unfettered code-making power to the British Secretary of State which has the potential to impinge on the ``discharge by the Board of any of its functions''. The excessive scope of this provision and the potential harm it may cause to the independence of the Board if the British Secretary of State chooses to avail of this provision flies totally in the face of both the letter and spirit of Patten and the Good Friday Agreement.
This provision would seem to allow the British Secretary of State to issue a Code of Practice to govern any conduct by either the Board, or the Chief Constable acting on behalf of the Board. This would be a very broad power. There should be provision requiring the agreement of the Oversight Commissioner to ensure that a Code of Practice is in line with the Patten recommendations.
PART V - Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness
CLAUSE 28 - ARRANGEMENTS RELATING TO ECONOMY, EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS
In all of these matters the British Secretary of State again seeks to give himself the role of policing the Policing Board by requiring the Board to ``make such arrangements as the Secretary of State may by order specify to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness''. Apart from the potential for this power to be wielded in a vexatious and repetitious manner to curtail any functions of the Board not deemed by a British Secretary of State to be in the interests of `economy, efficiency and effectiveness', this provision further skews the imbalance of powers between the Board and the British Secretary of State. Progress on the implementation of the Patten report, including the functioning of the Policing Board, should be a matter for the Oversight Commissioner. It should also be a matter for the Oversight Commissioner to ensure that the benchmarks of economy, efficiency and effectiveness are consonant with the meaning and intent of Patten. And, that these matters are not reduced to notions of financial auditing or any attempt by the British Secretary of State to exert disproportionate influence upon the annual policing plan of the Policing Board.
Patten referred to the need for a whole variety of mechanisms if the police were to be held to account to be ``effective, efficient, fair and impartial'' (para 5.4).
That is why current provision on these matters should be amended, to ensure that the making of any order by the British Secretary of State on grounds of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, firstly has been requested by the Oversight Commissioner, as the person responsible for monitoring the progress of implementation; and secondly, permits the Board to hold the Chief Constable to public account, as required by Patten, for matters of economy efficiency and effectiveness in respect of training, education and development, human rights, and a focus on community policing.
Provision should also be made to ensure that the Chief Constable is accountable to the Board, and not to the Secretary of State in relation to `best value'. The Board is already charged with the duty to ensure that the police service is effective and efficient. It would be consistent to extend the Board's requirement for economy, efficiency and effectiveness to Clause 28. If the Board has no sub-accounting responsibility (Clause 12) and has no role to play in `Best Value' it is difficult to see how it can fulfil its responsibility for maintaining an effective and efficient police service.
The major concern here is that ``economy, efficiency and effectiveness'' are being interpreted solely in financial and planning terms. Insofar as finance and planning are concerned the recommendations of the Patten Commission are quite clear and are at odds with the Bill. Patten said ``The memorandum setting out the financial relationship with the Policing Board should be so formulated as to ensure that there is no blurring of these responsibilities, and that the government does not, as in the past, become involved in what is properly the business of the Board; to determine the allocation of the budget to the Chief Constable and to hold him/her responsible for the efficient and effective use of resources.'' (para. 6.17)
PART VI - THE POLICE: GENERAL FUNCTIONS
CLAUSE 32 - GENERAL FUNCTIONS
The code of ethics should appear on the face of the legislation. The wording is already available from the Patten report. There is no good reason for further delay in this matter.
There should be provision to ensure that members of the police service respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.
The legislation should be strengthened from the current requirement to ``have regard to'' the Code of Ethics to one of having to ``comply with'' the code of ethics. In addition, a breach of the code should be a disciplinary offence.
The text in Clause 32(5) should be amended to include the Patten report's emphasis on and formulation of the centrality of community orientation for the new policing dispensation. Accordingly the Patten recommendations on this should prevail. That is, ``Policing with the community shall be the core function of every member of the police service.''
The amended Bill has moved closer towards this position, but on a highly conditional basis. The inclusion of the term `as far as practicable' has the potential to render any change meaningless.
CLAUSE 33 - GENERAL FUNCTIONS OF THE CHIEF CONSTABLE
Patten envisaged the involvement of the Oversight Commissioner as a means to ensure a smooth transition from a paramilitary, unrepresentative police force to a representative, democratically accountable policing service which enjoys the support of the community as a whole. This is what the Good Friday Agreement required. We welcome the fact that the Oversight Commissioner has now been placed on a statutory footing. But much planning has already taken place, driven by senior RUC officers and NIO securocrats. It is vital that the independent guarantee envisaged by the Patten Commission - in the Oversight mechanism - be given force.
The Chief Constable should comply with the policing plan generated primarily by the Board. The requirement on the Chief Constable to `have regard to' the Policing Plan should be strengthened. In discharging his functions, the Chief Constable should have to adhere to the policing plan except with the prior approval of the Policing Board.
The Chief Constable should also be bound by the Code of Ethics. It would be preposterous if he/she is not obliged to take up this basic obligation. Accordingly, mitigating the Chief Constable's discretion at every possible point is of fundamental importance. Otherwise we will revisit the mistakes of the past. It is for this reason that the Board's powers in relation to reports and inquiries need to be as robust as possible.
CLAUSE 35 - APPOINTMENT AND REMOVAL OF SENIOR OFFICERS
The role of Chief Constable of a new policing service on the lines proposed by the Patten Commission is crucial. There should be provision to empower the new Board to select the Chief Constable of the new service. The Board should have the power to, at its first meeting, and subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, appoint a Chief Constable.
This is designed to ensure a new beginning and break with the failed policies and practices of the past. The appointment of a new Chief Constable is required to obtain a measure of confidence in the new policing service.
CLAUSE 37 - APPOINTMENT TO THE POLICE RESERVE
Patten called for the scrapping of the Full-Time Reserve without qualification. Current provision allows for indefinite stalling and prevarication on the issue and places the decision making on this issue entirely in the hands of the Chief Constable. This needs amended to place a time limit on the life-span of the existing Full-Time Reserve and provision for a part-time reserve only.
CLAUSE 38 - ATTESTATION OF CONSTABLES
Patten recommended that every officer should take the new oath and not simply new officers as prescribed in the Bill. This is a critical element of the new beginning. Current provision results from pressure from British resistance to change. The new oath and the requirement that it be taken by all officers is the mechanism whereby the compromise between disbandment and undifferentiated continuation of the RUC was struck by the Patten Commission. It is vital that a new start be made for every former RUC officer. The Bill should make provision requiring every member of the Police Service, within a period of six months of the enactment of the legislation to take the oath prescribed by Patten.
Patten offered at least two other compelling reasons for this requirement.
``First, the importance of human rights as the very purpose of policing should be instilled in every officer from the start.'' (para. 4.7)
This reasoning is all the more compelling because there has been no process whereby human rights abusers could be screened out of a new police service.
Furthermore, Patten did not ban members of the new police service from holding membership of secret societies or organisations like the Masonic Order or sectarian organisations like the Orange Order. However, Patten stated that the allowance made for members of a new police service to hold membership of such organisations was contingent on all officers swearing the new oath.
``Provided it is clear that an officers primary and overriding loyalty must be to the police service and to the values of that police service, we do not believe that membership of any legal organisation should render someone ineligible to join the police. All officers should in our view swear to `accord equal respect to all individuals and to their traditions and beliefs'. This undertaking should have precedence over any oaths or qualifications associated with other organisations to which an officer may belong.'' (para. 15.15)
CLAUSE 39 - 42 - APPOINTMENT OF POLICE TRAINEES, POLICE RESERVE TRAINEES, STATUS OF TRAINEES AND POLICE CADETS
These clauses all contain references to regulations and terms and conditions. They still have not been published. Transparency and assessment require that they are published now.
A limited number of regulations have been published. These, and commentary on them, are contained at the back of this submission. It will be shown that regulations have a significant capacity to impact in substantive ways on such vital matters as the powers of the Board and reports and inquiries. It is important therefore that the British Government publish all relevant codes and regulations without further delay.
CLAUSE 43 - CONTRACTING OUT CERTAIN RECRUITMENT FUNCTIONS OF THE CHIEF CONSTABLE
The issue of regulations, as yet unpublished, is again pertinent. In addition, Patten asserted that the recruitment of new police officers should be carried out independently. Current provision allows for this but does not require it. Accordingly, the Bill should be amended to ensure that the Chief Constable shall, in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State, appoint an independent body to exercise prescribed functions in connection with recruitment.
CLAUSE 44 - RECRUITMENT ARRANGEMENTS
The Bill requires the British Secretary of State to make regulations covering recruitment arrangements. This should not solely be a matter for the British minister. Rather, regulations should be completed in association with the Board. Provision should be made requiring the British Secretary of State to consult the Board on these matters.
In relation to police support staff, the provision allowing for recruitment on a 50/50 basis only in the event of there being 6 or more positions available should be removed. Patten recommended the creation of a representative police service. Retention of this provision will only serve to protect the current positions of individuals and senior members of the police support staff.
CLAUSE 45 - DISCRIMINATION IN APPOINTMENTS
Current provision takes no account of Patten's requirements on balanced political and religious representation. It deals only with Catholics, not nationalists and republicans. The RUC currently has a small percentage of Catholics in its ranks, all unionists. The new policing service will not work unless there is sufficient account taken of political opinion in the representation of the service. This is at the core of the entire issue. There is no exaggeration in stating that the entire issue of policing in its political dimension, in its peace process dimension, revolves around this matter.
In addition the 50:50 provision, in that it concentrates solely on Catholics and non-Catholics, will disadvantage other under-represented groups such as ethnic and religious minorities. It is important that monitoring of other under-represented groups take place.
CLAUSE 46 - EXPIRY, RENEWAL AND REPEAL OF TEMPORARY PROVISIONS
The period for the retention of special recruitment arrangements was to have been altered to 10 years. It remains at 3 years. This is not a sufficiently long time, in our view, to begin to make a serious dent in the skewed make-up of the policing service. The timeframe should be ten years.
It is important that legislation ensures that temporary provisions designed to create a representative police service are given ample opportunity to make inroads into under-representation of nationalists, republicans, and other underrepresented groups. - (See clause 45)
CLAUSE 49 - REGISTRATION OF ASSOCIATIONS
The collation and maintenance of registrable information should fall under the remit of the office of the Ombudsman and should include information pertaining to all senior officers. Current provision allows the Chief Constable to avoid this obligation.
The prescription that the information be destroyed one year after a person ceases to be a police officer should be amended. One year is too short a period. This information should be kept in line with other personnel-related information. The possibility that such information might be relevant to a court action makes it appropriate that information about registrable associations should be treated the same as other personnel-related information. The information, therefore, should be kept for a period of not less than 3 years.
CLAUSE 50 - CODE OF ETHICS
The British government sought to divert attention from their refusal to implement the Patten recommendations on a new oath for all officers by attempting to transfer political and popular attention to a new Code of Ethics. This is an important but separate matter. We have already dealt with the oath. The inadequate alternative they proffer is an amendment to the initial Bill which makes provision for ``reading and understanding'' the code of ethics by every police officer. Sinn Fein points out, again, that Patten recommended that every member of the police service swear a new oath. This needs to be adopted as a vital element of a new beginning to policing. That major issue to the side for the moment it is of course appropriate that we deal with the Code of Ethics as a separate and important issue. The new provisions in this clause on the Code of Ethics are welcome. But is depends on what the Code requires. Reference to international human rights standards should be explicitly mentioned in the Code. The wording of a Code of Ethics is already available in the Patten Report. It should be published forwith.
Furthermore it is important that officers not only read and understand the Code of Ethics but that they are legally obliged to abide by the code.
CLAUSE 51 - GUIDANCE AS TO THE USE OF PUBLIC ORDER EQUIPMENT
Sinn Fein has consistently called for the banning of plastic bullets. We maintain that position. In the absence of the banning of plastic bullets this should be a matter for the Board. Accordingly, Sinn Fein has proposed that provision should be made empowering the Board to issue guidance on the use by members of the police force of equipment for use in public order situation. This of course includes plastic bullets. We will resolutely oppose their use.
Consultation on this matter should include the Police Ombudsman, District Policing Partnerships, the Human Rights Commission, the Equality Commission, and any other person or body appearing to the Board to have an interest in the matter.
This must not be allowed to drag on forever. It is too important an issue to be left vague. It is self-evidently a matter of lethal force, of life and death, of human rights. A timeframe of three months should be attached to the statutory requirement on the Board to issue guidance.
CLAUSE 52 - FLAGS AND EMBLEMS
Patten was clear that there should be no scope for the British Union flag or for the old RUC emblems to be associated with the new police service or its buildings. This needs to be adhered to. Current provision in the Bill does not conform with this.
We cannot emphasise strongly enough how important this issue is for the new beginning required to policing by the British Secretary of State over the issue of the new name has created a huge lack of trust in relation to other issues of symbol and substance. This is reinforced by the British Secretary of State's handling of the issue of the flying of flags at government buildings. All government buildings, and this includes the offices of the new policing service, must be user friendly. The Union flag and the symbols and emblems of the RUC are not user friendly to nationalists or most Catholics.
CLAUSE 53 - IDENTIFICATION OF POLICE OFFICERS
Patten recommendation 46 states that police officers ``...should wear their names clearly displayed on their uniforms, and their uniforms should also bear the name of the locality for which they are responsible.''
Patten went on to specify that identification of police officers in public order situations must be provided:
``The police must be fully accountable for public order policing as for any other aspect of their work ....we recommended that officers' identification should be clearly visible on their protective clothing, just as they should be on regular uniforms.'' (para. 9.18)
In line with Patten legal provision needs to oblige the Chief Constable to ensure that the name of the officer, his/her police district and the number assigned to a police officer is so displayed on his/her uniform so as to be clearly visible at all times when h/she is on duty.
Current provision attaches a conditional `as far as practicable' to this requirement. This is a dilution of the Pattern recommendations on this matter. It should be removed as it mitigates against the principles of community orientation, transparency and accountability as envisaged by Patten.
PART VII - REPORTS AND INQUIRIES
CLAUSE 55 - ANNUAL AND OTHER REPORTS
The human rights aspects of the current Bill should include references to international standards, other than those proposed by the Human Rights Act 1998, so as to include compliance with international human rights norms and standards.
Currently the Board is required to report on ``the co-operation of the public with the police in preventing crime''. This should be amended to emphasise and report on the effectiveness of the police in working co-operatively with the public.
Clause 57 - General Duty of the Chief Constable to report to Board.
The Patten Report is quite clear in relation to reports.''The Board should have the power to require the Chief Constable to report on any issue pertaining to the performance of his functions or those of the police service. The obligation to report should extend to explaining operational decisions. The grounds on which the Chief Constable might question this requirement should be strictly limited to issues such as those involving national security, sensitive personnel matters, and cases before the court.'' (para. 6.22)
Current provision seeks to make an exception of `sensitive personal' as opposed to `sensitive personnel' issues. This should be amended in line with the Patten recommendations.
Clause 58 - Board Inquiries
This clause was amended at committee stage to include the provision that the British Secretary of State had a period of one month in which to make his/her decision and to remove some of the grounds on which the Chief Constable could refer an inquiry to the Secretary of State - on the grounds that a matter was already under investigation by a statutory body, and that the inquiry would prejudice the administration of justice.
In line with Patten the exception which prevents inquiries into incidents which have occurred in the past should be removed. As recommended by Patten provision in this clause should also refer to personnel as opposed to personal issues.
A final area of concern relates to the costs of inquiries. These are likely to be substantial and unpredictable. The requirement that the Board should have to pay all the costs could be fatally restrictive and should be removed if the Board is to have a meaningful role in this area. The British government should accept responsibility for the costs of inquiries.
Generally, the powers of the Board in this matter should be preserved as recommended by Patten..
PART VIII - THE POLICE OMBUDSMAN
CLAUSE 60 - REPORTS BY THE OMBUDSMAN
The subversion of Patten's recommendations in respect of the power to initiate inquiries by the Ombudsman remains in the Police Bill. Patten recommended that the ``The Ombudsman should take initiatives and not merely react to specific complaints received'' (recommendation no.28). Presently, the Police Bill requires that a specific complaint to be received before the Ombudsman can take any initiatives.
The declared opposition of the British Secretary of State to Patten's requirements on the Ombudsman was categoric when he declared at Committee Stage: ``I believe I am right to resist the suggestion that the Ombudsman should also have powers to review the policies and practices of the police service.'' Accordingly, in confluence with his securocrats agenda of resistance to change, and especially in regards powers of inquiry.he has undermined Patten on this important matter.
This is wholly contrary to the Patten recommendations. Patten foresaw the role of the Ombudsman as being an essential one for modifying police behaviour. It is essential that this section of the Bill ensures that. Unless the functions of the Ombudsman specifically make provision for investigations and initiatives to be undertaken, then subsequent provisions such as Clause 63 of the Police Bill, will have more harmful implications for the Ombudsman. There should be provision as envisioned by Patten which gives the Ombudsman the power to investigate.
CLAUSE 61 - SUPPLY OF INFORMATION BY OMBUDSMAN TO THE BOARD
The unnecessary limitation on the Ombudsman to supply ``such statistical information'' as the Board requires, is at odds with the analysis provided of Clause 60. There should be provision which stipulates that the Ombudsman supply information to the Board on the pattern of complaints against individual police officers.
CLAUSE 62 - TIME LIMIT FOR COMPLAINTS & REFERENCES TO OMBUDSMAN
This is another example of the excessive powers which the British Secretary of State has afforded himself in the Police Bill. This provision gives him/her the authority to prevent any retrospective inquiries being made by the Ombudsman. Patten made no such recommendation. On the contrary, Patten recommended that the Ombudsman ``should have access to all past reports on the RUC''. Provision in the Police Bill militates against the independence of the Ombudsman and subverts Patten's requirements. This provision should be eradicated from the Bill. This clause should be deleted in full to bring this section of the Bill into line with the Patten recommendations.
PART IX - Miscellaneous & Supplementary
CLAUE 64 - THE COMMISSIONER
This Clause was introduced to the Bill during the Committee Stage following strong criticism of the British government for making no reference to the Oversight Commissioner in the initial Police Bill,. However, the British government appears to have ignored both the substance of the representations made, and the recommendations of the Patten report on the role of the Oversight Commissioner.
Patten specifically recommended that there be an Oversight Commissioner appointed ``with responsibility for supervising the implementation of our recommendations'' (recommendation 172).
The provisions in the Police Bill subvert Patten's recommendations on the Oversight Commissioner in several notable respects. For instance, the Bill directs that ``the general function of the Commissioner is to oversee the implementation of changes in policing of Northern Ireland described in his terms of reference.'' (Clause 64(3)). The terms of reference for the Oversight Commissioner do not meet Patten's requirements, or override the RUC's Change Management Team's strategy to undermine the Patten report through progressing the unpublished `Programme for Change' of the RUC.
Furthermore, Patten recommended that ``The Oversight Commissioner should be appointed for a term of five years'' (recommendation 175). Patten also stated that ``whether there is a need for a further appointment beyond that time will depend on the progress made''. And clearly, Patten was referring to the progress made in the ``implementation of our recommendations'' as specified in the Patten report.
In subverting this the Police Bill affords the Oversight Commissioner a greatly diminished role, implementing something which bears little resemblance to Patten's recommendations, and over a term of 3 as opposed to 5 years which will only to be extended at the discretion of the British Secretary of State. Patten is not recognisable in the provision for the Oversight Commissioner in the British Government legislation.
CLAUSE 65 - REPORTS BY THE COMMISSIONER
The primary function of the reports by the Oversight Commissioner as recommended by Patten was to provide ``more than a stocktaking function. The review process would provide an important impetus to the process of transformation. We recommend that the Oversight Commissioner should in turn report publicly after each review meeting on the progress achieved, together with his or her observations on the extent to which any failures or delays are the responsibility of the policing institutions themselves or due to matters beyond their control'' (paragraph 19.5, Patten report).
Patten recommended that the Oversight Commissioner be the interface between the public and the implementation of Patten's report. The Police Bill subverts this role by providing that the British Secretary of State shall decide on the arrangements for publishing the Commissioner's report. The Commissioner should determine the content and format of any report. Provision should also be made to oblige the Commissioner to make these reports public.
CLAUSE 67 - THE RUC GC FOUNDATION
Quite clearly, the British government cherishes the legacy of the RUC. The RUC is a British Government agency; the paramilitary cutting edge of British policy. The British Government also wishes to accede to Unionist demands that this legacy be venerated. The inclusion of this Clause is but one of the ways in which the British government has venerated the legacy of the RUC within the Police Bill.
Nationalists and republicans, too, know much about the legacy of the RUC. It is a legacy of sectarianism, torture, intimidation, violence, collusion and murder. It is not a legacy which could be identified with the ``new beginning to policing'' required by the Good Friday Agreement. The inclusion of this Clause is at once, an appeasement to unionists, an insult to nationalists, and a distortion of Patten. The British government has not sought to establish in this Bill a foundation to assist the victims of the RUC. Indeed, there is little evidence that the British government accepts that there are any victims of the RUC. This clause should be deleted.
SCHEDULE 1 - THE POLICING BOARD
This schedule outlines details of the membership of the Board and arrangements for its running.
PARAGRAPH 3 - MEMBERSHIP DURING SUSPENSION OF DEVOLUTION
Given the emphasis on democratic accountability in Patten, it is vital that the Board accurately reflects the community served by the new police service. The phrase `as far as is practicable' should be deleted in Schedule 1 3(3) which relates to the British Secretary of State's duty to ensure that the Board be representative of 6 County society.
Schedule 1 should contain provision to ensure that there is no delay in appointing the Board; and
There should be provision that the Board rather than the British Secretary of State elects its office bearers.
These amendments are wholly in line with the Board envisaged by Patten.
PARAGRAPH 4 - TERM OF OFFICE
Schedule 1 should be amended to ensure that former political prisoners cannot be excluded from participation in the Board. It is vital, in the context of conflict resolution that former POWs are not banned from participation in new institutions.
PARAGRAPH 8 - INDEPENDENT MEMBERS
As the Bill currently stands, the British Secretary of State can appoint independent members of the first Board after consultation with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister only. All subsequent appointments involve further consultation including with district Councils.
The appointment of independent members of the Board should be subject to broad consultation in line with Patten's recommendations on the representative nature of Board membership. Consultation with the Equality Commission should also be placed on a statutory footing to guarantee that the Board is fully representative of the community and in order to guard against repetition of the flawed representation in evidence on the old Police Authority.
There should be a time limit of 3 months on this consultation exercise.
PARAGRAPH 9 - REMOVAL OF MEMBERS FROM OFFICE
In order to ensure that former political prisoners are not barred from independent membership of the Board, Sinn Fein proposed that Schedule 1 be amended so that only conviction for a criminal offence while in position should lead to disqualification.
PARAGRAPH 18 - INQUIRIES UNDER CLAUSE 58
The detailed hurdles which have to be negotiated before inquiries under Clause 58 can be instigated are not part of Patten. They are contrived barriers to the required transparency of a new beginning. In particular, a simple majority of members present should be sufficient to initiate an inquiry provided that notice has been given to the full Board membership. The prospect exists that a boycott by some members could prevent the prosecution of legitimate Board business. Accordingly, Paragraph 18(6) should be deleted.
SCHEDULE 3 - DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS
PARAGRAPH 5 - THE COUNCIL'S NOMINATIONS
The rationale, in this, for requiring the Council to nominate twice the number of appointments to be made of independent members of a DPP is unclear. It, certainly, has not been explained. Patten made no such recommendation. Patten specified that ``independent members [are] to be selected by the Council with approval of the Board''(para.6.26). Providing this selection process reflects the requirements of Patten, that ``Taken as a whole, each DPPB should be broadly representative of the district in terms of religion, gender, age, and cultural background.''(para.6.26). In this context, the provision that independent members are to be selected by the Board is procedurally cumbersome and detracts from the DPP's independence as recommended by Patten. The Equality Commission should be consulted in order to ensure that the DPPs are ``broadly representative of the district'' as outlined above.
PARAGRAPH 6 - CODE OF PRACTICE ON APPOINTMENT OF INDEPENDENT MEMBERS
As with previous provisions this increases the imbalance between the Board and the British Secretary of State by affording the latter the unfettered authority to issue and revise a Code of Practice which shall govern the selection of independent members to a DPP by the Council and the Board. To redress this flaw, it is necessary to specify that the British Secretary of State may issue or revise the Code of Practice governing selection of independent members to a DPP only with the agreement of the Board.
PARAGRAPH 8 - DISQUALIFICATION
Sinn Fein has consistently challenged the provision that ex-prisoners are to be excluded from becoming independent members on a DPP. This is particularly absurd when ex-prisoners can hold Ministerial office. As with many provisions made by the British government in the Police Bill the logic of the British government, in making this discriminatory provision, is hard to reconcile with a credible process of conflict resolution. The exclusion of ex-prisoners from being independent members of a DPP has no support in the Patten report. In counter-point, Patten stated that ``There must be no predisposition to exclude candidates from republican backgrounds''(para.15.13) from participation in new policing structures. In addition, as already referenced, Patten specifically directed that a DPP should reflect the make-up of the local community from which it is drawn. With so many members of the nationalist and republican community having been convicted of an offence because of the persecution of the nationalist and republican community by the RUC, the retention of this provision for disqualifying anyone ``who has had passed on him a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not).'' is excessive, unjust and irreconcilable with Patten. This disqualification should be removed.
PARAGRAPH 16 - JOINT PARTNERSHIPS
The provision that the British Secretary of State ``may by order provide that two or more councils may by agreement establish a single DPP for their districts'' is an infringement of Patten in two significant respects. Firstly, this provision makes no reference to the Board, which has responsibility for maintaining accountability with DPPs. Secondly, it specifically contravenes the recommendation by Patten that ``All DPPBs...should be coterminous with a police district.''(para.6.28). The provision that the British Secretary of State may authorise the establishment of a DPP which overlaps one or more police districts is a subversion of the very framework for a new beginning to policing within which Patten proposed that all DPPs would perform a critical function. In the eventuality of the number of district councils being reduced, Patten has specified that the number of DPPs and police districts should be reduced in tandem. This logical projection safeguards the framework proposed by Patten, and the role played by DPPs. However, that projection is hypothetical at this point. The salient issue is the requirement by Patten that the existence of any DPP must be conterminous with a police district. The provision for joint partnerships ordered by the British Secretary of State clearly contests that requirement and the model of policing to which it is linked in the Patten report. Therefore, Paragraph 16, Schedule 3, should be deleted.
SCHEDULE 4 - OVERSIGHT COMMISSIONER
PARAGRAPH 1 - APPOINTMENT ETC. OF THE COMMISSIONER
For the reasons outlined earlier, when the provisions under Clauses 64 and Clause 65 were discussed and changes proposed, consequential amendments must also be made to this Schedule. As already stated, Patten required that the appointment of the Oversight Commissioner be for a term of five years, that it be renewable at five yearly interval, with appointees for a maximum of two consecutive terms. ``The Oversight Commissioner should be appointed for a term of five years.'' (Para 19.6). Patten also stated that ``Whether there is a need for a further appointment beyond that time will depend on the progress made'' in the ``implementation of our recommendations''.
PARAGRAPH 2 - TERMS OF REFERENCE
Following on from the amendments proposed to Clauses 64 and 65, changes are required to ensure that the Board approves the written terms of reference for the Oversight Commissioner which the British Secretary of State may introduce. In particular, these terms of reference must be premised on the function the Oversight Commissioner is to perform in respect of the implementation of the Patten report. The minimum requirement of any claim by the British government that the Police Bill is being faithful to Patten, will require that the Oversight Commissioner as prescribed by Patten reports on the implementation of Patten's recommendations.
PARAGRAPH 4 - STAFF
The Commissioner must not be handicapped in performing his/her functions by a shortage of staff or other resources. The provision that the Commissioner may employ staff only after the number of staff and other terms and conditions of service have been approved by the British Secretary of State, manifestly undermines the independence of the Commissioner. Such a provision may also potentially hamper the Commissioner depending upon conditions and restrictions on staffing the British Secretary of State choose to impose. Therefore, provision should be made that requires decisions on this matter to be made after consultation with the Board and the Secretary of State rather than, as current provision requires, with the approval of the British Secretary of State.
SCHEDULE 7 - AMENDMENTS
REPEAL OF SECTION 39 OF THE POLICE (NI) ACT 1998
The Patten report (para.6.18) highlights the unacceptability of Section 39 of the Police (NI) Act 1998. This provides that the British Secretary of State may issue guidance to the police as to the exercise of their functions. This power is unique to the north of Ireland. The Patten report challenged the justification offered for the provision:
``It has been suggested to us that guidance under the section would not be binding and that, therefore, it does not empower the Secretary of State to direct the police. We are not persuaded that this is so or, at any rate, that such guidance would be so perceived by recipients. We do not believe that the Secretary of State or a future minister in the Northern Ireland Executive should even appear to have the power to direct the police. We recommend that this provision of the Police Act be repealed.'' (para.6.18)
This is another important recommendation by Patten which the British government has chosen to flagrantly disregard. Most probably this is to safeguard the power this provision assures the British Secretary of State and the Securocrats of the `Northern Ireland Office' over the exercise by a police service of its functions. Undoubtedly, the independence and authority of the Board is profoundly compromised whilst this provision remains extant. Therefore, in accordance with the Patten's particular recommendation on this provision and in light of the deleterious effect of this provision upon the creation of the effective, independent Policing Board, it is proposed that a new Paragraph be added to Schedule 7 which repeals Section 39, of the Police (NI) Act, 1998.
British Government proposals and Patten Recommendations
Sinn Fein has prepared detailed amendments to the Bill in regards all of the matters addressed below. Those have been forwarded to the British and Governments.
The proposed name is not in line with Patten. The political manoeuvrings on this issue by the British Secretary of State have damaged both nationalist confidence in the British Government and British Government credibility.
The powers of the Police Board in regards its functions need strengthened. Arrangements for monitoring interrogation suites, monitoring police performance in public order situations and the training, education and development strategy of the police service need to appear on the face of the Bill.
Employees of the Board who come under the direction and control of the Chief Constable should have right of appeal to the Board in the event of dispute with the Chief Constable.
Powers in regards buildings and equipment should be exercised on behalf of and in the name of the Board as opposed to the Chief Constable. This is a matter of democratic accountability and public confidence.
The Board should retain overall responsibility for police expenditure as a crucial investigatory and oversight function. Day to day record keeping and production of accounts should be delegated to the Chief Constable.
District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) should be established within 6 monts of the legislation coming into force. As recommended by Patten there should be 4 sub-groups in Belfast. The thrust and logic of Patten's recommendations on district and community policing arrangements require that these have the status and functions of DPPs.
The costs of establishing a DPP should be met by the British Government. If the Board is obliged to carry this responsibility costs could be so prohibitive as to interfere with the ability of the Board to exercise its duties.
DPPs should be allowed to obtain such information as may be relevant to their `bridge' role with the community and the police service. Such information should include statistics on arrests, stop and search, trends and patterns of crime, road blocks etc. Such information clearly enhances the capacity of the DPPs to influence community policing at district level.
Communication between the DPP's and the Police Board should be a two-way street to accord with Patten. DPPs should be able to initiate reports to the Board as opposed to solely complying with requests for reports.
Transparency and accountability to the local community as recommended by Patten requires that the Bill be amended. DPPs should meet in public. The Code of Practice for DPPs requires widespread consultation led by the Board. The Code needs to encapsulate the concepts outlined in Patten.
Several amendments to current provision in regards `Police Districts' are required. Current provision represents a subversion of Patten's concept and policy of district and community policing arrangements and emasculates the influence of the DPP model upon policing in Belfast.
Current provision in regards DPP sub-groups for Belfast is a violation of Patten's philosophy and policy of local accountability and community policing. The only remedy is to make provision in the Police Bill for 4 sub-groups and that each of those has the same functions as the DPPs.
Consultation with DPPs by the local District Commander of the new police service requires provision to make it effective and binding. Revision of the local policing plan needs to be a matter for proper consultation.
Provision is required to ensure that a DPP shall, in accordance with the Code of Practice, issued by the Board, make arrangements for facilitating consultation on local policing arrangments.
The Bill needs amended to ensure that the British Secretary of State may not determine or revise long term policing objectives without prescribed widespread consultation.
The Bill needs to give the Board the power to assess the performance of the police service against defined targets.
The planning process as envisioned by Patten should be adhered to. That is, Patten proposed a simplification of the process with the British Secretary of State setting long term objectives, the Police Board medium term objectives with the police service employing the ``short term tactical plans for delivering these objectives''.
Current provision gives excessive powers to the British Secretary of State in regards code-making for the exercise of functions by the Board and the Chief Constable. The excessive scope of this provision could harm the independence of the Board which Patten sees as critical. This needs amendment. Code-making should be made subject to the safeguard of gaining the Oversight Commissioner's agreement.
The making of any order by the British Secretary of State on grounds of economy, efficiency and effectiveness should be requested by the Oversight Commissioner.
Current provisions as with many other elements of the Bill gives the British Secretary of State too much power, casts him in the role of policing the board and makes both the Board and the Chief Constable subservient to him in a way which runs wholly contrary to Patten.
The Code of Ethics should appear on the face of the Bill. The formula is in the Patten Report. It should be published without further delay. Members of the police service should be obliged to comply with the code. Breach of the Code should be a criminal offence. The core function of the police as recommended by Patten should apply. That is, ``Policing with the community shall be the core function of every member of the police service.''
The Chief Constable should be required to have regard to the policing plan generated primarily by the Board. In discharging his functions the Chief Constable should have to adhere to the policing plan except with the prior approval of the Board. The Chief Constable should be bound by the Code of Ethics. The Board's powers in relation to reports and inquiries should be as prescribed by Patten.
The Board should have the power to, at its first meeting, and subject to the approval of the British Secretary of State, appoint a Chief Constable. This is designed to ensure a new beginning.
A time limit needs to be placed on the life-span of the existing Full-Time Reserve and provision made for a part-time reserve only.
Patten recommended that every officer should take the new oath and not simply new officers as currently prescribed by the Bill. This is a critical element of the new beginning. The new oath and the requirement that it be taken by all officers is the mechanism whereby the compromise between disbandment and undifferentiated continuation of the RUC was struck by Patten. The Bill needs to make provision requiring every member of the new police service, within a period of six months of the enactment of legislation, to take the oath prescribed by Patten.
All of these clauses contain references to regulations and terms and conditions. They still have not been published. A limited number of schedules have been published. The serious and significant impact of such regulations require that they be published now so that their impact on the Patten recommendations can be assessed.
The Bill requires amendment to require the appointment of an independent body to recruit new police officers and members of the police support staff.
The making of regulations covering recruitment arrangements should require consultation with the Board.
There is no provision for balanced political and religious representation as recommended by Patten. This is a central objective of the entire exercise but there is no provision for it.
The timeframe for special recruitment arrangements should be 10 years as recommended by Patten. The 3 years proscribed by the Bill is ridiculously short.
The Ombudsman should have the remit in respect of registrable information for police officers of such as membership of loyalist orders or the Masonic order. The information should be kept for 3 years after a person has ceased to be a police officer.
The Code of Ethics is not a substitute for the new oath prescribed by Patten for all officers. It is a separate important issue. Officers should be legally obliged to comply with the Code. Breach of the Code should be a criminal offence. The Code should contain reference to international human rights standards. The formula is in the Patten Report. It should be published now.
Sinn Fein is resolutely opposed to the use of plastic bullets. They should be banned. Guidance on this matter should be a matter for a new Police Board and subject to widespread consultation. This is a matter of lethal force, of life and death, of human rights. A timeframe of 3 months should be attached to the statutory requirement of the Board to issue guidance.
Current provision does not adhere to the Patten recommendations on Flags and Emblems. Accordingly the clause needs amended. Patten was clear that there should be no scope for the British Union Flag or for RUC emblems. This is an important issue to the new beginning required to policing.
In line with Patten legal provision should oblige the Chief Constable to ensure that police officers numbers are clearly visible at all times when he/she is on duty.
In line with Patten this needs amended so that the emphasis in reports from the Board is on the effectiveness of the police in working co-operatively with the public.
This needs amended in line with the Patten Report which is quite clear in relation to reports.
The powers of the Board in respect of inquiries should be preserved as recommended by Patten. Current provision dilutes and subverts this in a wide range of ways.
Provision in respect of the Ombudsman is wholly contrary to the Patten recommendations, which foresaw the role of the Ombudsman as being an essential one, for modifying police behaviour. The Patten recommendations for giving the Ombudsman powers of investigation and initiative should be sustained in the legislation.
There should be provision to empower and require the Ombudsman to supply information to the Board on the pattern of complaints against individual officers.
This clause should be deleted. It is another example of the excessive powers being culled for the British Secretary of State and a further limitation on the Ombudsman's powers of inquiry. It runs contrary to Patten.
The Police Bill affords the Oversight Commissioner a greatly diminished role from that recommended by Patten. Indeed Patten is not recognisable in the British Government proposals on this issue. Root and branch surgery on current provision is required to bring it into line with Patten.
The subversion of the Oversight Commissioner's role carries though to this clause. It should be for the Commissioner to determine the content and format of any report by him. There should be a statutory duty to make these reports public.
The RUC George Cross Foundation is no part of the Patten recommendations. The British Government has not sought in this Bill or elsewhere to establish a foundation to assist the victims of the RUC. There is little evidence that the British Government accepts that there are any RUC victims. The provision should be deleted.
This falls short of the Patten requirement that the Board accurately reflects the community served by the new police service. Of as much cause for concern is the detailed hurdles which are placed in the way of the Board in respect of initiating inquiries. Significant amendment in required to bring all of this into line with Patten.
This dilutes Patten's recommendations of District Policing Partnerships in and through a whole range of matters including nominations, Code of Practice, disqualification and so on. Several amendments are required to rectify this.
The onslaught on the role of the Oversight Commissioner as recommended by Patten continues here. The recommended life-span is truncated. The terms of reference are totally subverted. The independence of the Commissioner is curtailed by powers in the hands of the British Secretary of State in respect of staff.
Note: The last 3 bullet points, in summary form, deal with 3 of the schedules associated with the Bill. The matters they address are clearly substantive, significant and are far reaching in their effect. The British Secretary of State, in the Bill, seeks to arrogate unto himself the power to make a whole range of other schedules. Given the importance of what is involved and the British Government's record to date on the policing issue, people would be fool to buy this pig in a poke provision.
Moreover, the argument above clearly supports the Sinn Fein demand that all Codes, Regulations and Plans be published now so that we all can assess the British Government's complete response tot he Patten recommendations.
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