The elected Commissioner will have a broad range of powers, subject
only to limited scrutiny by newly created Police and Crime Panels. Elected
Commissioners will be responsible for securing the maintenance of the police
force, setting the local area policing plan and budget, and will have the power
to hire and fire the Chief Constable.
The Bill promises to make police more accountable to the people. Accountability to the public is a crucial part of British policing but this radical overhaul will introduce politics into policing and risks placing a huge amount of power in one place. The proposals threaten the centuries old pillar of police independence, and may well prove counterproductive in practice. Liberty submitted a detailed submission to the Home Office policing consultation which foreshadowed this Bill, see our consultation response (PDF).
Part 2 of the Bill is concerned with licensing powers and authorities. Part 3 of the Bill concerns protest in Parliament Square and repeals sections 132 to 137 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, replacing them with restrictions on protest in Parliament Square Garden. These provisions threaten to overly restrict the right to peaceful protest, of which the UK has a long and proud history. Part 4 of the Bill proposes new restrictions on the issuing of arrest warrants in private prosecutions for certain offences, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture, where they have taken place outside of the UK. Part 5 of the Bill contains technical clauses.
House of Commons
House of Lords
reform of policing in the United Kingdom. Liberty has serious concerns that some of the changes proposed will undermine the principles which lie at the core of UK policing: operational independence and accountability to the rule of law.
We also propose amendments for Part 3 of the Bill, relating to protest in Parliament Square, and clause 152 of Part 4, regarding private prosecution. Our primary concern with any provision impeding the right to peaceful protest is that it undermines a direct means of holding the Government to account. The UK has a long and proud history of peaceful protest and assembly. These rights are integral to our democracy and are intertwined with the fundamental right to free speech.
In this briefing Liberty proposes amendments for Part 3 of the Bill, relating to protest in Parliament Square, and clause 155 of Part 4, regarding private prosecution. While Liberty welcomes the repeal of sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) – sections which introduced collectively oppressive restrictions on the right to protest in the vicinity of Parliament – the clauses proposed to replace the SOCPA provisions remain unacceptably restrictive of peaceful protest. The main amendment we propose in this briefing will have the effect that sections 132 to 138 of SOCPA will be repealed, but that there will be no replacement provisions. In the alternative, we set out an alternative procedure by which the right to protest in Parliament Square can only be restricted by a court where it will seriously disrupt public order, cause harm to public property or restrict the rights of others.
The amendment we suggest for clause 155 of Part 4 of the Bill would require the Director of Public Prosecution to be notified at the point of application to a Magistrate for an arrest warrant in the context of private prosecution, rather than seeking his consent to issue a warrant.