It started its journey being introduced to Parliament as a Bill in February 2016 and after consultation and amendment; the Policing and Crime Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 31 January 2017 and largely resembled the original Bill. Its intention is to further reform policing in England and Wales as well as enabling important changes to the government of fire and rescue services.
A complex piece of legislation comprising 184 sections and 19 schedules; the Act legislates various changes to existing rules involving Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), complaints through the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), amendments to PACE 1984 and a drive for greater collaboration between emergency services. The Act also effects the Alan Turing Law – the most high profile section of the Act which offers an automatic pardon to men convicted for homosexual acts that are no longer considered criminal offences.
Since the Act received Royal Assent, a number of commencement regulations have been published. This means that some sections of the Act have been brought into force through the commencement regulations directly and others by virtue of other sections of the Act.
The main provisions of the Act will potentially have a profound impact on the administration of emergency services and reduce local authority control with one hand whilst raising control to Police and Crime Commissioners with the other. The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Home Office have both produced briefing papers explaining the impact of various sections of the Act and offering supporting notes for interpretation of the legislation:
Purpose of the Act
The Act is wide reaching and contains a range of measures to:
- Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces; including through closer collaboration with other emergency services,
- Enhance the democratic accountability of police forces and fire and rescue services,
- Build public confidence in policing,
- Strengthen the protections for persons under investigation by, or who, come into contact with the police,
- Ensure that the police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to prevent, detect and investigate crime,
- Further safeguard children and young people from sexual exploitation.
Emergency Services Collaboration
Part 1 of the Act covers emergency services collaboration and places new duties onto the police, fire & rescue and emergency ambulance services to keep any opportunities to collaborate under review. This applies to England only. Where it is in their interests to, the Act sets a clear expectation that collaboration agreements should be entered into where it can demonstrably raise efficiency or effectiveness of service provision.
There are many strong examples of collaborative working which emergency services can draw upon. These have been published by the Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group and can be found at:
Governance of Fire & Rescue Services
There are provisions within the Act which enable a Police and Crime Commissioner to take on the responsibility for the governance of the fire and rescue function in their area. Their role would then become that of Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC).
To enable this, a local case would be made to the Secretary of State detailing why it is in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness or public safety for it to happen. PCC’s and PFCC’s will also be able to make a further case to delegate fire functions to a single chief officer for policing and fire under the single employer model.
Police Complaints, Discipline and Inspection
Part 2 of the Act addresses changes to how complaints, discipline of officers and the inspection of forces are dealt with. There are new powers on the Home Office and College of Policing to issue guidance on police discipline which will be published in due course. The Act introduces a process for bringing disciplinary action against former officers where an allegation arose before they left the establishment. This is to prevent them being able to re-join at a later date with an unblemished record. A 12 month parameter for investigation on such allegations has been set. However, following the Hillsborough Inquest, there is a clause within the Act to extend this for exceptional circumstances.
The inspection measures set out in the Act were required to address the first section of the Act where policing functions are to be delivered differently.
In addressing complaints, the Act requires the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to change its name to The Office for Police Conduct and this entity will be led by a Director General who will be appointed by the Queen rather than under the control of a number of commissioners as it is now within the IPCC.
Protection of Children and Vulnerable People
The definition of sexual exploitation as set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 has been amended to ensure it also covers situations where indecent images of children are ‘streamed’ or otherwise transmitted. This takes account of the technological advances since 2003 and ensures perpetrators of these crimes, in this way, can be effectively prosecuted.
There is a section on coroner’s investigations into deaths which amends section 48 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Under the Policing and Crime Act, when a vulnerable person is deprived of their liberty under the Mental Capacity Act dies on or after the 3rd April 2017 there will no longer be an automatic requirement to hold an inquest.
Unusual Additions in the Act
Besides the Alan Turning Law coming into force through the Act, there are other unusual inclusions wrapped up in the legislation.
The Act stipulates both printed and online anonymity for victims of forced marriage with the intention of raising the confidence of victims to encourage them to come forward. The provisions have been modelled on existing law for victims of female genital mutilation.
It is now an offence to be in possession of a firework, flare or other pyrotechnic article at a music event unless clear permission has been given by the event organiser. The offence will carry punishment of a 3 month custodial sentence or level 3 fine which is currently £1000.
Police and immigration officers will have new powers in relation to searches for and seizures of invalid travel documents.
This Act also makes amendments to the Licensing Act 2003, clarifying the law on premises licences and granting new powers to licensing authorities to revoke or suspend personal licences in certain circumstances. The definition of alcohol has been widened to include powdered and vaporised alcohol.
This briefing only draws on a number of the changes brought about by the new Policing and Crime Act 2017. To read the full Act visit:
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