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Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Sunday, 6 September 2009 12:05 UK

Police let down by early releases

On Sunday 6 September Andrew Marr interviewed Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Acpo president Sir Hugh Orde says people convicted of terrorism and other serious crimes should serve their sentences.

ANDREW MARR:

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers speaking on the Andrew Marr Show

Now Sir Hugh Orde is widely recognised as one of the most thoughtful figures in British policing. Formerly Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, he's just taken over as Head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, which will give him a big say in the future of policing at a time when there's much talk of a crisis of public confidence, including after the G20 protests earlier this year. In London, the Mayor, Boris Johnson, has been flexing his muscles over the Met. The Tories say that police should be more directly accountable to voters. Well Sir Hugh Orde is with me now to discuss what might lie ahead. Welcome, Sir Hugh.

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Thank you.

ANDREW MARR:

Let's start, if we may, about the issue of political control over the police. Now one of the advisers to the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, said that they had their hands on the tiller of the Met, and the Head of the Met came out and said that it wasn't quite like that. But there is a serious question about why not? When Boris Johnson and his people say well we are elected by the people of London, it's their priorities that we're elected to represent, why shouldn't they have effective control over policing in London?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well, first of all, I came out as well very strongly to try and establish very clearly the distinction between the operational responsibility of chief officers and the absolute right of those who are elected to hold us accountable. And I think that's the debate: how accountable can we be held whilst allowing us the freedom to operate in a completely independent way, free of any suggestion that what we're doing is politically driven rather than professionally driven?

ANDREW MARR:

This is a very difficult line, isn't it?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

It is, yeah.

ANDREW MARR:

Because, for instance, if a politician comes to you and says, "My people say we want more police on the beat, on foot. We want them out of the patrol cars" and they want to see them more visibly, and the head of the local police says, "Well actually I don't think that's an efficient use of my officers" - now is that strategy, is that tactics? Who decides?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well I think that's the huge strength of British policing. The reality of policing - it was something I led on at our summer conference - was how complex it is. And every chief would like to put more police officers out on the street, let's be very clear about that, but every chief also has to deal with intelligence, they have to deal with serious crime investigation, they have to deal with national and international crime. It's not as simple as one political soundbite.

ANDREW MARR:

So when Mr Johnson's adviser, Kit Malthouse, says, "We've got our hands on the tiller of the Met", that's something that raises your hackles?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well I find it entirely unacceptable from a professional police officer's point of view, and I know I can speak with absolute clarity for all the 44 chiefs that lead policing in this country and have done pretty well over the last five to seven years.

ANDREW MARR:

What about the argument for elected police, effectively head of policing in an area being elected - whether that's a politician or whether possibly it's actually an elected police officer?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well my personal view is I also fundamentally disagree with that. I said again at the conference every professional bone in my body tells me this is a bad idea. We have to be very clear on this. And I've come from an organisation in Northern Ireland where we were held to account in a very open, very public way by democratically elected people who sit on the policing board. There are ways of doing this without taking away from us responsibility and the right to police in the way we think is the most appropriate.

ANDREW MARR:

So what is so wrong? I mean the Americans do this, for instance. They have effectively a Head of Policing elected locally all across the states and it seems to work for them.

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well actually that's not entirely correct. There are sheriffs departments where the sheriff spends - and I know many of them - two or three years campaigning. And if you seriously think they want the notion that you get stopped for speeding and then the sheriff then hands you a little election card, you know I think that's not where we want to be. I think the institution of British policing is seen as one of the strongest models in the Western world, and I think we need to hold onto the good bits and look at how we do the accountability bit and see if we can do it better, and that may well include a greater level of democratic involvement in policing.

ANDREW MARR:

So how would that happen?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well, as I've said, there is a model that already exists in Northern Ireland. I was held to account very publicly once a month in front of 19 people - 10 of whom were elected - and represented in absolutely the populations they were charged with representing, and I think that's a very powerful model. And if you look at the people on it, very different people from very different parties.

ANDREW MARR:

So you could apply that across the UK?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well that may be one model. I think the debate again is not one that police should lead on.

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah.

SIR HUGH ORDE:

The public and the politicians should decide how they want us to police, I'm absolutely clear on that; but how the operational service delivery is decided, that is a matter for professional policing.

ANDREW MARR:

So if a politician, a Conservative politician say said to you, "Our position is that in the end, in this country the police aren't accountable enough, senior police officers aren't accountable enough to local populations who are worried about law and order, worried about what's happening on their streets", would you accept that as a fair point and a fair criticism?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

No I wouldn't because the chiefs I speak to take the role of responsibility very seriously. They also take the role of accountability very seriously. And we are one of the most transparent organisations in the public sector. We are more than happy to have conversations in public about difficult policing issues and we do it all the time. And when we get things wrong, frankly we do stand up and say we got it wrong and we do learn (coughs), excuse me, and we do learn from many people, including those who represent the communities we protect.

ANDREW MARR:

Let me ask you about another story we talked about this morning, which is the al-Megrahi release and so on. What sort of signals do you think that sends out?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

Well I think again that's a matter for politicians rather than police officers. What I am clear on is that I know many officers work tirelessly for many months to bring these people to justice. It may be a terrorist in that particular case; or in the wider anti-terrorist field, there are people working day in and day out to keep this place safe. And I do know (because many have told me) they do feel disappointed when someone is locked up for a serious, serious crime at the top end of the criminal spectrum that those people do on occasions get released for other reasons. But, again, it's …

ANDREW MARR:

So they feel let down, these people?

SIR HUGH ORDE:

I think some of the senior officers, some of the people investigating those sorts of crimes. And, as I said in the papers only two days ago, if anyone is convicted for murdering my police officer in Northern Ireland, I would expect that person never to see the light of day again.

ANDREW MARR:

Sir Hugh Orde - for now, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

INTERVIEW ENDS


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.


NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy


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