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Monday, March 23, 1998 Published at 18:08 GMT



UK

Straw gets tough on corrupt police
image: [ Sir Paul Condon says that there are 250 corrupt officers in the Metropolitan Police ]
Sir Paul Condon says that there are 250 corrupt officers in the Metropolitan Police


Jack Straw says that most police officers will welcome his moves to get rid of the "rotten apples" (3' 13")
The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has told MPs he is determined to make it easier for the police to tackle corruption within the ranks.

He plans to introduce a system of fast-track dismissal, and officers under investigation will not be allowed to retire early on health grounds.

In a Commons statement he said the vast majority of officers were doing a difficult and dangerous job, with honesty and integrity.

But he added a "corrosive minority of bad officers" must not be allowed to undermine standards.


[ image: Jack Straw is getting tough on corrupt officers]
Jack Straw is getting tough on corrupt officers
Mr Straw said there was great public concern over cases where police officers retired due to ill health before disciplinary proceedings against them could be completed.

"As the House knows, the inability to complete disciplinary hearings after the Hillsborough disaster was quite rightly a cause of anger and frustration to the families of victims." he said.

In future when accused officers claim they are unable to appear at disciplinary hearings due to ill health, matters will be decided in their absence.

And all cases where officers are convicted of criminal offences connected with their work will be referred automatically to the Home Secretary so he can consider forfeiting their pensions.

Independents complaints panel study

Mr Straw said there would be a feasibility study into an independent complaints investigation process which the Police Federation has favoured.


The BBC's Home Affairs correspondent Jon Silverman reports (0'48")
"I have no intention of making police officers more vulnerable to malicious complaints about the way they do their jobs," he assured the House.

"Equally, we must deal robustly with wrong-doing by a very small minority of police officers if public trust is to be preserved.

"In this country we police by public consent and that consent depends on public confidence and trust."

The changes, which take effect in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from April next year, include:

  • Reducing the level of proof needed to take disciplinary action, from the criminal trial standard of 'beyond reasonable doubt' to the 'balance of probabilities' used in civil cases.
  • A fast-track dismissal procedure to enable the worst officers to be sacked within weeks, instead of after internal hearings which can drag on for years.
  • Enabling disciplinary hearings to be held in officers' absence, to prevent officers delaying or escaping punishment by going sick.
  • An end to officers' "right to silence" during internal hearings.
  • A tightening up of rules to stop officers charges with discipline offences retiring on medical grounds to take a full pension.

Mr Straw's action follows a highly critical report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in January.


[ image: Sir Paul Condon welcomes the changes]
Sir Paul Condon welcomes the changes
The committee chairman, Chris Mullin, insisted that reform had long been needed to deal with the few corrupt officers who were damaging the service as a whole.

"There is no doubt a small minority of officers, with I am sorry to say the backing of the Police Federation and its extremely skilful lawyers, have effectively subverted the system by exploiting every conceivable loophole."

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Condon, has said he has 250 corrupt officers he is unable to deal with.

Welcoming the committee's report, he stressed: "The overwhelming majority of officers are honest and decent."

But the Police Federation, which represents officers up to the rank of chief inspector, is opposed to some of the changes.

It is concerned they may make officers more vulnerable to unfounded complaints and make them less willing to tackle certain types of criminal behaviour.

"We are concerned that some of the report's proposals may make operational officers think twice and play safe if they anticipate a complaint," said vice-chairman Ian Westwood.
 





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