Independent custody visiting to continue: new ‘Police & Social Responsibility Bill’ published 1st December 2010
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill has now started its passage through Parliament, following its introduction to the House of Commons on 30 November 2010.
In the Queen’s 2010 speech, the government announced the introduction of legislation that would make the police service more accountable to local people and tackle alcohol-related violence. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill provides for this and other key coalition agreement commitments. It marks the next step in the government’s programme to reduce central bureaucracy, increase democratic accountability and empower local communities.
What will the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill do?
The bill includes the following provisions:
- making the police service more accountable to local people by replacing invisible police and crime commissioners with directly elected police and crime commissioners to be introduced from May 2012
- overhauling the Licensing Act to give more powers to local authorities and police to tackle any premises that are causing problems, doubling the maximum fine for persistent underage sales and permitting local authorities to charge more for late-night licences to contribute towards the cost of policing the late-night economy
- introducing a system of temporary bans for new psychoactive substances, so-called 'legal highs', whilst the health issues are considered by independent experts, to ensure our legislative process can respond quickly to emerging harmful substances
- restoring the right to non-violent protest around Parliament whilst ensuring that Parliament Square remains accessible to all by repealing sections 132-138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) 2005 and prohibiting encampments and other disruptive activity on Parliament Square
- amending the process for issuing private arrest warrants for universal jurisdiction offences to ensure that they are issued only where there is a reasonable prospect of successful prosecution
For more information on the bill and its passage through Parliament, please see the Parliament website.
The change for ICVs is in Schedule 15, Part 3, paragraph 163 (page 171 lines 27-35), as follows:
- Section 51 (independent custody visitors for places of detention) is amended in accordance with this paragraph.
- In subsections (1), (2)(a) and (3), for “police authority” substitute “local policing body”.
- In subsection (6), for “police and crime commissioners” substitute “local policing bodies”.
- In subsection (7), for paragraph (a) substitute - “(a) such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the views of police and crime commissioners;”.
- In subsection (9), for “police and crime commissioners” substitute “local policing bodies”.
IPCC Study Reveals Reduced Deaths in Custody
A major Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) study of 333 deaths in police custody reveals a welcome, substantial fall in the number of deaths over an 11-year period, and puts forward actions for police forces and health service providers to help prevent further tragedies.
In the first year of the study (1998/99) 49 people died in police custody in England and Wales, but by the last year (2008/09) this had fallen to 15. The long-term study gathered information about all the deaths in custody between 1998/99 and 2008/09, including personal characteristics of those who died, medical factors and the circumstances of their arrest, to identify themes.
The research found that potential factors contributing to the reduction include better police cell design with fewer ligature points, ill detainees being taken to hospital rather police custody, and better use of restraint techniques.
However, in just under half of the cases police failed to carry out a required risk assessment, and also prevalent were incidents where custody officers had not conducted proper checks or rousing of detainees. The study found that in many of the cases custody officers and staff lacked basic first aid training.
Alongside the research, the IPCC has also published its annual statistics on deaths during or following police contact which show that the number of deaths in custody in 2009-10 rose to 17, the first increase in six years.
Policing in the 21st Century: Consultation Responses
The summary of the responses to the consultation ‘Policing in the 21st century: reconnecting police and the people’ was published on 1st December 2010. It summarises the responses to the consultation in which the coalition government sets out the most radical reforms to policing in 50 years, including elements to be included in the Police Reform and Social Responsibilty Bill.