Police Bill – First Day of Committee Stage in the Lords

The Lords have tabled 327 amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Government has only tabled 7 days for Committee Stage. The first day’s debate included amendments on the Police Complaints System and Child Spies

The police complaints system

I have seen the police complaints system at first hand. At some point in the past, a Met Police sergeant came to me and told me that he had seen a few officers deleting files that the Met held on me.  These were files that I had asked to see and had been told did not exist—so I saw the police complaints system at first hand.

I took a complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, a vastly under-resourced organisation trying to do its best on very difficult work. This was not an emotional issue for me—it was a professional, work issue—but that Met Police sergeant suffered PTSD and was essentially hounded out of the Met Police because he had come to me as somebody who wanted the truth exposed, and so was in a whistleblowing situation. I could not do anything for him, but I persisted with my complaint.

There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied, and it is true on both sides—perhaps more when people are emotionally involved in the complaint they are making, which as I say did not really apply to me. In a way it is doubly true for complaints against the police, because there is a power imbalance. The police are seen to retain their positions, authority, power and legitimacy while complaints are ongoing, and this can be extremely upsetting.

This issue has come to light because of the allegations against the murderer of Sarah Everard. It is staggering, and truly terrifying, that the police had within their ranks somebody they knew, jokingly perhaps, as “The Rapist”. A noble Lord from this House, a previous Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who is not in his place today, said in an interview on the radio that it was not true that he was called “The Rapist”—but he is the only person I have heard saying that was not true. Perhaps another ex-Metropolitan Police Commissioner here might know better.

So it is time to cut the delays that everybody on both sides experiences in police complaints and disciplinary hearings and, most importantly, to give the independent watchdog the resources it needs to do the job. I have complained in the past about the number of police officers it employs, because it seems to me that you do not necessarily set a police officer to catch a police officer—but in fact it is so under-resourced that I feel it would benefit from almost anybody if it increased its staff. So this is something that the Government have to deal with.

Child spies

As I and others have mentioned many times, there is a serious failing of the police and the Home Office to safeguard children and young people from serious violence. This is most explicit in the police’s ongoing use of child spies, where they scoop up children who have got stuck in dangerous criminal situations and put them in even more danger by working them as an intelligence asset with very few safeguards. 

The serious violence duty is important, but it must include a duty to safeguard children and young people who are caught up in the chaos of organised crime. Early interventions, removing children from organised crime, and well-funded youth programmes are all key to ending this cycle of violence. Writing them off as destined for a life of crime and using them as disposable police assets is inhumane and dangerous. 


Read the whole debate on Hansard