Why bother with PCCs?

By now most people will be familiar with the corruption that goes on within the police, as well as the inability to take account of the needs of the general public in regards to how the police deal with different types of crimes. PCCs – or police and crime commissioners – were introduced to try and rectify this problem and encourage the police to take account of the wishes of the public.

One might expect the PCC to be broadly supportive of the general public and to make an effort to hold the police to account. This is unfortunately not the case if recent events are anything to go by.

One of the regular posters at NoDPI.org recently attended a meeting that allowed the general public to ask the chief constable questions. The PCC was also there. A brief transcript of what transpired can be found here, and a number of quotes are included below.

Safe to say things did not go well. It seemed fairly clear at the outset that things were going to be difficult.

Sue Mountstevens quickly interrupted me, and urged me to be brief.

This line from the article is revealing, since the PCC seems more interested in making life easier for the chief constable rather than making sure he answer the questions put to him.

But what happened next was more disappointing. Far from offering an account, Nick Gargan simply laughed at me. He laughed in my face.

This fundamental lack of respect for a member of the general public is rather revealing, as is the PCC’s apparent complete failure to stop him from showing such contempt to somebody simply asking him a question. Again apparently nothing was done on her part to correct matters.

He quickly composed himself, but then tried to assert that intercepting communications was ‘not a crime’.

Let me repeat that: intercepting communications is not a crime in the chief constable’s opinion. This was rather a surprise given the number of journalists that have already been arrested for such offenses. Perhaps Nick Gargan should have a word with Brooks and Coulson? In any case there was more: the home secretary responded to my questions with the following quote (emphasis added by me):

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) includes offences of unlawful interception – i.e. interception without a warrant or other lawful authority. A person who is found guilty of unlawful interception is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine, or to both.

RIPA also contains a power for the Interception of Communications Commissioner to serve a monetary penalty notice on a person whom he considers has intercepted a communication without lawful authority. Mr Seurre asks whether whether companies are subject to RIPA. Individuals and companies can be prosecuted under the unlawful interception provisions. In the event that an offence has been committed by a private company, an officer of that company may be subject to the sanctions set out above.

If Mr Seurre believes that oan offense has been committed, he should report this to the police. Alternatively he can contact the Interception of Communications Commissioners office at the following email address: info@iocco-uk.info

‘He should report this to the police’. What exactly would be the point of doing this if the police routinely ignore such reports? Surely any effort to do so would be an exercise in futility? Given recent stories about police and statistics I can only assume that this failure to recognise interception of communications as a crime is yet another effort to try and fiddle the numbers.

More worryingly however is the appearance of failure of the PCC to do anything in regards to the chief constable’s unacceptable behaviour and incorrect conclusions. As a result I sent her an email basically asking her why she thought such behaviour was acceptable and what she intended to do to try and mitigate the lack of knowledge within the police force, and also included the advice sent to me from the home office. Her reaction was rather disheartening:

I spoke to your friend and also replied to his email in November 2013, to address his concerns and he may well have already shared this with you directly. Your friend is aware that the Chief Constable gave his response to each person who raised a question and this was also heard by all the audience.

You are very welcome to attend any of the public forums to get a first-hand account of the Constabulary’s response and also my own replies. If you ask a question and then feel that the person who replies acts in a way that brings the Constabulary into disrepute or their conduct is below the professional standards expected then you can make a complaint. If an apology is due then I am keen that it is given as soon as possible and any poor conduct is rectified to improve the quality of service going forward.

If you are unable to attend a Public Forum but still wish to hear and see the event then you may prefer to listen and watch online via the web-stream. Please refer to my website (as below) for more details of my calendar and future events.

No admission – or denial – that he behaved inappropriately. No admission that the chief constable got things wrong or any indication that any measures will be taken to correct matters. Nothing useful at all in fact.

Perhaps it’s because the PCC is responsible for hiring the chief constable, but in my opinion she seems to be more interested in protecting him instead of encouraging him to do this job. At this point it’s difficult to see PCCs as anything more than highly paid PR sock puppets for the police. They certainly don’t seem to be interested in holding the police to account, and personally speaking I find it extremely difficult to see how they serve any useful purpose.

Just why should we be paying for PCCs? What purpose do they serve?

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