The Conservative Government is heralding a major milestone in its policing reform agenda with the announcement that the Policing and Crime Bill has now received Royal Assent. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 will enhance the democratic accountability of police forces and Fire and Rescue Services, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Emergency Services through closer collaboration and build public confidence in policing.
It will strengthen the protections for individuals under investigation by – or who come into contact with – the police, while at the same time also ensuring that the police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need in order to prevent, detect and investigate crime and further safeguard children and young people from sexual exploitation.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “The Policing and Crime Act 2017 is another major milestone in our far-reaching police reforms over recent years. The measures outlined give greater protections for the vulnerable, ensure the police have the necessary powers to keep our communities safe and overhaul the police complaints and disciplinary systems to increase accountability and improve police integrity.”
Rudd continued: “We have also sought to ensure forces have the right people and skills to cope with the changing nature of crime, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our Emergency Services through greater collaboration and end the injustice of individuals spending extended periods on pre-charge bail.”
The Policing and Crime Act 2017 includes provisions which will:
*reform pre-charge bail to put a stop to people remaining on bail for lengthy periods with no independent judicial scrutiny of its continued necessity
*better enable chief police officers to make the most efficient and effective use of their workforce by giving them the flexibility to confer a wider range of powers on police staff and volunteers (while for the first time specifying a core list of powers that may only be exercised by warranted police officers) and conferring a power upon the Home Secretary to specify police ranks in regulations, thereby affording the flexibility to introduce a flatter rank structure
*place a new duty on the police service, Fire and Rescue Services and emergency ambulance services to collaborate where it’s in the interests of their efficiency or effectiveness and enable Police and Crime Commissioners to take on responsibility for the governance of Fire and Rescue Services where a local case is made for doing so
*improve the response to those in mental health crisis – including stopping those aged under 18 from being detained in a police station – and restricting such detention for adults by reforming police powers under Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983
*reform the police disciplinary and complaints systems to ensure that members of the public have confidence in their ability to hold the police to account, and that police officers will uphold the highest standards of integrity
*increase the maximum sentence for stalking involving fear of violence from five to ten years’ imprisonment
*amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, including to ensure that 17-year-olds detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes and facilitate the increased use of video link technology
*amend the Firearms Acts to better protect members of the public by closing loopholes that can be exploited by criminals and terrorists alike, and by issuing statutory guidance to ensure that the robust processes in place for assessing suitability to hold a firearms certificate are applied consistently
Brandon Lewis, Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, said: “Police reform is working. Crimes traditionally measured by the survey have fallen by a third since 2010 to a record low. I’m delighted this Act of Parliament has now received Royal Assent and, in close collaboration with police and fire stakeholders, we will work hard to implement its provisions to further improve the effectiveness and accountability of our Emergency Services.”