I have been speaking in the Policing and Crime Bill Second Reading debate. The Bill is a worthy measure. It Bill draws together a number of disparate policy issues on policing and crime and , in particular, it:
- Introduces new provisions to improve police accountability and effectiveness (although the Government’s plans for directly elected police authorities, which provoked some controversy, have not been included in the Bill)
- Creates a new offence of paying for sex with someone who is controlled for gain and introduces new powers to close brothels
- Modifies the law on soliciting
- Tightens up the regulation of lap-dancing clubs by reclassifying them as ‘sex establishments’ rather than ‘entertainment’ venues
- Amends police powers to deal with young people drinking in public
- Introduces a new mandatory code of practice for alcohol sales
- Amends the criminal asset recovery scheme established under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
- Changes the arrangements for airport security and policing.
The proposals on prostitution are important but I focussed narrowly on those issues improving police effectiveness and accountability.
The Bill is – as I say – worthy, but does show some signs of being there because every Parliamentary Session is expected to contain a Bill on policing.
For example, Clause 1 places a duty on Police Authorities to ‘have regard’ to the views of the public in carrying out their functions. This is fine. Welcome you may say, but there already exists a duty on Police Authorities to ‘obtain’ the views of the public.
So what is the point of Clause 1? How many Police Authorities obtain the views of the public and then fail to have regard to those views (even if on a particular issue those views are – for other reasons – over-ruled). ‘Have regard to’ does not mean ‘automatically accept’. It means considering those views before taking a decision and being clear, if those views are not accepted, why that it is. So what does Clause 1 add? The answer is not a lot.