This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The PCC Oath: more than a tad worrying

In the middle of August, the Home Office released this text as the Oath that incoming PCCs will have to swear:
[Full Name] of [Place] do solemnly and sincerely promise that I will serve all the people of [Police Force Area] in the office of Police and Crime Commissioner without fear or favour.
I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability, will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public.
I will give a voice to the public, especially victims of crime and work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice.
I will take all steps within my power to ensure transparency of my decisions, so that I may be properly held to account by the public.
I will not seek to influence or prevent any lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest, nor encourage any police action save that which is lawful and justified within the bounds of this office.
I am not wild, indeed I am very concerned, about this wording for a number of reasons:

"all the people of" - does this include people visiting, working or studying in the area? Or just those who live (and vote) there? Who is the PCC there to serve? This wording is vague.

"without fear or favour" - why not just say "fairly"

"I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability" - why add the last bit? This just feels like padding.

"will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public" - wow! This is where I really begin to worry since this defines the job as being only about policing and the 'and crime' wider bit of the CJS seems to have been missed off although it gets a small mention later on. By accident or by design I wonder? Also I suspect that most people involved with policing & wider efforts to create a peaceful, safe and stable society will say that the job of the police is not limited to cutting crime and protecting the public. And protecting the public from what? Apart from roaming lions (yes I am writing this after the Essex Lion incident) - how can the police protect the public from other parts of the public...?! Um. I am confused. And it is not good to have an oath be confusing or vague.

"I will give a voice to the public" - just the one then. Also this seems like an odd thing to say. I would have preferred something more along the lines of listening to and representing all the communities etc.

"especially victims of crime" - what happened to 'without fear or favour'...?! Whilst I have campaigned for greater victims rights for many years - in a justice system - they cannot be a 'special' group with extra rights. I would argue this is inconsistent with the main thrust of the oath and indeed with the Human Rights Act.

"work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice" - effective criminal justice... what does that mean exactly?

"transparency of my decisions" - so only of decisions... what about everything leading up to the decisions, what about all words and actions by the PCC (since not all actions are decisions?)

"lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest" - and? Why the and? Why not 'or'. Who determines what is reasonable? If the PCC judges an investigation to be lawful but not reasonable, will the PCC be then able to intervene? Was a lawyer involved in the drafting of this wording?

"lawful and justified" - now we have justified... what happened to reasonable? Note the 'and' again. So if a PCC decides a police investigation is unjustified, can they discourage it? Unjustified on what grounds - expense? I mean all this investigating into News International is a tad expensive is it not...? Could that be unjustified?

I know I am being picky but this is meant to be a solemn Oath.... but it seems to (non legally trained) me as a set of words that a lawyer might drive a coach and horses through. It is worryingly vague in parts and worrying precise in others...? I have huge respect for Ros Baston. I wonder what she thinks?

The Home Office website is confusing. It appears the words are now set but it also invites Candidates (only?) to contact them with their comments on the wording... Huh?

Altogether very, very confusing. Who drafted these words? Was this knocked up in a hurry during the silly season?


  1. Well said Jon, the whole PCC concept is beginning to look as though it was dreamed up with little or no thought as to what it would look like in reality. The oath is a prime example of this approach.

    One particular point that stands out for me is the narrow focus on cutting crime. This is a direct reflection of the Home Secretary's view that policing is just about cutting crime which anyone with any real knowledge of policing will realise is just one of many tasks the police perform.

    Therefore this suggests to me that the Government are simply trying to reinforce their policy through PCC's by making them take an oath based on their views of policing. So much for independence!

    There has been no debate on this no public consultation its being imposed with no real thought.

    Do the public want the police just to focus on crime?

    I don't think so any more than they want PCC's!