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.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Unearthing the power of Section 17

My fellow blogger (and perhaps soon to the Conservative PCC candidate for Lancashire), Sam Chapman raises a good point in his recent posting (see here). He says “perhaps the PCC can provide the teeth that 'section 17' has always lacked”.

Hmm – that interests me as someone who has watched while s.17 of the Crime and Disorder Act (CDA98) has been fairly consistently ignored since 1998.

Some readers may be saying… what is s.17? Here it is in full:
17. Duty to consider crime and disorder implications.
(1) Without prejudice to any other obligation imposed on it, it shall be the duty of each authority to which this section applies to exercise its various functions with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of those functions on, and the need to do all that it reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder in its area.
(2) This section applies to a local authority, a joint authority, [F1 the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority,] a police authority, a National Park authority and the Broads Authority.
(3) In this section—• “local authority” means a local authority within the meaning given by section 270(1) of the M1 Local Government Act 1972 or the Common Council of the City of London; • “joint authority” has the same meaning as in the M2 Local Government Act 1985; • “National Park authority” means an authority established under section 63 of the M3 Environment Act 1995.
To my knowledge (and this is limited, I grant you), many councils just ignore this section altogether. There may even be people reading this post who ought to know about this part of the CDA98, but do not. If you are a councillor, for example, were you aware of this section? Other councils just add another impact assessment line to committee reports after finance and diversity etc. Very few councils if any, to my knowledge, have rigorously thought about this section and how they may be conforming to it or in breach of it… (Although I am happy to be informed otherwise...)

My interest in this stems from a small piece of work I did for Kate Flannery back in 1999 when she was at the Audit Commission (before she became one of the first, if not the first, ‘civilian’ HMIC). Kate asked me to produce a report outlining what a “s.17 compliant council” would look like. I have it still. I also ran a series of workshops investigating the implications of s.17.

In my view, then and now, s17:

> touches every element of council services – inputs, outputs and outcomes
> invokes the need to review everything that is done (and not done) by the council
> also invokes the need to review all decisions (including decisions not to make decisions) as to their likely impact on crime & disorder
And I proposed then that all authorities covered by the Act (will the PCC office itself be covered like the Police Authority was?) should ask themselves these questions:

1) What are we already doing to reduce crime & disorder and promote peaceful behaviour?
2) What have we got planned that will reduce crime & disorder and promote peaceful behaviour?
3) What more could we doing that would reduce crime & disorder and promote peaceful behaviour?
4) What are we already doing to increase crime & disorder and reduce peaceful behaviour?
5) What have we got planned that will increase crime & disorder and reduce peaceful behaviour?
6) What are we at risk of doing that would increase crime & disorder or reduce peaceful behaviour?

And now I am wondering, how the PCC might deploy this section of the CDA98 to ‘balance & support’ their relationship with the Police & Crime Panel members..!?

Interesting times!


  1. bunnyson5/7/12 11:22


    One wonders if B'ham City Council and its agent B"ham Safer partnership considered those six points during the consideration given to implementing Project Champion? I have read the two follow on reports, by Thames Valley Police and B'ham City Council and cannot recall S.17 even being mentioned. Plenty on EQIA though.

    Project Champion did not affect crime & disorder or peaceful behaviour, but it made a big dent in public trust and confidence in the communities affected - which is behind S.17 in my opinion.

    Question, did the legislation specify that S.17 CDA assessments and decision-making were placed in the public domain?

    I suspect the lack of S.17 use reflects a great deal of inertia within local government, almost akin to "That's what the police do". Whatever the official stance is relations between local government and the police are not always mutually confident.

  2. Thanks bunnyson for your comment. I think that s.17 has been quietly left to fade away, possibly by Police Authorities allowing this to happen. No surprise there, given the make up PAs. But the PCC is, as many have commented, a game changer and s.17 might begin to reappear...

  3. I questioned Alun Michael MP whose 'baby' the C&DA 98 was at a Labour Fringe panel event in Mcr last year (I am independent). He said it was a key issue in advance of the election of the PCCs and would have to be addressed by them after their election when I suggested that there could be some legal challenge to LAs and Police forces should they fail to adhere to Sec 17 statutory obligations. How many of the elected PCCs have even heard of the act or Sec 17? Just been chatting online to Mayor of Salford and he appears never to have heard of it and asked me to contact him directly so he could let Tony Lloyd the elected PCC pf Manchester know about it. I told him I have already approached TL's office with no response. Talk about the blind leading the blind! Sec 17 was a strong framework and if the PCCs have the ability to hold the Police forces to account fr their delivery along Sec 17 lines then this would have a positive ripple effect in them and LAs sharing info better, dealing with issues like community cohesion ASB and low level crime better through more strategic effective measures ameliorating the huge operational cuts in Policing and LA services.

    1. As I say, it has been overlooked. Shrewd PCCs should be dusting it off and using it wisely.

    2. And thanks for your comment