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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reply from Thames Valley Police Authority on their impartiality

The Chief Executive and Treasurer of the Authority has written back to me (I wrote on Saturday with a link to my earlier blog post on the issue). Here is his email in full (I must say I am impressed by the speed of response and the fact that he dealt with nearly all of my points)
Dear Mr Harvey
May I respond on behalf of Mr Lawson and Thames Valley Police Authority to your concerns, below.
I can confirm that the Police Authority has not written to Mr Stansfeld regarding the comments on his Conservative Party campaign website and does not intend to do so.
The comments you refer to represent a statement of fact and make no claim that either the Police Authority or any individual member(s) of the Authority are supportive of his candidature (albeit I acknowledge it is implicit that Mr Stansfeld, the Police Authority member, is supportive of the campaign of Mr Stansfeld, the PCC candidate, but I suspect that most reasonable people would assume that to be the case in any event). 
If you are not satisfied with this response then I note and concur that your proposed action would be appropriate, i.e. to refer your concerns to either the Electoral Commission and/or the Home Office to seek their opinion, if not clarification, as to whether the Police Authority has breached any electoral laws or guidelines.  However,
I have also taken the liberty of copying this response in to the Police Area Returning Officer for the Thames Valley, Mr. Andrew Grant, who is responsible for the administration and upholding the integrity of this local PCC election, to make him aware of your concerns.
Finally, as to your question in your blog (“just who brought this to your attention?” re the matters relating to Mr Bains), I can confirm that it was brought to my attention by an officer of the Police Authority as a result of their routine scanning of all candidates’ campaign websites, a process we hope will benefit the transition to a PCC by gaining an early insight into their priorities, objectives and campaign manifesto commitments prior to the election in November.
Yours faithfully,
Paul Hammond
I have just replied:
Dear Mr Hammond
Thank you for your swift reply, I appreciate that. Moreover, thank you for addressing all of the questions in my email from the weekend. (However, I would request again a reply to the question in my email of 3/9/12 which, to my mind, you have not fully addressed.)
I remain concerned of course and I will be referring the matter to the Home Office and the Electoral Commission in due course. I will also be interested to read the views of the Returning Officer at some point as well. Thank you for involving him in this discussion.
You write that the comments on Cllr Stansfeld’s website are merely factual. I assume you mean such comments as: “For the last year Anthony Stansfeld has Chaired the performance Committee of the Police Authority, which sets targets for the police. Household burglary has been given priority, especially in our major urban areas such as Slough, Reading, Oxford and Milton Keynes. The results have been impressive. In Slough the detection rate has nearly doubled, and household burglaries have reduced considerably. In Reading household burglaries are running at over 30% less and detection rates again have about doubled. This is mirrored in most other Thames Police areas. There is still room for improvement and this is being addressed. Anthony Stansfeld believes that high detection rates for household burglary lead to immediate reductions in crime rates, not only for household burglary but in other areas as well.”
When I read this website with an evident opinion (not a statement of fact) “results have been impressive” along with his published CV which states “He took over as Chairman of the Performance Committee of the Thames Valley Police last year, during this period the overall crime rate has dropped by 15%, the greatest drop of any Police Force in England and Wales. He has, in conjunction with his Committee, set the exacting targets the Police have to achieve over next year. He concentrated his efforts on reducing rural crime, and improving household burglary detection rates, especially in Slough and Reading, neither of which has been up to standard in the past” for me, this begins to read less like a mere listing of facts and much more like Cllr Stansfeld using his position on the Authority in support of a Party Political campaign. What do you think?
Meanwhile, I have been studying the TVPA Code of Conduct. This Code states (as I am sure you well know) under General Obligations that members of the Authority must not “(d) do anything which compromises or is likely to compromise the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority”. May I ask if this applies to a member at all times or only when they specifically involved in a meeting of the Authority (ie within the usual scope of being a police authority member as defined elsewhere in the code)?
Furthermore, in your view, given that that Cllr Stansfeld has been in meetings with the Chief Constable and yourself since declaring himself to be the Conservative Party Candidate, could that in itself be something which might have constituted a compromise of impartiality? For example, he may have asked a question about a report that could have referred to policing post November? 
I look forward to your further thoughts. Thank you.
(I am also looking forward to your or Mr Lawson’s reply to my email of 18/9/12 about the accuracy of Cllr Stansfeld’s register of interests which certainly omitted mention of his role on West Berkshire Council and indeed his membership of the Conservative Party on his ‘updated 29/8/12’ form, which also has him citing a firm which I believe was dissolved in 2009… although I could be wrong, of course. Interestingly, his TVPA form makes no mention of the company ‘Fidas’ which is mentioned on his West Berkshire register of interests: of which he says he is Chairman. I presume such actions are all covered by the TVPA code of conduct? I hope all this can be resolved satisfactorily)
Very best wishes
I now forward to further debate and resolution of all these matters.

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