Home secretary moots expansion of police and crime commissioners’ role

Probation officers and other civil service roles could be subject to greater management from police and crime commissioners as part of measures to promote integration and information sharing, home secretary Theresa May has said.

By Jim Dunton

04 Feb 2016

Home secretary Theresa May has indicated that the government is considering broadening the remit of elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to include oversight of a range of criminal justice roles.

In a speech to think tank Policy Exchange, May said the commissioners – who replaced traditional police authorities responsible for overseeing England and Wales’ 41 police forces four years ago – had the potential to drive better joint working with the criminal justice system.

Speaking ahead of the announcement of the Police Grant Settlement, the home secretary said ministers would unveil proposals to expand the role following PCC elections in May.

"PCCs have used their personal mandate to drive positive change not just in policing and crime, but criminal justice, mental health, and the wider emergency services," she said.

"In the future, I would like to see the PCC role expanded even further still. Together with the justice secretary, Michael Gove, I have been exploring what role PCCs could play in the wider criminal justice system. This is something that I have long believed in and which a number of PCCs have shown interest in. As they say, there is a reason that we included the words 'and crime' in PCCs’ titles.

"After the May elections, the government will set out further proposals for police and crime commissioners. Because, as a number of PCCs have argued, youth justice, probation and court services can have a significant impact on crime in their areas and there are real efficiencies to be had from better integration and information sharing.

"We have yet to decide the full extent of these proposals and the form they will take, but I am clear that there is significant opportunity here for PCCs to lead the same type of reform they have delivered in emergency services in the wider criminal justice system."

May cited joint working arrangements between the police and fire service in Northamptonshire and the creation of a "tri-service neighbourhood centre" for emergency services in Staffordshire as examples of reform driven by PCCs to date.

The home secretary conceded that the introduction of PCCs had not been without problems – citing the resignation of commissioner Shaun Wright in South Yorkshire and the failure to conduct background checks on a youth crime commissioner for Kent, who also subsequently stood down.

However she insisted that there had been “not one single case” of a PCC influencing a police investigation or undermining the operational integrity of their force.

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