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Foundations for Policing:
Proposals for Policing Structures in Northern Ireland

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Foundations for Policing

Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
By Command of Her Majesty, May 1996
Cmnd 3259


Section 1:

The Need for Change
The Background to Change
Police Authority Community Consultation
The Fundamental Review
The Key Objective
Perceptions of the Police

Section 2:

Current Arrangements - The Problems
The "Policing in the Community" Consultation
The Way Ahead

Section 3:

Guiding Principles
Duties of Police Officers
Defining Responsibilities
The Accountability Framework
Responsibilities of the Partners

Section 4:

Objective Setting
Policing Plans
Resourcing the Police Service
Public Expenditure Round
Performance Review, Audit and Inspection

Section 5:

Working Together

Section 6:

Section 7:


A. An Agenda for the Reform and Evolution of the Police Service
B. Responsibilities of the Partners


by The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The Rt Hon Sir Patrick Mayhew QC MP

  1. This White Paper focuses on reform of the overall administrative structure for policing in Northern Ireland, often called the tripartite structure because it rests on the inter-relationship between the Secretary of State, the Chief Constable and the Police Authority, within which the police service operates. But this structure must be seen in context, and the Paper therefore also outlines some of the other major reforms to policing in Northern Ireland which are currently under way. It offers proposals for the basis of future legislation. This legislation would be informed by the forthcoming discussions on Policing in all party political negotiations, to take place on an open agenda, and would be shaped to reflect any-Agreements which emerge.

  2. In all these reforms, the Government seeks to build on the common ground which I believe exists on the sort of police service which is needed to meet the community's concerns and priorities. That service must be founded on fundamental principles of fairness, impartiality, consent, responsiveness, accountability and flexibility. The necessary legislation will also take account of the major review of Emergency legislation, the review of the police complaints process, and the Fundamental Review of policing, all of which are due to report by summer 1996. Additionally, the Police Authority for Northern Ireland recently conducted the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of community views on policing in Northern Ireland. The Report detailing the survey's findings was published on 26 March. and will be a further important contribution to the debate on policing.

  3. The original impetus for reform of the tripartite structure was the need to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in policing, together with greater public accountability. That remains the central thrust of the proposals in this White Paper. However, it must also be considered in the light of the prevailing political and security environment.

  4. Reform of the police service is an evolutionary process, and important positive changes are already taking place. The Police and Magistrates' Courts Act, 1994 made sweeping changes to policing structures in England and Wales (on which Northern lreland's system is modelled), and also in Scotland. It is essential Northern Ireland should not be neglected in this process of change, particularly as many of the reforms seek to involve the community more fully in the setting of the policing priorities for their own area, and therefore encourage increased openness and more effective accountability. My consultation document "Policing in the Community", published in March 1994, stimulated a major debate on the future arrangements for policing in Northern Ireland. This debate was given additional dimensions by the ceasefires called by the Provisional IRA and Combined Loyalist Military Command in the autumn of 1994. The Royal Ulster Constabulary adapted its operations during the ceasefires to the new and changed environment, and the Government is determined not to allow the breakdown in the Provisional IRA ceasefire to become a barrier to further progress

  5. The Government therefore wishes now to set out its proposals for policing, based on certain fundamental principles of policing on which, I believe, there is widespread agreement. The importance of the all party political negotiations which are due to begin on 10 June has led me to set no finite consultation period for comments on the White Paper. I reiterate that the legislation that would be needed would be informed by those negotiations and shaped by any agreement which emerges. But I believe these proposals provide firm foundations upon which to plan, and also that they will contribute to the broader debate on policing to which we look forward.

  6. Turning to the substance of the proposals, it is clear from the responses to "Policing in the Community", and the debate thereafter, that there are misunderstandings about the scope and intent of the currently planned reforms. I now set out, therefore, what these proposals could in essence achieve. The tripartite structure would continue, as proposed in "Policing in the Community": it was overwhelmingly supported by the responses we received. The operational independence, impartiality and integrity of the police, and their freedom from partisan political control, would be reinforced. The Police Authority's role would be strengthened, with improved arrangements for ensuring both that the views of the community on policing are properly represented in the police planning process, and that the Chief Constable is held to account. The respective roles of Government, the Chief Constable and the Authority will be clarified.

  7. The Government's purpose in proposing the reforms detailed in this White Paper is to facilitate the provision of an efficient, effective, professional, impartial and responsive police service, accountable to the community through a strong, widely representative and open Police Authority. it is our belief that they would help to foster partnership between the community, the police and other agencies in tackling problems of crime and disorder. Such partnership would make a vital contribution to a stable and peaceful environment for all the citizens of Northern Ireland, and its further development is very necessary.

    The Rt Hon Sir Patrick Mayhew QC MP
    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

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