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Foundations for Policing: Proposals for Policing Structures in Northern Ireland - Section 3

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Building a Partnership

3.1The PANI community consultation exercise has underlined the need to strengthen both accountability mechanisms and the protection of police impartiality and integrity. The Government proposes to do this by setting out clearly in statute the powers and duties of all partners in the tripartite relationship. This will help to establish a system of mutual checks and balances to prevent abuse by any party.


3.2It is clear to the Government, not least from the responses to its consultation, that the following overriding principles should apply to all three parties:
  • the need to ensure the safety and security of all persons and property, and the upholding of law, in Northern Ireland;

  • the importance of safeguarding fundamental human rights;

  • the importance of respect for victims of crime and understanding of their needs;

  • the need for co-operation between the police and the community they serve;

  • the need for awareness of and sensitivity to the pluralistic nature of Northern Ireland society; and

  • the need to ensure that the police are, and are seen to be, broadly representative and have the support of the entire community.

  • These principles will form an open and public statement of purpose for all three parties in the tripartite structure, and guide the exercise of each party's respective duties and responsibilities.


3.3Alongside these guiding principles, the Government believes there will be advantage in setting out the key policing aims, so that these are clearly visible, and act as part of the mutually reinforcing system of safeguards for the impartiality, integrity, and proper accountability of the police service. The Government has, therefore, concluded that all police officers, acting under the direction and control of the Chief Constable, should be explicitly required by the legislation to carry out their duties and uphold the law:
  • impartially, without favour or affection, malice or ill will, without regard to status, gender, race, culture and tradition, religious belief, political beliefs or aspirations, and with an understanding of differing views;

  • treating all persons with courtesy, consideration and dignity, recognising the individuality and value of every person; and

  • for the benefit of the community as a whole.


3.4As emphasised by many respondents in the consultation process, the Chief Constable must remain independent and be solely responsible for police operations and deployment, though he will remain answerable to the law through the courts. Neither the Secretary of State nor PANI currently have, or will have under these proposals, any power to direct the Chief Constable to enforce the law in a particular way; to conduct (or not conduct) particular operations, or to tell the police to prosecute one individual but not another. This is what is frequently referred to as the "operational independence" of the police.
3.5However, it was also clear from the consultation process that, while it is crucial to keep the RUC free from political control, many wanted more effective accountability of the police to the community. The Government's proposals therefore seek to safeguard operational independence while at the same time enhancing the duty of accountability. They also provide mechanisms within which a new relationship between the RUC and all sections of the community, represented by the Police Authority, can be created.


3.6In essence, the proposals in this White Paper envisage that all three parties in the tripartite structure will have an overarching responsibility to exercise their respective duties so as to provide a fair, impartial, acceptable police service, providing value for money to the people of Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State will (as now) decide the overall level of resources to be provided for policing (the "Police Grant") and have ultimate responsibility for law and order. The Chief Constable will direct and control the police and manage the resources required for the operation of the service. The Police Authority will be responsible for ensuring that the views of the community are properly represented in the police planning process, by setting objectives. The Police Authority will also hold the Chief Constable to account for the policing service provided to the community and thus be responsible for securing an efficient and effective police service.
3.7The way in which each of the three parties will exercise their respective duties can best be illustrated through examination of the police planning process. The main elements of this process are:
  • objective setting

  • strategic planning

  • annual planning

  • performance monitoring

  • financial planning
3.8The Secretary of State, having consulted PANI and the RUC, will set strategic policing objectives before the start of the annual planning process. The Police Authority will include these among the objectives it agrees with the Chief Constable; it will set others in accordance with views gathered from the community. The Chief Constable will draw up a detailed annual plan to meet these agreed objectives, taking account of the level of available resources. PANI will approve and publish the plan following endorsement by the Secretary of State. For longer term planning, the Chief Constable will draw up a strategic 3 to 5 year plan, which he will publish.
3.9It will then be the responsibility of PANI to monitor, on behalf of the community, the implementation of the annual policing plan against the agreed objectives, and to report to the Secretary of State and the community. The process of objective setting and monitoring will closely match that already introduced in England and Wales. Its introduction in Northern Ireland has been warmly endorsed by PANI in the recently published Community Consultation Report.
3.10Bids for police service finance will be informed by the annual and strategic plans, and will be considered by the Secretary of State as part of the annual Northern Ireland Public Expenditure Survey along with Bids for other areas of public expenditure (for example, education and roads). The Secretary of State will determine the amount of the Police Grant.
3.11These objective setting mechanisms, together with the associated planning and financial arrangements, are central to the reform proposals. They are described in more detail in Chapter 4
3.12Each stage in the process - establishing the objectives, drawing up and approving the policing plans, setting the Police Grant, and accounting for the implementation of the plan - will require discussion and close co-operation between all three parties. But in the new structure the responsibilities of each party will be clear They are set out in the following chapters and are summarised at Annex B.


DUTIES- Overall responsibility for law and order

- Maintaining the statutory framework for policing

- Security policy

- Securing the maintenance of an efficient and effective police service by

- Obtaining the views of the community on policing matters; and

- Making these known to the Chief Constable and Secretary of State

- Holding the Chief Constable to account

- Upholding the law

- Acting impartially and reasonably in the control and direction of the force

- Advising the Secretary of State on security matters

OBJECTIVES, PLANNING & REPORTING - Setting, after consultation with the Chief Constable and PANI, Government objectives for the police service

- Endorsing the Chief Constable's annual policing plan

- Calling for reports from the Chief Constable and PANI

- Setting local (Northern Ireland) policing objectives in consultation with the Chief Constable

- Approving the Chief Constable's annual policing plan and, once it has been endorsed by the Secretary of State, publishing it

- Monitoring and reporting to the community and the Secretary of State on the implementation of the policing plan

- Seeking reports from the Chief Constable on the achievement of policing objectives

- Submitting an annual report to the Secretary of State

- Preparing strategic and annual policing plans, reflecting the stated objectives of the Secretary of State and PANI

- Reporting regularly, and also at specific request, to the Secretary of State and PANI on implementation

- Submitting an annual report to the Secretary of State and PANI

FINANCE- Determining allocation and quantum of Police Grant

- Providing the Police Grant

- Accounting to Parliament

- Issuing guidance and financial instructions

- Laying certified accounts in Parliament

- Monitoring expenditure

- Securing funding for police service on behalf of the community

- Submitting agreed PES and estimates bids to Secretary of State

- Approving breakdown of Grant across broad areas of expenditure (ie sets budget)

- Sub-accounting officer (Secretary to Authority)

- Delegating financial management responsibility to Chief Constable

- Approving accounts

- Monitoring expenditure

- Drafting PES and estimates bids

- Budget holder under delegated authority

- Managing financial and other resources ("directs and controls")

- Preparing and keeping accounts

- Monitoring expenditure

INSPECTION- Ensuring adequate external inspection and audit of the police service, eg through the use of HMIC* - Scrutinising quality of service- Ensuring internal inspection and continuous improvement procedures
PERSONNEL- Approving the appointment of officers of ACC rank or above - Appointing, setting pay and disciplining senior officers, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State - Controlling and directing police officers and support staff
OTHER- Appointing and funding PANI

- Appointing and funding the ICPC

- Sponsoring and publishing research into policing issues

- Acting as a statutory consultee on police buildings and 'controversial' equipment purchases

- Monitoring the operation of the complaints system and of civil claims against the RUC

- Consulting as appropriate with the Secretary of State, PANI, and other criminal justice agencies in development of future strategies for policing

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