Theresa May quietly U-turns on one of her key promises as Home Secretary

Support us and go ad-free

A new law came into effect [paywall] on Friday 8 December. And it reversed one of the key promises Theresa May made as Home Secretary.

In 2015, May announced that police officers facing gross misconduct charges would not be allowed to retire or resign. Previously, officers often left the force to avoid facing the potential repercussions of their actions. But the Policing and Crime Act has now reversed this decision. And once again, officers will be allowed to leave while under investigation.

An ‘unacceptable’ situation

Announcing the 2015 changes to the law when she was Home Secretary, May declared:

The ability of officers to avoid potential dismissal by resigning or retiring is an unacceptable situation. That is why I have introduced these reforms to ensure victims and their families are not denied the truth of police misconduct.

And she also stated that:

Direct damage has been done to public confidence by cases in which officers escaped justice by resigning or retiring where they might have been dismissed.

But two years later…

May has now U-turned on this decision. And officers will now be able to go back to using retirement or quitting the force as an option, meaning they will keep their pensions and benefits. The difference with the pre-2015 system seems to be that retired officers will still face misconduct proceedings. Officers found guilty [paywall] of gross misconduct will be placed on a “barred list”. But this list will not be available to the public.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

According to The Times [paywall], the changes have been made due to the cost of keeping officers on full salaries while under suspension pending investigation. The Police Federation, the union for police officers, claimed [paywall] the new system was more “cost effective”. And a Home Office spokesperson said that the hearings would ensure that former officers would not be allowed to rejoin the force if a sackable offence had occurred.

Not good enough

Retiring or resigning has long been the police tactic of choice to avoid disciplinary action. In 2011, it was reported that nearly 500 officers who were facing investigations had resigned over a two-year period – keeping both a clean record and their pensions. Speaking about a case in Manchester in 2014 where a senior officer retired, IPCC Commissioner Jan Williams said:

A police officer resigning when subject to investigation can frustrate our investigations, leaving important questions unanswered. Such a practice can only be damaging to public confidence in policing.

So May changed the law in 2015 to stop this from happening.

Speaking to The Canary, co-ordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring Kevin Blowe stated:

Changing the regulations designed to challenge the public perception that police officers can just walk away from disciplinary action, just to save money, points to the broader weakness of police accountability.

And Blowe says the problem goes deeper with officers not facing prosecution in the criminal courts:

There is still a refusal to prosecute officers for what are often unlawful acts and to rely instead on internal procedures.

For the government and the Police Federation, saving money seems more important than ensuring “public confidence in policing”. And while the new regulations will ensure the hearings still go ahead, and officers will be prevented from rejoining a different police force, this will still be of little comfort to anyone who has been the subject of police misconduct.

Get Involved!

– Support the Network for Police Monitoring

Featured image via David Mirzoeff

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed