APCC Chair Vera Baird QC’s speech to the APCC/NPCC Joint Summit – 16 November 2016

I am delighted to open the second annual Policing Summit here in London alongside chief constable Sara Thornton, (who has talked about working with politicians as a delicate relationship rather like skating together on ice).

I am not much of an ice dancer!

There are, on the whole, quite enough of Gordon Brown’s former ministers engaged in dancing at the moment without me taking to the rink.

But we do work together.

Today’s event carries on from the very successful joint summit we held in Manchester last year. It is opportunity to bring the policing community together to address some of the big issues of the day.

It is almost four years to the day that police and crime commissioner were first elected –on 15th November 2012.

My staff and I having a party up in Northumbria on Friday to celebrate my fourth birthday. Don’t fret that you can’t be there, we’re Geordies, you’ll hear us.

This May, a better time of year, elections were held for the second time, with better turnouts and in my case a doubled majority, meaning that we have far stronger electoral mandates now to ensure that policing, community safety and criminal justice serve the public we now represent very fully.

The newly elected have brought new energy and they, and those like me re-elected, have a firm foundation now from which to work, literally in their offices, in that a platform and a method of working have been established during the first four years. Additionally the office of PCC itself is secure. The next PCC Election Day is not until the next General Election in 2020 – at least that is when the next General Election Day is currently scheduled to be.

It is a good time to be chair of the APCC, which itself has renewed vigour, with good staff, and a more involved membership through a system of thematic portfolios whereby a Commissioner will be the national spokesperson for each theme. In my case, for instance, as the champion for victims. We will develop expertise and work in a thematic group with other PCCs who share the same interest, discuss until we can shape policy, work to implement it and to spread best practice across all the other PCCs and forces. We will do that across all policy areas and hope to bring change.

The Government’s manifesto promised to continue the job of police reform whilst saying that it intends to take a back seat and leave it to the forces and their PCCs to be ‘self reforming’ in order to serve the public in a modern and economical way.

And we are working well together on the Police Reform and Transformation Board to get a vision for a modern police force that we can move towards, using the funds available and through wide ranging consultation with you, the experts in the cities counties and regions to make sure that we get it right.

The Policing Vision 2025 which is being launched today is a good document

It ought to be, it has been around the block about five times. Every one has signed up to it and it has been absolutely fully debated. It is good.

A fundamental of the Vision is the need for policing to be – at all levels – accountable to the people it serves, whether the services are being delivered locally, regional or nationally.

It sets out how the service needs to use technology to make it easier for the public to interact with the police, how it needs to attract a confident and professional workforce and how much we intend to work with other agencies to ensure that people are kept safe.

We Commissioners are also working more cohesively, we are clearer about what we want to achieve and more ambitious. For example, we have this week met with the Justice Secretary and think we have lodged with her the real prospect of some criminal justice devolution to PCCs, so that there can be local standards or local demands put onto the prosecution and the courts. They currently work locally but are accountable only nationally. It is not about affecting the independence of the judiciary – but some current prosecution and court practices are not good for victims for whom we as PCCs have been given a strong responsibility.

We would like local leverage to be better able to fulfil that obligation, but we want to work with defendants too. So can we also, with our local contacts, work to establish some more positive sentencing options to divert people, particularly young people out of trouble? We would like to try to do so, locally with some licence and some leverage to see if we can make a difference.

It is better for the public and more satisfying for police officers if we can see quicker and better local justice. The ‘and crime’ aspect in our title is coming to the fore here. And it is encouraged by what seems like the real prospect that more nationally commissioned victims services will be devolved to us.

So, it is an exciting time to be in the police and to be a police and crime commissioner.

And as our first speaker, the Home Secretary,  said to us yesterday, when we met with her, a time of government investing confidence in the role of PCC and in the police to go on to higher achievements in our joint quest to serve the public as well as we can.

Police and crime commissioners oversee the police and hold them to account, that is our role and we carry it out strongly. However we are also supportive of the police and we have all, during our varying times in office been impressed with the calibre of policing from north to south, east to west. We are therefore your supportive critical friends. I thank you for all you do to keep our society safe and look forward to a very fruitful two days working and sharing with you.

 

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