On Tuesday, 31 January the Policing and Crime Bill received Royal Assent, becoming the Policing and Crime Act 2017.  This long awaited piece of legislation cements the Government’s drive towards closer collaboration between emergency services and contains the power to enable Police and Crime Commissioners to have a far greater role in the delivery of police and fire services locally. It remains to be seen the extent to which political and cultural hurdles can be overcome to make the vision a reality.

The exact date on which the Act will come into force is yet to be announced, but we expect it will be April this year.  The key features of the legislation are:

Collaboration

Police, fire and rescue and emergency ambulance services will all be under a duty to consider collaborating when it is in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness to do so.  Collaboration can be through shared back office services, such as legal services, combined buildings or vehicles, and joint response to incidents. The emergency services will need to be able to show that they have at least considered collaboration, even if a decision is taken that it would not be beneficial.   Any decision regarding this new duty could be challenged through judicial review and the emergency services will need to be able to point to documentary evidence as to how a decision was reached.

Police and Crime Commissioner

The Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) will continue to oversee the running of police forces in their force area; however, under the Act they may also assume the functions and duties of the fire and rescue authorities in their area where a local case is made. Where an application to run the fire service is successful, it will either fall underneath the police service in the PCC’s force area or will be run separately but will be accountable to the PCC.

In addition to the above, further changes under the Act include:

  • an overhaul of the police complaints and disciplinary systems to ensure that the public have confidence that the police will be held to account;
  • chief officers will be able to make best use of their workforce by conferring a wider range of powers on police staff and volunteers;
  • provisions which will strengthen the existing inspection framework provided for in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004.

Capsticks are producing a series of articles focussed on some of the legal challenges to achieving closer collaboration. If you have any questions on the Policing and Crime Act 2017, please contact Gary Hay, Alessandra Gettins or Alison Richards.