The police are accountable to the public via the politicians

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From Ian Le Marquand.

I READ Senator Stuart Syvret’s recent letter with interest. The area of the need for stronger political oversight of policy issues in relation to the police is only a small part of my overall campaign for election.

In Jersey, we are fortunate to have a well trained and well resourced professional police force that generally operates to very high standards.

I am not and have never been talking about political control of the police. I am talking about political oversight of the police. There is a very clear difference between operational matters and policy matters.

It would be quite wrong for any politician to seek to interfere in any way with the way in which police officers deal with individual cases. The prevention, detection and investigation of individual crimes are all matters for the police and for the police alone.

It is a shame that Senator Syvret did not speak to me first before leaping into print, misrepresenting my position and generally confusing the issue. By coincidence, we met on Saturday 26 July and I was able to explain my position to him. It is a pity, in the light of that explanation, that he did not see fit to recall his original and hasty letter which was, I understand, written on 23 July and printed by you on 29 July.

In the UK, ultimately, the Home Secretary is politically responsible for police policy, although at the local level police authorities have some responsibilities with regard to this. In Jersey it is the Home Affairs Minister who is politically responsible for police policy. Whether an issue is an operational or a policy matter can be a fine line and will generally be agreed between the Home Affairs Minister and the police chief officer.

In practice, operational matters are for the police to decide and policy matters will generally be agreed between the Home Affairs Minister and the police chief. The working relationship here should not be very different from that between any minister and his or her chief officer.

Ultimately, in a democratic society in which policing is generally by consent, the police must be accountable to the general public through their duly elected representatives – the politicians.

I am pleased to see that Senator Syvret agrees with me on these issues, because he says in his letter, ‘The government sets the laws and sets the policies. The police then undertake their duties within that framework, operationally independent of political control.’


Grande Route du Mont à l’Abbé,

St Helier.

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