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OWARD PUBLISHES POLICE AND MAGISTRATES COURTS BILL

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The largest police reform package for 30 years was published today by Home Secretary Michael Howard. The Police and...
The largest police reform package for 30 years was published today by Home Secretary Michael Howard. The Police and Magistrates Courts Bill lays the foundations for a new partnership between the police, the Government and the public to fight crime.

It brings up to date the organisation and management of the police service, and changes the operating framework to place more emphasis on the public's own priorities.

Most of the main provisions of the Bill were proposed in the White Paper on police reform published in June. The Bill also contains changes to the law, which are needed as a result of the Sheehy Inquiry, and the new discipline arrangements for police officers which the Home Secretary announced in September.

The main provisions of the Bill would: make protecting the public and preventing and detecting crime a top police priority; give local people a real voice to get the police service they want for their area; put a duty on police authorities to listen to the views of local people before drawing up policing plans; give the police clear, published objectives; alter the role and membership of police authorities to make them stronger and more independent; give chief constables new freedom to manage police and civilian staff and to determine manpower numbers.

The Bill would enable less formal discipline procedures to be introduced. It would also allow greater local flexibility in the application of police regulations. The grant the police receive from Central Government would be cash limited. This would allow the Government to give up detailed central controls on manpower and most capital expenditure. The Bill would also allow them to decide how many officers, civilians, equipment and resources they need.

The Bill places a requirement on the Home Secretary to consider objections to any amalgamation plans or proposals to alter force boundaries, and for Parliament to confirm an amalgamation order by affirmative resolution. Mr Howard reiterated that the Government has no plans for force amalgamations. This was emphasised in the White Paper. The Bill also includes a number of clauses about the organisation and administration of magistrates' courts.

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