Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Monday, April 24, 2006

Public Commission should review Police laws!

In a press release today, Equality Rights group GGR has called on the new Commissioner of Police to “balance courage with caution in plans for modernisation of the RGP and in proposals for new legislation.”

“We have been publicly urging for the introduction of legislation to protect children from sexual abuse, and welcome the Commissioner’s recent statements along similar lines. The police must have the powers to intervene in cases of suspected abuse and our current deficit helps neither the victims nor the police,” the group says.

“We appreciate the Commissioner’s desire to introduce new laws to protect officers from malicious complaints and we fully agree that Justice must be applicable to any citizen, whether police officer or member of the public. A prudent approach, however, is required since justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done. It is therefore advisable to ensure that the police’s role in the community is impeccably established in terms of impartiality and accountability. It is for this reason we have recently called for the introduction of legislation similar to the UK’s Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1998 (PACE) and various later amendments, which set out not only the scope of police powers but also the clear procedures that police themselves must adopt in order to ensure fair police processes and safeguards and, in this way, to provide a legitimate basis for public confidence whilst protecting police officers themselves from unfair criticism.

It is therefore, in our view, of paramount importance that the widening of any police powers is done as part of an open, public review. As the Commissioner will appreciate, in such matters, you must carry the community with you, and not just impose change from the top down. We therefore urge Commissioner Wink to press for any proposals to be subject to a specific public Commission which will exclusively study the scope of any changes to police powers and which will admit wide public consultation. This is essential in order to carry the moral and democratic legitimacy required to win public confidence in matters of this sort. In a truly impartial system of justice, noone can be a judge in his own cause and so, therefore, a vital part of any package of change regarding police powers must include and be based on the establishment of a truly independent Police Complaints Commission where it is non-police members who determine the results of complaints investigations.”

“Policing is a difficult and demanding job and the men and women of the Force need our fullest support. The best way to achieve this is by balancing the rights of the Police in the prosecution of their duties with those of the ordinary citizen and his liberties in a democratic society. This can be achieved through open public consultation on the issues in order to create a reality of openness and accountability so that the confidence of the public can be relied on to provide legitimacy to the Force's powers and actions,” the statement ended.