Tuesday, 23 October 2012

PCC Elections - Bill Etheridge's manifesto

Bill Etheridge, the UKIP candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, pledges (in addition to the standard things most candidates are saying):-

  •  I will demand tougher and more sensible sentencing from Judges. I will send a written request to each Court in the WMP area and request most vehemently that they adhere to the Sentencing Guidelines Council recommendations for that crime. 
This is a worrying statement, which suggests that as I feared in yesterday's post, PCCs may not be happy to keep to the duties that are prescribed or recommended for them by the Home Office. Writing to judges should not be part of his role, for very good reasons, and it is highly unlikley any member of the traditional executive branch of government would dream of violating the separation of powers like this.

If Mr Etheridge did this he would be at risk, in my opinion, of acting contrary to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, as well as ultra vires the powers granted to him by Parliament. The section 3 of the CRA states:

(1)The Lord Chancellor, other Ministers of the Crown and all with responsibility for matters relating to the judiciary or otherwise to the administration of justice must uphold the continued independence of the judiciary.
(5)The Lord Chancellor and other Ministers of the Crown must not seek to influence particular judicial decisions through any special access to the judiciary.
Subsesction (5) might well include those who are part of the Home Office as well as actual ministers. If a public body or official acts contrary to statute, this does not imply any criminal offence, but does leave the decision liable to being quashed by the courts. Parliament can also hold the executive to account. But because of the directly elected nature of the PCC position, it will exist outside the established executive branch of government and will not be accountable to Parliament in the usual way that ministers are. And it is not clear yet if the courts will be willing to interfere with actions of directly elected office holders. I'm sure Mr Ederidge is not alone in this kind of plan, so this could mean interesting times.

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