Pensions threat to offending police

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The Independent Online
JACK STRAW, the Home Secretary, is planning to introduce new powers allowing him to confiscate the pensions of police officers who commit serious disciplinary offences.

Mr Straw announced the proposal yesterday in response to increasing concern that police officers have escaped punishment for serious failings by taking early retirement.

The Home Secretary's comments, to the Home Affairs select committee, come days before the publication of the report into the police investigation of the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Only one of five senior officers criticised over their roles in the investigation, Detective Inspector Ben Bullock, will face disciplinary proceedings. He will go before a tribunal next month charged with seven counts of neglect of duty.

A Police Complaints Authority (PCA) report into the Lawrence investigation, which came after a year-long review of the conduct of officers in the case, recommended that five detectives should face disciplinary charges. But the four most senior officers - Detective Chief Superintendent William Ilsley, Det Ch Supt Roderick Barker, Detective Superintendent Brian Weedon and Det Supt Ian Crampton - had already retired on full pensions when the PCA announced its findings.

Amid the public outcry that followed, the PCA called for major changes to the law governing police disciplinary procedures.

Disciplinary charges were only brought against DI Bullock after it emerged that he, too, was planning to retire.

Yesterday Mr Straw said he was looking at introducing powers that would enable him to confiscate up to 75 per cent of a police pension - the proportion which is contributed from state funds - if an officer had committed a serious disciplinary offence.

The Home Secretary currently only has such powers of confiscation in relation to officers who have committed a criminal offence and then retired.

Asked what he was doing to prevent officers from retiring to avoid being disciplined, Mr Straw said: "If they reach retirement age you cannot force them to stay in the service but I'm considering, where there is a public interest, that you could look to act on the pensions question."

Mr Straw also used the committee's debate on police training and recruitment to make a scathing attack on police forces which failed to employ black and Asian officers because "they think they are in wholly white areas". He identified eight forces which had less than 10 ethnic minority officers.