Guernsey Press

‘Deputies must stay out of tensions with police’

Unnamed politicians have been accused of supporting a campaign to undermine public confidence in the police force by the Home Affairs Committee.

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(Picture by Peter Frankland, 33323106)

They have been warned that increasing tension between the community and police officers could damage the concept of 'policing by consent' and eventually lead to a breakdown of law and order in the island.

In a letter published in today’s Guernsey Press, the Home Affairs Committee said it had a responsibility to speak out about ‘significant issues’ facing the island, after the Guernsey Press revealed that several officers were facing new claims for damages over allegations of mistreatment, and after videos of some of the incidents were posted online.

‘We have become increasingly concerned at the targeted efforts of a small group of people, with some, as we see it, misguided political support, to erode public confidence in the police,’ said the committee.

‘Policing by consent is a well-established principle that effectively means communities agree with and accept the concept of law and order and having a police service that enforces the law.

‘If the whole community unilaterally decided it no longer consented to being policed, we would no longer have functioning law and order.

‘While that may seem appealing to a small number of people if their intentions are not pure, for the vast majority of law-abiding citizens it would likely be an alarming notion.’

The letter was issued by the five deputies and one advisory member who sit on Home Affairs, including committee president Rob Prow. A request for a follow-up interview with Deputy Prow was declined.

In Monday’s Guernsey Press, police chief Ruari Hardy claimed that morale in the force was declining as officers were increasingly forced to work in a culture of fear which was also affecting their families.

All the new cases against the police are similar to a recent high-profile claim for damages totalling about £12,000 which was settled in a financial deal with the plaintiffs but only after the States and its insurers had already paid officers’ legal bills estimated at between £250,000 and £400,000 over a two-year period.

Home Affairs reiterated previous commitments to propose reforms to police complaints legislation during the current States term, but said officers needed to be supported as well as scrutinised.

‘A question your readers may wish to ponder is who benefits from a reduction in public confidence in the police or a reduction in the police’s ability to effectively enforce the law?’ said the committee.

‘We would suggest it is not those among us, the vast majority, who live a law-abiding existence, whose only interaction with the police may come in our own hour of need.

‘When we, as a community, need to rely on officers taking assertive and proportionate action in service of the public, do we really want them doing so in a culture of constant fear that every decision they make will be played out in the court of public opinion without the full facts?’