Rights groups attack Sir Paul Stephenson’s plan to curb court action against officers
Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, has privately lobbied the home secretary to make it harder for people to take legal action against his force, the Guardian has learned.
Critics say the plans amount to an attempt by the police to put themselves beyond the rule of law and undermine constitutional safeguards against abuses of power. The Met’s chief says money is being wasted on speculative claims, with lawyers gaining large fees that would be better spent fighting crime.
The proposals are contained in appendices to a letter marked “confidential” and sent to Theresa May by Stephenson, who is Britain’s most senior police officer, on 22 June. In the documents, released after inquiries by the Guardian, he suggests:
• Making it harder for people to sue the police for damages in civil actions. These usually involve allegations of brutality or wrongful arrest.
• Loading higher costs on to officers and other staff suing police forces at employment tribunals. These cases include claims of discrimination and unfair treatment.
• Charging the public a fee for freedom of information requests. The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to help citizens hold public bodies to account.
Last night, Stephenson’s proposals were opposed by an alliance of human rights lawyers and civil liberties groups. The main body representing rank and file police officers attacked the employment tribunal plans. The government is considering various ideas to shake up policing, and the proposals are being considered by ministers and their officials.