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Met chief accused of 'distraction punch' by attacking lawyers

11 October 2010

Sir Paul Stephenson, commissioner of the Met, has been accused of delivering a “distraction punch” after it emerged that he had privately lobbied home secretary Theresa May to make it harder for people to sue the police.

According to a report in The Guardian today, Sir Paul also pressed for higher costs to be loaded onto police officers bringing employment tribunal claims and charges to be introduced for freedom of information requests.

Jules Carey, partner in the police team at national firm Tuckers, said that by attacking lawyers for “plundering his force’s coffers” Sir Paul was guilty of what his officers might describe as a “distraction punch”.

Carey went on: “With his budget under threat, this private lobbying of the home secretary is a high visibility attempt to divert attention away from his more vulnerable areas of expenditure and to a favourite national bogeyman and alleged cost driver – the fat cat lawyer.”

Carey said the annual cost to the Met of all lawyers representing claimants was approximately £1.6m a year, compared to the £6m a year the Met spent on its own lawyers.

He said cuts to the Met’s “huge budget” of £3.5bn were urgently required, and a good place to start would be the “lobbyists and spin doctors” of the directorate of public affairs.

Carey said questions should also be asked about the directorate of professional standards, responsible for investigating complaints against police officers. He said that of the 10,849 complaints lodged against the Met last year, only 152 were upheld.

“It is little wonder that victims of police misconduct have more faith in the civil courts criticising police officers than complaint investigators.”

Carey said the professional standards department should be required to take complaints more seriously, to be more robust in their investigations and the disciplining of officers so that those found guilty of misconduct would be less likely to offend again.

He called on Sir Paul to be more willing to acknowledge bad practice and ill-conceived operations.

“Every penny paid to claimant lawyers is a direct result of you and your legal department fighting cases which should never have been fought and which would have probably been avoided had a prompt apology and offer of compensation been made to the aggrieved at the outset.”

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Procedures Police & Prisons Children Local government