May 01, 2007

Wales Police Boss Replies On BNP Ban

North Wales Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom has replied to a complaint that an invesitgation was made into the case of a police officer who endorsed a local councillor who is a member of the British National Party in Mold.

Mr Brunstrom replied:

"As you have chosen to write an open letter to me it seems only reasonable that I should provide an open response and let members of the public draw their own conclusions.

I cannot discuss the specific case that you raised as the alleged misconduct is still being investigated. However, I welcome the opportunity to comment on the general questions that you put and the inaccurate assertions that your letter contains.

You seem to have wilfully misinterpreted the comments attributed to the Police Federation Representative, Constable Jeff Birch, in the Daily Post on the 12th of April. Constable Birch carefully did not allow himself to be drawn into the specifics of the case being investigated and did not mention the endorsement of candidates. However, he did accurately represent what Police Regulations say about membership of the BNP; to alleviate any doubt about the Regulations let me quote for you the relevant parts.

Police Regulations 2003 Schedule 1 (as amended) provides:

Reg. 1 (1) A member of a police force shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression amongst members of the public that it may so interfere.

1 (2) A member of a police force shall in particular -
(a) not take an active part in politics;
(b) not belong to any organisation specified or described in a determination of the Secretary of State.

Annex AA - (the Secretary of State determined that from 1st January 2005 this provision come into force as follows):
No member of a police force may be a member of any of the following organisations-
(a) The British National Party
(b) Combat 18
(c) The National Front

These Regulations are quite simply the law of the land, as determined by Parliament. All officers are aware that when we join the Police Service our lives change; this change includes our not being able to play an active part in politics (no great hardship for most of us). It is precisely because I want to live in a parliamentary democracy, and not a police state, that I actively welcome this restriction on my private life. As police officers we cannot and must not give the impression that we might be beholden to any political party for that way lies perdition.

As to your suggestion that these restrictions are an infringement of the Human Rights Act of 1998, I suggest that you actually read the Act before making spurious comments such as this in future. For clarity, Article 10 of the European Convention, which is incorporated in our UK Act, sets out the right to freedom of expression, but also makes it clear that this right is not absolute and that such a right may be subject to restrictions as set out below:

Article 10 (2)
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary

Clearly the Government is fully entitled to put restrictions on the political activity of police officers, members of the armed services and a range of other public servants, and it has chosen, entirely properly, so to do. The message, set out clearly by the Act, is thus: if you want to play politics, don't join the Police. This is once again quite simply the law, and law which I wholeheartedly endorse both as a senior police officer and as a citizen.

You suggest that I may be concerned about being held to account by a BNP led local Council or Welsh Assembly. You are right. I am, but I assure you that I have not yet had cause to lose a moment's sleep worrying about this prospect.

You also write about so called 'positive discrimination advocated by a very misguided Lord Scarman. It would appear that you have never read The Scarman Report: The Brixton Disorders (1981). I can only suggest that you visit your local library and borrow the report before misrepresenting his views again. You may also wish to undertake some training so that you can understand the difference between positive action (both legal and desirable) and positive discrimination, which is neither.

To remove any remaining scintilla of doubt let me formally endorse the views of the Association of Chief Police Officers of England Wales and Northern Ireland, which in July 2004 unequivocally stated that police officers and staff should face dismissal if they join the BNP.

Membership of, or support for, the BNP is completely incompatible with the honour of holding the Office of Constable.

Yours sincerely
Richard Brunstrom
Prif Gwnstabl/Chief Constable



Anonymous said...

I am sorry but this guy is a sad excuse for a Police Officer. We may not like the BNP but I don't see why cops can't be members and vote for them just like any other party.

Anonymous said...

Those of us living in the sphere of Northumbria police's control can only pray for a Chief Constable like this. Maybe we wouldn't have to put up with NF marches through the centre of Newcastle.