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Human rights missing from Police and Fire Service Bill: Commission

9 March 2012

The reform of police services in Scotland should be used to embed human rights principles into the new structures from their inception, according to the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

In a submission containing six recommendations to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee consultation on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill, the Commission calls for human rights to be explicitly included in the policing principles of the new Scottish Police Service. It also wants the new Scottish Police Authority, which would govern the proposed single police force across Scotland, to issue a code of ethics laying down standards of conduct for police officers rooted in human rights obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Bill in its current form does not include any explicit reference to human rights principles, despite the distinct human rights obligations for the police under the Human Rights Act. The Authority, says the Commission, should have the independence to set its own strategic policing priorities away from the determination of ministers, and act as a monitor of police performance in complying with the Human Rights Act.  

Professor Alan Miller, chair of the Commission, said: “Reforming the police in Scotland into a single force and putting new accountability structures into place is a unique opportunity to give human rights its proper place in Scottish policing from the very beginning.

“Other jurisdictions, notably Northern Ireland, have seen substantial benefits by adopting a human rights based approach to policing. It is regrettable that as it currently stands the Bill does not include any references to human rights. Human rights underpin the legal framework within which police offers - as well as the rest of us - must operate.

"The protection of the human rights of individuals and the community - to life, security and property - is also the primary purpose of policing. Police officers themselves also have human rights which need to be understood by all. The Commission hopes therefore that the Scottish Government will give much more consideration to this omission as the bill progresses."  

Click here to view the submission.


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