Police paperwork cuts planned planned

Cutting red tape in the criminal justice system is the aim of a Home Office initiative, with particular attention paid to reducing administrative burdens on the police.

An 'efficiency scrutiny' team of police officers, lawyers, and civil servants from the Home Office, Lord Chancellor's Department, and Crown Prosecution Service is being formed to carry out the work.

The remit is couched in terms similar to those in Michael Heseltine MP's failed Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill exactly one year ago. Heseltine aimed to make “a bonfire of unwanted red tape” and was attacked by the House of Lords and constitutional lawyers for giving “breathtakingly wide powers to ministers” (The Lawyer 15 January 1994).

The Home Office review is running in parallel with similar reviews in the departments of health and education. They will report to Sir Peter Levene, the efficiency adviser to Prime Minister John Major and Home Secretary Michael Howard.

Howard said it would “help cut the red tape which slows the war on crime and ties officers to their stations”.

Key areas will be:

further possible administrative burdens on police;

introduction of more information technology;

more co-ordination among criminal justice agencies;

a timetable over which initiatives are expected to lead to improvements.

The efficiency team will examine courts' and police forces' administrative procedures, and consult interested parties.

Tony Edwards, president designate of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, says that while less bureaucracy would be welcome, “we worry that reductions in paperwork would mean police work not being properly done”.