Aim of this information
This information forms part of our section on looking for employment and common occupations and professions. It provides details of how people who have a criminal record will be dealt with if they are looking to become a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
Why is this important?
Campaigning to be a PCC can be expensive (the average candidate in 2012 spent £11,220), and this is a significant amount of money if it later transpires that you are not eligible to stand for election because of your criminal record. The other thing to consider is the considerable media interest that PCC elections can elicit. If you are found to have a conviction that makes you ineligible to stand and you have to step down or resign, you may find that this is reported in local newspapers, bringing it to light again.
Elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC’s), were established in 2011 to replace Police Authorities in England and Wales.
The first elections for PCC’s were held in 2012 and the second took place on 5th May 2016.
The role of the PCC’s is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing.
They are elected by the public to hold Chief Constables and the force to account. This effectively makes the police answerable to the communities they serve.
Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCC’s must:
- Secure an efficient and effective police force for their area.
- Appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force and, if necessary, dismiss them.
- Set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan.
- Set the force budget and determine the precept.
- Contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary.
- Bring together community safety and criminal justice partners to make sure local priorities are joined up.
Further details on PCC powers and responsibilities can be found on the Home Office website
Will a criminal record stop me standing as a candidate?
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, section 66 states that
‘An individual will be disqualified from being elected as a PCC if they have been convicted in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man, of any imprisonable offence – whether or not actually sentenced to a term of imprisonment in respect of the offence.’
There’s a couple of important points to make about this definition:
- An imprisonable offence is one for which a person who has attained the age of 18 may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
- No exceptions are made for convictions as a juvenile, spent convictions or convictions that would be filtered by the DBS.
- The easiest way to check if an offence is an imprisonable offence is to check the relevant legislation for the offence.
- As the law refers to any imprisonable offence, it includes very minor offences where the maximum term of imprisonment would be very short, and even if the actual sentence wasn’t prison
What is not covered by this?
The following do not appear to be grounds for disqualification:
- Convictions in other countries
- Court disposals that were not convictions (e.g. a conditional discharge)
- Out of court disposals (including cautions)
For further information, see guidance published by the Electoral Commission.
What questions will I be asked about my criminal record?
PCC posts are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act , so a DBS check could be carried out. It is much more likely that the security vetting applicable to all police jobs would be used.
Candidates for election have to confirm on their nomination papers that they are not disqualified from standing and it is a criminal offence to make a false statement.
The elections in 2012 flagged up two cases where PCC candidates were forced to step down after very old convictions came to light.
Falkland’s war hero, Simon Weston pulled out of the election to become the PCC in South Wales after his criminal conviction for being a passenger in a stolen car at the age of 14 was questioned.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said that the legislation was not aimed at barring someone like Simon Weston from becoming a PCC. In direct contrast however, an independent election lawyer stated that if he were to go ahead and stand as a candidate then he could be accused of signing a false declaration at the time of this nomination.
Simon Weston later resigned and tweeted ‘With regret I am pulling out of the PCC role in South Wales having become disillusioned by the fact it was getting too political and not serving the people’.
Read more about this story here.
Bob Ashford received a conviction aged 13 for trespassing on the railway with an offensive weapon. He was fined two pounds and 10 shillings. When he filled in his application to become a PCC he was asked if he had any criminal convictions to which he answered ‘Yes’. The Labour party executive committee agreed that they were happy for him to be one of their candidates and he started campaigning.
When Simon Weston’s eligibility was queried and he stepped down, Bob Ashford realised that an offence of trespass on the railway and possessing an offence weapon were considered imprisonable offences and he took the decision to resign. Read Bob’s story here.
He went on to set up the Wipetheslateclean campaign, which Unlock supports.
In August 2016, UKIP’s leadership candidate Steven Woolfe admitted that he failed to declare a criminal conviction for drink driving when he stood for Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012. Mr Woolfe came last in the PCC election with 8.55% of the vote.
There are concerns within UKIP that this revelation may have an impact on his leadership ambitions. Read the whole story in the Huffington Post.
There was a further case where a candidate was able to successfully argue that his offence was not imprisonable – he ended up being successful in the election.
Alan Charles stood down from running as PCC in Derbyshire after being told that a conditional discharge he had been given when he was 14 barred him from running for election. However, barristers and legal experts advised that his conditional discharge would not disqualify him. For further information see this BBC news story.
Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this information.
Associataion of Police and Crime Commissioners is the national body that support Police and Crime Commissioners.
- Practical self-help information – More information on security vetting can be found here .
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