Policing powers: PCCs opposed on expected Silk proposals

Policeman and woman in Wales The Silk Commission's recommendations on policing are expected on Monday

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Two of Wales' four police and crime commissioners (PCCs) have taken opposing views on whether policing powers should be devolved.

The Silk Commission is expected to call for the Welsh government to take over responsibility in a report on Monday.

North Wales PCC Winston Roddick says the move is necessary unless there are good operational reasons against it.

But Dyfed-Powys PCC Christopher Salmon says it will do nothing to cut crime while adding to costs and red tape.

The Silk Commission was set up by the UK government to examine the case for handing more powers to Wales.

Start Quote

All you do by bringing Cardiff into the equation is to bring expense and complication into the administration of the police”

End Quote Christopher Salmon Dyfed-Powys PCC

After its first report recommended giving some tax and borrowing powers to Wales, its second report is expected to call for policing, youth justice and consent over large energy projects to be devolved.

But the UK government has already said there is not a case for radical changes to devolution.

The Ministry of Justice said in its evidence to the commission that it would be unusual for policing to be devolved separately to the rest of the criminal justice system.

The two PCCs gave their views on the BBC Radio Wales Sunday Supplement programme.

Mr Roddick, a former Counsel General for Wales, said Wales was "out of step" with Scotland and Northern Ireland which have their own systems for administrating justice

The move suggested by Silk, even if achieved incrementally, would remedy an "inconsistency," he said.

He said: "The central question is whether or not devolving responsibility for the police forces of Wales to the national assembly would render the policing of Wales less effective and less efficient than it is.

"And unless there is clear evidence that that would be the result, there are no sound operational or constitutional reasons against it."

'Fracturing' system

Mr Salmon said the governance of policing in Wales was already devolved in the form of the police and crime commissioners like himself.

He said: "I don't see any advantages whatsoever in fracturing the criminal justice system down the Welsh border, where the majority of our population live, and introducing an extra link into the chain, by adding Cardiff into the chain of money from the Home Office.

"All you do by bringing Cardiff into the equation is to bring expense and complication into the administration of the police.

"The critical thing here is that criminals don't respect these boundaries."

Mr Roddick said PCCs were not introduced as part of devolution but to be directly accountable to the electorate in a way their predecessors - police authorities - were not.

'Add value'

South Wales PCC Alun Michael is in favour of devolving more powers.

He told BBC Wales on Saturday: "You can only cut crime through a powerful partnership between the police and other local bodies, local authorities and the agencies which are already devolved to Welsh government.

"So it makes sense to join up the whole task of improving society and reducing crime and that means devolving responsibility for policing."

In his submission to the Silk Commission, Gwent PCC Ian Johnston, a former police chief superintendent, said a change should only be considered if it "can be shown to add value to the current position".

He said such a discussion should not be about policing alone but should include the whole of the criminal justice system.

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