Directly elected commissioners means criminals free to run police forces
Controversial new police and crime commissioners will be able to stand for election even if they have criminal convictions, it has emerged.
There has been widespread criticism, on a number of grounds, of the Government's plans to introduce directly elected commissioners in May 2012.
The one-off election alone will cost Westcountry taxpayers nearly £2 million – the equivalent of 50 police constables – and £350,000 more than the annual budget of the scrapped police authority.
Fears have also been raised that Cornwall will be disenfranchised, because two thirds of the overall electorate lives in Devon where local council elections are also likely to be held on the same day.
It has now emerged that the new police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will not be vetted, meaning those with criminal convictions could be elected and ultimately have access to highly-sensitive information.
"We do not believe that a vetting process is appropriate in these circumstances as it would cut across the citizen's right to stand for election," the Home Office said. "The people must make these judgments. We are clear that PCCs and forces will need to agree on the handling of sensitive information to support the ability of the elected PCC to hold their chief constable to account and explain and defend the force's actions to local communities.
"However, we will put in place measures to ensure that PCCs are fully aware of their obligations to protect any intelligence and security information or material that they may come into contact with."
There is also no current provision to deal with commissioners who are convicted of an offence during their term of office. Critics said it was a symptom of an ill-thought-out policy which was being rushed through.