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Posted by: John Brace | 26th April 2014

Does the new law on filming public meetings apply to police and crime panels meetings in England?

Does the new law on filming public meetings apply to police and crime panels meetings in England?

                                    

Richard Taylor asks me if the changes to legislation that will happen when the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 becomes law will apply to public meetings of the police and crime panels.

1. The Police and Crime Panels (Application of Local Authority Enactments) Regulations 2012 came into force on 22nd November 2012. In these regulations, a police and crime panel (in England) is called an English Part 3 panel.

2. Regulation 4 of The Police and Crime Panels (Application of Local Authority Enactments) Regulations 2012 states “The enactments listed in Part 2 of the Schedule apply in relation to an English Part 3 panel and the members of such a panel.” Part 2 s.10 of the Schedule lists “Part VA of, and Schedule 12A to, the Local Government Act 1972 (access to meetings and documents of certain authorities, committees and sub-committees).”

3. Regulation 6 of The Police and Crime Panels (Application of Local Authority Enactments) Regulations 2012 states:

In their application by virtue of regulations 3 to 5, the enactments listed in Parts 1 to 3 of the Schedule have effect as if —

(a) the functions of the panel were functions of the relevant local authority (in a single-authority police area) or the relevant local authorities (in a multi-authority police area);
(b) the panel were a committee of the relevant local authority (in a single-authority police area) or a joint committee of the relevant local authorities (in a multi-authority police area), appointed for the purpose of discharging those functions under section 102(1) of the Local Government Act 1972(1);
(c) a councillor panel member were serving on such a committee (in a single authority police area) or joint committee (in a multi-authority police area) in the member’s capacity as a councillor; and
(d) an independent panel member were a member of such a committee (in a single-authority police area) or a member of, and representing the host authority on, such a joint committee (in a multi-authority police area), and entitled to vote on any question that falls to be decided at a meeting of the committee or joint-committee.

4. The Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 when it has the force of law, makes amendments to the part of the Local Government Act 1972 which deals with public meetings:

Amendment of the Local Government Act 1972

4. (1) Section 100A of the 1972 Act (admission to meetings of principal councils) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (5) insert—

“(5A) Where the public are excluded from a meeting of a principal council in England under subsection (2) or (4), the council may also prevent any person from reporting on the meeting using methods—

(a) which can be used without that person’s presence at the meeting, and
(b) which enable persons not present at the meeting to see or hear the proceedings at the meeting as it takes place or later.”
(3) In subsection (6), at the beginning of paragraph (c) insert “subject to subsection (7D),”.

(4) In subsection (7), at the beginning insert “Subject to subsection (7A)”.

(5) After subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) While a meeting of a principal council in England is open to the public, any person attending is to be permitted to report on the meeting.

(7B) Subsection (7A) does not require a principal council in England to permit oral reporting or oral commentary on a meeting as it takes place if the person reporting or providing the commentary is present at the meeting.

(7C) A person attending a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting must, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for doing so.

(7D) Subsection (7C) applies in place of subsection (6)(c) in the case of a principal council in England.

(7E) Any person who attends a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting may use any communication method, including the internet, to publish, post or otherwise share the results of the person’s reporting activities.

(7F) Publication and dissemination may take place at the time of the meeting or occur after the meeting.”

(6) After subsection (8) insert—

“(9) In this section “reporting” means—

(a) filming, photographing or making an audio recording of proceedings at a meeting,
(b) using any other means for enabling persons not present to see or hear proceedings at a meeting as it takes place or later, or
(c) reporting or providing commentary on proceedings at a meeting, orally or in writing, so that the report or commentary is available as the meeting takes place or later to persons not present.”
(7) In section 100E of that Act (application to committees and sub-committees), after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) But in section 100A, subsections (5A), (7A) to (7F) and (9) do not apply to a committee which is appointed or established jointly by one or more principal councils in England and one or more principal councils in Wales, or a sub-committee of such a committee.”

(8) In section 100J of that Act (application of Part 5A to new authorities, Common Council etc.)—

(a) in subsection (1), after “Except in this section,” insert “and subject as follows,”, and
(b) after subsection (2A) insert—
“(2B) In section 100A, subsections (5A), (7A) to (7F) and (9) do not apply to—

(a) a joint waste authority;
(b) the Common Council other than in its capacity as a local authority or police authority;
(c) a joint board or a joint committee falling within subsection (2) above;
(d) the Homes and Communities Agency; or
(e) a Mayoral development corporation.”

5. Therefore the changes would affect public meetings of police and crime panels as holding public meetings is a function of the police and crime panel. Police and crime panels are not a joint committee falling within subsection (2) of 100J as they are (as far as I know) not a body corporate but joint committees of the councils in the area they cover. The modification to the Local Government Act 1972 by Regulation 4(7) of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 rules out the changes applying to any police and crime panel (or joint committee) which covered both England and Wales.

However the existing s.100E states “(3) Any reference in this Part to a committee or sub-committee of a principal council is a reference to (a) a committee which is constituted under an enactment specified in section 101(9) below or which is appointed by one or more principal councils under section 102 below”

Police and crime panels (in multi-authority areas) are appointed by one or more principal councils under section 102, see Regulation 6 of The Police and Crime Panels (Application of Local Authority Enactments) Regulations 2012.

6. The amendments made to the Local Government Act 1972 therefore do affect police and crime panels.

7. The Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 however also modify the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960. These amendments however add a new definition of “local government body” which doesn’t include police and crime panels.

An article written published on the Local Government Lawyer website on Thursday by a partner at Bevan Brittan LLP called Olwen Dutton also states her opinion that the new regulations will cover filming of police and crime panel meetings. In a similar article headlined Local government meetings: now the movie – or the crime scene? on Bevan Brittan LLP’s website two weeks ago also by Olwen Dutton she states that the new regulations will cover meetings of the police and crime panel.

Also when the draft regulations were consulted on the descriptive summary explicitly stated that police and crime panels would be covered by the new regulations.

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