An independent Police Service free from governmental interference must remain a key component of the modern criminal justice system, the Lord Chief Justice has said.
Giving the John Harris Memorial Lecture for the Police Foundation in central London, the Lord Judge emphasised that the precedent for the autonomy of officers had been established for decades â€“ and it had been continually reinforced over the years.
He also stressed the principles of operational independence needed to continue with the arrival of directly elected commissioners in May next year â€“ and ministers needed to work out exactly how that should be achieved.
The peer also expressed a view that the prevailing idea that having a protocol was less satisfactory than having the safeguards enshrined in law.
Lord Judge said the principles of independence had been established in 1930 when a wrongly arrested man attempted to bring an action against the Corporation of Oldham for false imprisonment â€“ and had failed in his attempt to win damages.
In the case, the High Court judge had said officers should be able to use discretion.
â€œThe significance is this,â€ the Lord Chief Justice added. â€œJudges are not answerable to the Prime Minister or the government of the day. The judge saw the police in the same way â€“ as public servants who were officers of the crown.â€
Lord Judge said that ministers needed to decide how principles of operational independence should be carried forward with the new governance regime.
The peer said that there were differing views how the new system should work.
But he added: â€œThere is no doubt that the chief constable should have operational independence â€“ the question for government is how that can be achieved.â€
Lord Judge: Police Independence Paramount