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Home Secretary, Expenses and Suspension

I have for some time been concerned at the tendency to suspend first and ask questions later. The contrast between Jacqui Smith and the police makes this quite clear. This case is about a police officer suspended for 3 years over an allegation that he had fiddled his petrol expenses. It found a mistaken over claim of £90. In the mean time he had been suspended for 3 years.

I think there needs to be some form of sanction such as a process of monitoring someone being investigated rather than simply suspending them. In Jacqui Smith's case she is not being suspended whilst being investigated. This is unfair in comparison with the treatment of the police.

The solution, however, in my view is to look at a different mechanism rather than suspension for circumstances where that is reasonable.

For example on the issue of expenses if someone is being investigated any further claims can be monitored in detail. Then once an investigation has been concluded the appropriate action can be taken, but it does not prejudice the individual.

Suspension is supposed to be non-prejudicial, but it always is - particularly when it lasts for a long time.

There is, of course, the risk element that someone is deemed "a wrong un" and not only fiddles expenses, but also gets involved in bank robbery etc. I don't think that argument justifies the route of suspension.

Whichever way it is the same rule should apply for the police and the Home Secretary. Otherwise it is clearly unfair.

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R v SUSSEX JUSTICES ex p McCARTHY [1924] 1 KB 256

November 9 1923

Editor’s comments in bold.

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