Police statement criticised

A group which campaigns for better use of English by public bodies has accused two police forces of using gobbledegook to try and bury bad news.

Plain English Campaign (PEC) officials said a joint statement issued by Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire police about proposed changes to the way checks are carried out on gun owners was one of the worst examples of "corporate managementspeak" they had seen.

The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Police statement doesn't mention gun checks 'til the seventy-fifth word, but the two forces insist it's clear.

A Hertfordshire police spokeswoman defended the statement, saying it was ``clear'' and chiefs were not burying bad news.

The statement, issued on Wednesday by Hertfordshire's "Corporate Communication Dept", was 351 words long and began: "Collaborative initiatives between Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary have succeeded in delivering enhanced services, whilst realising considerable efficiencies in a number of areas."

Planned changes to gun checks were not mentioned until the 75th word. They were outlined within a 91-word paragraph which was nine lines long.

Essex Police, who are planning similar changes in an effort to save money, explained their proposals in a two-line statement.

Here's the full text of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Police statement:

By Corporate Communication Dept

Collaborative initiatives between Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary have succeeded in delivering enhanced services, whilst realising considerable efficiencies in a number of areas.

Firearms Licensing is one of several functions that has been reviewed and proposals have been developed for joint working, with a collaborative unit due to be established at the start of March.

With a view to carrying out this function in the most effective and efficient way possible, the proposals include the withdrawal of routine home visits to people renewing their licences, an approach which has already been adopted by a number of forces across the country. The new approach will see the introduction of a risk-assessed process where enhanced intelligence checks will identify those who should receive a home visit. In addition a programme of random visits to licence holders will be introduced without waiting for the expiry of their current licence.

We will continue to be robust in our monitoring systems and seek to take action to revoke licences and remove weapons from anyone who poses a threat to public safety at the earliest opportunity and not wait for the five year renewal process.

No changes are proposed in the detailed checks, which include home visits, we carry out when considering an initial application for a licence.

Research by the Collaboration Team has shown that across a sample of representative forces only 0.2% of licence holders had their licence revoked for any reason.

At a time of significant reductions in police funding it is important that we review those areas where processes can be refined and savings made without impacting on public safety.

Currently Firearms Licensing is subsidised by non-licence holders as the fees for licences only provide for 16% of the cost of providing the service. These fees are nationally set and cannot be altered locally. Whilst this is being examined by the Home Office we need to make best use of public funds.

The new approach will provide the public of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire with a robust service that delivers more timely, risk-assessed interventions to continue to ensure public safety whilst also saving money.


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