Judicial review of PEQF dismissed as ‘far too late’
The chief constable of Lincolnshire Police has had his bid for a judicial review into plans for new entry routes into policing dismissed on a technicality.
From 2020, the College of Policing plans to implement the Police Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) which means that new recruits will either have to have a degree or agree to study for one once they are appointed.
Chief Constable Bill Skelly had applied for the review to allow for an evaluation of the new system and had called for its implementation to be delayed until 2023.
At a hearing on Thursday (December 5) the application was dismissed due to a difference of opinion as to when the college made its decision. While Lincolnshire Police stated the decision was made in May 2019, the College said it was November 2018.
Lincolnshire Police put forward a lengthy argument on the lack of merit of the PEQF and the impact on the force. However, the college said that, while it objected to the grounds put forward, it was unnecessary to address them.
The college claimed decisions on the implementation of the PEQF and possible extensions to the phasing in timetable, were conveyed to chief constables on November 30, 2018, which put the application for judicial review beyond the three months allowed.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Swift had earlier said that none of the grounds put forward by the force were arguable as the application was “in reality a challenge to a decision made in the course of 2018, and has therefore been commenced far too late”.
The judgment is likely to have wider implications for policing developments conveyed through the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the subsequent consultation with police and crime commissioners (PCCs).
It could mean that decisions taken to progress initiatives in working groups and discussed at Chief Constables’ Council mean they could become legally binding.
Many PCCs are angry with the imposition of the PEQF as they will have a huge financial impact on their forces and mean new recruits spend a vast amount of their time in classrooms and not on the streets. They also feel they were not consulted on its implementation.
Mr Skelly said he was disappointed that the judge had allowed the judicial review to be dismissed on a technicality.
“I wanted to give time for a legitimate evaluation of the new system being imposed across the country and for the results to be assessed and any adjustments made,” he said.
“We submitted a detailed challenge on the merits of the PEQF and the insufficient preparation that has been undertaken by the College of Policing. Unfortunately, the College chose to ignore the merits of our concerns and sought to strike out the legal case on a technicality.”
Mr Skelly said he was now considering whether further legal action should be taken forward. “This remains a serious option for Lincolnshire Police as the impact of PEQF is so disastrous and means the effective removal of 40 frontline officers,” he said. “This is a loss of police officers that cannot be afforded and it would create a harmful impact on policing in the county.”
Mr Skelly said he expected to be in a position to make a more detailed statement following the General Election.
The College of Policing’s deputy chief constable Bernie O’Reilly welcomed the court’s decision, and said: “We want every officer to be properly prepared and recognised for the difficult job they do every day.”