Answerability of Chief Constables
The constitutional status of the Commissioner had never been defined, either by statute or by the courts. By common law police officers owe to the general public a duty to enforce the criminal law. The court considered the extent to which a court could interfere with decisions made by a Chief Constable.
Lord Denning MR said: ‘Although the chief officers of police are answerable to the law, there are many fields in which they have a discretion with which the law will not interfere. For instance, it is for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, or the chief constable, as the case may be, to decide in any particular case whether inquiries should be pursued, or whether an arrest should be made, or a prosecution brought. It must be for him to decide on the disposition of his force and the concentration of his resources on any particular crime or area. No court can or should give him direction on such a matter. He can also make policy decisions and give effect to them, as, for instance, was often done when prosecutions were not brought for attempted suicide.’
. . And ‘No Minister of the Crown can tell him that he must, or must not, keep observation on this place or that; or that he must, or must not, prosecute this man or that one. Nor can any police authority tell him so. The responsibility for law enforcement is on him. He is answerable to the law and to the law alone.’
The decision as to the offence for which a person is to be prosecuted is a matter for the prosecuting authority, which has a wide discretion in the matter.
Lord Denning MR
 2 QB 118,  1 All ER 763,  2 WLR 893
England and Wales
Cited – Regina (Pretty) v Director of Public Prosecutions, and Another, Medical Ethics Alliance and Others, interveners Admn 18-Oct-2001
The function of the Director’s office is statutory, and his powers are those laid down. He is not able to excuse possible criminal conduct in advance, and nor could he establish a policy of not applying certain statutory provisions. The Suicide Act . .
Cited – Regina v Chief Constable of Sussex, ex Parte International Trader’s Ferry Limited HL 2-Apr-1998
Chief Constable has a Wide Discretion on Resources
Protesters sought to prevent the appellant’s lawful trade exporting live animals. The police provided assistance, but then restricted it, pleading lack of resources. The appellants complained that this infringed their freedom of exports under . .
Cited – Brooks v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others HL 21-Apr-2005
The claimant was with Stephen Lawrence when they were both attacked and Mr Lawrence killed. He claimed damages for the negligent way the police had dealt with his case, and particularly said that they had failed to assess him as a victim of crime, . .
Cited – Department for Work and Pensions v Courts Admn 3-May-2006
The appellant challenged stays of proceedings by the respondent magistrates court for abuse of process infringing the defendants’ human right to a fair trial. The magistrates had fund that being faced with dismissal of a summary case through delay, . .
Cited – North Yorkshire Police Authority, Regina (on The Application of) v The Independent Police Complaints Commission Admn 8-Jul-2010
No Review of IPCC’s Decision to Investigate
A complainant wanted the police force to investigate his mother’s treatment in a care home. When a decision was made that no criminal activity had been revealed, he asked the Police Authority to investigate, but they declined saying that the issue . .
Cited – Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex Parte Northumbria Police Authority CA 18-Nov-1987
The Authority appealed from refusal of judicial review of a circular issued by the respondent as to the supply of Plastic Baton Rounds and CS gas from central resources only. The authority suggested that the circular amounted to permission for the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Police, Criminal Practice
Updated: 19 November 2021; Ref: scu.183033