Peelian Principles, What The **** Are They?

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The whole of the British Police Service is fundamentally based on the Peelian Principles, set out by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.

There is some dispute amongst academics (and maybe even the Home Office) that these Principles were not drawn up by Sir Robert Peel himself but that his ideas were formalised by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police when it was founded.  Personally I don’t know, but either way, those principles were set out a long, long time ago and are the bedrock of British Policing.

Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, recently spoke on the subject and said

“Whatever the impact of budget cuts, we would never accept a change to our most basic principle – the Peelian idea that police are the public and the public are the police. We could not have policing in the UK without public consent.

“Hard measures such as water cannon and tear gas will only ever be used to protect people when all other methods have failed.”

Thus reinforcing our commitment to the Peelian Principle of Policing.  So what are they?

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

Item #1 is often referred to as the Primary Objective which is more commonly written as:-

“THE PRIMARY object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained.” Sir Richard Mayne, 1829.

In 2010 no less a person than Nick Herbert MP added “Public safety is the first responsibility of any effective government. The public services which keep people safe are more important than almost any other…

It is most certainly from these basic principles that the concept of Policing By Consent comes from, a concept that Sara Thornton seems to have endorsed and and reconfirmed.

In last year’s speech to the Police Federation, Home Secretary Theresa May said

Nearly 200 years ago, Sir Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police and declared, “the police are the public and the public are the police.” Today, everybody in policing – from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to the newest recruit on the frontline – is familiar with those famous words. They are the unofficial motto of the British model of policing and they say very clearly that in this country we believe in policing by consent. It is a principle we all take pride in, and it is the duty of us all to protect and preserve it.

That’s why, if there is anybody in this hall who doubts that our model of policing is at risk, if there is anybody who underestimates the damage recent events and revelations have done to the relationship between the public and the police, if anybody here questions the need for the police to change, I am here to tell you that it‟s time to face up to reality.

So why on earth is she trying so hard to break it?  If anybody is at risk of damaging Policing in the UK, it is not the Police, who hold the Peelian Principles dear to their hearts, it is Government, led by David Camoron and Theresa May.  With those words above echoing in their ears how can ANY government minister embark upon a course of conduct designed to shrink the Police Service and, by doing so, drastically reduce its ability to prevent crime and ensure Public Safety.

A cynical person might think that hypocrisy abounds.

Incidentally, NOWHERE in the Peelian Principles does it state that the Police must reflect the Public from which they come, their priority is to prevent crime. 

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