C: THE NEED FOR INDEPENDENCE (continued)
Steps towards independence
81. As we have indicated above, we regard independent
investigation as desirable in principle. However, we are not
in a position to evaluate fully the practical feasibility of establishing
an independent body in the short term, nor the different models
of independent complaints bodies which exist elsewhere and which
could provide a framework for such a body in England and Wales.
A number of possibilities exist, including the transfer of all
or part of the existing police expenditure on complaints, secondment
of staff or some combination of these and other elements. Sir
Paul Condon referred to a "menu" of possibilities which
could be combined in a number of ways to produce different possible
arrangements, though he noted that many of them by themselves
would not necessarily convince the public that the system was
Whilst we hope that our other proposals for reform of the system
will have some beneficial impact-if implemented-we recommend that
the Home Office conduct a detailed feasibility study of different
possible arrangements for an independent complaints investigation
process. If the present system, as reformed, continues to enjoy
only low credibility, then independent investigation will have
to be considered. Independent investigation has, after all,
been accepted by the Government for Northern Ireland, following
the Hayes report. Although there are obvious differences between
the situation in Northern Ireland and that in England and Wales,
including different financial considerations, it is clearly a
possible route to take. Meanwhile we think there are some steps
in that direction which could be taken, drawing in part on some
of the elements of the 'menu' of options referred to by Sir Paul
82. Liberty, while emphasising that their first choice
would be a new fully independent investigatory body, put forward
a compromise suggestion. They proposed a system whereby an independent
body-financed in respect of running costs (though not start up
costs) by a transfer of funds from police complaints budgets-might
investigate only the serious cases, such as those which under
the present system are supervised by the PCA;
there could be a pilot project, based on one region, as an initial
This would actually go a long way towards fully independent examination
and goes further than we are ready to recommend at this stage.
Nevertheless, it might be one of the options examined in the
feasibility study for which we have called and we do not rule
it out in the longer term.
83. One step which attracted significant support
in the evidence we received was the idea that the PCA be authorised-and
funded-to commission independent investigations where they felt
particular expertise and skills might be required which would
not otherwise be available to the inquiry. This is the model
which was adopted by Parliament for the new Criminal Cases Review
Commission. The Commission is in its first year of operation,
so it is too soon to assess how effective the provision will be.
ACPO representatives stated that they would have no problems
with such an approach.
The PCA thought such a power would be useful, envisaging that
it would be particularly helpful in cases where a multi-disciplinary
approach was needed in an investigation, such as fraud cases.
We support this idea as a first step, and accordingly recommend
that the PCA is given the power and the funds to commission independent
investigation in cases where there is reason to believe that the
existing process is proving inadequate. We note that the Minister
of State, Mr Michael, appeared well disposed towards this proposal.
84. Another measure would be to encourage greater
use of outside police forces-i.e. a police force other than the
one whose officers are under investigation. ACPO suggested this
was now happening with increasing frequency, not least because
forces' police authorities sometimes put pressure on Chief Constables
to take this option.
Some non-police observers suggested this should be done more
often; Inquest, for example, indicated that the Metropolitan Police
did not do it as often as it might.
However, the PCA suggested that tight police budgets were making
it more difficult to arrange investigations by outside forces
because of the relative scarcity of officers of the right rank
and calibre of who were also available at the time required, (though
their Chairman added however that as yet no investigation had
actually been delayed on this count).
It would be only a small step towards greater independence in
investigation, but we recommend that investigation by an outside
force should become a more regular occurrence than it is at present.
85. Another possibility raised in the evidence was
that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary be given a greater role.
We understand that this is the case in Scotland, where the Scottish
Inspectorate has a review function with power to examine how a
complaint has been handled and investigated by the police force
concerned. However, the key difference is that there is no PCA
or equivalent body in Scotland and this function of the Scottish
Inspectorate is more akin to the PCA's role than to that of investigator.
HM Inspectorate (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) already
has power to review a force's complaints and discipline procedures
and performance. They were quite clear in their written evidence
that they were not equipped to take on the primary investigative
function and indeed that it would fundamentally weaken their ability
to perform their existing statutory functions were they to be
reformed to enable them to do so.
Both the Inspectorate and other witnesses doubted anyway whether
the Inspectorate would give a significantly greater impression
of independence than the existing system.
86. Another area for possible development drawn to
our attention was the role of police authorities. The Association
of Police Authorities suggested that the present duty on authorities
to keep themselves informed about the operation of the complaints
process in practice depended on the voluntary cooperation of the
Chief Constable, and that their role should be clarified and extended.
We have not examined the position of police authorities in any
detail and we do not therefore have precise suggestions to make
about reform, though it is clear that they occupy a position which
could enable them to make a positive contribution to building
up public confidence in the procedures. Nevertheless, as with
the Inspectorate, it seems unlikely that giving them a greater
role would materially alter the degree to which the public perceived
the process as an independent one.
Independence and the Police
87. We have discussed above the areas in which we
consider that the disciplinary and complaints process needs greater
independence from the police than the present system based on
police investigation and PCA oversight. The question arises as
to whether the independent body in this process should continue
to be the Police Complaints Authority, or whether some new body
is needed. We have made proposals for an independent complaints
review body to have a greater role than does the PCA in the recording
of complaints and in oversight of investigations where there has
been no complaint. We have however stopped short, at this stage,
of calling for a fully independent investigatory process, but
have recommended certain steps in that direction. Against this
background, we consider that, unless and until there is to
be a totally new investigative body, fundamental change to the
complaints process would be premature, though some changes to
the PCA will nevertheless flow from the reforms we have proposed.
We call for the PCA to make robust use of both its existing and
its proposed new powers. We note that there have been suggestions
that a change in the title of the body-so as to include the word
'independent' in some way-might be helpful in enabling it to explain
its position and role to the public.
might not be so very far from that proposed by Dr Hayes for Northern
Ireland in the longer term: he envisaged that, after confidence
in the process had been established by independent examination
of all complaints, the new body should begin remitting minor complaints
back to the police for investigation (Hayes report paras 13.42
11; Q 327. Back
53 ff. Back
10 para 24; Q 416 ff. Back
720 and 732. Back
cited the Brian Douglas, Wayne Douglas and Richard O'Brien
cases as examples (Appendix 25 para 5); see also JUST TV (see
List of Unprinted Memoranda). Back
409; see also Appendix 10 para 22. Back
16; Q 175 (Police Superintendents' Association) and Q 334 (Liberty). Back
18, para 6. Back