Select Committee on Home Affairs Third Special Report


SESSION 1997-98


Published 15 January 1998. Government Response (published as HC 683) received 23 March 1998

MISCONDUCT AND POOR PERFORMANCE (RECOMMENDATIONS 2, 19, 21, 22, 23, 27, 29, 33, 35-37, 40, 41)

  New police misconduct and unsatisfactory performance procedures were implemented in April 1999. All the necessary Regulations are now in place and Guidance has been issued. The Regulations and/or the Guidance deal with inadequate performance by police officers. The Guidance deals also with recommendation 37 but it is early days yet and there have not yet been many cases under the "fast track" procedures.

  An amendment to the legislation to modify the caution in disciplinary proceedings, to bring it into line with the caution used in criminal cases, will be brought forward when Parliamentary time permits (recommendation 21).

  On recommendation 41, the Home Office issued guidance to ensure that forces should, as a matter of course, endeavour to provide information to complainants on the outcome of disciplinary hearings. The guidance came into effect in April 1999.


  The Government engaged the consultants, KPMG, to undertake a feasibility study of an independent system for investigating complaints against the police. KPMG produced their report in April 2000 and it was used, along with the report of a parallel Liberty study, as the basis for a Home Office consultation exercise.

  There was strong support for independent investigations for the more serious complaints but further consultation is necessary. The Government will announce its conclusion on the details of the new complaints system by the end of the year and the new system will include independent investigations. The new system will address also many of the other conclusions and recommendations concerned with police complaints. Legislation to establish the new system will be introduced when Parliamentary time permits.


  The budget of the Police Complaints Authority reduced significantly in real terms between 1996 and 2000. In 1999 the PCA had also to replace its obsolete IT system. These factors led to a heavy backlog of cases and deterioration in the turn around time in some aspects of its casework:

    Dispensations overall were dealt with within 32 days, 4 days over the 28 day target;

    Fully investigated cases other than supervised cases had an average turn around time of 74 days—27 more than the previous year and 46 days over the target time.

  The PCA, however, achieved some improvements in service during the year:

    A small increase in the number of supervised cases completed within the target of 120 days from 63 per cent to 65 per cent;

    More speedy turn around of supervised cases at the misconduct review stage. The Authority achieved an average turn around time of these cases of 22 days, well within the target of 28 days.

  The PCA are keen to make further improvements to the service within its existing powers. It received a modest increase (2 per cent) in its budget for 2000-01 and is in discussion with the Home Office about the level of funding to be made available in 2001-02.

  On other specific points raised in the recommendations:

    (i)  The Police (Complaints) (General) Regulations contain a provision which enables the PCA to accept a complaint and forward it on to the appropriate authority.

    (ii)  In April 2000 PCA introduced a system of writing automatically to every complainant where the misconduct review decision will exceed the target time of 28 days. This system remains in operation. The PCA has also agreed in principle that a letter should be sent to complainants whenever investigations exceed or are likely to exceed target times.

    (iii)  Guidance has been issued to the police, effective from April 1999, to ensure that in cases of deaths in police custody, disclosure of documentary material to interested persons before the inquest should be normal practice.


  The management of medical retirements in most forces has improved significantly since 1997 as a result of the implementation of a number of good practice measures. Overall rates of medical retirements have been reduced from 45 per cent in 1996-97 to 31 per cent in 1999-2000. The Government will be consulting shortly on a range of proposals for changes to the current medical retirement regulations. Some of the proposed changes will reflect recommendations made by HMIC.

  Nearly all forces now have targets to reduce sickness absence as part of their efficiency plans. In order to achieve these targets, many forces are currently implementing new initiatives, (eg: closer management review of sick leave; improved Occupational Health, counselling services and investment in medical support; investment in protective gear for officers; and the availability of "restricted duty" posts for officers returning to fitness). However, it will take some time until these reductions will be reflected in the figures. Guidelines on the treatment of sickness absence that have been issued by ACPO will help reduce current sickness levels. Research is now being undertaken by the Home Office to identify good practice, which will be disseminated to all forces when completed.

  Recommendation 34 (use of the power to reduce the pay of officers who are sick for six or more months) has not yet been raised at the PNB but we will do so at the next opportunity.

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