Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 263 - 279)



  Chairman: Gentlemen, good morning and welcome to a familiar face, in the case of Mr Wadham, and Mr Littlewood. Much of the focus of your memorandum was on complaints and misconduct. As you know, this is a fairly hasty bit of pre-legislative scrutiny we are attempting here, and we are going to start with the complaints and misconduct aspect of the Bill, if we may.

Mrs Dean

  263. Mr Wadham, I wonder if you could tell us why you are not satisfied with the provision in clause 10(c) which says "an appropriate degree of independence" for the Commission?

  (Mr Wadham) It seems to me that the key issue in relation to independence is not the words in the Bill, it is the practice as a consequence of the IPCC being set up. In our original proposals we were suggesting that the Commission should investigate itself a significant number of complaints. The Bill proposes that there would be four categories of complaints; that there would be complaints investigated by the police themselves, complaints supervised by the new body but investigated by the police, complaints managed by the Commission but investigated by the police and, lastly, complaints investigated by the police. I should add to that, there were two other systems of investigation of complaints; one is the local resolution process, which involves investigating police misconduct by the police and, of course, lastly, if the matter is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service or the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is a very complex system. I think the solution would be to make it simpler because all of the resources that the Commission will devote and divert to management and supervision could be used in direct investigation. Lastly, I think this suggests a problem about the extent to which this is going to be the Police Complaints Authority re-labelled. There have been suggestions that the current staff of the Police Complaints Authority and the members of the Police Complaints Authority will actually be re-employed by the Commission. I do not have any criticism of those members of staff or members of the authority individually, or in any other sense, but if this is about building public confidence we have to have investigations which are not by the police of the police.

  264. I appreciate you say it is not just about the wording it is about what is included elsewhere in the Bill, but would you like the wording in 10(c) changed? If so, would that help in any way?
  (Mr Wadham) I think it would demonstrate an intention by the Government and by Parliament that this was not just going to be a re-labelling exercise if they dropped the word "appropriate" or provided some other explanation which gave some reassurance to us and to members of the public that this really was an independent system.

  265. Moving on to how much it is estimated the IPCC would cost, which I think is £14 to £18 million a year, what is your concern about the level of resources that is proposed?
  (Mr Wadham) The current expenditure, I think, of the PCA is about £3.5 million. So increasing that to £18 million is a very significant increase, and it will mean there will be very significantly greater resources going into supervision, management and investigation. However, the Deputy Chair of the PCA, on a programme on Radio 4 last week, was talking about the difficulties that the Authority and he had in properly supervising the investigations they currently have. So they clearly do not have enough resources with their very restricted remit. The problem that I am concerned about is linked to the proposed legislation itself because there are mandatory categories, and the new Commission will be given a great deal of discretion in which cases it actually will investigate. If there is not sufficient money then, in fact, what you are going to get is more supervision and less independent investigation. Of course, if there is no protection in the legislation, a different government might take a different view and fund the Commission in a different way, meaning that there would be fewer and fewer independent investigations.

  266. Would you like to put a figure on how much you think should be in the budget?
  (Mr Wadham) I think that is very difficult and I would not pretend to be an expert. In the proposals we made a year or so ago we were thinking about this kind of figure, and I think most people believe that the investigation of about 1,000 complaints a year would be the right figure for this Commission. We would like the Commission to go beyond the particular categories and to have the resources and authority to investigate other categories of complaints. For instance, if there was an issue about the nature of how complaints were investigated that came from members of the public from particular ethnic minority groups, we would like the Commission to be able to investigate those. Alternatively, if there was a particular police station that was creating difficulties we would like the Commission to have sufficient resources to investigate all the complaints in relation to that police station. So we want them to have greater discretion.


  267. That is not ruled out under the Bill as it stands, is it?
  (Mr Wadham) No, that is absolutely true, it is not completely ruled out.

  268. It is not ruled out at all.
  (Mr Wadham) It is not ruled out at all, but it is not guaranteed. So, therefore, in answering the question about resources, I do not know the answer to the question. We would like to see a commitment to funding this organisation properly. Giving a discretion to do nothing at all, or almost, in relation to any complaint raises questions about the long-term funding of the organisation.

Mrs Dean

  269. It is not so much about how much funding you think there should be, it is how much freedom they would have in investigations.
  (Mr Wadham) I have no problem with the budget being £18 million. If it was doing its job properly, according to how I would see it carrying out those functions, we do not know how much that will cost, and it will be virtually impossible to know until it has worked for a year, and then we would need to look at it again.


  270. Just going over the figures with you, I thought I heard you say that there would be about 1,000 investigations a year. We were given to understand that there would be about 2,000 investigations a year, half of which will be carried out directly by the IPCC at a cost of £14 to £18 million, which, it says here, is up from £5 million for the existing Police Complaints Authority. Are those figures broadly in line with what you understand?
  (Mr Wadham) Those are broadly in line with my understanding. On the issue of 1,000 investigations by the staff of the Commission itself, obviously there are then the supervised and the managed investigations, which will increase the number of complaints dealt with in one sense or another by the Commission.

  271. You were on the Home Office working party that decided to go down this route, were you not?
  (Mr Wadham) Yes, we were.

  272. You personally.
  (Mr Wadham) I personally, and my colleague. We made these representations to all of the meetings that we have been to. I should add that in some cases, Chairman, they actually have taken on board some of our concerns. I am not here to suggest that that process was flawed. We were grateful to be part of it and we had some influence.

  273. You say in your submission "Unfortunately, we cannot support the Government's proposals for the new IPCC in this Bill as it stands." You are not saying, are you, that the existing arrangements are better?
  (Mr Wadham) Far from it. One of my concerns in coming and giving evidence today is that it is very important that the Committee understands that Liberty believes that these proposals are very significantly better than the current arrangements, and that we would not wish these proposals to fall merely because of our opposition, or for any other reason. I think they must go ahead and they must go ahead in this Bill. I think there are some improvements that could be made, both in terms of changing the way that the Government intends to set this up as well as some technical changes to the Bill, but because a lot of the rules will be in regulations and actually be in terms of resources and the setting up and not in the clauses in the Bill itself, it is difficult to amend—for us or for anyone else.

David Winnick

  274. The first sentence of your brief says "Liberty welcomes the establishment of the IPCC".
  (Mr Wadham) Exactly.

  275. Can I put it to you, Mr Wadham, that the likelihood that the Government would produce a scheme whereby your organisation would say "Well, with very, very minor changes we much welcome it" is, to say the least, quite remote. The very nature of your organisation is such (and rightly so because, as you know, I fully support it) that it is bound to find faults where the Government of the day does not go as far as you would like.
  (Mr Wadham) We do come here a bit like Oliver Twist, and we do want more. That is our job and we will continue to ask for more in relation to these proposals and others. The key question, though, I think, is: is the public going to believe, as a result of these measures, that the police will continue to investigate themselves, albeit supervised, managed or in some other way, or will they believe that there is proper independent, rigorous investigation by someone completely separate from the police? That is the key question. It is about how effective and efficient the system is but it is also about public perception. I think they could go a little further and gain a great deal more confidence, in the way that we suggest.

  276. When you say "a little further", you are in fact reinforcing the first sentence of your briefing to the Committee, which I have already quoted. In essence, you do accept this is a substantial advance and progress on what is happening at the moment regarding investigations. I do not want to put words in your mouth.
  (Mr Wadham) A very substantial advance and, as the Chairman said to me, we have been involved in this process and we have put energy into this process because we think it will produce a much better system. What we do not want to have to do is, in five years' time, revisit this process because it has not quite succeeded or it has failed.

  277. In some respects you can take credit, and, indeed, your organisation (and you, personally, for the way in which you have headed the organisation) over the fact that such a measure is going to be introduced.
  (Mr Wadham) A small amount of credit but more credit, perhaps, to this Committee and others as well.

  278. Very modest. I take it that, inevitably, as you have done in the past, and properly so, you will be inclined to try and get amendments to the measure included, which, as I say, is obviously your right. Is that so?
  (Mr Wadham) We certainly will. We have not done so yet because we wanted to come to this Committee, and obviously there are other issues about the extent to which we can have influence within the systems—the advisory committees, etc—that we are members of. The crunch will come if this Bill does arrive in this House.

Bridget Prentice

  279. You were saying that you felt that there should be more categories of complaints. Is there not the possibility that by doing that you risk compromising the discretion of the Commission?
  (Mr Wadham) There is. I think it is a difficult balance to get right, but there are some categories in the Bill of the kinds of cases that will have to be referred to them—cases involving serious assaults and death. We, for instance, would suggest that you could add to that corruption and racial discrimination as categories. What that will mean is that the police involved in the complaint investigation will have to refer those to the Commission. We would say that those two categories, plus the ones in the Bill, should be mandatory categories, subject to exceptions. I know the Police Complaints Authority has argued consistently that if all of the categories of investigation are mandatory they will waste their time investigating cases which actually do not require or deserve their investigation. That is partially true, and that is why I would like to see some exception allowed in the mandatory categories. However, our concern is, as I have stated earlier, that if there is a squeeze on resources it would be very simple for the Commission to spend more of its time supervising cases and less of its time investigating cases. That would mean that more cases of police misconduct or alleged misconduct will be investigated by the police themselves.

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