Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Sir Alistair Graham, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority

  Whilst we are still consulting colleagues about the provisions of the Bill, our first impressions are that the policy proposals outlined in the Government's document "Complaints Against the Police. Framework for a New System" have been faithfully incorporated in legislative form in the Police Reform Bill, though much of the detail will need to be encompassed in regulations prepared by the Secretary of State and his staff, following the passage of the Bill.

  The Secretary of State is required to provide the Police Advisory Board with a draft copy of all regulations and take into consideration any representations made by the PAB.

  The new complaints system outlined in the Bill follows the Authority's proposals that were submitted in our evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 1997. We have also had the opportunity to influence Home Office thinking about reform of the current system in the intervening period and officials have always listened carefully to what we have had to say.

  We would want to stress that the significance of the new system is that it will provide strong incentives for police forces to reach the highest standards in investigating complaints, to communicate with complainants during a complaint investigation and to disclose the results of the investigation. These incentives are likely to lead to greater complainant satisfaction.

  The Committee may wish to have some information about a number of pilots which are taking place in key aspects of the new system, to assist the IPCC and police forces in their implementation of it.

  The Home Office are responsible for the transition from the current to the new system for police complaints. They have established a Programme Board to oversee this transition and the PCA is represented on the Board through myself and one of my deputies.

  As part of the work of the Programme Board I am chairing a group responsible for implementing a number of research projects piloting key aspects of the new system. These pilots are:

  It is worth saying that all pilots will be evaluated.


  34 per cent of all complaints against the police are currently dealt with by a procedure known as "informal resolution". These are normally relatively minor complaints which, if proved, would not lead to criminal or disciplinary proceedings. However where there are no prospects for obtaining the necessary evidence to substantiate complaints, the Bill provides, in Section 8(2)(a) in Part 1 of Schedule 3 for regulations to be drawn up for a police force to be able to apply to the IPCC for authority to use local resolution instead of a formal investigation.

  I should explain that both in the current system and in the new system informal resolution as an alternative to formal investigation of a complaint can only be used with the consent of the complainant.

  The Bill, in Schedule 3, will also encourage the use of a range of different techniques such as restorative justice and mediation to try and speedily resolve complaints at a local level.

  During the past two years we have been working with Thames Valley Police to experiment with the use of some of these techniques and the Authority produced a report on this subject in 2001, a copy of which is enclosed for information.

  The Pilots Group did seek legal advice about whether it would be possible to pilot some aspects of the proposed changes to the system for resolving complaints at a local level. However there were serious legal difficulties in operating pilots within the current legislation.

  Paragraph 6(4) of Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Bill sets out the circumstances where the IPCC may approve the use of local resolution. It proposes that, where the appropriate authority decides to use its power, the IPCC must agree that the case, if proved, would not result in criminal proceedings against any officer or a disciplinary outcome of a fine or more serious sanction. Local resolution is considered to be more speedy than a formal investigation and often achieves a high degree of `complainant' satisfaction. The intention, therefore, is to extend its use as much as possible and this would be to complaints which, if proved, would result in minor disciplinary sanctions.

  The PCA is undertaking, with Durham Constabulary, a pilot to identify the likely information needs of the IPCC and the resource implications for both the IPCC and the police service. The pilot also aims to estimate the proportion of cases that could be disposed in this way.

  Members of the Professional Standards Department of Durham Constabulary will develop procedures to identify fourteen completed cases where informal resolution could have been applied. From these, the PCA will identify the information needed for the IPCC to agree, or approve, the use of informal resolution.

  For a further six month period new cases will be identified by Durham Constabulary that could be informally resolved under the proposed provisions, using the procedures developed. These will also be submitted to the PCA to examine whether approval for informal resolution could have been granted.


  Section 3(3) of Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Bill provides for a complainant to have a right of appeal to the IPCC against the decision by a police force not to record a complaint under Section 2 of Schedule 3 of the Bill.

  Avon & Somerset Constabulary are leading a pilot which will give members of the public in the area covered by that force the opportunity to challenge a decision not to record a complaint about the conduct of an Avon & Somerset Constabulary officer.

  Prior to getting this pilot off the ground, Avon & Somerset Constabulary carried out an historical data trawl within what they call "miscellaneous files" held within three constabularies: Avon & Somerset, Northumbria and Sussex. The reason for this trawl was to try and examine a spectrum of different practices in constabularies of recording complaints. As can be seen from the statistics set out in the table below, there is a significant difference between the three constabularies in their recording rate levels for complaints.

Establishment strength

  The purpose of this file review was:

    —  To review a sample of all files held within the Complaints Departments of Avon & Somerset Constabulary, Sussex Police and Northumbria Police, (sample size to be as large as possible given the constraints of time). The sample should commence at a point in the records where it can be assumed that the matter raised will be resolved thus allowing an objective judgement to be made on the outcome.

    —  Establish the volume of files that could be subject of an appeal against the refusal of the respective force to record the complaint—the figures for the sample size can be used as a predictor of the workload nationally should a statutory right of appeal be introduced.

    —  Establish the volume of files where the "complainant" records dissatisfaction with a decision not to record a complaint.

    —  To establish where a complaint was not recorded whether an alternative avenue was pursued to investigate the "complaint" raised by the "complainant", eg criminal investigation.

    —  To explore reasons for significant variations in the recorded cases and complaints between the three forces concerned.

  Early observations that have arisen from this file review are as follows:

    —  There are many issues which could be viewed as a complaint which quite legitimately fall outside of the police complaints process. When these issues are raised by members of the public they are rarely told that the matter will not be recorded or investigated as a S69 complaint against police. To do so may cause confusion and dissatisfaction.

    —  These "other issues" broadly described as miscellaneous files are investigated by other means, eg criminal investigation, internal, organisational complaint or quality of service. The sample reviewed so far has not revealed evidence of "suppressed complaints", rather "complaints" dealt with outside the process often achieving a high degree of "complainant" satisfaction because it has been resolved far more speedily than the formal process.

    —  The area of ambiguity under recording practices is neglected.

  The second part of the pilot has been to introduce from 1 February 2002, to give members of the public who have lodged a complaint about the conduct of a police officer in Avon & Somerset Constabulary, the opportunity to challenge the decision of that force not to record a complaint. I have attached to this letter a copy of the leaflet which has been issued to members of the public to explain this pilot.


  Section 32 of the Police Reform Bill will give the IPCC the power to play a role in disciplinary proceedings against a police officer where the IPCC has decided to direct a police force to bring disciplinary charges against particular police officers, arising from a complaint investigation.

  It was decided to test out the resource implications of this new provision by asking one of the members of the Authority, Mrs Anne Boustred, who is a qualified Barrister to take over the role that would normally be carried out by a police force in instructing Counsel who will be presenting the case against the police officer at the misconduct hearing. We have identified a small number of cases (probably no more than 5/6) in Essex Police, Devon & Cornwall Constabulary and British Transport Police.


  Section 25 of Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Bill provides for complainants to have an appeal to the IPCC on certain grounds as spelt out in Section 25(2). This pilot is being led by Thames Valley Police and commenced on 1 November last.

  The current procedures mean that police forces have no responsibility to communicate with complainants on completion of a complaint investigation. If the complaint involves criminal allegations, then once a complaint has been investigated by a police force, a copy of the investigating officer's report is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether criminal charges should be brought against any police officer. If the Crown Prosecution Service decide that there is insufficient evidence to bring any criminal charges or if the case was not referred to the CPS in the first place, then the investigating officer's report and associated documentation, including witness statements, are sent to the Police Complaints Authority with recommendations from the police force as to whether they feel that any disciplinary charges should be brought against any police officer(s) arising out of the complaint.

  A member of the Authority then has to review the investigating officer's report and associated documentation to satisfy themselves that the complaint has been properly investigated and to decide if there is sufficient evidence to justify misconduct proceedings against any officer. The member has to consider whether there is a realistic prospect of proving to a tribunal that the officer(s) behaviour fell below the standard set out in the Police Code of Conduct. This has to be proved on the balance of probabilities which means that a tribunal must find that it is more likely than not that the allegation is true.

  Having reviewed all the evidence, the member of the Police Complaints Authority will write to the complainant explaining the review which has been carried out, giving details of the complaint, a summary of the findings of the investigation and the conclusion that the he/she has come to about the complaint and whether it has been substantiated or not. If the complaint has been substantiated they also tell the complainant what disciplinary action is going to be brought against the officer(s) concerned, including referral to a misconduct tribunal where that is considered appropriate.

  The new arrangements in the Police Reform Bill giving responsibility to police forces to communicate with complainants on the completion of an investigation, is one of the most significant changes in the Bill. It is hoped this will provide a strong incentive to keep complainants informed of progress during an investigation.

  Under the proposals, if the investigation is completed to the complainant's satisfaction, then that will be the end of the complaint. It is hoped that with many complaints this will lead to a speeding up in the time taken to resolve them. In addition members of the public will be given a right of appeal to the IPCC to challenge the results of the police investigation. They will be able to challenge the results which have been drawn from the investigation and disagree with the proposed action to deal with misconduct of any police officer involved in the incident.

  To ensure that complaints dealt with in this pilot also meet the requirements of the provisions of the Police Act 1996, the Police Complaints Authority is reviewing the outcome of complaint investigations, whether there is an appeal or not. It is intended that the pilot should run for one year from 1 November 2001 to 31 October 2002.

  A full evaluation of this pilot will be carried out by the Home Office Research Department and such an evaluation will seek to assess the implications for Professional Standards Departments in police forces of introducing this major change. The pilot should hopefully also give some indication of the number of appeals against complaint investigations by police forces, though the fact that it is restricted to one police force limits this aspect of the pilot.


  Section 19 of Part 3 of the Police Reform Bill provides for the IPCC to independently investigate any complaint matter referred to it.

  Currently the Police Complaints Authority does not have any statutory power or staff to directly investigate complaints. A complaint is either investigated by the police force where the incident took place, or a member of the Authority supervises police investigations into complaints alleging serious misconduct or into incidents of public concern. These investigations are either carried out by the police force where the incident took place, or agreement is reached to use police officers from a different force to carry out the investigation under supervision of the PCA.

  The Police Complaints Authority has been working with the Metropolitan Police Service and the Home Office to establish a pilot in independent investigation using non-police officers as senior investigating officers.

  The aims of the pilot are:

    —  To test the feasibility of a non-police senior investigating officer working with a team of officers to investigate serious incidents involving the police.

    —  To define the role of an IPCC Commissioner in such investigations through the involvement of a PCA member as proxy for a Commissioner.

    —  To identify possible issues which will allow the IPCC to fulfil its statutory functions.

    —  To prepare a report detailing the lessons learned from the pilot.

  The Police Complaints Authority has reached agreement with the Investigation Division of HM Customs & Excise to second two experienced senior investigating officers to the PCA for the purposes of this pilot.

  The pilot will begin from 1 April 2002 when it is hoped the Home Office can make funding available to finance this pilot in independent investigation. It is hoped by 1 April that Customs & Excise will have identified two senior investigating officers and it will be possible for the Metropolitan Police Service to identify any skill gaps so that any training needs can be met before any attempt is made to involve the seconded investigating officers in dealing with "live" cases. It is intended that the Metropolitan Police Service will nominate a senior officer at Commander level to assist in making this pilot effective and it is also planned that the two senior investigating officers from Customs & Excise will spend some time with part of the Directorate of Professional Standards of the Metropolitan Police Service to acquaint themselves with MPS methods of working.

  The Police Complaints Authority will prepare a protocol for families and complainants whose cases are involved in the pilot.

  It is hoped that the pilot will be able to run for up to a year, though the Metropolitan Police Service recognise that they will need to draft a contingency agreement to take account of the need to ensure completion of investigations which remain in process at the end of the pilot. The MPS will take over these investigations if the need arises.

  If the pilot is successful it is hoped there will be an opportunity for the seconded senior investigating officers from Customs & Excise to apply for posts in the IPCC.

  As you will see from the above information, the pilots are at different stages of development, but it is hoped that they will provide valuable information which will assist the IPCC in carrying out its new functions under the Police Reform Bill.

Sir Alistair Graham,

Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority

February 2002

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