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
It is worth saying that all pilots will be evaluated.
1. LOCAL RESOLUTION
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.
2. PILOT GIVING
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
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.
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 complaintthe 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
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
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.
3. PILOT IN
THE IPCC INSTRUCTING
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.
4. PILOT IN
IPCC IF THEY
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
5. PILOT IN
Section 19 of Part 3 of the Police Reform Bill provides for
the IPCC to independently investigate any complaint matter referred
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
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