Independent Police Complaints Commission - Public Accounts Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1  In the four and a half years since it was established the IPCC has helped to improve access to, and raise public confidence in, the police complaints system. However, the IPCC must tighten up its procedures to protect its reputation and to provide a strong platform for taking its work forward. Particular areas for improvement include: quality assurance; obtaining feedback from complainants, police officers and appellants; engaging with key stakeholder groups; and demonstrating the impact of its recommendations.

2  Since it was established in 2004, the IPCC's workload has increased significantly, which has led to it operating at above full capacity. The performance of IPCC regions has been variable, with the London and the South East region in particular underperforming compared to other regions. To make better use of resources, the IPCC has recently re-organised its work to allocate appeals nationally rather than regionally. Allocating work on a national basis enables demands to be prioritised more easily. Building on these changes, the IPCC should consider whether further work or posts can be re-located out of London and the South East to reduce costs, as well as to improve performance.

3  In May 2008, responsibility for the decision on how a complaint should be handled by the IPCC was transferred from Commissioners, who are the guardians of the IPCC's independence, to Regional Directors, who are part of operational management within the IPCC. This change increases the risk that the availability of scarce resources will have an undue influence over decisions about how a complaint should be investigated. To ensure proper accountability, Commissioner oversight of mode of investigation decisions should be restored.

4  The IPCC's quality control arrangements are not functioning properly and there is therefore only limited assurance available about the quality of the IPCC's work. A robust quality assurance framework needs to be introduced that helps to safeguard and maintain the integrity of the IPCC's work and the quality of its investigations.

5  There is no specialised external scrutiny of the IPCC's investigation or appeals work. The IPCC should introduce arrangements for the external scrutiny of a sample of its cases to provide independent assurance about how it handles investigations and appeals. The IPCC should identify bodies that might appropriately undertake such work, for example, another police complaints body or one of the practice assurance organisations that exist in a number of professions such as accountancy and the law.

6  The IPCC has not routinely sought the views of complainants or police officers about their experiences of IPCC investigations, nor has it sought feedback from appellants about the appeals process. Obtaining feedback from complainants, police officers and appellants should be automatic and embedded in the processes for investigations and appeals. Such feedback could be obtained for little extra cost. It is also likely to be more cost effective to ask for this information at the end of each investigation or appeal, than to commission separate surveys.

7  The IPCC's Advisory Board was established as a 'critical friend' to the IPCC, providing key stakeholders with a forum to provide feedback to IPCC Commissioners and senior managers on how the IPCC and the wider complaints system are performing. Of the 15 member organisations, however, all but two represent government, police or staff interests. More needs to be done to establish better contacts with complainant groups. The IPCC should re-examine the composition of its Advisory Board with a view to making it more representative of all relevant interest groups.

8  The IPCC has no mechanism in place for monitoring whether its recommendations have been implemented by the police. The IPCC acknowledges that there are inconsistencies in the way it records a police force's acceptance or rejection of recommendations and that improvements need to be made. However, it remains unclear as to who has responsibility for monitoring the implementation of IPCC recommendations. Clarification on this matter is needed from the Home Office.

9  The IPCC has a number of performance measures to identify how well it is handling its workload but does not have any measures which monitor the wider impacts that its work is having on the police. The IPCC should introduce performance measures that would help to establish its overall impact in improving the performance of the police.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 31 March 2009