Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
24 NOVEMBER 2008
Q20 Mr Mitchell: Okay but you have
been drafting other staff into investigations. It says at 1.16
that you have redeployed staff from support activities such as
nightwatchmen, custodians and floor cleaners into investigations.
Ms Furniss: No, no they are investigations
staff whose job was previously
Q21 Mr Mitchell: I was just joking
then but it must have led to less adequate investigations because
you are drafting staff in who are not used to the work.
Ms Furniss: These are people who
were qualified and trained investigators but whose job previously
had been to oversee quality assurance and not undertake to lead
investigations. We have also brought some people in who had retired.
There is a senior investigator who had retired from the IPPC who
we asked to come back. We have done that kind of thing but we
always make sure that the staff are qualified.
Q22 Mr Mitchell: Is there any way
in which this strain that you are under makes you more inclined
to take the word of the police because that is the easy way out?
I notice from 3.22 that there is an impressive list here that
includes the Superintendents' Association, the Association of
Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation who are all expressing
satisfaction which is not necessarily always felt by complainants.
Because you are under strain is that going to make you more inclined
to accept the police's word?
Ms Furniss: Absolutely not.
Q23 Mr Mitchell: Can you guarantee
Ms Furniss: I can absolutely guarantee
that, Mr Mitchell. The whole purpose of the IPPC is to follow
the evidence and to determine the truth of what has happened.
That is our job and if at any point we were suggesting that we
were inclined towards the police we would lose the whole value
of the organisation. Our job is to follow the evidence and come
to some kind of judgment about what has happened; to search for
the truth and report that. It is often extremely unpopular, it
is not what people want, and it is often much more complex than
the individuals involved would like it to be. They would like
us to say, "Someone was at fault; this should happen,"
or they would like us to say, "No-one was at fault; this
should not happen." Our job is to report publicly and honestly
what we find, and we do that.
Q24 Mr Mitchell: Have you transferred
delays then from independent investigations to managed investigations,
which have got worse?
Ms Furniss: I beg your pardon,
I am sorry, I did not understand the question.
Q25 Mr Mitchell: Has the burden of
delaying investigations been transferred from independent investigations
to managed investigations?
Ms Furniss: It may need me to
explain slightly the managed investigations. We have a single
member of staff who oversees the work that is being done and holds
the police to account. It is actually police resources that do
the investigation, not IPPC resources. We will set the terms of
reference and provide oversight but actually it is the police
team that do the investigation.
Q26 Mr Mitchell: So your job is easier
because you just oversee it?
Ms Furniss: I am sorry?
Q27 Mr Mitchell: Your job is easier
because you are overseeing it rather than actually doing it?
Ms Furniss: It is certainly less
work for us if we manage them yes, absolutely, but it is a proper
decision, it is a judgment that has to be made by the regional
director. In the past it was the commissioner that made this decision
but now it is the regional director. It is a proper decision that
has to be made of whether this case can be adequately investigated
and can the public have confidence if this case is investigated
by the police as opposed to the IPPC but with our oversight? That
is our role.
Q28 Mr Mitchell: To follow the point
made by the Chairman, you have some regions which are worse than
others. It looks to me from paragraph 14 of the summary that one
of the worst regions is the South East. My philosophy of life
is that the worst regions are the South East and London! Is that
because of particular problems with the Met and what are you doing
to bring up the number and quality of investigations and the responses
in that area?
Ms Furniss: What happened, Mr
Mitchell, was that at the beginning of the organisation's life
it got the resourcing wrong for London and the South East. It
was not that the staff were not up to the task.
Q29 Mr Mitchell: You are diverting
resources now from other areas?
Ms Furniss: We have moved work
or moved resources depending on which we could do. Obviously where
an investigation is required in the centre of London it is much
more difficult. We need to move the people to be able to do the
investigation. Where it is an appeal we can move the paperwork,
so we have done that, and you may be pleased to know that we are
actually in the process of recruiting extra staff.
Q30 Mr Mitchell: That could lead
to problems in other areas.
Ms Furniss: It has had a marginal
impact on that but over time that will work out. For example,
we have recruited additional staff in Yorkshire, which I am sure
will please you, so the appeals are going to our staff in Yorkshire
and they will be able to dedicate time to catching up and clearing
the backlog. As I said earlier, we have actually done that very
Q31 Mr Mitchell: In paragraph 2.7
why are commissioners not formally approving the reports prior
to publication? Is it they are just too harassed to do it or is
it bone idleness or why?
Ms Furniss: I should just point
out of course that I am responsible to the commissioners and not
for the commissioners, they are the board but, having said that,
no, it is not idleness or being too harassed; it is we were not
recording in a single file commissioners' approval. There was
absolutely no doubt whatsoever that all those reports were approved
by the commissioners.
Q32 Mr Mitchell: They were?
Ms Furniss: They were absolutely
approved. They go out with a letter from the commissioner or they
go out with a press release with the commissioner's name on it,
but there was not a signed form on the file which the auditors
could see which said "I, Commissioner X, have signed this
Report off", and we have changed that since the auditors
helpfully pointed it out to us.
Q33 Mr Mitchell: You have done two
surveys of the general public and they seem to be slightly daft
because you have asked people who have not necessarily got any
knowledge of what you are about whether they approve of it. That
is rather like the famous American survey in the 1950s which got
56% of the population to say that they approved of the Metallic
Minerals Act when there was no such Act! It is a daft survey,
is it not, to ask people who do not know anything about it what
they think of it?
Ms Furniss: Parliament gave us
the responsibility of improving public confidence in the complaints
system. That is a statutory responsibility in the Police Reform
Act that the public should have confidence in the police complaints
system. Whether or not they wish to use it, they should have confidence.
It is important, is it not, in our society that the public know
that they can make a complaint against the police; they know they
can do so if they ever wish to and if they do wish to that they
know how to, and if they wish to and know how to that they will
also have confidence that it will be dealt with properly. In order
to determine whether the public do have confidence we have to
ask all of them.
Q34 Mr Mitchell: Okay. You do not
seem to seek the views of complainants and what they think, which
I think is a serious problem. We have a complaint here from Tony
Wise, you have probably got a copy of it. I do not expect you
to answer now, it comes from "Wise Fozzie Bear", and
he complains that his case was not properly investigated and there
was collusion between the investigating officer and the police
and it was an entirely unsatisfactory outcome. You will only come
across this if you actually get the views of complainants. Can
you give a response to Mr Fozzie Bear?
Ms Furniss: To Mr Wise are you
Q35 Mr Mitchell: Mr Wise, yes, in
writing, not now.
Ms Furniss: Of course, I am very
Q36 Chairman: Do you know this case?
Ms Furniss: Yes.
Q37 Chairman: Tell us now then.
Ms Furniss: It is currently on-going,
Chairman, so I do not think it would really be appropriate for
me to comment on the detail of it, but he is a man who has made
a number of complaints to the police which have been investigated
and he has appealed and those have been investigated and there
is one current outstanding one which he recently submitted which
we are currently looking at. I am very happy to send you a note.
Chairman: If there is anything you want
to send out to us in confidence then you can.
Thank you, Mr Mitchell. Geraldine Smith?
Q38 Geraldine Smith: It is very important
that the public do have confidence in your organisation. However,
at the end of the day you do not monitor the recommendations that
are made if you have upheld a complaint. If you look at a police
force and you think there is something wrong there because you
have upheld the complaint and you have asked for changes in the
procedures but then you do not do anything about it to make sure
that that happens, what is the point of your existence if you
do not follow it through?
Ms Furniss: I think what the auditors
identified was that we had not got a systematic way of answering
your question. The weakness is that we have not actually got a
systematic way where we could show the auditors and show you how
our recommendations have been implemented. It is not true to say
that we do not know what is going on.
Q39 Geraldine Smith: If you do do
it, how do you actually do it?
Ms Furniss: I was just going to
go on to explain that. There are a number of ways. First of all,
the commissioner responsible for each force (and each commissioner
has responsibility for three or four police forces) will talk
to the force before they make their recommendation so they will
check that the recommendation is actually going to solve the problem
that has been identified. They will check that the force is going
to implement the change made and they will often talk to them
during and after the recommendations are made to check that that
has happened. I can give you lots of examples where that has happened
both locally and nationally where problems identified by us have
resulted in change. For example, a man killed himself in a cell
having tied a noose round a plughole strainer, and as a result
of that we recommended that police forces should change the design
of their plugholes, and they have done so. In a very high profile
case in one particular force where witness protection broke down
and the couple were killed, that force has now got one of the
best witness protection systems in the country as a result of
the learning done from major mistakes that were made in that particular
case. So there are a number of cases where very real problems
were identified, recommendations were made, and we can give you
evidence of the changes that were made as a result. Those are
local individual forces. Some of them have national implications.
One of the ways that we are currently really pushing the learning
is through our bulletins. We have now published five Learning
the Lessons bulletins where we identify and encapsulate into
a single bulletin lessons to learned from a number of different
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