Independent Police Complaints Commission - Public Accounts Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 60-71)


24 NOVEMBER 2008

  Q60  Mr Williams: Yet four years after you were set up you have no way of knowing whether your recommendation has been implemented by the police forces. Have they not commented on that? Have they drawn your attention to it, or have you drawn their attention to it? Have they made any observations on it?

  Ms Furniss: I do not think the NAO say we have no way of knowing; they say that we were not recording very thoroughly the way our recommendations were being implemented. As I said earlier, actually, we have a lot of evidence of our recommendations being implemented and change being made as a result of it. I will give you one very important statistic: deaths in police custody have gone down over the last four years, year on year. We cannot claim responsibility for those deaths going down but, nevertheless, the indications are that lessons learned from investigations done by the IPCC have resulted in changes being made in custody procedures which have resulted in five less families suffering a death. The auditors are not saying we cannot demonstrate impact on the police; what they are saying is we were not thoroughly recording in a way that we could produce for the auditors the results of our recommendations.

  Q61  Mr Williams: Four years into your existence, coming back to one of the Chairman's initial questions, there are no formal procedures in place to assess the quality of completed investigations into the most serious type, that is, the independent investigation, described as the most serious reports. There is no procedure there for assessing the quality. Has the Advisory Board complained about this and put any suggestions forward?

  Ms Furniss: The Advisory Board has not.

  Q62  Mr Williams: They have not noticed?

  Ms Furniss: I do not think they would regard that as their role.

  Q63  Mr Williams: What do they see their role as?

  Ms Furniss: They see their role as advising us. That is the point. They are not an accountability body. The Commission is the accountable body for our work and each Commissioner oversees the quality of our independent investigations. The Advisory Board is there because they are a mix of our customers, the people who we are serving, both as complainants and as police officers. That is why they are there. They are not an accountable body.

  Q64  Mr Williams: What you need is an ongoing accountable body, is it not, because we are faced with a record of inconsistencies, unfairnesses, inevitably as a result of the way there is no scrutiny, and cynicism by people who have had dealings with your organisation. In four years it is only recently you have set up proper training schemes for case workers, is it not?

  Ms Furniss: Case workers have always had training. We now have an accredited training programme for them.

  Q65  Mr Williams: Is there any meaningful difference between the two?

  Ms Furniss: Yes, absolutely. They have to pass the examination.

  Q66  Mr Williams: Why did it take four years to go from non-accredited to accredited if there is a worthwhile difference between the two?

  Ms Furniss: Because, Mr Williams, at the beginning of the organisation's life there was no off-the-shelf training that could be bought for staff. It had to be created. From the beginning the organisation had to set up how it was going to deal with appeals and case work. It had to design and create that system. It had to develop training for staff, including a manual, which was issued over two years ago to staff, on how they should deal with cases before them. As a result of that we have now decided that it is right that staff should be able to demonstrate their skills and ability to do the job and obtain a qualification at the end of that. It was not one that could be created at the beginning of the organisation because there was no process created. That had to be developed as the organisation has grown.

  Q67  Mr Williams: I must say, having read the report and heard the answers, you have been a good witness in that you have been very open with us but I will have much greater sympathy in future with my constituents who come to me complaining they have not had a fair deal or they do not think they have had a fair deal from your organisation.

  Ms Furniss: Mr Williams, I would certainly invite you to be challenging of the people who complain that they have not had a fair deal because some people will dislike the outcome, however well we do it. You know that.

  Q68  Mr Williams: We are used to that.

  Ms Furniss: You run complaints services every Saturday morning, do you not? What constituents come in with is their complaints about how public service has let them down. Sometimes they are absolutely right and they have not been heard and they have been dealt with badly. Sometimes they have been dealt with very well and they do not like the outcome. That is what we are dealing with on a daily basis.

  Q69  Mr Williams: What I am saying is, sceptical as we are sometimes of some complainants who come to us, having read the evidence and read the shortcomings and seen how four years on you are still fighting to put in meaningful control mechanisms, scrutinising mechanisms, that I will perhaps be a little more sympathetic to people complaining than I might have been if I had not read this Report.

  Ms Furniss: My further comment would be, we are still doing things for the first time. Four years is actually not very long. There are still matters coming to us that we are having to develop our systems for and I am certainly not saying that we are perfect; far from it. We have done a very good job of establishing ourselves, developing our systems and we have improved our performance very significantly over the last two years despite a very dramatic increase in demand. But there is still a way to go and I would certainly endorse the fact that we need to do more about our quality assurance systems.

  Q70  Chairman: Just one last question. When I was a young barrister, the Met Police had a rather relaxed attitude to the quality of their evidence. If they felt that the defendant was guilty, they felt they could manufacture the evidence. Is the Met now clean?

  Ms Furniss: Mr Leigh, what a question! I could not possibly answer that for the organisation as a whole. On the fabrication of evidence, I think the systems that are in place now are such that it is much, much more difficult for a police officer who chose to and wanted to be corrupt to be so. The checks and balances and the processes that resulted from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the change to charging arrangements, where the CPS actually charge in most cases, means that an individual corrupt police officer will be very much less likely to be successful. I could not possibly say to you yes, the Met have a clean bill of health. Of course there will be police officers who will make mistakes and who will misconduct themselves. That is why we are here and why we will be needed for a very long time to come.

  Q71  Chairman: Thank you. I think we would like to have a couple of notes: how you monitor the thousands of complaints that never reach you, perhaps the not so important ones but still important.[2] We would also like to have a note on why these lawyers resigned.[3]

  Ms Furniss: I am happy to do that.

  Chairman: Thank you for your evidence. Thank you for being one of the few Accounting Officers with the courage to appear on her own. Thank you for your fluent testimony. That concludes our hearing.

2   Ev 9 Back

3   Ev 9 Back

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