Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
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
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
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
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.
We would also like to have a note on why these lawyers resigned.
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.
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