2 The Performance of the IPCC|
4. In order to achieve its statutory aim of increasing
public confidence in the police complaints system, the IPCC is
responsible for handling two types of case. Its work is split
into the handling of "Complaints" against police conduct,
and "Appeals" against the police's handling of a complaint.
Both areas of the Commission's work have come under criticism.
Complaints and Investigations
5. Complaints against police conduct can be made
either to the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of the force
concerned or directly to the IPCC. In the period 2008-09, some
31,259 complaints were made against the police. According to Nick
Hardwick, half of these were about "incivility or other neglect
of dutyin plain language, rude, late and poor service"
and the biggest category of complainants are white men, over 35,
in non-manual occupations, who "generally have a good opinion
of the police".
Of these 31,000 complaints against police behaviour, 2,445 were
serious enough to be referred to the IPCC for investigation, an
increase of 11% on the previous year, and of around two-thirds
since the IPCC came into operation in 2004-05. 
6. Depending on the seriousness of the complaint,
the IPCC has the option of one of four processes, so-called "Modes
- Independent Investigations,
which are carried out by the IPCC's own investigators and overseen
by an IPCC Commissioner. The use of Independent Investigations
is reserved for the most high-profile cases such as those involving
a death after police contact. In 2008-09, 106 Independent Investigations
were started and on average they took 195 working days to complete;
- Managed Investigations
are carried out by the PSD of the force against which the complaint
was made, "under the direction and control" of an IPCC
Investigator. In 2008-09, 117 Managed Investigations were started
and on average they took 269 working days to complete;
- In Supervised Investigations the IPCC
sets the terms of reference for an inquiry conducted by the PSD
of the force concerned. The results of such investigations can
be appealed to the IPCC; and
- Local Investigations
are reserved for the most low profile of cases and are carried
out entirely by police PSDs. These investigations also carry a
right of appeal.
Local Investigations also allow the use of the "Local
Resolution" (LR) procedurewith the consent of the
complainant, the case can be resolved at a local level with the
involvement of a police inspector and does not involve the disciplinary
process. In 2008/09 41% of all complaint allegations were resolved
by this method.
7. In 2008-09 only 59% of the complaints made against
the police were deemed serious enough to allow the possibility
of any disciplinary action. Of these 18,000 cases only 14% were
then considered serious enough to be referred to the IPCC and
of these, the IPCC themselves felt that only a further 223 cases
justified a more labour and resource intensive Independent or
Managed Investigation. In
2008-09, less than 1% of all complaints made against the Police
were directly investigated by IPCC staff and just 10% of "serious"
cases referred to the IPCC were subsequently managed by the IPCC's
own staff. It is true to say that, 99 times out of 100 and despite
the existence of the IPCC, the complaints procedure remains the
"police investigating the police".
8. Nick Hardwick has cited the steady increase in
the number of people making complaints against police conduct
to the Commission as proof of public confidence in the complaints
system. Mr John Crawley
disagreed that this was an adequate measure of the IPCC's success.
He suggested that this may have been a valid argument in the early
years after the IPCC's formation as it would be a sign of the
public placing trust in a new, reformed complaints system, but
he contrasted a definition of success as measured by inputs which
seems to be the IPCC's preferred method, with success measured
Six years into the system, to continue to say the
increasing number of complaints and formal investigations of complaints
against a background of a very, very low percentage of such complaints
being substantiated ... [is] a little bit of an 'Alice in Wonderland'
Mr Crawley maintained that a better measure of the
IPCC's success in increasing public confidence would be through
measuring the number of complaints against police conduct which
were upheld, not merely made. He contrasted the increase in the
number of complaints made to the IPCC with the steady proportion
of claims which were subsequently upheld. He told us that "in
2008-09 just 1 in 10 complaints formally investigated [i.e. not
resolved through LR Procedure] were substantiated ... a pattern
that exists year after year, unaltered by the arrival of the IPCC".
The Police Action Lawyers Group went further and told us that
while "a greater number of complaints are now made against
the police ... fewer of these complaints are upheld in real terms".
9. We have been provided with statistical information
on the proportion of complaints which were ultimately substantiated
by the IPCC or the force's PSD. The 10% "substantiation rate"
was maintained despite large regional variations: for example
in Northamptonshire 23% of complaints were upheld,
while of the 3,807 investigated complaints made against the Metropolitan
Police, only 152 were substantiated. Mr Crawley did not believe
these figures to be credible as it suggested that "virtually
all of those complainants' complaints had no merit".
Both John Crawley and the Police Action Lawyers Group (PALG) suggested
that these figures highlighted inconsistencies in the standard
of police investigation and that the IPCC should be remedying
this as part of its statutory remit. John Crawley argued that
this proved the need for a "much more robust intervention
at police force level to ensure that complaints are thoroughly
investigated" while the PALG called for "urgent research
and investigation to ascertain why ... a post-code lottery"
seems to exist.
10. Mr Crawley further suggested that not only was
the Commission having no meaningful effect on the number of complaints
against officers which were ultimately substantiated by the IPCC,
or the PSD of the force concerned, it had made no attempt to discover
why this was the case:
The IPPC has not (to the best of my knowledge) undertaken
any significant analytic or other research or investigate [sic]
work to ascertain why the patterns and problems continue ... Despite
having an Intelligence Unit the IPCC appears to undertake no useful
analytical work on the ... wider complaints system, being content
to simply publish the annual statistics which show the same dismal
pattern and trends year in, year out.
Furthermore, the Commission had not tried to "engage
with and change the culture of police complaints management and
its reluctance to embrace an objective and rigorous approach to
the fair resolution of complaints".
The implication was that the IPCC either did not see its role
as driving up the standards of police standards departments or
had singularly failed in this task.
11. Nick Hardwick suggested that the continually
low number of complaints against police officers which were upheld
by the IPCC could be traced back to the Commission's role, which
did not place the complainant at the heart of the process:
Unlike any other complaint system the question that
Parliament asks us to answer is not, "Has this member of
the public received a proper service and, if not, how can we put
things right?" The question you ask me to answer is, "Has
this officer committed misconduct and, if so, how should they
be punished?" The system is all about the officer, it is
not about the complainant.
As such there is a distinction between what the public
view as worthy of complaint and the behaviour against which the
IPCC can act; while the public complain about matters of servicefor
example incivility and neglect of dutythe IPCC is empowered
to act only against misconduct. As Nick Hardwick told us:
for the lower level complaints what people want is
an apology, an explanation or a reassurance the same thing will
not happen again; only a minority are looking for an officer to
be sanctioned. The problem is that the only legislative tool in
the box is a decision about whether an officer should be sanctioned.
12. A relatively simple means of mitigating this
situation would be to remove the "opt-out" clause that
exists in the resolution of cases by the Local Resolution procedure.
According to John Crawley: "where there is a local resolution
of a complaint, the current system does not require the individual
officer to get involved or to apologise if they have done something
The most that can be achieved is for the Force to apologise on
13. There is
currently a disconnect between what the public complain about,
and the strictly limited task given to the IPCC in statute. That
gap should be filled by a force's Professional Standards Department.
Ultimately, Nick Hardwick is correct; most complainants, whose
concerns arise from poor service, would just like an apology.
The IPCC should act to ensure this is forthcoming more often by
impressing upon police PSDs the need to investigate all complaints
in a clear, open manner and from the position of remedying poor
public service. We are surprised that the IPCC has apparently
not taken a greater interest in this area and call on them to
do so. While we do not believe that legislation should be introduced
to remove the so-called "opt-out clause" which does
not require individual officers to proffer an apology for their
behaviour, the IPCC should also play a stronger role in ensuring
this good practice is adopted by forces.
THE INVESTIGATIONS PROCESS
14. Of the approximately 2,500 cases which are serious
enough to be referred to the IPCC each year, only around 10% are
defined by the IPCC as appropriate for an investigation handled
directly by the IPCC's own staff. Often these cases are related
to an individual's right to life and are started after a death
following police contact. John Crawley questioned the value of
some of these investigations, which he said dominated the workload
of the IPCC but provided no great insight into the complaints
Some cases, such as deaths in custody or a failure
to prevent homicidal violence against women, rightly, attract
great public concern. But others involve no significant issues
about police handling or conduct. The problem is that the IPCC
has become absorbed by too many such investigations ... this was
not what it was created to do, and does not improve public confidence
in the police or the complaints system.
15. As well as stating that the IPCC is too focused
on the investigation process and does not attempt to link the
investigation to wider issues in police behaviour, John Crawley
also raised concerns over the extent to which the investigation
process fails to impress upon the complainant the "independence"
of the Commission:
The IPCC relies upon the police description
and assessment of the incident leading to a complaint in the referral
form, ... it relies entirely upon and makes contact with the police;
complainants are never invited to meet the IPCC to give their
side of an incident. The IPCC thus often presents an impression
to the public of being an arms length police investigation unit
rather than a public complaints/ombudsman service.
Mr Crawley's statement that families and complainants
are somewhat marginalised in the investigation process was substantiated
by Deborah Coles of INQUEST who told us that:
There have been concerns about disclosure of information
to families during the course of the investigation and not taking
onboard families' concerns about questions that they quite rightly
16. According to its Annual Report, the IPCC possesses
the capacity for 70 Independent Investigations per year, yet for
the past two years the Commission has been operating at around
50% over capacity and the number of Investigations started in
2008/09 is double that of 2005/06. We asked Mr Hardwick what impact
this had on the quality of investigations. While he was adamant
that the quality of investigations would not be affected, as the
Commission was more efficient than previously, he did state that
the main effect of this increase of workload was that the work
would take longer to do.
17. The increased workload of the IPCC may explain
why the Investigation process can take around 269 working days
to complete. Mr Hardwick suggested that the delay was often caused
by a shortage of expert advice rather than a too-lengthy process
by the IPCC:
An investigation will normally begin when the matter
is referred to us by the force concerned, so they have to do that
immediately and that will normally take place within hours of
the incident occurring ... Normally what we will then dowe
will send a small number of investigators to assess the situation,
decide whether it is something we need to take, what resources
we need and bring those in, and control the initial police handling
of the scene and those sorts of issues. Then normally if we decide
to investigate it the investigation process will take place. Often
for us with critical issues, one of the reasons for delay is that
you are waiting for critical expert advice on cause of death,
medical issues or expert forensic analysis where we have to wait
on other people to provide information to us before we can come
to a conclusion.
Deborah Coles was more willing to attribute blame
for the somewhat lengthy process to the IPCC's mindset at the
outset of a case hindering the investigation:
... one of the ongoing concerns of families in these
kinds of cases is the failure to treat deaths in custody or following
police contact as potential crimes and do important evidence-gathering
at the beginning of the investigation.
And in turn, this lengthy process reduces families'
confidence in the results:
You want to have confidence that the death is being
treated seriously ... the delay in getting the reports finished
needs to be looked at ... I do think we have examples of investigations
which have taken place in a timely, prompt fashion that have inspired
confidence in those families concerned.
Ms Rigg's experience corroborated this statement.
She professed disbelief at the length of time the investigation
into her brother's death had taken, and could not understand why,
since the case was relatively simple, it had taken seven months
to interview the officers involved in the incident, nine months
to interview call handlers and 18 months to complete the investigation.
Ms Rigg pointed out that if the roles were reversed, and a police
officer had died after contact with her brother, then Sean would
have been interviewed that night.
18. We put this specific example to Mr Hardwick.
Mr Hardwick stated that the IPCC decides:
when to interview someone on whether we are going
to treat them as a witness or a suspect, and sometimes we need
to interview someone very quickly to get urgent information from
them but on other occasions, we will want to do that at the end
of the process when we have gathered in all the other evidence
and information from everybody that we then want to put to the
officer at the end of the process, as happened here
... there will be occasions when the best way of getting the officers'
explanation of what they have done and why is to put the evidence
that we have collected in its entirety to them at the end of the
19. The Police Federation have criticised this process,
stating that the legal status of officers under investigation
is not clear, and suggesting that deciding to deem an officer
a suspect late in an investigation is unhelpful, often leaving
the officer in question in limbo:
If they [the officer] are deemed to be a subject
then they have a right to legal advice. But all too often there
is a delay in that decision being taken by the IPCC. It is not
unheard of for officers who have been told that they are not under
investigation to later have that decision reversed which can adversely
affect the officer as a result of something that may have been
stated as a witness.
The Federation also believed that the investigation
itself takes much too long, certainly when compared with an "internal"
investigation by a force's PSD,
suggesting that they also did not approve of the standard process
adopted by the IPCC and described to us by Mr Hardwick.
specifics of exactly why investigations take so long is largely
beyond our remit. We will therefore restrict our comments to stating
that a process lasting up to 269 working days is unsatisfactory
to all concerned and does nothing to increase anybody's confidence
in it. All of the evidence we have received suggests that an investigation
taking this long reduces trust in the process. While we are unable
to comment on exactly how to reduce the length of investigations
and so prevent this problem occurring, we can recommend that the
IPCC should do more to mitigate its effects. While the investigation
itself may be a complex process, this does not prevent the disclosure
of information to interested parties. We strongly feel that a
more open process involving, for example, the sharing of proposed
timetables of work and completion dates, a greater explanation
of how the investigation is developing and where possible, the
sharing of initial evidence such as CCTV recordings, would increase
the confidence of those using the system and remove the doubt
and uncertainty which has been reported to us far too often.
21. In addition to handling complaints against police
performance and misconduct, the IPCC can also be appealed to over
the way a local force handled a complaint, the outcome of a supervised
or local investigation or the use of the Local Resolution procedure.
In 2008/09 the IPCC handled 4,634 of these cases, an increase
of 12% on the previous year and a 4.5-fold increase since 2004/05.
According to Nick Hardwick, 33% of these appeals were upheld
and referred back to the police force or a disciplinary tribunal
for further action. In subsequent written evidence to us,
Mr Crawley disputed both the headline figure of 33% and criticised
the actions of the IPCC after an appeal has been upheld. He stated
When a complainant's appeal is upheld because the
police investigation was inadequate the IPCC has the power to
intervene directly by managing any necessary re-investigation
itself, or even independently investigating where desirable ...
[but] for 2008/09 out of 158 appeals where re-investigation was
required not once did it use this power.
He suggested that "this sends quite the wrong
message to the police that the appeals system will never 'bite'
so far as seriously inadequate investigations are concerned and
it is not designed to increase public confidence in its appeal
22. More generally, John Crawley characterised the
appeals function of the IPCC as a "Cinderella service",
stating that the culture of the IPCC is dominated by its high
profile investigations function. Despite the appeals system being
the main source of IPCC contact with the public, there is no "effective
championing of the appeals system within the IPCC" and no
"fostering of the complainant perspective generally within
In his view, the end result of this subordination of the appeals
function is that:
where you are getting complaints concerning local
policing... where the sort of confidence in the police really
rubs, because that is what gets networked around neighbourhoods
in that areathe IPCC is not accessible. I do not think
it is responsive.
As proof of his belief that the IPCC contains an
"institutional bias against complainants" he cited the
fact that determining appeals, a crucial statutory function, is
left to the most junior decision-makers in the organisation, Casework
Managers, some of whom will be "short-term contract-workers
brought in to clear up the backlog of appeals".
The result of this delegation of responsibility is that relatively
inexperienced and junior staff are left dealing with senior police
officers in a Professional Standards Department of a force, and
"the Casework Manager is likely to settle for the easier
option, disappointing the complainant rather than upsetting the
23. John Crawley made several detailed recommendations
to improve the perception and the performance of the appeals function
within the IPCC. In order to ensure that adequate resources and
attention is given to the appeals function, he proposed making
users' confidence in the quality of the appeals service a clearly-defined
performance target. This would focus management attention on to
that function. Mr Crawley also argued that the IPCC needed to
be much more selective in when and where it operated, subjecting
forces to a risk-assessment and targeting resources on "potentially
worrying patterns of complaint within a force", while diverting
resources away from those forces deemed to be performing adequately:
It [The IPCC] needs a much more structured regular
system of knowing what the local concerns of people are about
their local force. That then informs, if you like, an intelligence-based
approach where they call in complaints, and say, "We need
to take a closer look at this force, but over here we are pretty
satisfied that that force is doing a good job".
He suggested that this approach would allow the IPCC
to meet much more closely the needs and expectations of the public.
IPCC is not an insubstantial organisationit has a staff
of around 400 people
and a budget of £35 million per annum.
Despite this, it is lacking clear benchmarks for success. We would
like to know what the Home Secretary considers an appropriate
measure of the IPCC's performance. Broadly, is the success of
the Commission to be measured in inputs or outcomes? We also ask
him to introduce clear, statistical targets, based on, for example,
complainant satisfaction, to set an easily understandable measure
of the IPCC's performance.
2 Q 69 Back
Unless otherwise cited, statistical information on the performance
of the IPCC is taken from the IPCC Annual Report and statement
of accounts 2008/09. http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/ipcc_annual_report_2008-09_-_full.pdf Back
Q 71, and, See: The Independent Police Complaints Commission,
"File on 4", BBC Radio 4, 19 January 2010 Back
Q 31 Back
Ev 17 Back
Ev 32 Back
Q 35 Back
Ev 32 Back
Ev 17 Back
Ev 27 Back
Q 68 Back
Q 75 Back
Q 45 Back
Ev 17 Back
Ev 17 Back
Q 28 Back
Q 80 Back
Q 81 Back
Q 27 Back
Q 28 Back
Q 13 Back
Q 16 Back
Q 85 Back
Q 88 Back
Ev 30 Back
Ev 30 Back
Q 68 Back
Ev 23 Back
Ev 17 Back
Q 40 Back
Ev 17 Back
Q 34 Back
Q 41 Back
IPCC Website: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/index/about_ipcc/who_runs.htm Back
IPCC Annual Report and statement of accounts 2008/09 Back