House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.
Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.
Transcribed by the Official Shorthand Writers to the Houses of Parliament:
W B Gurney & Sons LLP, Hope House,
Telephone Number: 020 7233 1935
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
Keith Vaz, in the Chair
Mr James Clappison
Mrs Ann Cryer
David T C Davies
Mrs Janet Dean
Mr Gary Streeter
Mr David Winnick
Witnesses: Ms Deborah Coles, and Ms Marcia Rigg, gave evidence.
morning. This is a one-off session into
the work of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I would refer all those present to the
Register of Members' Interests where the interests of Members of this Committee
are noted. We will begin our session
with evidence from those who have had contact with the
Ms Rigg: Basically, on the night that
my brother died, at about 2.30 or so in the morning of 22 August - my brother
died on 21 August, the evening before - two police officers came to
the house to tell us that our brother had died. During that time, they handed a bundle of
leaflets to my sister, Samantha - I was not there at the time - and in those
leaflets there was information about INQUEST.
At about that
morning, we made a phone call to INQUEST.
They spoke to us on 22 August and we got information about the
Q2 Chairman: The police themselves, when they came to tell you of the news, informed you that there was a way of dealing with your concerns about your brother's death?
Ms Rigg: Basically, they just told us
the information that they had at the time of how my brother died. They did not have much information. They just said that they would drip feed us
with information within the next number of days. In fact, that was the last time we heard from
them. It was ourselves, by making phone
calls with INQUEST and such, that we got to know about the
Q3 Chairman: Ms Coles, you are free to chip in if you want rather than waiting for us to ask you. Do you have something to add?
Ms Coles: The family were not given any information, on first contact, about their rights to have an independent post-mortem. That is extremely important in the context of an unexplained sudden death in police custody. Quite clearly the family's rights are paramount at such a traumatic time, and the importance of access to information about what is going to happen to them and the investigation process, of course, should be given to them at the first instance.
you told about the powers of the
Ms Rigg: We were not told about the
full powers, I do not think, until we had a meeting with them, which was some
time in September. He had already had an
autopsy. We had to fight tooth and nail
as a family in order to get to identify our brother, and he had already had
an autopsy. He may not have been
our brother. We were very distraught
about that. That was at the very early
stages. We were distraught. We met the FLOs from the
Q5 Chairman: Would you give us the year that this happened?
Ms Rigg: 2008.
Q6 Mrs Cryer: On that small amount of information I have from you now, who identified your bother following his death?
Ms Rigg: As far as we understand, the police officers who came to the house on the night had identified our brother. When they came to say that our brother had died, my sister said, "Well, we need to identify him," and they said, "You can't." When my sister said, "Why?" they said, "Because he's in a body bag. He's been sealed off and his body belongs to the state". They offered his passport to my sister for us to identify him from that.
Q7 Mrs Cryer: If I might say so, there is something a bit wrong here. My husband was sitting next to me when he was killed in a car accident, so I knew it was him, and I knew he was dead, but he still had to be identified.
Ms Rigg: That is right.
Q8 Mrs Cryer: And because I was very shaken they asked my daughter to identify him, but at least that was what was done.
Ms Rigg: Exactly.
Q9 Mrs Cryer: I cannot understand. In a situation like mine, where it was quite clear at the hospital, to the police and to everybody, he had to be identified, yet with your brother, in these very difficult circumstances you were not asked to do that straight away after his death.
Ms Rigg: No. We saw him on the Saturday morning and he had already had an autopsy, so he was covered from here to there.
Q10 Mrs Cryer: I know.
Ms Rigg: And we were not allowed to see the rest of his body. He was behind a locked glass door - which was devastating - and the family had to insist that we went inside. When we eventually did get inside, there were wounds to, well, I cannot really discuss the case, but there were wounds on my brother, on his head.
Cryer: How many days was it after his death that you
were notified about the existence of and the duties of the
Ms Rigg: We were a very proactive family. From the very beginning, when the police
officers came and told us what had happened to Sean, we found things just did
not add up at the time. We made phone
calls ourselves and looked on the internet.
We were doing our own research, basically. INQUEST were very helpful and that is how we
know about the
Cryer: As soon as you knew of the
Ms Rigg: How long did it take to?
Chairman: To complete the investigation.
Q13 Mrs Cryer: To complete the investigation, but, also, what did they do in the initial stages?
Ms Rigg: First of all, the
investigation was completed this month, so that is at least 18 months
since the death of my brother for the report to be done. In the meantime, as a family we felt
that we personally have had to push and push and push the
Chairman: Thank you. We will come to some of these other points as well.
Winnick: One has the greatest sympathy, it goes without
saying, about the terrible incident which occurred. It was expressed on numerous occasions in the
House of Commons and I repeat it. That
feeling was shared by all of us. It was
a very, very tense time when it occurred.
We are all deeply sad, genuinely sad, and it is an event that is not
likely to be forgotten. You have made
clear to my colleague, Mrs Cryer, that you are far from happy over the way the
Ms Rigg: From my perspective and from
meeting other families that have been in the same position as myself, losing
someone in such horrendous circumstances, in suspicious circumstances, we feel
Q15 Mr Winnick: You did not get in any way the impression that they were on your side?
Ms Rigg: No. Never.
Mr Winnick: Thank you.
Q16 Mr Streeter: You have already said it has taken 18 months to produce this report and you feel, and I agree with you, that is far too long. What kind of timescale do you think would have been reasonable to inquire into this complex matter?
Ms Rigg: Whilst the matter is complex, all the evidence was there. It was not as if my brother was murdered by an ordinary civilian and we did not know who the murderer was or where he was murdered, so therefore you have to investigate that. In this particular case everything was there. If it was the other way round and my brother had kidnapped a member of the police and put them in the back of the police van, transported them somewhere, he would have been interviewed immediately on the night. All the information was there. It is sad that when your brother dies in the hands of the state the situation is completely reversed. This is the problem that families have, whereby it is all taken out of your hands and it is long and drawn out and you do not get proper answers. In the beginning, the investigation is flawed - from the very outset.
Q17 Mr Streeter: Do you think three to six months would have been an acceptable length of time?
Ms Rigg: Yes, because I think that, in other cases, cases are done and dusted within six months, the court hearing and everything has happened.
Q18 Mr Streeter: Having seen the report, which obviously I have not seen, and I do not know if any Member of the Committee has seen it, what do you make of the outcome? I think you have hinted that you are not happy about it, but has it satisfied you?
Ms Rigg: In no way, shape or form. It has not satisfied me because I believe that the investigation has been flawed from the very outset. The report appears to be very biased towards the police. Obviously, I cannot discuss the report because it is not a public document at the moment.
Q19 Mr Streeter: What has this done to your confidence in the police force and the establishment that is supposed to be there to protect you from any wrongdoing by the police force?
Ms Rigg: I had every confidence in the police prior to my brother dying. We are a family who has never had contact with the police. We were saddened by the fact that, when you lose a loved one --- I am sorry, I have forgotten the question.
Q20 Mr Streeter: Do you have confidence in the police force and their guardianship?
Ms Rigg: I have no confidence in them now after what happened to my brother and the events that happened after that. Speaking with other families myself, I personally have met the Jean-Charles de Menezes family, the Ian Tomlinson family, the Roger Sylvester family, other high profile cases, and we all feel very much the same way, that we do not have any confidence in the police.
Mr Streeter: Thank you very much.
Prosser: Ms Rigg, when people are tragically killed in
road accidents and come to grief in other ways, police forces set up a police
liaison officer. My experience in
Ms Rigg: Where we felt that they were being nice to us?
Q22 Gwyn Prosser: Where someone had been designated as the police liaison officer.
Ms Rigg: Yes, somebody was designated
as the police liaison officer, Mr Richard Omitosho. Initially, there was another lady who was
involved - I cannot remember her name - but she very quickly came off the
scene, for reasons unknown to ourselves.
He was fairly helpful with us and quite nice with us, but the
information that he was given from higher people in the
Prosser: I was going to ask you whether you would
recommend others to use the service of the
Ms Rigg: There is nowhere else to
go. That is why we need another
service. Some of the people who work for
Prosser: We will be talking to the Chairman of the
Ms Rigg: Mr Nick Hardwick has announced on the radio that he has a clear picture of what happened to my brother on the night. I would like Mr Hardwick to tell me today what happened. If he has got a clear picture, then at least he can tell the family because we do not know.
Gwyn Prosser: Thank you.
Chairman: Ann Cryer has a quick supplementary before Janet Dean.
Q25 Mrs Cryer: I have a very quick question. I am sorry to burden you with this, but presumably there was a coroner's inquest into the cause of death.
Ms Rigg: There was an inquest that was opened on 28 August and has since been adjourned. Nothing else has happened. There has not been an inquest. There probably will not be an inquest until 2011, which is three years after my brother died, for us to find out how he died. There is no grieving process here. I cannot grieve because of the long drawn out case. The state drags out the whole investigation process. For grieving families, it is not nice.
Q26 Chairman: Deborah Coles.
Ms Coles: I think the question there was perhaps relating to post-mortem reports, because clearly after Sean died there have been a number. There was the initial post-mortem, which was carried out without the family's knowledge, and there have then been supplementary reports commissioned. There is conflicting evidence there that will obviously be tested and examined at the inquest, which, as Marcia has said, is not now going to take place until some time at the end of this year or next year.
Q27 Mrs Cryer: Normally a coroner's inquest is opened and then closed awaiting evidence. Usually it is reconvened within six months.
Ms Coles: Sadly, it is an important
point for the Committee here, the delay both in the
Chairman: Thank you. A final question from Janet Dean.
Dean: Perhaps I could ask Deborah Coles what more
Ms Coles: From the initial point of
contact with families it is absolutely crucial that they are given information
about where to go for independent advice and support. We work with families on a daily basis and we
have many, many complaints about the inconsistency of approach to
investigations at the
Q29 Chairman: How much of this do you think can be dealt with by more effective communication and customer service by the police when they originally come to see the victims? We have dealt with, in particular, this case, but there are many routine cases that never get into the public domain. I have found, as a constituency MP, when I write to the police that if the reply comes back quickly and is a full reply constituents are satisfied that something is done. I know it is totally different in your case because it is a very high profile, obviously hugely upsetting case for you and your family, but could we cut down on the number of complaints if we had better customer service on the part of the police? Maybe not in your particular case, but I am talking about generally.
Ms Rigg: The only reason why my case
is high profile is because the family has had to push and bring it out there
otherwise it would be put under the shelf, on the bottom shelf, and it would
all have gone away. The report would
have been done in six months with a Mickey Mouse investigation, as far as we
are concerned. Had the family not pushed
and pushed for there to be a reasonably fair investigation it would never have
happened and, therefore, there are ongoing complaints and ongoing complaints
and arguments. Nothing has changed. The
Q30 Chairman: Marcia Rigg, Deborah Coles, first of all I would like to reiterate the comments of Members. Our sympathy, of course, is with your family. It is a terrible tragedy that you have had to encounter. Second, thank you both very much for coming in here. If there is anything you think about after you have finished giving evidence to us that you think would be helpful in our very short inquiry, please write to us as soon as possible so that we can include that material in our final report. Thank you very much for coming.
Ms Rigg: Thank you all for listening to me.
Ms Coles: INQUEST will submit a short paper on some of the experiences, but I would also urge you to take some evidence from some of the lawyers who represent police complainants because we are looking at the system as a whole. I will certainly feedback to them that you are willing to take some short evidence.
Chairman: Indeed. Thank you so much.
Memorandum submitted by Mr John Crawley
Witness: Mr John Crawley, Ex-Commissioner,
Crawley, thank you very much for being present today to be part of our very
short inquiry into the work of the
Mr Crawley: In the early stages, I think it was. There was a new system. There was a lot of publicity about a new, reformed complaint system. Clearly, that was going to invite people to complain who perhaps had not considered doing so before and to have greater confidence to do so. 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 - which are the statistics I have put before you in my written evidence - I have described in my written evidence as a little bit of an 'Alice in Wonderland' argument.
Chairman: Thank you.
Davies: Mr Crawley, do you think your lack of
confidence in the
Mr Crawley: I am not questioning the powers. The examples I gave were where those powers
are being seriously abused. I gave three
examples: one of potential abuse, which has been reported in the media fairly
recently; a very detailed and extensive set of investigations I conducted
in the West Midlands which demonstrated, I think, to all involved that
a particularly intrusive power, section 60, was being widely misused; and
I also gave the example, in 2008 I think it was, of the climate camp in Kent
and the need eventually for complainants there to bring judicial review
proceedings before the Kent Police accepted that they had misused, again very
extensively misused, their PACE powers.
My point in my paper is that stop and search has always been, and I
think always will be, a very sensitive touchstone between the public and the
police. It is where you are stopped in
public view. It is where it can be very
embarrassing, very humiliating. That is
a very important example where the current
Davies: I would agree with you that there are issues
around the use of some of these powers in some circumstances, but where I would
differ is that I would not have thought this was a matter for you to take upon
yourself given that the
Mr Crawley: No. All the cases I dealt with were based upon
actual complaint cases that have been investigated and upheld. I made it clear in upholding those complaints
(West Midlands but also the Metropolitan Police) that it was not the
Q34 Mr Clappison: Can I take it that the job of the Commissioner is a full-time job?
Mr Crawley: Yes.
Clappison: You say in your evidence to us that there have
been changes in the organisation of it with some of the roles being taken away
from the Commissioners, greater delegation to managers, and the Commissioners
no longer deciding the seriousness of the complaint and the role the
Mr Crawley: That is what I am
questioning. I am saying that the
Commission, as a body corporate, is a very expensive way for the taxpayer
to oversee an organisation - almost uniquely so. My criticism is that Commissioners, although
full-timers, do not engage with sufficient detail in the oversight of the
complaints system. I give a specific
example of the appeal system where I think 99 times out of 100 it is delegated
too far down the system, but also I have set out in my written evidence the
need for a much more robust approach to reforming how the police investigate
complaints. That must be the fundamental
reform. I give the figures in here for
the Metropolitan Police, which in many ways are the most astonishing: 152
complaints out of 3,807 they investigated were found to be substantiated. I do not believe that is credible. That was
the last year statistics were published.
It is not credible that virtually all of those complainants' complaints
had no merit. Fundamental to this issue
is how to reform the way in which the police themselves deal with complaints,
including, as the Chairman suggested earlier, obviously pre-empting the need
for complaints. When there is a
complaint, when a complaint arises, it has to be dealt with by the
organisation. That is a good bit of my
argument. I have gone on to consider the
kind of very difficult, Article 2 type investigation, of which you have been
hearing an example earlier today.
Culturally it seems to me that dominates and organisationally it
Q36 Mr Winnick: Mr Crawley, you were four years a Commissioner. During that time you have said that you have managed to bring about some changes in investigations, including, as previously referred to, stop and search by the West Midland Police. In carrying out your duties during those four years, were you in any way obstructed by the more senior people, the Chair or the Chief Executive?
Mr Crawley: No. I would not say I was obstructed in terms of my individual activities, no.
Q37 Mr Winnick: During those four years did you make your views known about how the organisation could change, as you are now doing?
Mr Crawley: Yes. I argued, for example, quite frequently for
the importance of elevating the significance of the appeal system. I was the only Commissioner who ever issued
press statements, for example, about more significant appeal cases, because
only if the public are aware of how the
Q38 Mr Winnick: Being in a minority did not in any way lead to you being undermined or told to take a different view, if you were allowed to carry on in the usual way as a Commissioner, would that be correct?
Mr Crawley: Obviously I had to work within the system broadly as it was. I sought to stretch the boundaries, I think it is true to say. I probably, for example - and I think this is statistically true - had more independent investigations that I undertook when I thought it was necessary into complaint cases as opposed to the Article 2 type statutory duty cases, if I can put it like that, than other Commissioners. I sought to stretch the system, but I was not in a position obviously to reform it.
Q39 Mr Winnick: The point I am trying to make, Mr Crawley, and trying to find out from you is in your day-to-day work as a Commissioner in taking a view which you were obviously entitled to hold whether you were in any way obstructed or told to toe the line or anything like that. It is a yes or no, really.
Mr Crawley: I am not claiming that I was in some way interfered with, no.
Winnick: That is a very interesting answer. It obviously comes from, without wishing to
be patronising, a person of integrity.
You are not trying to create a situation which did not exist. On the substance of your views, Mr Crawley,
do you feel that the weakness of the
Mr Crawley: In some ways, yes. This is a complex issue and I am not going to
sit here today and make a simplistic argument that the
Chairman: We are coming to explore some of those ideas with Janet Dean.
Dean: Thank you, Chairman. You have suggested that the
Mr Crawley: Given the kinds of pressures
on it that I have described, whether the current institutional set-up can be
reformed I think is an open question. In
terms of what needs to be done, I think there needs to be much more robust
intervention at police force level to ensure that complaints are thoroughly
investigated, and I have said in my recommendations that there should be
progressive reduction in the number of appeals to the
Q42 Mrs Dean: Would the changes that you suggest help to speed up the process so that investigations do not take as long as they currently do?
Mr Crawley: Clearly in some cases that is
the case. There are a significant
number of investigations that the
Q43 Mr Streeter: You are making the case for more police forces to deal better with complaints at local level. Do you not think that will require a change in culture of a fairly mammoth proportion? I have never known an organisation like the police, which I greatly admire, for closing ranks when a complaint has been made. In 17 years of doing this job, I do not think I can recall one single time when they have said, "Sorry, we got that wrong". Is that your experience? Will it not require a massive culture change?
Mr Crawley: There are occasions when they
say that. Coming back to my point that
the Commissioners at the
Q44 Chairman: The point that Mr Streeter makes is that sometimes you have to say sorry.
Mr Crawley: Yes.
not talking about the Rigg case. People
can say sorry about that as well, but it is a much, much bigger case. A much more thorough investigation is
required in a case where somebody dies than in the average case that Mr
Streeter and I and other Members of this Committee have to deal with where we
write a letter and we would really like a reply. Constituents who come back and then end up
making an application to the
Mr Crawley: Yes, I think that is one element. A second element, as you will see in the paper, is that of the individual police officer. Where there is 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 inappropriate. I think that is wrong. The police are a public service, like others. There is no reason why individual officers should have that opt-out clause.
Q46 Mrs Cryer: Mr Crawley, the structure of the Commission is such that none of the Commissioners is allowed ever to have had any contact with the police. Retired police officers cannot be recruited on to the Commission. One can understand why that should be the case. I think I am right in saying that once the Commission starts an inquiry the spadework carried out in unearthing what happened in a particular circumstance is not done by Commissioners but is left to others to do. Am I right in saying that spadework of finding out what happened in a certain situation is carried out by either police officers from another force or police officers who are retired or people who do have connections to that particular police officer? Therefore, although we start off from a high position in not allowing Commissioners to have any connection, it looks to me as if, once their investigation starts, frequently people are conducting those investigations who may have sympathy with the police.
Mr Crawley: There are certainly ex police
officers - there used to be seconded police officers but I think there are very
few of any of those now - there are certainly retired police officers and, as I
say in my paper, people from other agencies who are overseen by the
Q47 Mrs Cryer: When you were a commissioner did you ever feel as if your independence was compromised or under pressure?
Mr Crawley: It was certainly under pressure; that was one of the points about the job, that it comes under pressure because if you do the job properly from time to time you will seriously upset very senior police officers and they have ways of making their displeasure known, so obviously you are under considerable pressure.
Q48 Chairman: I am sorry, Mr Crawley, in what ways do they make your life difficult?
Mr Crawley: Nothing improper at all; I just mean that they are robust in getting their perspective across, hence the need for senior people in the Commission to be more protective of some of the junior staff who are not going to be able to persuade the police to change their perspective.
Q49 Mr Clappison: Just following on from that, would the senior police officers you are referring to have direct contact with the people carrying out the investigation of former police officers?
Mr Crawley: No, I am not referring to them trying to nobble an investigator at all.
Q50 Mr Clappison: I found it slightly worrying because it begged the question that the Chairman put to you actually.
Mr Crawley: No. Let me be clear, there are two other things I think I would want to say on this score. One is that I think commissioners should be rotated but they are not; some of them move forces but too many of them now, six-odd years into the system, are still overseeing the same force as when they went there and I think that is inappropriate. Inevitably if you have been overseeing a force and its complaints system for six-plus years you become part of the story really if it is not performing very well. I think they should be rotated - and I have suggested perhaps every two years. The other aspect where I think there are not formal rules is ex police officers working in a region where their ex force is. I do not think that is permissible; I do not think they should have any dealings with their ex force, which they do. Those are two suggestions I would make to make the system more transparently independent.
Q51 Mr Clappison: So who is dealing with their ex forces exactly?
Mr Crawley: Senior investigators, for
example, or deputy investigators who have joined the
Q52 Mr Clappison: If you take the example, say, of my area - and I am not saying this is the case, I have no idea - Hertfordshire, which is a relatively small police force or smallish establishment, that could have somebody who is the senior investigator of the police who could have been with the Hertfordshire Police?
Mr Crawley: Yes. In one sense this has become less significant
as time has gone on, but I raised within the
Q53 Mr Clappison: No doubt they perform their jobs properly.
Mr Crawley: Yes, it is not about the individuals.
Q54 Mr Clappison: As far as the appearance is concerned, do you think that it gave the necessary appearance of independence when that occurred?
Mr Crawley: No, I do not think so. I do not think that the public has a detailed understanding of all these intricacies of the role of an investigator or a commissioner. I think they would be bound to have some concerns.
Salter: Mr Crawley, according to an
Mr Crawley: I do not think you can say
that it is an unalloyed improvement.
What happened under the old system in terms of what are now
Salter: It is a particular bugbear of mine - lawyers,
barristers, take your pick - it is the greatest closed shop in the country and
breaking that open is difficult. Are you
saying that the model that we have is basically improvable if we were to adopt
measures like a greater rotation of commissioners and more clarity in the
separation of roles and a less cosy relationship at regional level? You are not arguing for a root and branch
ripping up of the
Mr Crawley: I am arguing that there are a
number of major reforms of the
Salter: One last brief question, Chairman. A very obvious issue occurs to me. Looking at
the briefings we have, these are reasonably fat salaries that are being paid to
the members of the
Mr Crawley: I think you have touched on a very good issue. I said earlier that I agonised over what I should do and, to be quite candid, not least of that was whether I should give up a full-time pensioned position at an age when I knew I was not going to get another one.
Q58 Martin Salter: It cost you a few bob to give it up.
Mr Crawley: It has indeed. I think that is one way of addressing it. Another aspect, as I say, would be to say that the people you appoint are there for one term and therefore they are not looking over their shoulder to think, "If I do not get reappointment I am suddenly out on the street", with very little notice inevitably. I think probably a combination of those two, but I think you touch on a very important point.
Q59 David Davies: Going back to some of your earlier criticisms, would you say that most police officers, average serving police constables, have a favourable view about their local standards department and view them as a sort of an ally?
Mr Crawley: As a sort of ally?
Q60 David Davies: As a sort of ally of theirs, yes.
Mr Crawley: I doubt whether they have that view.
Q61 David Davies: I spoke to the head of one standards department who told me that he thought that 1% of his officers were either corrupt or inefficient and should not be in the job, and he saw it as part of his role to go after them proactively. I have spoken to numerous police constables who shudder at the mere mention of standards departments, so I am not sure that I entirely recognise your suggestion that local standards departments are always on the side of the police; it is not how the police see it.
Mr Crawley: There are two aspects of a local standards department: one is the internal conduct side and the other one is the public complaints side. If you look at the statistics you will see that the proportion of police officers who end up either losing their jobs or being given a serious disciplinary warning following a disciplinary panel resulting from a public complaint is a lot, lot less than those arising from their own internal investigations, which I guess is a way of saying that the police have the view that it is they rather than the public who know which officers they do not want to have in their ranks.
Q62 David Davies: Is there not a more straightforward reason for that, which is that when the police are investigating proactively they are able to garner the evidence that they need, whereas all too often in these situations that you were dealing with it was one person's word against another. As we know in any court of law, if you or I get attacked in the street by someone tomorrow, it is our word against theirs and it is going to be difficult to bring a case because unfortunately one person's word against another is a very difficult case to prove.
Mr Crawley: There is certainly an element of that but a good, proactive department, as you suggest, will be able to accumulate the evidence over a considerable period before they move. I am not decrying that at all. I think where I would part company with the way that the police organise their professional standards operation is on two things. One is that that side tends to actually take a greater status and position in terms of what they are looking for in skills, and the people who work in and oversee the standards departments tend to be rotated in there and out on to other policing duties, it is just part of a policing career. I think the size and complexity of the public service role of police these days suggests that there ought to be a more professional complaint resolution and complaint investigation skill set that they should be seeking, for which you do not need to be a police officer; you do not need to hold the commission to do that.
Chairman: Thank you, Mr Crawley. We are most grateful to you for coming here and thank you for your paper. If there is anything else that you want to add to what you have written or said today please let us have it by Friday as this is going to be a very short inquiry. Thank you very much.
Witness: Mr Nick Hardwick, Chairman,
Hardwick, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us. It is, of course, your second appearance in
recent months. You were appointed in
December 2002 to your post and you have been there for eight years, which is
quite a considerable time so you must have a lot of expertise in this
area. According to a survey that was
recently conducted 80% of the people who had contact with the
Mr Hardwick: Can I just say first of all,
Chairman, that I am grateful for the opportunity to be here. As you know, last time I appeared I asked for
an opportunity to come back and answer precisely these questions, so I am
pleased to have the opportunity to deal with that. I think the survey you
report to was a survey that was done for the National Audit Office. It was a self-selecting response and I do not
think that the National Audit Office included that in their findings. Let me deal with the point this made, which
relates to what we have heard very movingly today from the family of Mr
Rigg. About that I would say to you that
I speak to every new member of staff who joins the
Q64 Chairman: Can you---
Mr Hardwick: We have heard from---
Q65 Chairman: With the greatest of respect, we will hear your case. You should not take this personally; this is a Parliamentary Committee; you have appeared before it before and many colleagues will have questions for you, so do not worry as we will cover everything. Can I ask a specific question about the Public Accounts Committee recommendation to you in March 2009, when it said that your organisation did not possess the mechanisms to monitor how its recommendations were implemented and to measure its wider impact in police work. Can you assure this Committee that those mechanisms are now in place?
Mr Hardwick: That is a very difficult
thing to do, Chairman. I can certainly
assure the Committee that we have made considerable progress in that. Of course, part of what John was saying is
that it is a complex business working out the effectiveness of the complaints
system and you have to be very careful you do not have unintended consequences
in what you do; so it is a complex business to do that. What we have tried to do is identify, both at
an independent force level for the
Q66 Chairman: Irrespective of the detail of the particular issues, which we will explore now, when you came to the job in 2002 you came with a very high reputation, having led the Refugee Council. It must be a bit of a concern to you that the very people who were praising the appointment of Nick Hardwick to this post are now possibly not lamenting it but disappointed that maybe it did not meet the expectations that were required. Does that concern you?
Mr Hardwick: As I recall, some of those people were not overjoyed by what I did at the Refugee Council, so you get used to it. What I would say is that I have done what Parliament asked me to do. People are more confident in the complaints system than they have ever been before. There is greater access to the system than ever before. It is more transparent. We have cut the numbers of deaths in custody. Of course there is more to do, but I am very proud of what we have achieved; I am very proud of the people who work for it. I am not complacent, there is more to do but I am happy to come here and defend that.
Q67 Gwyn Prosser: Mr Hardwick, it must have been very hard, I would think - even though, as the Chairman said, these are not personal remarks - to sit through the evidence from Ms Rigg and from Mr Crawley. You have given a defence that the structure was what Parliament wanted and you were doing the best that could be done with it, but surely amongst the almost catalogue, I would say, of criticisms coming from John Crawley, there must be some of those which chime. Do you have any view of going back to ministers and saying, "Look, there is a better way to do this"?
Mr Hardwick: Of course. I feel the same now about John as I did when he worked for us. I agree - and I think he said that I enjoyed discussing these issues with him and I never tried to stop him - with some of what he said; I disagree with other bits of what he said. On the whole his broad conclusions were not supported by his colleagues and he left two years ago and things have moved on a lot since then.
Q68 Chairman: For the better?
Mr Hardwick: Absolutely. Let me give you a couple of examples where things have changed, and these are areas where I agree with John. One of the problems - and this is what you were saying, Chairman, and I agree with this - with the police complaints system is that a complaint is defined in terms of the conduct of an individual officer. 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. One of the things that we are doing that we persuaded - it has not been an easy thing to do - the police service to accept, we persuaded the Home Office to accept, is that now what this will do is to say, first of all, not is the allegation against the individual officer substantiated but is the complaint upheld? Is this a justified complaint? Does this member of the public have cause for concern? Then go on to look at whether there is an individual officer at fault. At the moment, as John said, if you are substantiating only 10% of allegations against individuals people will interpret that as, "We do not believe you, we do not accept it is a problem." What we want to do is acknowledge better, apologise - particularly on these low level things - when something has gone wrong and then say, as you said, "Is there a case to answer against an individual officer and how should that be dealt with?" I think that would be a big improvement. We have introduced a system now of doing detailed hands-on assessments before we decide to take a case. Of course deaths are important but we try to be more sophisticated about how we use our resources. The numbers of appeals we uphold is 33% now. I went back to look at some of John's figures, I have not seen his submission, I have to say; we were not given an opportunity to do that so I am at a bit of a disadvantage here. If you look at John's cases and his substantiation rates and his appeal rates, they were no different from his colleagues, and he is not, as you have heard, easily put upon. It is a problem that we all have to address over time: shifting a system, shifting a culture is not a straightforward thing to do. It needs determined effort over a period of time and I think we have made improvements.
Streeter: We were talking earlier about one of the roles
Mr Hardwick: Absolutely that is
right. Half of all complaints are about
what is called in the jargon incivility or other neglect of duty - in plain
language, rude, late and poor service.
We know a lot about who makes complaints; the biggest categories of
complainants are white men over 35 in non-manual occupations who have a good
opinion of the police. So I say to
police audiences - I have been this week - "Look, these are your friends telling
you that the service they are getting is not good enough." The way to deal with that - and this is where
I may disagree with John - is not some outside body from
Q70 Mr Streeter: You are talking as though you have just taken over the job but you have been at it for eight years and it has been in existence for six years - I do not quite understand that, but never mind. Why has this not improved? Who are you saying these things to? Are you speaking to the Home Secretary? Are you speaking to ACPO?
Mr Hardwick: Yes, yes, yes.
Q71 Mr Streeter: Why is it not changing?
Mr Hardwick: It has changed. I do think that the increase in complaints is a sign of people's greater confidence on the ground about the system; you can see that in the MORI opinion polls about people's view of us. I do think that has changed.
Q72 Chairman: Mr Hardwick, do you think it would be better if, for example, the NPIA was to be involved in this process - the police improvement organisation? Do you meet with Peter Neyroud?
Mr Hardwick: Yes, I do.
Q73 Chairman: Is this something that he could be involved in because you cannot spend your time telling the police how to get their complaints system working.
Mr Hardwick: Part of our duty, the duty that Parliament gave us, is to increase public confidence as a whole in the complaints system; not just those bits we deal with directly but the system as a whole.
Q74 Chairman: But the trouble is the survey says - to quote the game show - 80% who deal with you are dissatisfied.
Mr Hardwick: That is of the most serious cases that were dealt with by us. Those are not typical. John is right, I think, to make a distinction between the most serious cases that involve death and all the emotion and awfulness that we heard about.
Q75 Chairman: And all the others.
Mr Hardwick: We know, for instance, one of the things that people say to us - we have done a lot of work on this - that 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. Partly what we try to do is to force the system a bit in a different direction so that the system focuses on saying, "Look, if you are not happy what can we do to put this right?"
Chairman: I know you are very keen to get your arguments across but all my colleagues have these points in mind. Martin Salter.
Salter: Mr Hardwick, I am looking at - I do not know
if you have seen it - the spread of regional variation in complaints and it
really is quite marked. It goes from
Staffordshire where there was a percentage change of complainants by force
between 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 at minus 24% to a plus 46% in
Mr Hardwick: As I have said, I am at a disadvantage in that I have not seen this paper and was not told about its existence and so have not seen the figures in it.
Q77 Martin Salter: Hang on, this is not John Crawley's paper; this is a briefing to the Committee. For goodness sake, you must know the ratio.
Mr Hardwick: Obviously I do not know the precise figures to which you refer - that is what I am saying. I can answer your point about variation.
Q78 Martin Salter: These are your figures.
Mr Hardwick: If I could just have a copy then I would know what you are looking at and would be able to answer you.
Martin Salter: Here you are; they are your figures.
Chairman: They are your figures.
Q79 Martin Salter: You are not at a disadvantage.
Mr Hardwick: I was not quite sure to what you were referring, but now I have it. Of course, yes, I can explain, if you are talking about the numbers of complaints that will reflect changes we are trying to get them to make to a recording system. So part of the reasons for the numbers of complaints will be that forces are responsible for recording complaints. One of the things that we have tried to get them to do is to improve their recording systems so that complaints are recorded on a consistent basis, and as forces do that and comply with our request on that and the system becomes more accessible you will get variations in figures like that. I think that is one of the reasons; that is partly what accounts for the difference. Also, you will get differences because there will be differences between the big urban forces and between the rural forces; there will be differences between how proactive forces are about trying to nip things in the bud and sort them out before they become a formal complaint. Some of these things would be about the system settling down as we shift it, to try and make it more accessible and that is that process going on.
Q80 Mrs Cryer: Mr Hardwick, according to your Annual Report, you have capacity for around 70 independent investigations per year, yet for the last two years you have been 50% over capacity. What impact has this had on the quality of investigations? How large an increase in funding would you require to increase capacity to around 100 independent investigations per year?
Mr Hardwick: Since we have been operational our income has gone up by 20% and our outputs on investigations and appeals have gone up by 100%. We are able to do some of that as the system settles down and becomes more efficient. We will not relent on the quality issue. The primary problem, if we get more and more work coming in, will be that it will take longer to do and that is the big problem we have to deal with now. What I would say is this - again I would agree with what John Crawley says - we have made the system more efficient within the legislative frameworks we have. If I had a shopping list the start of my shopping list would be to the legislative changes necessary to take some of the bureaucracy out of the system so that I could use the resources I have more efficiently than simply giving me more resources. I am not going to say that more resources would not be useful but I could provide a good if not better service to families, complainants and police officers with the resources I have if there was a change in some of the bureaucratic rules that were put in place that I think time has shown we do not now need until we can prove it. So that would be the top of my list.
Q81 Mrs Cryer: Can you take us through the independent investigation process and why does it take between 167 and 195 days to complete an investigation? You have just mentioned bureaucracy; is that one of the reasons?
Mr Hardwick: No, that would be more on the appeal side. Let me be clear. 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. There are statutory requirements that forces have to abide by in terms of what they require. This is a simplified version. Normally what we will then do - now, which has changed since John Crawley's days - is we 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. A point that has previously been well made is that we will then conclude our investigation and there is then a sequential process, that is not the end of it. Our investigation is only part of a process. What will then take place will be a trial, if there is going to be a trial or a disciplinary hearing but, critically, as you said, the inquest. The inquest is a crucial - I understand this more now than when I started - bit of the process where we will disclose all the information we have collected and our report to all the parties involved, and that then can be cross-examined in open court with everybody represented in an inquest, and that is where the family do that. So people who have concerns at this point of the investigation will say, "There are concerns." I would say to them, "You will have your opportunity in court, represented to cross-examine the way we conducted our investigation and all the evidence that we have collected," and my experience has been up to now that when we have done that that people have got the answers and when they have seen it that is the answer they want.
Q82 Mrs Cryer: Can I just mention that the first witnesses did say that their coroner's inquest has still not been concluded.
Mr Hardwick: Obviously there are two things I could just say, just to be absolutely clear so that there is no misunderstanding. The issue in the early stages of the Rigg case, about their access to their loved one, that was a matter for the coroner's officers, and we actually spent that weekend trying to get the coroner to take a more reasonable approach to that and I sympathised with them in that particular matter. Let us be clear that that was not our decision at all. On the point about the inquest, the delays in inquest are a real problem - obviously they are outside their control - and that does mean that the whole thing drags on and then of course we are the visible face of the system so people have seen the process going on for years but we have often wrapped up our bit - Rigg was particularly complex - in a short time, and then there is a long tail while you wait for the other bits of the legal process to kick in, and I think if you could fix that then that is very important.
Chairman: Mr Hardwick, it would help us enormously if you would make your answers briefer because we are going to cover all these points and you do have the opportunity, if you wish to submit written evidence to do so. I want you to feel that you have had your say, but also it is very important that we get through the business.
Q83 Mr Streeter: Mr Hardwick, you have just mentioned the Rigg case; why did your staff not interview police officers in that case for seven months?
Mr Hardwick: There are a number of reasons. This is complex. There are a number of reasons.
Q84 Chairman: Just give us the reasons.
Mr Hardwick: I will give you the reasons. There is a limit to what I can say about the Rigg case, precisely because this is part of the evidence that relates to the evidence that we heard at the inquest that we had been asked by the coroner not to disclose. I can give you two general points.
Q85 Chairman: Give us the facts.
Mr Hardwick: I am giving you the facts, Chairman. The first point is that we will decide when to interview someone on whether we are going to treat them as a witness or a suspect, and the second issue is of course sometimes we need to interview someone very quickly to get urgent information from them but on other occasions, like your questions of me, 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.
Q86 Mr Streeter: Seven months - I cannot remember what I did last week. The sooner you get to people to ask them what happened the better evidence you will get.
Mr Hardwick: No. Officers have to make an initial statement but if we are questioning people we need to know whether we are questioning them as a witness or as a suspect and that will often depend on the medical reports we get back, and we have to wait for those.
Q87 Mr Clappison: You say that officers give a statement but there will not be questioning as part of that statement; you will not ask them questions as either a witness or a suspect until months later. Whether you are doing one or the other is it not equally the case for both of them that people will just turn round and say, "I cannot remember that detail after this length of time"?
Mr Hardwick: People manage. There will be occasions when what we need to do is put to the officers in its entirety the evidence we have that might be about our concerns or about what has happened, and it would not get at the truth or provide us with the answers if we were to do that piecemeal. Sometimes you want to do that at an early stage; on other occasions you want to put the case and concerns to the officer at the end of the process.
Q88 Mr Clappison: If somebody knows what they know you can ask them to determine what they know and if later facts contradict what they say that they know you can put those facts to them and ask them again.
Mr Hardwick: There are problems about going backwards and forwards to officers if new facts emerge. Obviously I am not a professional interviewer, but I have talked a lot to our investigators about this precisely because in relation to this case - and precisely because this is a question that is put to us - 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 process.
Committee understands that. You have
mentioned sometimes that the police are in a position where it is better for
them to just say sorry and to move on and to learn from their mistakes - people
are not after scalps particularly, they are after a change in the system. Are you in a position to tell us how many
Mr Hardwick: I cannot give you a detailed answer but I certainly would say that.
Q90 Chairman: You have said it in the past?
Mr Hardwick: I can certainly say that. I was quoted the other day in the paper where I do think we made a mistake, in the case of Shauna Bailey I think we made a mistake in that case and I said it then.
Winnick: Mr Hardwick, do you feel that the police are
very concerned about your organisation, or do they see it as a safety valve;
that if people are not satisfied then they say "Go and see the
Mr Hardwick: As Mr Davies was saying, if you look at some of the comments that are made, people do not see us as a safety valve. Different police officers will take a different view; some police officers and some senior staff will see us as an important and productive part of the process and welcome our presence, others will be hostile. It depends a bit about how we might be dealing with them at particular times and I think there would be different views about that.
Q92 Mr Winnick: How many recommendations were made for instance last year that officers should be disciplined?
Mr Hardwick: I cannot give you the figures.
Q93 Mr Winnick: If you are writing to us - which I am sure the Chairman would like you to do - could you give us for the last five years? Also how many of those recommendations were accepted by the tribunal?
Mr Hardwick: On officers, we do not make recommendations about the discipline of those precise recommendations; what we will do is we will say that there is a case to answer that on some occasion needs to be heard by a tribunal. But we are not judge and jury; we do not say what we think a sentence should be.
Chairman: If you could write to the Committee by on Thursday with the figures for the last five years.
Mr Winnick: And what was the outcome of those cases by the tribunal.
Chairman: That would be very helpful.
Q94 Mrs Dean: I presume you cannot answer to say how many recommendations were made to suspend officers either. Could you also let us know any details about that, please?
Mr Hardwick: We do not make recommendations to suspend officers; that is a job for the management of the force. We have to be consulted about the suspension of an officer but we do not make recommendations as such.
Q95 Mrs Dean: Would you know, following your investigations, how many officers were suspended? Would you have that information?
Mr Hardwick: We could probably find some information. I do not know whether we collect that information centrally about officers that are suspended, I would have to go and find out.
Chairman: I am sure that would be of great interest to the Committee if you could add to that to the shopping list we have given you because obviously when we are producing a report we need facts and figures and you are the organisation that would, in principle, have those facts and figures.
Davies: Mr Hardwick, a lot of the questioning has been
from the point of view of complainants who feel that the
Mr Hardwick: Of course, most complaints
are dealt with by forces themselves, as we have heard. We would certainly recognise that when we are
investigating an officer it is a stressful matter for them. Sometimes the
delays occur because we have taken time to get the cooperation we need from the
officers and so they have to share some responsibility for that. What I say is that however you cook the
system, whatever you do with the system or however you organise it, this is
going to be a very difficult experience for the families; it is going to be a
very difficult experience for the officers involved. I do not envisage a system where people are
going to be hanging out the flags saying what a great job the
question from me. On Radio 4 on
Mr Hardwick: It is certainly the case that
do you know that it is the
Mr Hardwick: Of course, that was an edited version; I think what I said was---
Q99 Chairman: That was a direct quote, Mr Hardwick.
Mr Hardwick: What I said in the course of a longer discussion with the interviewer was that I thought that we had made a significant contribution to the reduction in deaths in police custody.
Q100 Chairman: What is the linkage? We have had a Labour Government for eight years, the Home Secretary has not jumped up and said that as a result of him being the Home Secretary and having a Labour Government there has been a reduction.
Mr Hardwick: We are doing some further research, to try and answer that precise point. The reason for my saying that is because the feedback we have had from the police is that it is the recommendations that we have made that have gradually led to the small change, partly, of course not just us; I am not saying that, that would be a silly thing to say, of course it is the officers on the ground. We have made a significant contribution to some of the small improvements in the care of often very vulnerable people that in the end has reduced the numbers of deaths.
you had feedback from the police either oral in writing to say that it is the
existence of the
Mr Hardwick: We have had feedback that we have made a significant contribution to that.
Chairman: Mr Hardwick, thank you very much for giving evidence today. We are most grateful. As you said, it was your suggestion that we should look at this particular subject and you have offered to come and give evidence and we are extremely grateful to you. We would be most grateful to have that letter by on Thursday.