2 The purpose of the IPCC
7. The police continue to inspire confidence
and pride, from their contribution to the Olympic Games to the
everyday assurance of seeing officers on the beat. Yet public
faith in the police has been tested in recent years: the deaths
of Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson, the report of the
Hillsborough Independent Panel and the circumstances following
officers' altercation with Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP are perhaps
the most high-profile examples. Behind these highly publicised
cases lie thousands more in which members of the public complain
about the conduct of police officers for many reasons: oppressive
behaviour, assault, malpractice, discrimination, neglect of duty,
unfairness, and simple rudeness amongst others.
8. The main purpose of the Independent Police
Complaints Commission (IPCC) is to increase public confidence
in policing by ensuring that justice is done where the police
are accused of this kind of wrongdoing. It does this by:
i. its oversight of the functioning of the police
ii. considering appeals where people believe
that a police investigation has got it wrong; and
iii. conducting its own investigations into the
most serious matters, referred to it by the police or under its
9. Our witnesses were sceptical of its record.
The Newham Monitoring Project described the Commission oversight
as "a system that falls woefully short in its ability to
be independent, accessible or effective";
The Police Action Lawyers Group reported that its clients'
experiences with the Commission were "rarely positive, often
frustrating and sometimes utterly demoralising";
and Doreen Lawrence told the Committee that she had "no
confidence in [the Commission] whatsoever".
10. We heard significant concerns that the processes
and procedures maintained by the Commission were not robust enough.
As the Police Action Lawyers Group put it, "our clients can
expect islands of good practice scattered amongst a sea of ineffective
conduct in respect of the IPCC's investigatory, supervisory and
Our inquiry raised the following issues:
a) failure to locate evidence and propensity
to uncritically accept police explanations for missing evidence
(including forensic, CCTV and other evidence from the scene);
b) lack of "investigatory rigour" and
c) slowness in responding to complaints and conducting
d) reliance on scene of crime officers from the
force under investigation; 
e) lack of skills and experience of qualified
lawyers and prosecutors;
f) failure to critically analyse competing accounts,
even with inconsistencies between officers' accounts or an compelling
account from a complainant;
g) the Department of Professional Standards in
the force being investigated was allowed to summarise the complaint
(without consulting the complainant) and then proceed directly
to investigating it on these terms;
h) the requirement for a complainant to attend
the police station where the offence may have taken place, after
a traumatic experience in custody.
11. Inquest noted "dismay and disillusionment"
at "the consistently poor quality of decision-making at all
levels of the IPCC" and unsuccessful attempts to raise concerns
through the IPCC Advisory Board, where "follow-up on agreed
action points has been pitifully poor".
12. In an inquiry of this nature,
we recognise that we were unlikely to hear many "good news"
stories, where complainants were satisfied with the outcome of
their contact with the IPCC. It is important to bear in mind that
the fact that a complainant was not satisfied with the outcome
does not in itself demonstrate that the outcome was wrong.
The basis of mistrust
13. At the core of public mistrust
lies the suspicion that police are getting away with misconduct
and criminality. We found three main causes for this mistrust:
1. complaints are often investigated by the force
about which a complaint or referral has been made;
2. the IPCC continues to employ a significant
number of former police officers, some who held senior posts in
the force, who may naturally favour their former colleagues; and
3. the police often do not interview officers
after cases involving death and serious injury, although they
would routinely do so for ordinary members of the public.
We will return to each of these points in the body
of this report, but for now we note that Commissioners themselves
ought to be the pillars of trust in the IPCC. The twelve Commissioners
who served during 2011-12
are set out in Annex I, along with the five new commissioners
who were recently recruited. Most Commissioners received a salary
of £75,000-£80,000 and the Chief Executive received
a salary of £130,000-£135,000.
14. Nick Hardwick, former Chair
of the IPCC, expressed his regret that Commissioners had been
given a managerial role and separated from the investigatory process.
No one who has served as a police officer
can become a commissioner and so oversight by a Commissioner would
be a significant guarantee of independence.
The Police Action Lawyers
Groups agreed that Commissioners should have more direction and
control over investigations instead of leaving critical decision
making in the hands of investigators who are often ex-police officers.
It proposed that improved accountability for those Commissioners
could be secured through Commissioners being answerable to external
15. The public do not fully
trust the IPCC and without faith in the Commission, the damaged
public opinion of the police cannot be restored. Unfortunately,
too often the work of the Commission seems to exacerbate public
mistrust, rather than mend it.
16. The independence and oversight
offered by Commissioners is at the heart of the role of the IPCC.
It is wrong that their day-to-day work is frequently far removed
from the cases being investigated. Commissioners should be given
a more active role in overseeing major cases and take personal
responsibility for ensuring that a clear process and timetable
is laid out for anyone involved in a complaint or an appeal.
1 Ev w21 [StopWatch], para 10 Back
Ev w15 [Newham Monitoring Project], para 4 Back
Ev 101 [Police Action Lawyers Group], para 2 Back
Q 34 [Doreen Lawrence] Back
Ev 101 [Police Action Lawyers Group], para 3; Ev 111 [Inquest],
para 18 Back
Ev w10 [CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE]; Ev 112 [Inquest], para 29 Back
Ev w10 [CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE]; Ev 113 [Inquest], para 31; Ev w16 [Newham
Monitoring Project], section 5 Back
Ev 112 [Inquest], para 29 Back
Ev 112 [Inquest], para 29 Back
Ev w51 [Anton Venter] Back
Ev 105 [Police Action Lawyers Group], para 39; Charles Kirk believed
the Commission would "rubber stamp" the Police's version
of events "without cursory inquiry or scepticism", Ev
w24 [Charles C Kirk], para 11; Ev w13 [Netpol], para 8 Back
Ev w16 [Newham Monitoring Project], section 5 Back
Ev 95 [BMH UK], para 24 Back
; Ev 111 [Inquest], para 19 Back
IPCC, Annual report and statement of accounts 2011/12,
HC 292, July 2012
The terms of six operational Commissioners
are coming to an end in 2012. The Commission has recently recruited
five new Commissioners to replace those departing. In addition,
the Home Office is undertaking a recruitment campaign to appoint
both a new Commissioner for Wales and another Commissioner to
reflect the increased workload of the Hillsborough investigation. Back
Q 268 Back
Ev 109 [Police Action Lawyers Group] Back