4 Refocusing the Commission's work
36. The IPCC's resources are
prioritised between different kinds of cases and, at the moment,
the Commission devotes more attention to issues that impact on
people's lives directly than to counter-corruption activity.
Corruption in the police
37. However, given
current concerns about corruption in the police force, it is worrying
that the Commission's capacity to deal with cases involving "fitting
people up", "withholding evidence" and "covering
up" is limited.
38. Irregularity in relation to evidence and
perjury are the most prevalent form of corruption allegation recorded
by the police, with 3,758 allegations between 2008 and 2011. In
its second report on Corruption in the police service in England
and Wales, the IPCC noted that it would require a significant
transfer of resources and powers to the IPCC if it were to assume
a much more prominent role, particularly in cases that require
covert operations. The Commission referred officers to the Crown
Prosecution Service in 45% of the cases independently investigated
or managed between 2008 and 2011, suggesting that where the Commission
has been involved, it has regularly found a case to be answered
where corruption allegations have been made. However, the IPCC
only independently investigated 3% of corruption cases and managed
RT HON ANDREW MITCHELL MP
39. Following the altercation between Rt Hon
Andrew Mitchell MP and police officers on 19 September 2012, we
were concerned that the IPCC opted to supervise the investigation
into the circumstances surrounding a police officer's claims to
have witnessed the incident in Downing Street, rather than to
mount an independent investigation. The Metropolitan Police is
carrying out the investigationOperation Alicewith
the lightest of supervision from the Commission. The allegation
that a serving police officer may have fabricated an account and
concealed that he was an officer is an extremely serious matter
and raises broad questions about the integrity and honesty of
some officers. When we took evidence on this matter from the Commissioner
of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, we asked him
why the investigation had not been passed on to the Commission
for independent investigation. He responded that "we did
try. We did ask them; of course, they concluded they either could
not or would not".
40. We also wrote to Sir Jeremy Heywood who claimed
that his role had been heavily circumscribed. However, investigations
may have proceeded more expeditiously either had the Metropolitan
Police been more forthcoming with certain details (such as Mr
Mitchell's request to see the police log book) or if Sir Jeremy
had shared with the police the e-mail purporting to be from a
member of the public and other issues arising from his investigation.
A simple sharing of information could have helped to alleviate
whatever problems had been caused, in this as in many other, lower-profile
41. This case raises fundamental
questions about police integrity. We will return to the implications
of the September 2012 episode following the conclusions of Operation
Alice, when we will be taking evidence from Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Patricia Gallan. This will form part of our investigations into
leadership and standards in the police. DAC Gallan wrote to us
on 11 January to update us on the progress of the investigation,
telling us that that the Metropolitan Police had so
far spent £82,500 to staff an investigation into events that
lasted less than 60 seconds.
42. Public confidence in the
police has been shaken: Operation Yewtree, Operation Alice, the
Hillsborough Inquiry, Operation Elveden and Operation Pallial
all cast doubt on police integrity and competence. It is in these
circumstances that the public ought to be able to turn to the
IPCC to investigate and we believe that the Commission ought to
have a more prominent role in each of these operations.
43. Some kinds of complaint
are simply not appropriate for Police Complaints Departments to
investigate themselves. Cases involving serious corruption, such
as tampering with evidence, should be automatically referred to
the IPCC for independent investigation. The Government has committed
itself to provide more resources for the IPCC to investigate the
Hillsborough disaster. Once that investigation is complete, that
funding should be maintained and dedicated to anti-corruption
44. Allegations following the
altercation between Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP and police officers
raise fundamental questions about police honesty and integrity.
The alleged unauthorised disclosure of information to the press
on the night of 19 September 2012 and the alleged fabrication
of an eye-witness account on Thursday 20 September 2012 are extremely
serious; if officers could do this in a case involving the protection
of the Prime Minister's own home, it raises the question how often
might this be happening outside the gaze of the national media.
As Mr Mitchell said, "if this can happen to a senior government
minister, then what chance would a youth in Brixton or Handsworth
45. We support the Commissioner's
"relentless pursuit of the truth" in this matter and
believe that the West Midlands Police Federation were wrong in
calling for the resignation of a cabinet minister. However, it
was clearly hasty of the Commissioner to tell the media that he
was 100% behind his officers and to say to Rt Hon David Davis
MP that the investigation had been closed when it had not been
investigated with any rigour.
46. We note the Commissioner's
intention to ask another force to independently review the investigations
underway in Operation Alicewhile this is a welcome safeguard,
it is no substitute for independent investigation by the IPCC.
The IPCC should investigate this case independently and the Government
should additional provide funds, if necessary, as it has for Hillsborough.
REDIRECTING THE COMMISSION'S WORK
47. There are several avenues for redirecting
Commission resources to better uses. When a referral or complaint
is received, a commission casework officer makes a "mode
of investigation" decision, with the power to investigate
cases independently, manage or supervise an investigation by the
force concerned, or decide that cases can be investigated locally
by the police without oversight. The Police Superintendents' Association
did not believe that the provision for supervised investigations
added value. In supervised investigations, the Commission sets
the terms of reference but the investigation is conducted by the
police and the complainant has a right of appeal to the IPCC against
the findings. The Association believed that this could be confusing
to complainants who were told that the investigation was being
"supervised" by the Commission and yet in reality there
was no active supervision of the case.
48. We heard from two expert mediators, who suggested
that substantial cost-savings could be achieved at the same time
as increasing public satisfaction by applying mediation and restorative
justice techniques to certain kinds of police complaints. Lawrence
Kershen QC described how mediation was "faster than most
investigative processes. It is certainly cheaper" and said
that "it [...] has the potential to build a relationship;
and the outcomes that are possible through the mediation process
are far richer than that which might be possible through an adjudicative
cited work that was taking place at Thames Valley Police, where
mediation was being used to deal with certain complaints.
Anthony Glaister argued that in typical complaints procedures
"the panoply of the process [...] takes over the complaint"
and that mediation could offer a much more direct and satisfying
49. Mediation and restorative
justice present rich avenues for improving the handling of police
complaints. The Commission should set out best practice protocols
for their use in appropriate cases and the use of informal or
local resolution systems should be independently monitored to
ensure that it is not used inappropriately in relation to conduct
that would justify criminal or disciplinary proceedings.
Appeals upheld: the frontline
50. The most serious call on Commission resources
that could be cut back was the number of appeals from individual
51. To ensure that these cases do not undermine
confidence in the police and ensure that malpractice is rooted
out, a well-functioning police complaints system is essential.
However, the frontline of the police complaints system is not
working effectively. In the past year, the number of appeals to
the Commission about police forces' handling of complaints has
grown and the proportion of appeals upheld has increased significantly.
During 2011-12, 31% of appeals into investigations conducted by
police forces were upheld and 61% of appeals into a police force's
decision not to formally record a complaint were also upheld:
in other words, the police do not appear to be very good at investigating
52. Dame Anne Owers believed that "what
we need to do is have more resources to dig into what is going
on at the front end of the system, as well as to be able to deal
with the very serious cases and the appeals at the back end of
She said that she "would want to see a decrease in the number
of appeals coming to us, which represented good work earlier on".
53. There is clear evidence that cases are often
handled poorly. Last year, the Commission upheld 60% of appeals
made against forces' decisions not to record complaints for investigation
and it upheld over 30% of complaints into local investigations
and the outcomes of local investigations.
Errors in the decision about whether to record a complaint are
particularly deleterious, as they give the complainant the impression
from the outset that a case is not being taken seriously, or even
that the force is trying to cover up misconduct.
54. We heard that many officers were also unhappy
with the way that complaints were dealt with at the level of the
Professional Standards Department (PSD) within a police force.
The Police Federation of England and Wales said that the IPCC
did not intervene in cases in which PSDs had "allegedly conducted
a poor, biased or even corrupt investigation". It believed
that the Commission should investigate such allegations, as the
perception among officers was that PSDs were "a law unto
themselves, without the independent scrutiny afforded to all other
55. The Commission has a duty to improve public
confidence and oversee the performance of the complaints systemits
"guardianship" role. The Commission told us that it
carried out its guardianship role in relation to "priority
areas" to seek to ensure that improvements are delivered
across the system.
The IPCC's current priority areas are deaths and serious injury
involving the police, serious police corruption, police use of
stop and search powers and other issues affecting young people's
confidence in the police and policing of protests and public order
incidents. In 2011, the Commission launched the Right First
Time campaign, designed to improve the way forces handle complaints.
56. The IPCC is now publishing complaints data
about individual forces which reveals significant variation both
in the number of complaints made and in the number of appeals
directed to the IPCC that are upheld. In Dyfed Powys just 15%
of appeals to the IPCC were upheld last year, but in North Wales
and Northumbria over 50% of appeals to the IPCC were upheld.
57. We note the Commission's
clear analysis of individual forces' complaints statistics and
its endorsement of 38% of the appeals it receiveda welcome
indication that the Commission is willing to call forces to account
in many cases.
POLICE COMPLAINTS STATISTICS
58. The following table shows the number of appeals
completed by the IPCC into each force, the number that were upheld
and, in the third column, the percentage of cases that were upheld.
In Northumbria and North Wales, the IPCC decided that the police
force had made the wrong initial decision in over half of all
cases. Again, Warwickshire showed the best recordthe IPCC
upheld 15% of cases, the same percentage as it upheld in Dyfed
||Total appeals completed
||Total appeals upheld
|North Wales ||73
|Devon and Cornwall
|South Wales ||86
|West Midlands ||285
|West Yorkshire ||227
|Avon and Somerset||108
|Thames Valley ||158
|South Yorkshire ||65
|British Transport Police
|City of London||20
|West Mercia ||161
|North Yorkshire ||43
59. Nick Hardwick, who was the first Chair of
the IPCC from 2002 to 2010, said he hoped that Police and Crime
Commissioners (PCCs) would look at that data and hold Chief Constables
to account for the number of complaints, the number of overturned
recording decisions and the number of appeals upheld.
The IPCC could play an important role in helping PCCs to
interpret its statistics and develop actions for improvement.
60. The root of the problem
is that the front line of the police complaints system is not
working. It is unacceptable that Police Standards Departments
had made the wrong decision in 38% of appeals. The number of appeal
upheld varies wildly from force to force, as does the proportion
of appeals upheld by the IPCC and Police and Crime Commissioners
must take decisive action where a force is shown to be failing.
The Commission's robust handling of appeals is welcome, but it
is costly. Far more effort should be made to ensure that correct
decisions are made in the first instance at the level of individual
forces. We have written to each chief constable to ask for the
staff complement and budget of their Professional Standards Departments.
61. Where a threshold of 25%
of appeals are upheld, the Commission must demand a written explanation
from Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners, which
should be followed by a six month probation period. After that
time, if the proportion of appeals upheld is not reduced below
the threshold, a "complaints competency investigation"
must be held into the reasons for the inaccuracy of decisions
made at the local level. This should involve a joint report by
the IPCC, HMIC and the local Police and Crime Commissioner, which
would lead to proposals that would be binding on Chief Constables.
If applied now, these measures would affect all but four forces.
Learning the lessons: giving
the IPCC authority
62. The IPCC's prioritised could be refocused
on the most serious cases if its day-to-day work genuinely led
to improvements in policing practices. This is also vital for
ensuring public confidence.
63. However, we received evidence that the IPCC's
investigations do not always result in improvements in police
practice. As Natasha Sivanandan put it, "the failure to learn
lessons from previous incidents leads many members of the public
to feel a lack of confidence in the IPCC and the police: why are
the lessons of earlier police shootings not learnt and new guidelines
and laws not developed?".
The National Police Improvement Agency said that the Commission
could improve policing practice by analysing common contributory
factors to adverse police events, to highlight national priorities for
64. The Commission had been involved in the scrutiny
of key policing areas such as custody detention, police use of
firearms, command and control and the response to issues concerning
The Commission produced a series of bulletins called Learning
the Lessons (now at edition 16) to ensure that lessons learnt
in one police force area were shared with other forces.
The Police Federation agreed that the Learning the Lessons
programme had been successful, in particular in the area of custody.
Recent editions included advice on dealing with people who
are drunk and incapable, recognising when a person needs medical
attention, protocols with the health and ambulance services".
However, the advice was not reaching all police officers.
65. Moreover, the decision whether to implement
Commission recommendations remains that of the respective forcethere
was no mechanism to ensure recommendations were enforced. A statutory
framework in which Commission's recommendations require a published
response by the responsible authority within a specific period
of time could help to reinforce public confidence, particularly
following high profile cases of public concern. It could also
allow the new Police and Crime Commissioners to follow up on the
issues raised. The
Commission said that the public did not understand why it could
not "make the police take action".
66. The Commission reports on the outcome of
investigations and makes local and national recommendations to
help to ensure that the same thing does not go wrong again. The
Commission also publishes investigation reports, research studies
and complaint statistics on its website.
At the moment, however, IPCC recommendations are merely
advisory. The frustration at the system felt by some witnesses
was apparent. One witness said:
Each time, following an appeal, the complaint was
sent back to the West Midlands Police. This beggars belief in
this case. The IPCC advise the Force have a legal duty to comply
with their directions and Statutory guidelines, but there appears
to be absolutely no enforcement, or enforcement mechanism. It
is clear in my case that the Force knows this and is exploiting
67. The Police Superintendents' Association believed
that the Commission's ability to make recommendations should be
enhanced with a power similar to the Rule 43 power available to
coroners, which provides coroners with the power to make reports
to a person or organisation where the coroner believes that action
should be taken to prevent future deaths.
Such a power could apply to police-wide practices or to
68. In one case, the Commission "requested"
that the Metropolitan Police Service reconsider a request for
personal data to be expunged and "informed" the service
that a copy of a compulsory form "should" be provided.
This kind of light-touch recommendation is a long way from the
kind of clear instructions for improvements that Dame Anne Owers
said: "there should be a requirement formally to respond
with an action plan".
She suggested that Police and Crime Commissioners could
contribute by ensuring that the Commission's work led to improvement
across the service:
we need to work on [...]mechanisms to check whether
what we have done has made a difference [...]Police and Crime
Commissioners do form a place where I would envisage discussions
going on between Commissioners, heads of casework and themselves
about what is happening and if it is not happening why isn't it
69. It is a basic failing in
the system that there is no requirement for forces to respond
to recommendations from the IPCC, still less to implement them.
We recommend that the Commission be given a statutory power to
require a force to respond to its findings. In the most serious
cases, the Commission should instigate a "year on review"
to ensure that its recommendations have been properly carried
out. Any failure to do so would result in an investigation by
HMIC and the local Police and Crime Commissioner, as a professional
conduct matter relating to the Chief Constable.
35 IPCC, Corruption in the police service in England
and Wales, May 2012 Back
IPCC, Corruption in the police service in England and Wales:
second report, May 2012 Back
Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 8 January
2013, HC 617-ii, Q 154 Back
Ev w75 [DAC Patricia Gallan] Back
Ev 78 [PSAEW], para 9.4 Back
Q 408 [Lawrence Kershen QC] Back
Q 414 [Lawrence Kershen QC] Back
IPCC, Police complaints: statistics for England and Wales 2011/12,
p 1-2 Back
Q 51 [Dame Anne Owers] Back
Q 90 [Dame Anne Owers] Back
Q 51 [Dame Anne Owers] Back
Ev 91 [PFEW] Back
Ev 80 [IPCC], para 6 Back
Ev 82 [IPCC], para 19 Back
IPCC, Police complaints: statistics for England and Wales 2011/12 Back
Q 274 Back
Ev w72 [Natasha Sivanandan], para 30 Back
Ev w53 [NPIA], para 11 Back
Ev 75 [PSAEW], para 2.2 Back
Ev 75 [PSAEW], para 2.3 Back
Ev 91 [PFEW] Back
Ev 117 [Inquest], para 66 Back
Ev 88 [IPCC], para 74 Back
IPCC, Corruption in the Police Service in England and Wales,
Report 2, 24 May 2012; Ev w22 [StopWatch], para 15; Ev 116 [Inquest],
para 64; Ev 75 [PSAEW], para 1.5 Back
Ev 73 [Home Office], para 16 Back
Ev w42 [Donna M Gardner], paras 77-79 Back
Ev 75 [PSAEW], para 2.4; this refers to Rule 43 of the Coroners
Rules 1984; Back
Ev w44 [David Mery], para 14 Back
Q 89 [Dame Anne Owers] Back
Q 74 [Dame Anne Owers] Back