6 Treating officers differently from
80. The impression that the Commission tends
to favour officers is amplified by practices which treat officers
differently from other members of the public. In our interim report,
Powers to investigate the Hillsborough disaster: interim Report
on the Independent Police Complaints Commission, we noted that
police officers are rarely interviewed under caution in circumstances
in which an ordinary member of the public would be.
This risked losing important evidence and was of particular
concern to the families of people who die in custody.
81. When someone dies in custody, and in other
serious cases where an officer may be implicated, a referral must
be made to the IPCC for investigation. The Commission must assess
at the outset whether officers "may have" committed
criminal or misconduct offences. If so, the matter should be recorded
as a "conduct" matter with special requirements and
the investigator has the power to interview relevant officers
under caution. If the case is not recorded as a "conduct"
matter, the investigator will not have the power to interview
those officers under caution.
82. An interview under caution provides safeguards
for the officers concerned and ensures that any evidence obtained
in that interview is admissible in any subsequent legal proceedings.
The Police Action Lawyers Group and Inquest suggested that interviews
that were not taken under caution might not be admissible in court
in a case against the officers involved. The Group said that it
had experience of cases where the threshold that officers "may
have committed criminal and/or misconduct offences" had clearly
been metfor example in restraint-related deathsbut
the decision was not made to proceed with a conduct investigation
under "special requirements". Often relevant officers
were not interviewed at all, or interviews did not take place
until an inquest, which could be many months after the event.
This was a major issue of concern to the families of individuals
who die in police custody. The Police Action Lawyers Group argued
Families [...] feel that such a decision, which [...]
means that investigators do not have the power to interview officers
under caution, shows a lack of impartiality on behalf of the investigator,
who will often be a former police officer.
83. The Police (Complaints and Conduct) Bill
would introduce new powers to compel officers to attend an interview
in cases being investigated directly by the Commission. However,
as we noted in our interim report, this may not be an adequate
substitute for an interview under caution and should not be allowed
to exacerbate the Commission's tendency not to investigate serious
cases as conduct matters with special requirements. Witnesses
suggested that legislative reform may be required to ensure that
officers are interviewed under caution in serious cases, except
where it is "beyond reasonable doubt" that a misconduct
or criminal offence has not been committed that officers should
not be interviewed under caution.
84. We also noted in our interim report that
the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Bill did not solve the problem
that retired officers involved in the Hillsborough disaster could
not be obliged to attend an interview. One way to achieve the
co-operation of retired officers would be to amend officers' contracts
to include a clause that requires them to have a continuing duty,
even after retirement, to assist in any police or IPCC or other
investigation, since evidence of police misconduct can often surface
years after a police officer has retired.
85. The issue of interviewing
officers in cases involving death and serious injury is indicative
of a culture of treating officers differently from members of
the public. Where officers are not interviewed promptly under
caution, this can lead to weaker evidence and loss of confidence
in the process of investigating serious matters such as deaths
in custody. The application of the threshold test for special
requirements should be reviewed, so that officers are routinely
interviewed under caution in the most serious cases, exactly as
a member of the public would be.
86. The Government should revise
the legislative definition of the threshold. One option would
be that death and serious injury cases should be treated as "conduct"
matters with special requirements and officers interviewed under
caution except where it is "beyond reasonable doubt"
that a misconduct or criminal offence has not been committed.
87. Several of the shortcomings of the Commission
that we have explored so far were as much about public perception
as they were about practice. These concerns could be allayed to
some extent by an effective communication strategy. However, the
Commission's outreach and engagement work with media, public and
police has been a source of further criticism.
88. StopWatch suggested that there was a need
to raise awareness of the Commission's work by communicating some
of the positive results. Prosecution outcomes, misconduct and
recommendations could be more widely publicised in a format which
was easy to understand and accessible.
89. Commission guidance provides that contact
on the progress of an investigation should be made every 28 days.
In 2008, the National Audit Office found that this was being done
families felt they were not kept up to date on the progress of
investigations. Others were dissatisfied because the information
given was inadequate. The Police Federation argued that officers
under investigation were also given updates that were often uninformative.
90. The Federation also cited "ill-considered
and provocative press releases", which it said were "often
quite biased and prior to sufficient evidence being gathered"
and believed that Commission communications ought to be more neutral
in tone until a clear picture had emerged.
91. Inquest pointed to a pattern where partial
and untested information about initial post mortem findings was
reported by the media as fact. It believed that the Commission
should ensure that any misinformation was corrected immediately.
It said that the cases of Mark Duggan, Ian Tomlinson and Jean
Charles de Menezes had all been mismanaged.
In the Duggan case, the Commission issued a statement that said
one of their staff members had "inadvertently" misled
the media, but damage in terms of family and community confidence
in the independence of the investigation had been done.
The Commission should ensure the accuracy of any statements released
to the press and should also correct any misinformation in relation
to an incident which has made its way into the public domain.
92. The Commission said that it would be producing
a "suite of communications products" aimed at ensuring
the changes to the complaints system and the revised statutory
guidance were communicated to all relevant audiences, including
potential complainants, in the most accessible and appropriate
way. This would include a range of documents available in both
hard copy and on the Commission's website explaining the various
stages of the complaints process and signposting individuals to
where they can get more information.
93. The adequacy of communications
between the IPCC and the public can have serious implications.
Some of the violence that raged across London in the summer riots
of 2011 may have been avoided if anger had not been intensified
by inaccurate statements made by the IPCC.
94. Accurate and timely information
is also vital in retaining confidence in the complaints process.
The Commission should be required to set out a timetable for an
investigation for complainants and to write to them to explain
any deviation. If the Commission orders a police complaints department
to reinvestigate, it should also set a timetable for that investigation
and any deviation should be explained to both the complainant
and the Commission. There should be sanctions if the process and
timelines are not followed.
95. The Commission should communicate
positive outcomes through different channels, including social
media. Prosecutions, misconduct findings and recommendations to
forces must be more widely publicised in a way that openly demonstrates
the scrutiny of the police.
75 Home Affairs Select Committee, Powers to investigate
the Hillsborough disaster: interim Report on the Independent Police
Complaints Commission, Tenth Report of Session 2012-13, HC
793, 10 December 2012 Back
Ev 102 [Police Action Lawyers Group], para 5 Back
Ev 127 [Bhatt Murphy Solicitors], para 5 Back
Ev w68 [Natasha Sivanandan] Back
Ev w20 [StopWatch], para 5 Back
National Audit Office, The IPCC, November 2008, para 26 Back
Ev 90 [PFEW] Back
Ev 90 [PFEW] Back
Ev 115 [Inquest], para 49 Back
Ev 115 [Inquest] Back
Ev 115 [Inquest], para 50 Back
Ev 109 [Police Action Lawyers Group], para 8 Back
Ev 81 [IPCC], para 13 Back