Independent Police Complaints Commission - Home Affairs Committee Contents

7  Scrutiny in the new landscape of policing

96.  The Home Office stated in its evidence that "the IPCC is [...] set up to investigate complaints against the police and those exercising police-like powers".[88] However, we are concerned that, at the moment, the Commission has only limited powers to scrutinise private contractors employed to deliver policing services.

Widening remit

97.  The Government has already widened the remit of the Commission to include new bodies. In April 2006 the IPCC's supervisory role was expanded to include HM Revenue and Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). This oversight will now be extended to the National Crime Agency. In April 2008 this role was expanded further to cover the UK Border Agency and now also the Border Force.

98.  The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 has extended the IPCC's remit further. Since January 2012, the IPCC has been responsible for deciding whether any criminal allegations relating to the occupant of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) or his Deputy should be investigated. The IPCC will have a similar remit over Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and their deputies following their election in November 2012. Several witnesses believed that a change in name would be helpful, especially now that the Commission's remit included UKBA and HMRC.[89]

99.  The Government should be aware of the potential crossover between the role of the IPCC and other institutions in the new landscape of policing. The Police Superintendents' Association believed that the Commission would benefit from being involved in the training exercises of operational staff in specialist areas such as the police use of firearms and the management of critical incidents, which would naturally dovetail with the work of the new College of Policing.[90] However, the Police Superintendents' Association believed that if the Commission were given a strengthened remit for improving policing there could be a blurring of the lines between the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner, HMIC and that of the Commission. This could compromise the Commission's independence in future investigations where those practices were challenged.[91]

100.  The Police Federation considered that the improvement of police services should remain under the HMIC and potentially the College of Policing.[92] The Association suggested that a requirement could be created for the Professional Policing Body to take account of any recommendation by the Commission to change police policies or require Chief Officers and/or Police and Crime Commissioners to implement such changes in their police forces.[93]

101.  The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) said that "it is important that, in the new policing landscape, following the close-down of the NPIA, the work of the Learning the Lessons Committee continues and a constructive relationship is built between the IPCC and the new policing professional body that will be responsible for setting standards across policing as well as developing the evidence-base and professional practice".[94]

102.  We note that although the IPCC is allowed to hear complaints about the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the position regarding the new National Crime Agency (NCA) is less clear. We recommend that the NCA be subject to IPCC procedures in the same way as police forces generally.

Private firms

103.  Private firms contracted by the police are not necessarily within the remit of the Commission, yet firms such as G4S, Serco, Mitie and Capita are increasingly being called upon to deliver services that would once have been performed by the police themselves.

104.  Last year, forces such as Cleveland and Lincolnshire were front runners in their consideration of large-scale contracts with private firms for the delivery of policing services, though several negotiations contracts have since been terminated. We requested information from the Mayor's Office of Policing and Crime showing a list of contracts with private firms (over a variety of terms from several months to a number of years), which amounted to £3,555,994,161.[95]

105.  Commission powers are limited to supervision of those designated as detention officers or escort officers under the Police Reform Act 2002. Contracted-out staff performing other roles do not fall directly within its remit.[96] The Commission was concerned that this gap in oversight could damage public confidence and affect its ability to carry out thorough investigations. Given the likelihood of a growth in the use of contracting out arrangements, our witnesses argued that there was a "clear and urgent" need to extend the Commission's remit to include these staff in relation to all types of investigation.[97]

106.  We heard that recent investigations had raised questions about the role of private contractors in:

a)  The provision of police custody suites (e.g., the serious injury of Gary Reynolds in March 2008 in Brighton Police Custody Centre where Reliance provided custody assistants; the death in May 2010 of Sharon McLaughlin in the Reliance-run Worthing Custody Centre; the March 2012 inquest into the death of Bogdan Wilk following his detention in Preston Police Custody Centre, where care was provided by Medacs); [98]

b)  Forensic analysis by privately contracted Scene of Crime Officers; and

c)  UK Border Agency escorting services (for example, the October 2010 death of Jimmy Mubenga whilst being escorted by G4S staff, an issue we highlighted in out report on Rules governing enforced removals from the UK).[99]

107.  The Commission has investigated incidents in which private staff worked alongside police officers, but cannot collate complaints about private firms. At the moment the Commission has no power to discipline private staff, even if misconduct or failures contribute to a death. There is no statutory requirement for contracted staff to co-operate with any investigation being conducted by the police or Commission other than when asked to assist in a criminal investigation.[100] For the Commission to investigate such staff on corruption matters under the current legislative regime there would need to be an Commission criminal investigation already underway in relation to police officers or staff and any investigation could apply only to criminal allegations, not wider complaints or conduct matters.[101]

108.  G4S said that it had informed the Commission in 2010 that its employees would be subject to checks. However, other private providers were not subject to scrutiny.[102] The CPS said it would welcome clarification of the IPCC's powers to deal with third parties because this would make investigations involving non-police suspects easier to handle.[103] As Natasha Sivanandan pointed out, such contractors carry out functions of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.[104] Nick Hardwick was of the opinion that "in terms of the public, if it looks like a police officer, talks like a police officer, walks like a police officer, the IPCC should investigate it".[105]

109.  The landscape of policing is changing and the IPCC must change with it. Increasingly, companies like G4S, Capita, Mitie and Serco are involved in delivering services that would once have fallen solely to the police (we described the involvement of G4S in the Jimmy Mubenga case in our report on Rules governing enforced removals from the UK), yet the public cannot call on the IPCC to investigate their delivery of those services.

110.  The Commission's jurisdiction should be extended to cover private sector contractors in their delivery of policing services and appropriate funding should be available for it to undertake all the functions which we consider it should have responsibility for.

111.  The Commission should be renamed to reflect its broader remit and functions, covering appeals and complaints for police, UKBA, HMRC and the NCA. "The Independent Policing Standards Authority" is one possibility.

88   Ev 72 [Home Office], para 7 Back

89   Ev 76 [PSAEW], para 3.2 Back

90   Ev 75 [PSAEW], para 2.6 Back

91   Ev 77 [PSAEW], para 5.5 Back

92   Ev 90 [PFEW] Back

93   Ev 77 [PSAEW], paras 5.5-5.7 Back

94   Ev w53 [NPIA], para 9 Back

95   Letter from Stephen Greenhalgh, 24 October 2012 [HC 560-i, Policing in London] 

96   IPCC, Corruption in the Police Service in England and Wales, Report 2, 24 May 2012; Q 75 [Dame Anne Owers] Back

97   Ev 88 [IPCC], para 72; Ev 78 [PSAEW], para 8.2; Ev 117 [Inquest], para 70; Q 18 [Shamik Dutta] Back

98   For full details see  Back

99   Ev 117 [Inquest], para 68

Home Affairs Select Committee, Rules governing enforced removals from the UK, Eighteenth Report of Session 2010-12, 17 January 2012 Back

100   Ev w1 [G4S] Back

101   Ev 79 [IPCC] Back

102   Ev w1 [G4S] Back

103   Ev 122 [CPS] Back

104   Ev w70 [Natasha Sivanandan], para 20 Back

105   Q 272 Back

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Prepared 1 February 2013