Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by Campaign4Justice [IPCC 07]

We would like to extend our gratitude to the Home Affairs Committee for instigating this Inquiry into the much maligned Independent Police Complaints Committee. We hope some positive recommendation and change will be the result of your investigations.

We at CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE are a community based, volunteer group, formed following our collective experiences at the hands of police corruption/misconduct. We have set our aims on campaigning for a fair and effective system of redress for victims of police corruption. In addition we offer support and advice on victims who approach our organisation.

CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE organised the recent demonstration outside the London offices of the IPCC. We called upon linked sister organisations to join us, the turnout was strong and comprising of all sections of society, irrespective of colour or creed, age or infirmary we can and do get affected by police corruption.

We are aware of many cases of the IPCC failing complainants and unless they have strong constitution and support, these isolate individuals find it impossible to win against the might of the police and IPCC combined.

If the government is truly determined to give the people confidence in the IPCC it is clear to all that major change must be implemented to the structure and investigational process of the organisation. Both of which are compromised from the onset because of the “conflict of interest” in hiring mostly ex-police officers to represent them and failing to take statements from officers when a clear statement would go along way to appeasing the families concerns and getting to the facts of what may or may not have taken place.

Having lost an uncle, namely Smiley Culture under suspicious circumstances last year and having to deal with the IPCC, I can say without hesitation that I found their efforts weak and impotent in regards to procuring any kind of truth on the events of that morning. With the evidence that we found from the autopsy we were sure there would be a robust investigation into what happened.

We, along with many other families and individuals were wrong.

In-fact from the very beginning of the investigation it was clear that the police had no intention of interviewing or even asking the police that were in the house at the time for a formal version of their events. Taking into account an alleged suicide had happened and they were the only ones present, why were they not made to make a statement if they had nothing to hide? Reasonable suspicion is a low threshold, these officers and the circumstances of my uncles death had certainly crossed this point. These officers should have been interviewed under criminal caution, just like any other member of the public would have if discovered in a similar scenario. But not police officers who seem to operate on a different tier of the criminal justice system.

Of course we were told to have faith in the IPCC and their investigative procedure but like so many other families have been left feeling let down, abandoned and disillusioned not only in the police but also the legal system which quite clearly disproportionately protects them. The rule of law is essentially that we are all equal in the eyes of the law, this fundamental principle is undermined by the current apparent immunity enjoyed by our police.

One must take into account that these cases are not issues of insurance fraud or pension/tax violations, these are real people that have lost their lives in police custody, mothers, fathers, uncles and friends. Real people who have had their lives and families destroyed by police corruption. The effect on society is clear, an erosion of confidence in the police which is all too evident on the streets of our towns and cities. When once the public would come to the aid of an officer in need, we are more likely to see citizens filming the police for the fear of them brutalising a member of the public.

In the event that someone has died in police custody, as a British citizen one would feel that they would have the full support of their government and relevant legislation that could both support and protect the family, the reality however is quite the opposite. Of course that is precisely what we are entitled to in law, an effective system of police complaints supported by fair, impartial and robust investigations.

One thing has become clear, the rules are very different for policemen when accused of wrong-doing, the question is why? Surely as individuals that have sworn to uphold the law if they are found to of transgressed from that straight path “the book should be thrown at them”. If on the evidence there is a case to answer, answer it they should.

We know that the police have little to fear from the IPCC, unless their out of favour, as the organisation that investigates is full of ex-police officers anyway.

This reality is unacceptable, so is the fact that not one officer has yet to be criminally charged with the manslaughter or murder of anybody even when there are hundreds of cases that bear witness to the fact that not all has been revealed and clearly evidence has been withheld or overlooked. Lost evidence goes unchallenged, missing CCTV, delayed and lengthy investigations all contribute to this unacceptable truth of a system and organisation that is failing justice and failing the public.

The families are tired, fatigued and in need of support and real help from a government that refuses to accept that regardless of swearing to uphold the law, some officers have fallen short of that obligation. We are not on a witch hunt, we are not anti police, indeed we support and encourage the rule of law and accountability for all, irrespective of whether you wear a police uniform.

We at CAM4JUSTICE will continue to fight for justice and equality for those who have gone before us and those who come after us until the spectre of deaths in police custody is resigned the pages of history. We hope the government and all those concerned will join us in this challenge. To provide a truly independent system of effective investigation will go some considerable way to achieving what should be granted in a democratic society.

We say “GET THE POLICE OUT OF THE POLICE COMPLAINTS SYSTEM”.

I would also welcome the opportunity to appear before the Committee to speak of my experience as both a campaigner for justice and first hand witness in relation to the IPCC and its woefully inadequate conduct.

Response to Terms of Reference

Whether the Commission has improved the scrutiny of police practices?

(1) Since its creation the IPCC has been tasked with the investigation of police misconduct and criminal conduct. Specifically to ensure public confidence in the police complaints system and deliver and effective and trusted method of resolving police complaints. It is the view of CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE that the IPCC has failed to deliver a professional or effective system of police complaints, it plainly fails the public and it’s legal duty. There is widespread distrust in the community with the IPCC and confidence with policing has deteriorated to all time lows, the two are clearly connected.

(2) Investigations into public complaints are viewed by complainants with widespread dissatisfaction.1 It would appear from experience that the reasons for this are rooted in the repeated pattern of favouritism toward the police.

(3) In the cases known to CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE there are clear cases of factors leading to failed investigations by the IPCC including:

Long delays to investigate and respond to complainants2 [supervised investigations taking 324 days average to completion—IPCC annual statistics].

Wilful blindness to evidence of police misconduct—[reported pattern of favouritism toward police].

Failure to locate vital case evidence, accepting of police excuses such as evidence “missing”, “lost”.

Investigations not thorough, failure to follow the evidence.3

Use of dispensations to avoid investigation of police criminal/misconduct matters.

Lack of IPCC investigatory rigour forcing complainants to become legal/police procedural experts.

No challenge to police practice of post event narratives which don’t match original contemporary records.

Meaningless outcomes to upheld police complaints such as “words of advice”.

Heavy reliance on procedural/system failures to explain away police conduct issues.

Use of Judicial Review and costs threat to dissuade complainants from challenging IPCC decisions.4

Failure to challenge police evidence as fabricated.

Whether the Commission has the right powers and resources to carry out its role effectively

(4) The IPCC has the same powers at their disposal as general policing in the UK. The power to interview is available and used by the IPCC in appropriate cases. It is a concern of CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE that the IPCC’s recent call for more powers was a direct response to the mass community protest outside its London offices on 1 May 2012. It is a bluff, a smokescreen to distract public opinion away from its evidence failings.

(5) It is felt that this call for more powers is simply a method of deflecting attention away from their core failures to investigate police crime/misconduct. In cases known to CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE, there is clear evidence of alleged police criminality, under present available powers the IPCC could of and should of have interviewed. Despite this the IPCC elected, without good cause not to interview. Giving the IPCC a power to interview without “reasonable suspicion” would erode legal protections for police officers, this would be a concern for CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE. It is clear that where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, the IPCC have abjectly failed to interview under criminal caution.

(6) The IPCC budget is in the region of £43 million per annum and the vast majority of cases are investigated by the police. Currently IPCC workload involves around 6,000 appeal cases per year (involves IPCC reviewing police investigation), Managed and independent cases amount to approximately 200 per annum.

(7) CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE, would hold that whilst organisations would always welcome extra financial resource, until such time as the resource they do have is used efficiently, pouring more public funds into the IPCC would be wasteful. With the abject failure of the IPCC to investigate police complaints effectively, the result to the taxpayer is costly Judicial reviews, lengthy and costly civil litigation claims, stress and suffering for victims of police misconduct. Getting it right first time at the IPCC requires professional case investigation, following all reasonable lines of enquiry and taking decisive action where required.

(8) In the cases known to CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE there is repeated and abject failure to investigate serious cases of police corruption. One case which the IPCC claimed was not upheld is at significant cost, now rightly progressing through the criminal courts. In terms of cost, we must never forget the personal cost to families and individuals who find themselves on the wrong end of police corruption. This personal cost translates into a wider detrimental cost to society and the current evident erosion in confidence for our once highly respected police service.

(9) One further resource issue which has always been of significant concern is the number of ex police employed at the IPCC. Campaign groups including CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE call for the police to be removed from the police complaints system. The IPCC claims that the skill set from the police is required to discharge their duties effectively. Upon viewing the standard of investigation, it would appear that the standard of investigation is poor. If there was a will, trained civilian investigators, with no former police ties, could properly manage IPCC workload.

(10) Other commonwealth countries such as Canada have taken the requisite steps in the 1980’s to train civilian investigators to manage their police complaints system. If there was a will from the IPCC this could equally be achieved here in the UK. A step which would make a real difference (it must also be noted that it is not only the investigator population of the IPCC who are ex police, the legal dept, media dept and many directors are ex police).

Whether investigations lead to improvements in police practices

(11) The poor quality of IPCC investigations can only lead to poor outcomes in terms of improvements in police practice. When allegations of criminal conduct, supported by cogent evidence are buried under a poorly reasoned IPCC narrative, the only outcome is widespread dissatisfaction from the complainants (levels of 80% of complainants unhappy with outcomes) amongst the general population and an erosion in confidence in policing in general.

(12) Like a traffic control system without consequence, motorists would ignore the double and single lines. The current police system gives the police confidence that they will not be the subject of criminal proceedings, as a result corruption and misconduct grows much to the concern of decent lawful officers and the public.

(13) There is the other side to this coin, whereby the IPCC is acting as control mechanism on officers who are perceived to have stepped out of line. Further it appears the disciplinary system is used to act out racist prejudice. Recent figures show that BME officers are five times more likely to face disciplinary allegations for corruption than their white counterparts.5

(14) CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE notes that in the Ali Dizaei case, on what can at best be described as “word against word” the IPCC plied every available resource to bring the matter before the criminal courts. Complainant experience of the IPCC would concur that the IPCC acted very much out of character with the Ali Dizaei case, considering the history of Ali Dizaei and previous witch hunts he’s endured, all the more concerning. From experience we know that even when the evidence is very strong against police officers there is only a remote chance they will ever face criminal trial, let alone misconduct sanction.

Whether improving police services should be formally included in the Commission’s remit

(15) CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE believes that the current system of IPCC making recommendations (following investigation) without power of compulsion fails to address the need for Continuous improvement in policing.

(16) It is agreed that the IPCC should offer recommendations to the police following the outcome of an effective investigation. There must be an element of compulsion to these recommendations. There also needs to be a feedback mechanism to ensure recommendations are actually implemented.

(17) In addition, if the IPCC were applying the full range of sanctions following investigation, such as instigating criminal proceedings in the right circumstances, this would have an obvious controlling effect on police corruption. The lack of sanctions/disciplinary or criminal means that officers can and do act with impunity and disregard for both the law and their operating procedures such as Police and Criminal Evidence Act. (PACE)

The Commission’s role in scrutinising elected police commissioners

(18) The new Policing Commissioners provides an excellent opportunity to effect positive change in policing. For once there will be democratically elected officials, responsible to their electorate, at the helm of our police forces. It would simply be untenable for the accountability for these posts to be handed over to an unaccountable and unelected body such at the IPCC. They have demonstrated and admitted that they are ineffective, it would be folly to extend their powers beyond their current jurisdiction.

(19) CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE also has concern about the selection process for IPCC Commissioners and Directors. It seems that most Directors are from a police background and the appointments appear to be orchestrated on a nod and a wink from the likely suspects. A fair and open selection process, from beyond the police service would go some way to ensuring the organisational culture changes for the better.

The Commission’s role in scrutinising third parties commissioned to carry out policing duties

(20) With the ever increasing (and likely to increase further following the Winsor report) “privatisation” of UK police duties, it is likely to be the case that members of the public will come into contact with these privately contracted parties.

(21) Whilst at present, police civilian staff are included in the IPCC’s remit for investigation, private contractors are not. It would be recommended that private contractors, providing policing duties to the public should face an effective system of independent investigation. To that end, the IPCC or a body replacing the IPCC should be given power to scrutinise these private contractors delivering policing service.

The Commission’s role in considering complaints which may relate in part to other bodies involved in the justice system, such as the Crown Prosecution Service

(22) Currently the IPCC is failing to deliver an effective system for complaints in relation to its current workload. It is failing the public and also the police, as a result contributing to the current erosion of confidence in our policing services in the eyes of the public.

(23) CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE would recommend issues related to the current IPCC failings are addressed before any consideration is given to widening their powers.

(24) CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE would however recommend a specialist section of the CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE is developed, specifically for the consideration and management of criminal prosecutions against the police. Traditionally the CPS and Police have close working relations, some distance by creating a specialist group would ensure not only that justice is done, but seen to be done (we appreciate that this CPS role is currently undertaken by the specialist crime directorate, but they are not insulated from extensive police contact).

Whether the right balance is achieved between independent, managed and supervised investigations

(25) From a complainant point of view, the distinction between the mode of investigation is of little importance when the standard of investigation is of such a poor level. Complainants who are unable to navigate law/police procedure/complaint process are at the mercy of a system which demonstrates repeated favouritism toward the police.

(26) CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE understands the distinct need for serious cases of police corruption to be independently investigated. The number of (ex) police investigators within the IPCC and their close ties with the police, calls into question the actual independence of these investigations. Further the outcomes, illustrate in statistical clarity the very limited number of these investigations which actually result in criminal charges and trial.

(27) Of 154 Independent investigations into police misconduct, year to April 2011, just 16 of those cases were submitted to the CPS for a charging decision. Of those 16 only five resulted in charges. With an such a high attrition rate, there is real concern that with the aid of the IPCC the police are getting away with criminal conduct.6

(28) In terms of managed investigations and supervised investigations, it appears that the IPCC do little more than set terms of reference (required in a supervised investigation) and the police are at liberty to run the case without much in the way of management action from the IPCC.

How the work of the Commission could be effectively scrutinised

(29) It is vital that the work of the IPCC is scrutinised on a regular basis, indeed there is provision within the IPCC guidance which caters for this, with exchange of case files between other government organisations for peer review. Indeed IPCC casework manuals state that peer review should take place on the conclusion of managed and Independent investigations.

(30) There is no available data via the IPCC website on whether these reviews have taken place or what the results may have been returned. We invite the Home Affairs select committee to make further enquiries on this matter.

(31) Scrutiny of the IPCC decisions are coming into stark focus in the decisions made by the IPCC and the low levels of police prosecution. We are aware of one case in which claims from the IPCC that false allegations were nothing more than a simple mistake are now progressing to criminal trial. The decision to take the case to trial in the criminal courts was made on exactly the same information in possession of the IPCC. The fact the IPCC failed to investigate such serious concerns brings into sharp focus the integrity of the organisation.

(32) In terms of European involvement, a suggestion which could be explored for the future, in line with European harmonisation, would be to have peer reviews conducted by fellow European police complaint agencies.

Recommendation 2001 (10) of the Committee of Ministers to Member states on the European Code of police ethics, adopted 19 September 20017 states:

The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members:

“also the purpose of the Council of Europe to promote the rule of law, which constitutes the basis of all genuine democracies”.

The paper also confirms that the Member states:

“the police organisation shall contain efficient measures to insure the integrity and proper performance of police staff, in particular to guarantee respect for individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined, notably, in the European Convention on Human rights”.

And

“Effective measures to prevent and combat police corruption shall be established in the police organisation at all levels”.

(33) It is held that the current English system of police complaints fails to be effective and this self regulation has systematically failed the public. A system of European peer review would have the effect of drive up standards throughout Europe and lead to harmonisation of policing standards and levels of accountability.

We would welcome the opportunity to attend the Committee when it sits to give representation from CAMPAIGN4JUSTICE and answer any queries that you may have. We appreciate this is not about individual case, but we believe that the only real evidence for IPCC malpractice, failure is found within the body of those individual cases.

Merlin Emanuel
Campaign4Justice

1 IPCC survey figures detail 80% of complainants either unhappy or very unhappy with complaint outcomes

2 IPCC Investigations research Paper 2010 – only 20% of complainants felt response was timely.

3 IPCC Investigations research Paper 2010 – 60% of respondents dissatisfied with the quality of IPCC investigation

4 IPCC does not collect data on number of challenges to their reports by way of JR or cost to the public purse

5 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18239960

6 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-escape-charges-in-70-per-cent-of-ipcc-cases-6953024.html

7 https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGet&InstranetImage=1277578&SecMode=1&DocId=212766&Usage=2

Prepared 1st February 2013