Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by Donna M Gardner [IPCC 17]

Executive Summary

1. My complaint was about the conduct of staff (making false statements) and poor medical record keeping. It was raised in 2009. The complaint was diverted by the Chief Constable away from the Professional Standards Department and to the very department complained about. This department then instigated a distorted report that covered up the wrong doing by failing to disclose correctly to the investigator, a doctor commissioned to carry out the enquiry. Ultimately this distorted report was presented as evidence to a court.

2. In May 2010 it had become clear that the initial complaint was not being handled correctly at all. No recording decision had been given in relation to the initial complaint, and the investigation was not really a complaints investigation (under the terms of the Police Reform Act).

3. The problem has been the ineffectiveness of the IPCC and its procedures, and a lack of common sense. The complaint, having been so clearly abused in the first instance, has been recycled by the IPCC back to the original people who abused the system in the first place. The result had been an increasing complexity in the case, resulting in the complaint escalating from a “administrative” complaint about internal processes (which might attract internal sanction) to a criminal offence of pervert the course of justice and perjury, which could attract custodial sentences.

4. The complaint is ongoing and unresolved.

Background

5. The complaint made March 2009 to the Chief Constable (This was the first opportunity to investigate).

6. My initial complaint against the Force 2009 was diverted away from their Professional Standards Department to Corporate services, by the then Chief Constable and was limited in scope by an ACC.

7. The complaint was not recorded. This denied me the right to an appeal.

8. I raised this failure to record the complaint in July 2009 with the Chief Constable. I received no response to this.

9. An internal process took place throughout 2009, limiting an investigation to medical matters only. The managerial matters complained of were not investigated. The investigator, a doctor from the Metropolitan Police Service, was not given all the documents he needed to see to provide a full unbiased investigation.

10. In October 2009, I received a copy of the skewed report.

11. In November 2009 requested that the Chief Constable refer the complaint to the IPCC. I pointed out that complaints about senior officers had not been reported to the Police Authority.

12. I did not understand the system at this point and was relying on the Force to handle the complaint correctly and with integrity.

13. It took until 27 May 2010 for the Force to inform me that the complaint had not been recorded.

14. I appealed to the IPCC in June 2010 about the failure to record the complaint.

15. My appeal to the IPCC was upheld in 14 July 2010, and it was held that the force had not recorded the complaint.

16. The IPCC then referred the complaint back to the Force for “local investigation”.

17. This was the second opportunity for the Force to record and investigate the complaint.

18. A Detective Inspector and Detective Sergeant from PSD visited my home once only in August 2010 to “scope” the complaint.

19. During 2010–11 I received a series of letters from the DI, telling me that the investigation was “ongoing”. I sent several letters asking what complaints had been recorded, but never received a response.

20. I never gave a statement, no witnesses were interviewed. No evidence was gathered. No investigation took place.

21. In October 2010 I asked the Chief Constable for a recording decision, and copied it to the IPCC. I raised a further complaint against the DI for failure to record a complaint.

22. The staff officer to the ACC informed me by letter that the matter was passed to the head of PSD and was assured of a detailed response.

23. I received a response from the IPCC case work manager in October 2010 stating they were not going to get involved at that stage and reminded me of the right to appeal at the end of the investigations.

24. I received no contact from the head of PSD.

25. In October 2010 I received a letter from DCI in PSD attempting to limit the complaint, but it still was not clear which complaints had been recorded and against whom. He assured me that the DI was still investigating.

26. In November 2010 the report, resulting from the 2009 flawed investigation, was presented as evidence to a court in 2010. It was presented in the full knowledge of the Force that it was factually incorrect. The Force documentation documents show this to be the case. The Chief Constable, and the force legal team, a solicitor, a barrister and other senior staff member were involved in this attempt to mislead a court.

27. In April 2011 the DI wrote to me stating that the investigation would not proceed as civil court proceedings were ongoing in relation to a different issue.

28. In May 2011 I asked for an explanation and highlighted that this is not a reason under Statutory Guidelines for delaying an investigation into a complaint. I copied the IPCC into this correspondence.

29. The IPCC Casework Manger explained again that they were not going to get involved and copied my correspondence the Force.

30. The IPCC should have intervened at this point. It by now was clear that the Force had:

(a)Not recorded the complaint.

(b)Were delaying the investigation because of a tribunal.

31. This was a flagrant breach of guidelines (S146 Statutory Guidance) which should have attracted sanction

32. On 28 May 2011 I wrote to the IPCC and asked for them to intervene:

(a)The complaint was not being investigated.

(b)The complaint now involved a Relevant Offence—Attempt to Pervert the Course of Justice (the false report being presented to a court in November 2010).

33. In June 2011 I wrote to the Chief Constable (copy IPCC) complaining that none of my letters were being answered in relation to recording and investigating the complaints, and the head of PSD had not been in touch, as the Chief Constable had said.

34. In June 2011 an IPCC casework manager responded, repeating that the IPCC had no involvement until the Force provided a final response and copied my letter to the Force.

35. Essentially what was happening now was the Force was resisting the investigation by failing to provide a response, leaving the IPCC (rightly or wrongly) claiming to be unable to intervene. This left the Force free to continue with their conduct, which had by now escalated to criminal conduct.

36. On 13 June 2010 I wrote to the IPCC asking if the complaint against the Chief Constable had been recorded.

37. In the same letter to the IPCC I asked that this complaint be a “Called in Matter”.

38. I received a reply from the IPCC on 21 June 2011 which did not address the question of the complaint against the Chief Constable, and referred the matter back to the Force.

39. On 15 June the Force wrote to my MP and advised that they were suspending the complaint investigation until civil proceedings were concluded (into an unrelated matter). By now the Force conduct had already resulted in a criminal offence occurring in the civil proceedings which would have been avoided had the Force investigated properly, or the IPCC taken over.

40. On 15 June 2011 I appealed to the IPCC that “Power to Suspend “ was being abused and this was a refusal to investigate.

41. The IPCC advised they had no power to intervene, I had no right of appeal, but they contacted the Force.

42. On 18 July 2011 PSD DS contacted my MP and advised the investigation was going to resume.

43. On 18 July 2011 (the same day he wrote to my MP), I received a letter signed by the same DS to say the investigation was now complete. In doing this he had effectively delayed any investigation until after civil proceedings were complete, as he knew that I would have to make an appeal, which would put me back to the beginning-the beginning of the IPCC flowchart. The Force had been able to resist the investigation again.

44. I appealed on 3 August 2011 to the IPCC. It was a seven-page letter detailing in full the sequence of events, listing the complaints and the people involved. I stated it would be perverse to allow the Force a third opportunity to investigate as they had clearly demonstrated there was no intention to investigate. I also pointed out that the conduct being demonstrated was a continuation and escalation (to criminal) of the original conduct complained of.

45. The appeal was upheld on 15 September 2011.

46. The matter was again returned to the WMP for local investigation, now the third opportunity to investigate.

47. The case was allocated to the same sergeant, now an acting DI, the same officer who had failed to investigate throughout 2010–11, the same officer who had resumed and closed the investigation on the same day. He apologised for this but to date has offered no explanation, so at this point he is now supposedly investigating his own failure.

48. On 4 October 2011 the DS undertook to draw up a written course of action (not seen to date).

49. The DS states that he wrote to the IPCC on 2 December 2011 strongly recommending that an IPCC investigator meet with me and review the paperwork. The DS asked for the IPCC to independently assess the case.

50. On 5 December 2011 (three days later) the IPCC wrote stating they had reviewed the complaint and again referred it for local investigation.

51. Having received no response from either the Force or the IPCC about a recording decision regarding the complaint about the Chief Constable, made in 2009, I wrote to the Police Authority on 18 January 2012 to make the complaint again.

52. On 30 January 2012 the Authority responded with a list of questions which I answered.

53. On 2 February 2012 the Authority asked even more questions.

54. I answered 8 February 2012.

55. By 28 February 2012 I had heard nothing so I appealed to the IPCC about a failure to record a complaint by the Authority.

56. On 6 March 2012 the Authority confirmed they were not recording the complaint.

57. On 13 March 2012 the IPCC part-upheld my appeal. To date this has gone nowhere.

58. On 27 March 2012 I wrote to the IPCC, after an extended telephone conversation with a senior manager in the IPCC, as by now it was clear:

(a)that the investigating officer considered that he not the most suited to investigate and had said so, and

(b)that the investigators had been talking to the same legal team about the complaint that had used the false report in November 2010, and who were now themselves subject of a criminal complaint.

59. I complained that the investigation was compromised.

60. The IPCC still will not get involved and still refer the matter locally, and will not answer how many times it is acceptable for the investigation to be re-cycled around this loop.

61. My complaints remain unrecorded to my knowledge.

62. All my correspondence has been forwarded to the police. Nothing that the Force has written to the IPCC has been forwarded to me.

63. I made a subject access request 23 April 2012. I received no response by the beginning of June and made a complaint to the Information Commissioner to which I await the outcome.

Current Problems with the Present Investigation

64. The Force allocated an officer to carry out the investigation who is himself implicated in failing to investigate what is now an attempt to mislead a court.

65. The investigating sergeant and his civilian partner are discussing the case with the force legal team, who are supposedly under investigation for a serious offence that, if found, would attract a custodial sentence.

66. The investigating officers seized files as evidence but then allowed them to be sifted by the very people complained about, and allowed documents to be removed by staf.

67. Seized files are not held securely in detained property but in the investigator’s office in an open bag (continuity and integrity of evidence is compromised).

68. Despite four day-long visits to my home and a detailed written summary of the allegations, the investigating officers have not given a clear decision as to which allegations and against whom complaints have been recorded, despite being specifically directed to do this by the IPCC.

69. Complaints against the Chief Constable were supposed to have been recorded by the Authority. I have not yet received a complaint number and no action has been taken.

70. Complaints against other senior officers have yet to be recorded, despite repeated requests made to the Force and the IPCC since 2009.

71. The investigating sergeant tells me that he wrote to the IPCC on 2 December 2011, detailing his reasons why he believed that the complaints should be investigated externally. Even he thinks he is the wrong person to investigate.

IPCC Failings

72. The IPCC do not seem to be either capable or willing to ensure that complaints by members of the public are dealt with effectively or efficiently, as their website claims.

73. I have appealed to the IPCC three times and three times the appeals have been upheld.

74. Their sole purpose seems to be to provide a complainant with a “right of appeal”, as though that were an end in itself. What I really need is resolution—recording and investigation, and sanction for wrong doers and/or changes in practice.

75. Each time I write to the IPCC, a different caseworker responds.

76. I now have several reference numbers, which suggests that there may be several IPCC files, with no overall view of the complaints.

77. Each time, following an appeal, the complaint was sent back to the West Midlands Police. This beggars belief in this case.

78. 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.

79. It is clear in my case that the Force knows this and is exploiting the system.

80. The IPCC takes the Force at their word and does not copy the complainant into correspondence. I regret to say that the Force have misled many processes and have escalated to a criminal matter (Attempt to Pervert).

81. The IPCC refuse to answer how many times this process of failure to record, failure to investigate, appeal and return for local investigation to the Force will be repeated. The flow chart on the IPCC website shows this clearly. It has the potential to be a never-ending process, where the complaint is simply returned to the police.

82. The IPCC has no sanction against forces that choose to act in this way.

83. As I understand it once an investigation is completed, if an appeal is not upheld, the only way to challenge an IPCC decision is at judicial review. This is not an option that is open to the majority of complainants due to the high costs.

84. It worries me greatly that I have not been able to see these complaints investigated despite my dogged efforts. I am an articulate woman, able to understand most processes, able to advocate for myself, yet I have been thwarted at every turn.

85. I do not see how a young teenager with minimal education and lacking in self belief could ever get a complaint investigated.

86. At a time when government is concerned with an “underclass”, people who do not seem to have a stake in our society and its laws and guiding principles, the way the Police is held accountable is of the utmost importance.

87. We are failing to do this. The Public have every right to believe that the Police are unaccountable, a law unto themselves.

88. I would go as far as to say that this unaccountability contributed to some people’s feelings of powerlessness that may have had a bearing on the riots last summer.

Improvements

89. Complaints should never be sent to the police force being complained of if they involve more than one or two members of staff.

90. Officers should not be allowed to collude before producing statements after an incident.

91. There should be a strict time limit for forces to make a recording decision and this time limit should be communicated in written form to the complainant at the time of complaint.

92. A booklet detailing the complaint process should be produced including timelines and time limits.

93. There should be a standard proforma for responding to a complainant that includes a recording decision, who the complaint has been recorded against and what the complaint is about and who will be investigating.

94. There should be a clearly defined process for investigating a complaint.

95. There should be sanctions if the process and timelines are not followed.

96. Inference should be drawn in Court and sanctions imposed when evidence goes “missing”.

97. The IPCC should not send complaints back to a force when an appeal is upheld. If the force has had an opportunity to investigate once and have not done so then it should be passed externally to the force.

98. The IPCC need to understand that upholding their right to appeal is not what the Public are looking for when they make a complaint. The right of appeal is not the outcome people are seeking. Upholding a complainant’s appeal merely puts them back in the starting blocks.

99. A complainant should be given one reference number and one caseworker at the IPCC, so that there is some overall scrutiny and continuity of complaints. The IPCC say that they use different caseworkers each time to maintain independence at the right of appeal. I cannot see how one equals the other.

100. Perhaps there needs to be a bit of naming and shaming about how long investigations take, how many appeals are upheld etc. It should not be in the interests of a police force to delay or fail to thoroughly investigate.

101. Sanctions need to be in place and used when guidelines are not followed.

102. An ombudsman service could be introduced to deal with complaints against the IPCC. The public cannot use Judicial Review, and are denied access to justice as a result.

June 2012

Prepared 1st February 2013