Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by Denise Hart [IPCC 19]

Executive Summary

1. Resolving the complaints issue

2. Firstly, the Police need to be held responsible for their actions:

3. I believe there should be a system in place where the Senior Officer in charge of the relevant Police Officer, station or section should, initially have to handle the complaint, as they would have done in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

4. They need to be held accountable for staff working for them. The Police Station with the Officer responsible for that complaint should NOT be allowed to handle the Police Investigation (which happened in my complaint about Devon Police). This is the only way to really improve Police Practices and avoid a “whitewash”.

5. Another station in that area should undertake the Police Investigation within a few months of the incident occurring (not the 14 months that Lincolnshire’s Police took for their investigation).

6. In this way, a central log or register of “offending” Police stations could be easily (and economically) collated and dealt with as a matter separate from individual complaints. The Senior Officer there would have to be held responsible for his offending officers.

7. Police should be held responsible for their own actions. The Senior Officer would have to be totally aware of all improper conduct of any Officers reporting to him.

8. If, after the Police Investigation (a copy of the report should, obviously, be sent to the Senior Officer at the “offending” Police Station or section), the matter is not resolved effectively or to the satisfaction of the individual complainant, the Senior Police Officer should refer it to an independent body for further investigation. After all, taxpayers are paying for the service they receive from the Police.

9. Personally, I would change the name of the IPCC, as it demonstrated very clearly in the Press that it was not at all “independent” during the riots last year.

10. The IPCC needs to be able to investigate complaints further.

11. If, for example, there has been dishonesty by the Officer during the Police Investigation, evident to the complainant, or a failure to provide accurate witness evidence, the IPCC really does need to be provided with this information BEFORE drawing a conclusion regarding that complaint. If new evidence comes to light, the IPCC should be able to review a previous decision, at that time. Anything else really is a waste of time and money for everyone involved.

12. The PSD department should not work to defend the Officer. The Officer should be interviewed by the person conducting the Police Investigation in the same way that anyone else accused of breaking the law would be, and not be provided with information or correspondence from the complainant without their written authority (as MPC Adams in Devon was), so that they can fabricate their own story around that evidence.

13. Witness statements provided to a Police Investigation should be signed and dated as a legal “Statement of Truth” by the Officer, who, if later found guilty of perjury, would be able to be prosecuted, as would be the case for civilians committing perjury in a witness statement. I doubt that this is currently the case.

14. The individual complainant should be allowed to request copies of the Officer’s witness statement and pass comment on them to the IPCC, and vice versa. These comments should be taken into account by the IPCC when dealing with the complaint. The review would then be objective and account for both sides of events.

15. Currently, as matters stand, if Police are dishonest with the Police Investigation, (and therefore the IPCC do not uphold the complaint) the complainant has no redress other than Judicial Review which is expensive and time-consuming for all involved. As it stands currently then, this is unlikely to lead to any improvement in Police Standards or Practices as the Officer’s main priority is to have the complaint against him dismissed. This is true also, it seems for the PSD department, who currently provide the IPCC with reasons NOT to uphold the complaint.

16. For the IPCC to be truly “independent”, they need to have greater powers. Currently, it seems that as any Police Investigation cannot be questioned further, it is taken on face value, as being 100% honest. In my experience, this is rarely the case. The balance, then, is distinctly in the Police’s favour. The scrutiny of Police Practice is, therefore, currently marginal.

17. The Home Office should be able to ask the IPCC to review complaints, when necessary, without the complainant having to undertake a judicial review.

18. The Scottish Police Force seems to deal with complaints in a far more effective manner and each Officer takes complaints far more seriously than seems the case with English Police Officers.

19. The IPCC also needs brighter people working there. A girl dealing with one of my complaints did not seem to be able to grasp many of the issues involved, and from her replies to my emails, didn’t even seem to have read through all of my correspondence properly. Some of the comments on the internet about her were less than flattering!

Background

20. Over the last few years, I have had reason to make complaints against the Police due to three separate events.

21. Briefly, in 2008, I was driving alone through Lincolnshire on my way to Scotland, and had an unmarked Police Car with a plain-clothes Police Officer tailgate me for some miles. When I pulled into a service station (the first opportunity I had to pull over), his car also pulled in. A marked patrol car, which had been close in a layby also pulled in. The Inspector (now Chief Inspector) and Sergeant in that vehicle were witness to the unnecessary and unprovoked aggression that I received from that Officer, PC Goodwill. I had no idea he was a Police Officer until he started to caution me regarding my own driving! He was eventually sent away by the uniformed Officers and the Inspector listed around six breaches of the Police Code of Conduct that he had witnessed.

22. The Police Investigation took around 14 months to be published. In it, there is absolutely no mention of Inspector Pache’s acknowledgement of PC Goodwill’s breaches of the Police Code of Conduct. It was a whitewash. I can only think that they waited for over a year imagining that I would lose interest in the complaint and go away. I didn’t.

23. I complained to the IPCC. They did not uphold my complaint. I appealed to the IPCC with the information that (now Chief) Inspector Pache had not provided the Police Investigation with material evidence. They did not uphold my appeal.

24. Ms Foster (Lincoln PSD) states “the Complaints concerning Chief Inspector Pache, Sergeant Farmer and Inspector Bennett should have formed part of your appeal against the initial complaint investigation, even though this would not have ever been possible, as the evidence was sent to me in Chief Inspector Pache’s letter, dated 30 June 2010. It seems that CI Pache and Sgt Farmer both failed to inform the Police Investigation that CI Pache had verbally listed approximately six points of the Police Code of Conduct that PC Goodwill had breached. They therefore failed to provide true and accurate witness statements to the Police Investigation and therefore to the IPCC. As the IPCC can only base a decision on the information provided, they failed to uphold my complaint.

25. I was told that the only avenue for redress open to me is Judicial Review. I doubt that many people chose this option as it is expensive and time-consuming.

26. I never found out whether it was because a Chief Inspector was involved that Lincolnshire’s PSD applied for and were granted a dispensation. If Chief Inspector Pache had provided honest evidence to the Police Investigation (and therefore the IPCC), my complaint about PC Goodwill would have been upheld. He would have been made to take responsibility for his actions and punished accordingly. I would not have felt that I wasted months of my time.

27. As he failed to provide honest evidence to the Police Investigation, my complaint and appeal to the IPCC and all of my many emails and phone calls attempting to get hold of a copy of the Police Investigation Report, were all a waste of time, effort (and taxpayer’s money).

28. Briefly, in 2010, I was charged with dangerous driving by a Police Officer driving an unmarked Police car in Devon. I was not driving dangerously or carelessly. MPC Adams was not entirely honest either with the Police Investigation or in his written witness statement or when giving verbal evidence in Court. He failed to question another driver who had been driving poorly. He told me that if I left the country that I would be arrested on my return. He failed to interview me regarding this matter, probably because my written witness statement would have ensured that this case never went to Court. His verbal evidence in Court differed from his written statement. A male witness fabricated evidence which differed dramatically from his written statement. His wife admitted that she had been “led” by the Police to write a particular comment in her written evidence. The final “witness” admitted they had not seen much at all. I was convicted of careless driving, fined and given nine points on my previously clean driving license. The points were reduced to eight points when I appealed, defending myself.

29. The IPCC refused to uphold my complaint, even though I had informed them that the case was subjudice and I could therefore not provide all information required until a later date.

30. Peter Hunt, Casework Manager dealt with both complaints and failed to uphold either of them.

31. Due to that mentioned above, when I was burgled in 2011 (reported originally as an “attempted” burglary) and the Detective Constable based in Launceston, Cornwall, failed to interview me for ten days, I only made a complaint via the local resolution process. I did not have the time to waste to do anything more. Even that complaint was not upheld. It was proof to me that, currently, there really is no point in making a complaint against any Police Officer for any reason, because no-one in the Police force really seems to care about Police Standards.

In Summation

32. The issues addressed by any Review should go further than just reviewing the role of the IPCC.

33. If the question is whether the IPCC really is effective at upholding Police Standards, then what really needs to be considered is the number of complaints and appeals that the IPCC does uphold and the way in which those Officers are dealt with. Even though this matter is very newsworthy currently, very few Officers seem to be held accountable for their actions and prosecuted in a Court of Law.

34. The Police complaints procedure is ineffective at EVERY level and the General Public has no faith that “justice will prevail” when complaining about any Police Officer. It seems that, legally, there is still one rule for the General Public and another for the Police, who have lawyers paid for with taxpayer’s money defending them. Jo Public has to pay for his own defence lawyers and/or subject themselves to the Legal Aid process, which is far less likely to result in a fair outcome.

35. I am happy to provide any further correspondence relating to these matters, if required. I do appreciate the fact that the Review concerns the IPCC’s performance, rather than that of the Police, but I have provided relevant background information regarding both cases, for information. It may be that the individual MPs for these areas would be interested in the conduct of their Police Officers.

36. The General Public also needs to be protected from poor Policing and dishonest Officers who abuse their position of authority.

37. Attached to this email are a number of files relating to the cases noted above. They may not be required for the overall Review, but may be useful for background information.1

June 2012

1 Not printed.

Prepared 1st February 2013