Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by the Home Office [IPCC 00]

Introduction

1. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was established in 2004. It oversees the police complaints system in England and Wales. As the name suggests, it is independent by law and makes its decisions independently of the police, Government, complainants and interest groups. It has strong powers to investigate complaints against the police which are set out in the Police Reform Act 2002. It has an annual budget of approximately £33 million and employs approximately 400 staff.

2. The last 12 months have been a challenging period for the IPCC. In particular, it has received public criticism over its handling of the response to the police shooting of Mark Duggan. Nevertheless, it has continued to perform strongly. It has undertaken a high number of independent investigations while reducing costs. A 2011 survey found that 85% of people thought that the IPCC would treat a complaint against the police fairly.

3. The IPCC will face further challenges over the next 12 months. These will include implementing changes to the police complaints system that will make the system more efficient and more effective. It will also investigate allegations of criminal behaviour against new Police and Crime Commissioners.

4. The IPCC is well set up to manage these changes. In particular, it has a new Chair who was recruited by a Home Office managed campaign, specifically with these future challenges in mind. The Home Office is therefore confident that the IPCC will continue to grow in strength over the coming months and years and will play a key role in ensuring public confidence in the accountability of the actions of police officers and staff in the new policing landscape.

Brief History

5. The IPCC was created following both public and political concern about the lack of an independent system to deal with complaints and conduct matters within the police service. Particular public concerns in advance of the IPCC’s creation were centred on instances of deaths and alleged police brutality within custody and the policing of black and minority ethnic communities.

6. Both Lord Scarman’s inquiry into the disorders in Brixton in 1981 and the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in 1999 called for the establishment of an independent body. The Police Reform Act 2002 established the IPCC and it became operational in April 2004. It replaced the Police Complaints Authority which previously dealt with police complaints before this point but had fewer powers and was perceived as being less independent than the IPCC.

7. In April 2006 the IPCC’s supervisory role was expanded to include HM Revenue and Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). In April 2008 this role was expanded further to cover the UK Border Agency. Given that the IPCC is only set up to investigate complaints against the police and those exercising police like powers, the Home Office does not envisage the IPCC taking on responsibility for investigating complaints against the Crown Prosecution Service or any other part of the Criminal Justice System.

Role and Powers

8. The IPCC’s primary statutory function is to secure and maintain public confidence in the police complaints system in England and Wales.

9. The IPCC has responsibility for the police complaints system overall and independently investigates the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police. It also receives nearly 7,000 appeals each year from members of the public whose initial complaint has been handled by their local police. All complaints must be dealt with in accordance with legislation and the guidance issued by the IPCC and agreed by the Home Secretary.

10. The IPCC has strong powers so that when conducting its investigations it can follow the evidence wherever it leads them. These powers are set out in the Police Reform Act 2002 and regulations made under it. The Home Office has recently further strengthened the IPCC’s powers in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 so that the IPCC can recommend and direct that unsatisfactory performance proceedings are brought against an officer where a complaint reveals that the performance of a police officer is unsatisfactory.

11. In addition, the Home Secretary has the power to ask the IPCC to do specific pieces of work under section 11 of the Police Reform Act 2002. This power was used recently in commissioning the IPCC to review their experiences of corruption within the police service in England and Wales.

Independence and Accountability

12. The IPCC is overseen by a Board that is made up of a Chair, up to five Commissioners with investigation oversight responsibilities and two non-executive Commissioners. The Chair and Commissioners, acting collectively as “The Commission”, are the governing board of the IPCC. All independent and managed IPCC investigations, into the most serious matters, are overseen by an IPCC Commissioner. By law, IPCC Commissioners cannot have served with the police, been a member of SOCA, a Commissioner and/or an officer of HM Revenue Customs at any time.

13. The Chair is appointed by the Crown and IPCC Commissioners are appointed by the Home Secretary. Two non-executive part-time Commissioners provide objective challenge and scrutiny to IPCC governance and accountability.

14. The Commission is accountable to Parliament through the Home Secretary. Parliament also scrutinises the work of the IPCC through the Public Accounts Committee and the Home Affairs Select Committee.

15. 90% of IPCC staff come from non-policing backgrounds. Those that do have a policing background provide experience and expertise so that the IPCC can conduct competent and robust investigations. All IPCC investigators, irrespective of background, undertake a tailored and externally accredited training programme.

16. The IPCC regularly reports publicly on the outcome of investigations and makes local and national recommendations, as appropriate, to help to ensure that the same thing does not go wrong again. The IPCC also publishes its investigation reports, research studies and complaint statistics on its website, which are available for the public to review, in order to ensure transparency. Following the IPCC report on police corruption, the Home Office is working with the IPCC to strengthen mechanisms for ensuring action is taken by police forces in response to recommendations resulting from IPCC investigations.

Resources and Performance

17. The IPCC has an annual budget of approximately £33 million and it employs approximately 400 staff. The majority of its staff work in frontline investigative and casework roles.

18. In line with the rest of the public sector generally, the IPCC needs to manage its work within a diminishing budget during the Comprehensive Spending Review Period. It has made significant savings over the last 24 months by reducing its back office and support costs that have allowed it to focus its resources on front line investigative work.

19. In 2011–12 the IPCC completed 130 independent investigations. Whilst this was an overall reduction on 2010–11, this needs to be seen in the context of an overall 10% reduction in referrals compared to 2010–11, which the IPCC indicates was partly to do with better, more effective communication with forces. The IPCC also reduced the number of managed investigations it undertook in 2011–12 (it completed 33), recognising that public confidence is greatest when it carries out independent investigations. (Managed investigations are carried out by police force professional standards departments under the direction and control of the IPCC. Independent investigations are carried out by IPCC investigators overseen by an IPCC Commissioner).

The Future

20. Over the next few years, the IPCC will have a vital role to play in supporting police reform, including taking responsibility for investigating criminal complaints against Police and Crime Commissioners, investigating complaints against the new National Crime Agency (subject to the passage of the Crime and Courts Bill currently before Parliament) and in making the complaints system less bureaucratic and more transparent. In relation to its new role in investigating criminal complaints against Police and Crime Commissioners, the IPCC has extensive experience of handling sensitive, complex and high profile cases and the Home Office is therefore confident it is well placed to provide independent scrutiny to the handling and investigation of any allegations against Police and Crime Commissioners.

21. Through the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, the Home Office will be introducing changes that will free up the IPCC to take on this extra work while at the same time making the police complaints system more effective and more efficient. These changes include giving police forces additional discretion to deal with low level complaints which will free up the IPCC to deal with the most serious and high profile complaints. The changes also include giving the IPCC more flexibility in the way it carries out its administrative functions so that it has the freedom to direct more resources to carrying out its investigations.

22. In addition, the Home Office is in the process of recruiting new Commissioners who will further strengthen the IPCC in this period of change, under the leadership of the new Chair. The new Chair of the IPCC, Dame Anne Owers, is a respected criminal justice professional with a formidable public reputation for independence and addressing sensitive and complex issues of public interest with integrity, incisiveness and authority. She is prepared to challenge all parties to get to the truth and ensure that the organisation provides a fair, transparent and trusted service to everyone involved. The Home Office is confident that she is well qualified to lead the IPCC’s work to increase public confidence in policing in the new policing landscape.

23. The Home Office expects the IPCC to play a vital role in increasing public confidence in the police service in the future policing landscape by ensuring that police officers and staff are accountable for their actions. The Home Office is therefore taking IPCC’s request for further resources (as set out in its report on police corruption which was published earlier this year) very seriously, and officials are continuing to discuss the details with IPCC. The Home Office welcomes the steps that the IPCC is already taking to tackle corruption, such as increasing the number of independent investigations into corruption within its current resource envelope.

24. The Home Office is currently considering the IPCC’s requests for further powers also contained in its report on police corruption. For example, on the issue of whether or not the IPCC should be able to investigate private sector contractors carrying out policing functions, contractors working as detention and escort officers already fall within the IPCC’s jurisdiction. The Home Office is looking into how the IPCC’s remit could be extended to cover private contractors carrying out a range of other policing duties such as call handling.

25. Going forward these changes will require the IPCC to continue to change and adapt. The changes to the complaints system will mean the IPCC may need to review how it provides effective oversight of the complaints system, including those matters that are resolved locally in forces.

26. The findings of the IPCC report on police corruption will also require the IPCC to make changes to improve both transparency and consistency of the handling of corruption cases. The Home Office welcomes the fact that work on corruption is identified as a priority in the IPCC’s recently published corporate plan.

27. In addition to this the Home Office expects the IPCC to continue to focus on demonstrating its independence. The Home Office welcomes the work the IPCC is doing to develop its own investigations workforce so that it is not so reliant on investigators with a police background.

28. The Home Office also expects the IPCC to communicate effectively with the public and its stakeholders. For example, IPCC reports need to be accessible and user friendly for both the public as well as its stakeholders. The Home Office therefore welcomes the fact that the IPCC is renewing its external communications strategy and supports the work that the IPCC are doing with partners following the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan to ensure that, in future, there is no confusion about the arrangements for communication with the victim’s family following a fatal shooting.

June 2012

Prepared 31st January 2013