Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission [IPCC 06]

Executive Summary

The IPCC welcomes the Committee’s inquiry which is particularly timely given the challenges facing the police and the IPCC:

Public confidence in policing has been knocked by allegations of failures to investigate phone hacking, related corruption matters and allegations of racism.

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 changes the accountability arrangements for policing with the replacement of Police Authorities by Police and Crime Commissioners.

The Act also makes changes to the police complaints system and the IPCC’s role which will come into effect in November 2012.

The IPCC’s work is in the public spotlight more than ever before and recent high profile cases have attracted critical scrutiny of the organisation and its role.

The IPCC itself is going through significant change with the appointment of Dame Anne Owers as the new Chair, the departure over the next 12 to 18 months of six founding Commissioners and the recruitment process for new Commissioners currently ongoing.

All of these factors are causing the Commission to review the role it should play in the future:

The Commission’s report on police corruption was laid before Parliament in May and sets out the actions required to improve the handling of such allegations.

A public consultation has been launched on the Commission’s proposed Statutory Guidance for the public and police on how the complaints system should work post the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act changes.

A major review is underway of how the Commission undertakes investigations of deaths during or following contact with the police which includes consultation with bereaved families and stakeholders.

The concept of “guardianship” is being reviewed in the light of eight years’ experience and the effects of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act with a view to a more proactive role for the IPCC in relation to the quality of local complaints handling and learning from complaints.

A case has been made to the Home Office for changes to the Commission’s powers and significant additional resources to enable it to meet the challenges of the future.

The IPCC has gained considerable experience as a result of its work over the past eight years. Its work has resulted in demonstrable improvements in policing and the handling of the public’s concerns. The Commission constantly looks for ways to improve and recognises the need to engage better with external stakeholders, to do more to improve the quality of its investigations, to strengthen its oversight role, and to continue to ensure the confidence of the public, families and complainants affected by the Commission’s work. The IPCC welcomes the Committee’s Inquiry as it provides another opportunity to assist in setting the direction of the organisation for the future.

Introduction to the IPCC and its Remit

1. The IPCC was established by the Police Reform Act 2002 (PRA) and became operational in April 2004. Its primary statutory function is to secure and maintain public confidence in the police complaints system in England and Wales. It acts as an appeal body for some locally handled complaints and issues statutory guidance on complaints handling to police forces. It undertakes independent investigations into the most serious cases of police misconduct, deaths and serious injuries and other human rights breaches; and has the power to manage or supervise police investigations. Its statutory role also involves an obligation to measure, monitor and where necessary, seek to improve the current system. The IPCC is independent and makes its decisions independently of the police, Government and interest groups.

2. 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. Since 2004, the organisation’s remit has been extended to include serious complaints and conduct matters relating to staff at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

3. 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 (MOPC) or his Deputy should be investigated. The IPCC will have a similar remit over Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) and their deputies following their election in November.

4. The IPCC is run by a Chair, Deputy Chair and 10 Commissioners. Together they make up the Commission. Commissioners (other than the two non-executive Commissioners and the Chair) have an operational role and also have responsibility for oversight of the organisation as a whole. Commissioners are appointed by the Home Secretary and by law they must never have served as a police officer. The Commission is supported by a Chief Executive and a small management team.

5. In 2011–12 the IPCC received a delegated budget of £34.3 million. It has approximately 370 staff with around 115 of these responsible for investigations and 115 responsible for dealing with direct complaints and appeals. Staff come from a range of backgrounds, including a minority from a police officer background (approximately 11% of staff overall and 33% of investigators are former police officers). The Commission values both the technical and forensic skills that these staff bring to the organisation. They work alongside colleagues from a non-police background, so that investigation teams are balanced and equipped to deal with the array of challenges which arise in an independent investigation. In 2011, the Commission established a training scheme to help candidates from a range of backgrounds become IPCC investigators. Five trainee investigators were initially recruited and the scheme has recently been extended further.

The IPCC’s Current Powers and Responsibilities

6. The IPCC’s powers include:

Investigative powers: forces are required by law to refer certain incidents to the IPCC—they include deaths or serious injuries following police contact as well as other categories such as serious sexual assault or corruption. The IPCC then makes a mode of investigation decision and has the power to independently investigate cases, manage or supervise police investigation of cases, or decide cases can be investigated locally by the police without oversight.

An appeal function: complainants who are unhappy with how the police dealt with their complaint may submit an appeal to the IPCC.

A guardianship function: the IPCC has a duty to improve public confidence and oversee the performance of the complaints system. The IPCC carries out its guardianship role alongside key stakeholders and in relation to priority areas1 to seek to ensure that improvements are delivered across the system.

7. Although the IPCC has responsibility for the police complaints system overall, it is important to recognise that, as Parliament intended, the Commission only investigates or has direct oversight of a very small proportion of cases and complaints. These are usually the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police in England and Wales. These matters have a particular impact on the public’s confidence in policing, especially when the public are concerned that the police may have caused a death or failed to prevent it or when there are allegations of corruption at senior level. The public’s concern and the IPCC’s role is reinforced by the requirements under human rights legislation for an independent investigation where the actions of the police arguably engage Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore require independent investigation (eg a fatal police shooting; a death in custody; a road traffic accident involving a death).

8. Each police force has its own Professional Standards Department (PSD) which is responsible for dealing with the vast majority of complaints and conduct matters against police officers and police staff. Complainants have a right of appeal to the IPCC if they are not satisfied with the outcome of local investigations. The bulk of the resource within the system is therefore within the police themselves—this is not always well understood and there is often a misconception that the IPCC does or should investigate all complaints and conduct matters itself. As has been publicly stated previously, the IPCC has fewer staff than the Directorate of Professional Standards of the Metropolitan Police Service.

9. The system created by the Police Reform Act can be complex and difficult for the complainant to engage with. The IPCC made proposals to the Government aimed at simplifying the system and some of these changes have been included in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. Despite these changes, the system remains complex for both the citizen and the police to understand. One of the IPCC’s key tasks over the next year will be to try to ensure that the system is working consistently well and fairly across forces and that lessons are being learnt from complaints. This is an important part of feedback about the crucial relationship between the police and the citizen.

10. The Commission’s experience of conducting investigations since 2004 has suggested that there are areas where a change in statutory powers is necessary. These areas are discussed in further detail later in this submission.

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011

11. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act will make a number of changes to the operation of the police complaints system when the majority of provisions come into force in November 2012. In addition to the IPCC having limited jurisdiction over the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and Police and Crime Commissioners, (see paragraph 3) the Act will also make the following changes to the system:

An extension of the system to include complaints about direction and control matters (currently it only includes conduct complaints).

Changes to the allocation of appropriate authority responsibilities in relation to complaints about senior officers. Chief Officers will become responsible for holding to account everyone in their force, including their top team.

Simplified handling when complaints about the police are made directly to the IPCC.

Extending the police service greater discretion both in the recording of complaints and in their decisions to dispense with a complaint or discontinue an investigation (all with a right of appeal to the IPCC).

Giving the police greater discretion to resolve complaints locally.

Giving Chief Officers responsibility for appeals against the outcome of complaints in less serious complaints that are locally resolved.

Giving the IPCC the ability to recommend or direct that a police force takes action to remedy unsatisfactory performance by police officers.

Creating a role for PCCs and other local policing bodies in ensuring that chief officers handle complaints correctly.

12. The IPCC has been working to prepare for these changes, liaising with the Home Office and with ACPO. This includes revising the current statutory guidance for the police complaints system to reflect the changes and focus strongly on the need to resolve complaints and learn from them. A draft version was published for public consultation in June 2012 and the consultation period is expected to run until September. The Committee’s views on this document are welcomed.

13. In addition, the IPCC will be producing a suite of communications products aimed at ensuring the changes to the complaints system and the revised statutory guidance are communicated to all relevant audiences, including potential complainants, in the most accessible and appropriate way. This will include a range of documents available in both hard copy and on the IPCC’s website explaining the various stages of the complaints process and signposting individuals to where they can get more information.

Managing Demand

14. The IPCC is a demand-led organisation and demand for IPCC services continues to grow. Police are required by law to refer certain incidents to the IPCC including deaths and serious injuries. The IPCC conducts investigations, handles appeals and receives direct complaints from members of the public. In 2011–12, more than 12,400 complaints were made directly to the Commission. The IPCC does not have the power to record complaints, so in line with the Police Reform Act, these complaints were forwarded onto the appropriate authority (normally the relevant force) for a recording decision to be made.


15. In 2011–12, over 2,100 matters were referred by the police to the IPCC and 126 independent investigations were commenced. In the last financial year and for the first time in the IPCC’s history, more independent investigations were completed than started. The Commission took a decision to continue reducing the number of managed investigations undertaken in favour of taking more cases independently, recognising that these instil the most public confidence. In addition, the Commission has made increasing use of supervised investigations to examine specific themes or clusters of issues. This type of oversight has been used as a way of addressing public confidence and gaining oversight of a number of complaints arising out of a specific incident, or a specific theme causing public concern. Recently the IPCC has undertaken this type of supervision in relation to allegations of racism and concerns about Taser usage.

16. The length of time it takes for an IPCC investigation is a matter of real public interest and importance. The Commission has a target to complete 60% of independent investigations within 157 working days and in 2011–12 this was achieved for 59% of the cases completed. Investigations which take longer than the 157 target can be for a number of reasons:

Sub judice ie where an investigation cannot proceed due to other criminal proceedings. This can cause lengthy delays and is largely outside the control of the IPCC.

Awaiting accounts from officers, particularly when they decline to attend for interview, can impact on timeliness. Consideration is currently being given as to whether the Commission should have powers to compel officers to attend for interview (see paragraph 75).

The most complex cases which involve criminal allegations and misconduct matters can require time to complete and involve numerous officers and public witnesses. In such cases, it is always necessary to balance speed against comprehensiveness, and to ensure that all relevant avenues are explored.

17. The IPCC has worked hard to eliminate internal delays caused by its own processes. Historically some cases took longer than they should have done but systems are now in place to reduce delay. Although the IPCC recognises the importance of timely investigations for families, complainants and public confidence more generally, a thorough investigation requires time and it can sometimes be necessary to take longer than the target timeframe.

18. It is almost always the case that the IPCC cannot publish an investigation report until after any criminal or coronial proceedings are complete. This can often take considerable time, and can lead the public to believe that the length of IPCC investigations is far longer than it really is. Similarly, the IPCC is not responsible for the timeliness, conduct or decision-making in police misconduct hearings which may follow an investigation.


19. The number of appeals received from the public increased in 2011–12 to over 6,400. Appeals can be about the non-recording of a complaint, the process of local resolution of a complaint or the findings of a local or supervised investigation. In 2011, the IPCC launched the Right First Time Campaign, which is designed to help forces improve the way they handle complaints. The aim of this work is to ensure that a greater number of complaints are resolved first time, leading to improved complainant satisfaction and fewer appeals to the IPCC.

20. Appeals performance is influenced by demand, the number of active cases at any one time and the level of resource available to deal with these cases. Taking these factors into consideration the IPCC aims to complete all appeals within an average of 35 working days and in 2011–12, the IPCC achieved this, taking on average 34 working days. However, performance in the early part of 2012 has been affected by the need to make financial savings which resulted in the loss of temporary staff. This was in part in anticipation of the implementation of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which was in fact delayed, so that the anticipated decrease in the number of appeals has not yet happened. The Chief Executive has recently taken a decision to recruit additional staff to ensure the appeals backlog is reduced.


21. The Commission does not currently have sufficient resources to enable it to meet its statutory responsibility or the public’s growing expectations of its role. It should be noted that there was no transfer of resources from the policing budget when the IPCC became operational in 2004, despite the fact that the bulk of the resource for investigating complaints and conduct matters previously lay with them.

22. Like the rest of the public sector, the IPCC has been affected by the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and a programme of work is under way to enable it to meet the budget cuts required. At the start of the current CSR period, the IPCC was informed that its grant in aid budget was to be cut from £35.4 million in 2010–11 to £30.4 million in 2014–15. Over the past two years, 63 people have been made redundant (representing approximately 15% of the workforce in 2009–10). The reduction in posts has been achieved by reducing administrative staff and management posts with front line operations being protected. The IPCC has also recently closed one of its regional offices, in the East Midlands, to make savings. Staff based in this office have been transferred elsewhere, are now home-based or chose not to be re-located and have left the organisation.

23. Although much has been achieved, there still remains a savings shortfall by 2014–15. The IPCC’s Management Board continues to examine cost cutting options and active discussions on these funding pressures are ongoing with the Home Office. Part of this discussion centres around both the IPCC’s and the wider public’s desire for more independent investigations. Research undertaken for the IPCC’s recent report into corruption in the police service for example found that the general public expects an independent body like the IPCC to be investigating cases of serious police corruption. The IPCC stands ready to undertake more of these investigations if further resources can be made available.

24. Equally important is the IPCC’s ability to act as an effective guardian of the complaints system in general, and to monitor both local handling of cases and also the implementation of recommendations and learning from investigations. Thematic supervised investigations (see paragraph 15) are one way of doing this, but a more rigorous and routine sampling of locally handled cases would provide additional reassurance and consistency. The Commission is therefore reviewing its concept of guardianship and the additional resources necessary to do this effectively to increase public confidence in the system as a whole.

25. The IPCC already collates a wide range of complaints and investigations data and it will continue to do so in the future. This data could be used more effectively to influence police practice, but this also is a resource issue, as the non-frontline functions of research and policy have experienced cutbacks due to budgetary pressures in the last few years.

The IPCC’s Impact on Policing

26. There are a number of outcomes which can result from an IPCC investigation. The three main ones are:

Criminal proceedings.

Misconduct proceedings.

Learning that improves service for the public as a result of systemic improvements for a specific force or across all forces.

Criminal proceedings2

27. In 2011–12, 28 cases were referred to the CPS as a result of an independent investigation. This represented 22% of independent investigations overall. The CPS made the decision to prosecute in six of these cases, decided on no further action in 17 cases and the remainder are still outstanding. In the same period, 18 managed cases were referred to the CPS (55% of all managed investigations for the year). The CPS decided to prosecute in eight cases, decided on no further action in four cases and the remainder are still outstanding.

28. The IPCC is not the decision-making body in relation to criminal or disciplinary offences arising from its investigations, nor does it believe that a successful prosecution is necessarily a measure of organisational success. It is of vital importance however that police officers are held to account and that this is reflected in prosecution and sentencing decisions. Some examples of where officers have faced criminal proceedings as a result of IPCC investigations are below:

Case study 1

Ali Dizaei, who had 26 years service with the Metropolitan Police Service, was convicted of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice and received a sentence of three years imprisonment at a retrial in February 2012. The ex-Commander entered “not guilty” pleas to the indictments, but the jury returned unanimous “guilty” verdicts on both counts.

The convictions followed the completion of an IPCC independent investigation prompted by a complaint received by the Metropolitan Police Authority from a man who had been arrested and held in police custody.

Case study 2

In March 2011, a magistrate found PC Marcus Ballard, an officer with the MPS, guilty of common assault. He resigned on the day of his conviction and was sentenced to 150 hours community service and ordered to pay £1,000.

The IPCC’s investigation followed an incident where a 16 year old boy was pushed through a shop window during a stop and search. An independent investigation established that the boy was not acting in a threatening manner and that he was grabbed by PC Ballard and forcibly pushed through the window. This use of force was unlawful and unnecessary.

This case highlighted young people’s concerns about the use of stop and search, and the manner in which it is conducted. The witnesses to the incident were predominantly young black men and IPCC staff worked hard to convince these witnesses of the organisation’s independence from the police service and to allay any fears they had about possible repercussions of giving statements to IPCC investigators.

Case study 3

Following an independent investigation, PC James Dougal of Northumbria Police was tried and found guilty of death by dangerous driving. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment on 1 May 2009. PC Dougal was also banned from driving for four years.

The IPCC’s investigation found that PC Dougal, in pursuit of another car, accelerated to a speed of 94mph in a speed limit of 30mph without activating his emergency warning equipment. His car collided with Hayley Adamson as she crossed the road and Ms Adamson tragically died of her injuries.

Disciplinary proceedings3

29. In 2011–12, the IPCC determined as a result of its independent investigations that there was a case to answer for misconduct in 33 cases. This represented 26% of independent investigations completed in 2011–12. In relation to managed investigations, there was considered to be a case to answer in 22 cases (representing 66% of all managed investigations in the same period). Some examples of where officers have faced disciplinary proceedings as a result of IPCC investigations are below:

Case study 4

The findings of an IPCC investigation released in August 2011 showed that there were failings in the way that a Dorset Police officer handled allegations of domestic abuse.

Ms Ryba was murdered by Mr Zasada—her former partner—on 2 October 2009.

She had made allegations of domestic abuse prior to her murder. The investigation discovered that an inappropriate relationship had developed between Ms Ryba and PC Richard Allan.

PC Allan was removed from frontline duties during the IPCC’s investigation and during this time he carried out unauthorised searches on the police computer. This led to a further investigation carried out by Dorset Police and supervised by the IPCC. In June 2011, PC Allan faced a misconduct panel and was dismissed from service.

Case study 5

Grahame Maxwell, who was Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, received a final written warning after admitting gross misconduct at a conduct hearing. This followed an IPCC independent investigation. This was the first time in 34 years that a serving Chief Constable had faced such a hearing. In an earlier management meeting, the Deputy Chief Constable of the same force received management advice after a finding of discreditable conduct and failing to challenge and report improper conduct.

Learning outcomes

30. As a result of its work, the IPCC can show systemic improvements in policing practice. Some of these improvements relate to changes which have been made across the police service as a whole and others are as a result of recommendations and learning which have arisen for individual forces following IPCC investigations.

31. As well as making directed recommendations, the IPCC also shares and disseminates learning through Learning the Lessons Bulletins. The bulletins are produced by a multi-agency group, led by the IPCC and are designed to help the police service learn lessons from completed investigations into police complaints and conduct matters undertaken by the IPCC or by the police service locally.

32. Some specific examples of the IPCC’s impact and of improvements to policing practices are provided below.

Deaths during or following police contact

33. Forces have a statutory duty under the Police Reform Act to refer to the IPCC any incident involving a death that has arisen from police contact. Since April 2006, fatal cases from HMRC and SOCA have also been subjected to the same statutory duty. The IPCC presents annual statistics on the number of deaths referred. The 2010–11 report is available on the IPCC website (http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/en/Pages/reports_polcustody.aspx) and the next report, for the period 2011–12, will be published on 9 July 2012. A copy will be sent to the Committee.

34. The annual statistics are broken down into a range of categories including road traffic fatalities, fatal shootings, deaths in or following police custody, apparent suicides following release from custody and other deaths following police contact. The IPCC has made improvements to policing practice in some of these areas and details are provided below.

(a) Code of practice on the management of police pursuits

35. In 2007, the IPCC conducted a detailed research analysis into police road traffic incidents involving serious and fatal injuries (www.ipcc.gov.uk/en/Pages/reports_rti.aspx). This piece of work identified shortcomings in police practice around police pursuits and the Commission worked closely with ACPO and road safety groups to improve national policy in this area. One of the specific recommendations in the report was that the ACPO guidance on the management of police pursuits should be made subject of a statutory code. This received support from all police bodies, and Home Office Ministers were keen to see progress in this area.

36. Although the process of codification commenced, it stalled in 2010 with the formation of a new government. The IPCC continued to pursue the matter with both relevant national stakeholders and the Minister for Policing. The Minister for Policing recognised the value of this work and concluded that the code should be presented to Parliament. In May 2011, the Code of Practice on the Management of Police Pursuits was presented to Parliament requiring pursuits to be conducted to exacting standards set by ACPO, ensuring maximum safety for members of the public and police officers.

(b) Deaths in police custody

37. Figures from the IPCC’s predecessor body, the Police Complaints Authority, indicate that in the years prior to the establishment of the IPCC, deaths in police custody remained constant at 30–34 each year. There has been a downward trend in the number of deaths annually since then and the figures for 2011–12 (to be published on 9 July) continue to support this.

38. The IPCC has conducted rigorous and transparent investigations following many of these deaths, which have resulted both in individuals being held to account where necessary and in the IPCC making recommendations in relation to training, equipment and facilities.

39. Recently, the IPCC has helped shape new national guidance on the safer detention and handling of detainees. The Commission worked with ACPO and the National Policing Improvement Agency on the second edition of the ACPO Guidance on the Safer Detention and Handling of Persons in Police Custody, which was released in March 2012. The guidance focuses on practical issues within custody and aims to provide a definitive guide to police forces on strategic and operational policies to raise standards of care within custody. The IPCC made a number of recommendations on best practice as a result of learning from its investigations into deaths and serious injuries, complaints appeals and its Study of Deaths in or following police custody published in December 2010 (http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/en/Pages/deathscustodystudy.aspx), which have been reflected in the new guidance. One key change relates to the handling of detainees who are intoxicated. A new definition of “drunk and incapable” has been included, meaning someone who is unable to walk or stand unaided, or is unaware of their actions or unable to fully understand what is said to them. If a person is found to be drunk and incapable then they should be treated as being in need of medical assistance at hospital and an ambulance should be called. The revised document also gives further guidance on a range of other areas including risk assessments, handover procedures and dealing with detainees with diabetes.

40. Alongside the contributions from external groups and the work of the police themselves, the Commission believes that the work it has conducted in this area has been a key factor in the incremental decrease in the overall number of deaths.

41. Of course, the IPCC is not complacent and believes that even one death in police custody is too many. As one of the seven priority areas listed in the IPCC’s recent corporate plan, the organisation continues to place a high focus on this area.

(c) Fatal shootings

42. The IPCC has investigated every fatal police shooting since it came into existence in 2004. While in the vast majority of these cases inquest juries have returned a verdict of lawful killing, a number of these investigations have identified significant learning which has been accepted by the police service and resulted in major changes to national firearms policy and training. Much of this learning, which includes the police response to emotionally and mentally distressed people who are at greater risk of being shot, and the command and control of firearms operations, have been reflected in changes to the ACPO Manual of Guidance on the police use of firearms.

43. IPCC recommendations have also precipitated the eventual adoption by ACPO of new post-incident procedures in which officers can no longer confer when making their notes.

(d) Mental health and police custody

44. In 2008 the IPCC published a research report which examined the extent and use of police stations as “places of safety” under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/en/Pages/mh_polcustody.aspx). This followed concerns raised by the Commission about the number of people with mental health problems who died in police custody. The study sought to identify good practice and made a series of recommendations for the police, health, social care and other relevant bodies, to seek to minimise the use of police custody as a place of safety.

45. This was the first time national statistics on this subject had been produced and they were used to inform national policy including the report by Lord Bradley into mental health and offending. They formed part of the resulting recommendations to reduce the practice of using custody suites as places of safety. In addition the report was used to encourage local healthcare providers to create alternative places of safety for people with a mental illness coming into contact with police custody. The Home Secretary recently reinforced the IPCC’s position in her speech to the Police Federation conference, in which she stated that a police station was an inappropriate place of safety for mentally ill people. She also confirmed that she had secured the Health Secretary’s commitment to divert more mentally ill offenders away from the criminal justice system, including introducing mental health liaison and diversion services at every police station that needs them. These measures as well as an NHS commissioned pilot to deliver a police custody health service are in tune with the recommendations made by the IPCC in 2008.

46. IPCC statistics show that approximately half of those who die during or following police custody are known to have mental health problems. This reinforces the need for a coordinated response across the police, health, social care and other services to protect and meet the needs of this vulnerable group.

Stop and search

47. The IPCC recognises that the police use of stop and search powers can have a significant impact on public confidence in policing. It is also recognised that those people who are most unhappy with stop and search encounters—in particular, young people and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds—have the least confidence in the police and the police complaints system. This is therefore an area in which the IPCC has done a considerable amount of work.

48. The Commission believes that it is not enough for the exercise of stop and search powers to simply be within the law—the powers should be used in a way that is demonstrably fair and effective, and in a way that carries public confidence. The IPCC has therefore developed a position regarding stop and search to help the police service improve the way it uses these powers. Awareness of the IPCC’s position has been raised through the media, community newsletters and a wide range of meetings with both community and policing stakeholders.

49. The Commission continues to monitor cases to identify issues and learning and continues to work alongside the police service and government to bring about improvements by sharing experience and disseminating lessons from relevant investigations.

50. Earlier this year, public concern generated following CPS decisions taken in relation to IPCC investigations, prompted the IPCC to closely scrutinise the way in which the Metropolitan Police Service handles racism complaints. As part of a wider package of measures, the IPCC advised the MPS that for a period all public complaints alleging racism by officers should be referred to the Commission. During this period, the IPCC received more than 50 referrals alleging racism, a large proportion of which were made subject to a supervised investigation. These supervised cases are being monitored. In addition, the IPCC is examining and reviewing cases which had already been locally handled by the MPS. The conclusions of this work, and the independent investigations into race allegations also being carried out, will be made publicly available, and may provide a model for work with other forces if resources permit.

Gender violence

51. The IPCC has conducted a number of investigations following fatal incidents of domestic violence where it is alleged that the police have failed to protect the victim. As a result of emerging themes arising from these investigations, in 2009 the IPCC established a gender violence Strategic Support Group (SSG), comprising of predominantly expert voluntary sector organisations, to review these cases and identify any lessons for both the IPCC and for policing more widely.

52. As a result of the work of the SSG and following specific investigations, a number of recommendations and areas of learning were identified and disseminated throughout the police service. These included a recommendation to all forces that they conduct domestic homicide reviews following a domestic murder, a recommendation to the Home Office that it consider changes to legislation to ensure that offenders who return to the UK having served a life sentence in another country are subject to a life licence here and a recommendation to ACPO that it make amendments to the national call handling standards.

53. The IPCC also uses its knowledge in this area to engage with national groups. The Commissioner lead on Gender Violence is a key member of the Home Office Domestic Homicide Review Quality Assurance Group. In addition, in 2011, the Commissioner for Wales, in partnership with Gwent Police, held a Wales-wide conference to help improve the way the police and other agencies work together to support and protect victims of domestic abuse.

54. The IPCC continues to receive an increasing number of referrals highlighting incidences of violence and abuse against women. The Commission will continue to place a high priority on these referrals in the future.

Firearms Licensing

55. Following a series of cases where members of the public, or in one case a police officer, died at the hands of a licensed firearms holder, the IPCC identified a number of concerns about the system for licensing firearms. A series of recommendations were made to the Home Office and to ACPO in relation to the medical history of an applicant, the taking into consideration of bindovers and the consideration of cumulative convictions. The Chief Executive of the IPCC and the Commissioner with responsibility for firearms licensing gave evidence to the Committee in September 2010 about these matters and further information can be found in the written submission and oral evidence transcript.

Police corruption

56. In July 2011 and in the wake of concerns around phone hacking, the Home Secretary requested a report on the IPCC’s experience of corruption in the police service in England and Wales. The IPCC submitted its initial report at the end of August 2011 with a final, more detailed report submitted in April 2012.

57. The report illustrated the kind of behaviour that undermines public confidence in the police such as abuse of authority, perverting the course of justice, and accepting generous hospitality. A number of actions for change were identified which included the requirement for Chief Constables to ensure more consistency in their recording and referral of corruption cases to the IPCC, the need for clearer public information about what constitutes police corruption and the need for a more effective national system for handling allegations of corruption against very senior officers. The IPCC is working with ACPO and others to ensure these actions are taken forward. A programme of work is well under way and the IPCC will be able to update the Committee in the autumn.

Police complaint handling

58. The IPCC has an oversight role of the operation of the complaints system in general. Part of this involves the issuing of statutory guidance, which is currently being updated (see paragraph 12). In addition, it is responsible for producing annual reports on police complaints statistics for each financial year. As a result of this work, the IPCC has taken steps to develop a performance framework which enables itself, police forces and the public to compare and contrast performance.

59. Due to limited resources, this project was implemented in stages but the IPCC is now in the position where it collects data from each police force at the end of every quarter and uses it to produce a report called the “Police Complaints Information Bulletin”. These Bulletins show the force data against a number of indicators that have previously been agreed and tested with forces and policing organisations. All of these bulletins are available on the IPCC website and have made police complaints data more accessible to the public.

60. In the Committee’s 2010 report, reference was made to the need to use this work as a basis for a more proactive approach with police forces, to monitor trends and from time to time examine how complaints are dealt with locally: for example if there are concerns about the upholding rate in particular forces, or in relation to certain types of complaint. This forms part of the work being undertaken on race complaints in the MPS, and is something being actively examined as part of wider work, in the wake of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. However, given the other pressures referred to above, this will be subject to necessary resources being available.

Scrutiny of the IPCC

External scrutiny

61. Parliament is charged with formally scrutinising the work of the Commission. The IPCC lays its annual reports before Parliament and its work is subject to regular review via the Parliamentary Committee structure. Over the past four years, the IPCC has been the subject of a detailed National Audit Office study followed by an appearance before the Public Accounts Committee. In addition, it has appeared to answer questions from the Home Affairs Committee and Joint Committee on Human Rights. Although independent from Government, the IPCC can be required, under Section 11(2) of the Police Reform Act, to provide the Home Secretary with reports on specific matters as required. This specific power has only been used once and that was in 2011 when the Home Secretary responded to both parliamentary and public concern and requested a report on the IPCC’s experience of corruption in the police service in England and Wales.

62. The IPCC’s independent investigations are regularly scrutinised in both criminal and coronial proceedings with IPCC investigation reports being frequently used as the prime source of evidence during both criminal trials and inquests. Similarly, investigation findings are tested in police disciplinary procedures.

63. The most high profile of the IPCC’s investigations can be the subject of intense public and media scrutiny, particularly at the outset of the investigative process. At this stage, all the information that is put in the public domain by the IPCC is scrutinised and publicly commented on. Bereaved families, complainants and the wide range of both police and community stakeholders with whom the organisation works also provide an ongoing critique of the IPCC’s work. The release of information at any stage of an IPCC investigation has to be carefully considered to prevent premature or inappropriate disclosure of information relevant to actual or prospective criminal proceedings.

64. IPCC decision-making is susceptible to legal challenge by judicial review—like any other public body which exercises public functions. Much of IPCC statutory decision-making originates from the provisions of the Police Reform Act and associated regulations. Some of this decision-making is quasi-judicial (eg casework appeal decisions) and therefore, if the IPCC considers that it has reached a decision erroneously, then it requires the intervention of a court before the IPCC can re-take the decision. This occurs through a claim being issued in court for judicial review. Other IPCC decision-making is not quasi-judicial (eg the decision to refer a matter to the CPS) and where the IPCC considers that it has erroneously reached this type of decision, then the law allows the IPCC to re-take such a decision without the intervention of a court. In the last two financial years, the total number of claims issued for judicial review has remained constant at 56 in 2010–11 and 55 in 2011–12. This represents a very small proportion of the overall number of decisions made by IPCC Commissioners and staff each year. The vast majority of these claims are refused permission for an oral hearing with only three substantive hearings taking place in 2010–11 and two in 2011–12.

65. Recognising the need to ensure maximum transparency and accountability, the IPCC signed agreements in 2009 with the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland (PONI) and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). These agreements allow Chief Executives to make requests for the independent review or scrutiny of an investigation each organisation is undertaking or undertook. They also allow for “special requests” to be made to each other where, in their view, a “critical incident” affecting the public confidence in their respective organisation requires an independent review. Since the agreements were signed, the IPCC has supported three external reviews and has requested three reviews of its own work.

Internal quality assurance

66. The IPCC regularly seeks feedback from those individuals who engage with the complaints system. A survey is sent out as standard practice to all appellants and feedback is also sought from those who come into contact with the IPCC through its investigations. The appellants survey continues to show over 50% of responders are satisfied with the service received. Although this statistic may not seem particularly high, it should be remembered that those individuals responding are the people who feel most let down by the system and are often not happy with the outcome of their appeal.

67. In addition, the Commission is looking at how to seek formal feedback from bereaved families—though this is a sensitive area which requires careful consideration. This will form part of the IPCC’s review of its cases involving a death (see paragraph 83).

68. The IPCC has a standalone Quality and Standards Directorate whose role is to give focus and structure to the way in which the organisation provides internal oversight and quality assurance of operational business. The Directorate regularly reviews the organisation’s handling of independent and managed investigations and where appropriate it makes recommendations to assist the lead investigator with a specific investigation or to help improve organisational performance in future.

69. Regular quality assurance work has also been carried out in respect of the IPCC’s casework function with a selection of cases being examined each quarter. Recommendations have been made which have resulted in improvements to consistency and organisational performance.

Additional Powers

70. Like any other statutory body, the IPCC can only operate within the powers afforded to it by Parliament. The Commission’s experience of conducting investigations over recent years suggests that there are areas where a change in statutory powers is necessary. A number of changes to the system form part of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act and will come into force later this year. There are however other powers that the Commission wishes to have, all of which would require primary legislation. The requirement for these powers has already been discussed with Home Office Ministers and officials and further information is provided below.

(a) “Contracted-out” staff

71. IPCC powers in relation to contracted-out staff working in the police service are currently limited to those who are designated (under section 39 of the Police Reform Act 2002) as detention officers or escort officers. Contracted-out staff performing roles other than detention or escort officers do not fall directly within the Commission’s remit. For the IPCC to investigate such staff under the current legislative regime there would need to be an IPCC criminal investigation already under way in relation to police officers or staff and any investigation could apply only to criminal allegations, not wider complaints or conduct matters.

72. The Commission is very 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 there is a clear and urgent need to extend the IPCC’s remit to include these staff in relation to all types of investigation.

(b) Statutory framework for IPCC recommendations

73. A number of IPCC investigations identify institutional failings in police forces about which recommendations for change are made. There is currently no regulatory framework or mechanism to ensure such recommendations are properly followed up or enforced and this has understandably caused concern from a number of bodies, including the Committee.

74. A statutory framework in which IPCC institutional recommendations require a formal published response by the responsible authority within a specific period of time would help to reinforce public confidence in the work of the IPCC, particularly following high profile cases of public concern. It would also allow the new Police and Crime Commissioners to follow up on the issues raised.

(c) Powers of compulsion

75. The IPCC does not currently have the power to require police officers to attend, or participate in, interviews in the course of investigations into deaths or serious injuries, unless a criminal and/or misconduct investigation is being conducted. If there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the officers concerned are treated as suspects, compulsive powers exist and interviews are held under caution. There is an argument, powerfully articulated by some police action lawyers, that the IPCC ought always to take this route where death has occurred—as the police would normally do in the case of a member of the public directly involved in a killing—or at least that the IPCC’s threshold for not taking the criminal route is too high. However, a blanket policy of treating all police officers as suspects would be inconsistent with the statutory test of “an indication that a criminal offence may have been committed” (paragraph 21A schedule 3 Police Reform Act), since police officers are lawfully entitled to use lethal force when this is absolutely necessary or in self-defence.

76. In investigations where there is no suspicion of criminal activity and where police officers refuse to attend for interview, IPCC investigators can only seek the information they need through the submission of written questions to officers via their solicitors or other representatives. Not only can this seriously undermine public confidence in IPCC investigations, it can also impact on the overall effectiveness and timeliness of investigations. Relying on the written submission and response of questions is generally a much longer and less satisfactory process than conducting a face to face interview, particularly when investigators need to follow-up answers provided by officers.

77. The Commission believes that all public servants, including police officers, should be accountable for their actions. Where a fatal or serious incident following police contact occurs, the public are right to expect that those officers directly involved, or those who witnessed the incident, should be required to provide a detailed account to the body charged with investigating the matter. It is anomalous that regulations require a police officer to attend an IPCC interview if misconduct is alleged (which could include, for example, a speeding offence or an allegation of discriminatory treatment), but not if he or she is involved in or witnesses a death or serious injury.

78. There are various ways in which this might be tackled. The IPCC could seek powers to compel an officer to answer questions but the evidence obtained in this way could not necessarily be used in criminal or disciplinary proceedings. An alternative would be for the IPCC to have the power to compel an officer to attend for interview, in which case it is likely that information arising from these interviews could be used in future proceedings. This would at least ensure that officers had to attend for interview—though of course the IPCC would not be able to prevent them from providing no comment.

79. The Commission is continuing to consider this complex issue and will keep the Committee abreast of its progress.

(d) Access to third party data

80. IPCC investigators often need to seek information from third parties, including individuals, public and private bodies. This information is often personal data for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 and therefore, when an investigation does not include a criminal dimension, third parties may be unwilling to provide data for fear of breaching data protection laws. It would assist the IPCC’s non-criminal investigations if a gateway allowing disclosure without fear of unlawful data processing could be created.

e) Authorisation for IPCC staff to carry out certain acts under PACE 1984

81. The independence of the IPCC can at times be undermined by requirements under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act for statutory oversight or supervision by a police officer for certain tasks such as the authorisation of search warrants. The recognition of the IPCC for the purposes of statutory review/oversight under PACE would therefore enhance public confidence.

The Way Ahead

82. This is a period of extensive change for the IPCC. A new Chair, Dame Anne Owers, began in April 2012 and the final terms for a number of Commissioners are due to end over the next 12 to 18 months. The recruitment process for new Commissioners is currently ongoing with a view to appointments commencing between autumn 2012 and spring 2013. The new Commission will wish to make decisions on how to build on the past and prepare for the future.

83. The IPCC constantly reviews its work to learn from experience and make improvements for the future. As such it has recently announced a review of its work of cases involving a death. The methodology and scope of the review have now been agreed and the main consultation process is due to begin shortly. The IPCC will be engaging with a wide range of external stakeholders including those who have been most critical about its work to seek their input. The Commission will also be keen to seek the views of the Committee in due course.

84. The Commission is actively looking at some of the issues arising from the challenges set out in the executive summary and throughout this submission. As thinking becomes more developed, it is likely that the IPCC may wish to submit supplementary evidence to the Committee before it appears as a witness in the autumn.

June 2012

1 The IPCC’s current priority areas are deaths and serious injury: in police custody, as a result of police use of firearms and less lethal weapons, as a result of gender abuse and domestic violence where it is alleged that the police have failed to protect the victim, and following road traffic incidents where it is alleged the police have caused or failed to prevent. The other priority areas are serious police corruption, police use of stop and search powers and other issues affecting young person’s confidence in the police and policing of protests and public order incidents.

2 The figures in this section are still subject to further validation so may be subject to minor amendment.

3 The figures in this section are still subject to further validation so may be subject to minor amendment.

Prepared 31st January 2013