Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

59.  Memorandum from the Police Complaints Authority

  Thank you for your letter of 21 March in which you explain your role in seeking to "mainstream" a human rights culture amongst public authorities. You pose a number of questions you would like answered, regarding the work of the Police Complaints Authority. Our answers to your questions are as follows:

  1.  Yes we are intimately involved in human rights issues through our work in supervising the investigation of and reviewing investigations into police complaints. The same is true of the stakeholder organisations we relate to such as the Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service, the Association of Chief Police Officers and many other bodies we work with.

  2.  Yes we are interested in how the organisations we deal with, particularly police forces, have responded to the impact of the Human Rights Act.

  3.  This question is not really relevant as we do not as yet have an inspectorial function, though the Police Complaints Authority replacement body the Independent Police Complaints Commission, when it is set up in 2003 will have a limited inspectorial function of parts of the police service. No doubt the approach of police forces to human rights issues will play a part of that role.

  4.  Given the answer to question 3 above, we do not keep any records of the performance of public authorities.

  5.  We may do in our relationship with police forces as from time to time we issue reports drawing lessons from the complaints that we have supervised or reviewed. A good example would be the efforts we have made to work with the police service to reduce the number of deaths of members of the public while they are in police care or custody. We have issued three reports with a series of recommendations of actions that police forces can take to improve their care of detainees while in police custody. Many of our recommendations have been implemented and the number of deaths in police custody has reduced over a period of two years from 65 in 1998-99 to 32 in 2000-01. This is an important issue we are continuing to monitor and we are regularly reporting to the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office on issues relating to the care of detainees that will ensure they do not come to any harm.

  Another example would be the recent legal case we have been involved in Green v PCA, which involved a judicial review of a decision by the Police Complaints Authority not to disclose certain documents relating to an investigation of a serious complaint which was supervised by this Authority. Judge Moses in the High Court suggested that there should be, in Article 2 and Article 3 complaint cases, the disclosure of witness statements where the complainant was an eye witness to the incident which led to the complaint. After consultation with the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers we came to the view that the implications of the judgment may mean that we would be less successful in ensuring that police officers face criminal or disciplinary charges where their conduct merited such charges, because the disclosure of witness statements might well undermine successful criminal prosecutions or the bringing of disciplinary charges before a disciplinary hearing. An appeal was pursued in the Court of Appeal and recently they gave a judgment in favour of the Police Complaints Authority, overturning the decision of Judge Moses in the High Court.

  6.  We may be proactive in giving advice to police forces as outlined in responding to the judicial review case Green v PCA if we thought it appropriate. I would anticipate that we would be regularly referring to human rights issues in the Annual Report of the Authority which is widely read in the police service and where appropriate police forces consider what action they should take as far as the handling of appropriate matters are concerned.

  7.  We are proactive in the way I have outlined above.

11 April 2002

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