(POP0096)

 

 

 

Written evidence submitted by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (POP0096)

 

Dear Dame Diana,

Thank you for the opportunity to give evidence to the Policing Priorities inquiry on Wednesday 15 March. There were some matters touched on in Committee where we agreed to provide further information and some areas where I thought it would be helpful to the Committee if we expanded on the answers provided. Please find further information following the oral evidence session below.

IOPC Performance:

1. We are performing well in our independent investigations. As outlined to the Committee, 90% of core independent investigations are currently completed in 12 months, and 40% of core independent investigations are completed in six months. This is against a target, agreed with the Home Office, of 85% core investigations completed in 12 months and 33% in 6 months. The current mean average time to complete core investigations is a little under 9 months.[1]

2. Whilst I am very pleased about the progress on timeliness that the IOPC has made since 2018, I do believe we can improve further and remain focussed on the 10% of cases that take more than 12 months, to ensure they are being progressed as fast as possible. We also have work underway to improve average timeliness.

3. As we have outlined to the Committee previously, the overall timeframe of all processes (not just IOPC processes) is what matters to complainants, police officer/staff subjects and bereaved families. The work of other bodies, such as the Crown Prosecution Service, and proceedings related to an investigation, such as an inquest, trial, or misconduct proceedings may follow on after completion of an investigation. Often these processes can take a considerable time and are impacted by the overall delays in the criminal justice system.

4. We continue to work with partners to minimise delays and improve the time taken to conclude all processes relating to an investigation

5. We also review some complaints that forces have investigated themselves. These have grown in complexity and volume substantially since 2020, when the definition of a complaint changed to ‘any expression of dissatisfaction with a police force which is expressed… by or on behalf of a member of the public[2]. Numerous distinct appeal rights were reduced to one right of review regarding whether the outcome of the handling of the complaint is reasonable and proportionate. These reviews are currently taking longer than we would like. In order to reduce the time taken to consider reviews, we have set up a comprehensive turnaround programme to get performance back on track and have invested in significant additional staffing for these teams.

Duration of IOPC investigations:

6. During questioning, Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP raised the duration of IOPC investigations and stated: the sense in the community sometimes is that when you say “IOPC inquiry”, you are just kicking everything into the long grass, in the hope that people will have forgotten about the issue by the time you report.in particular, Ms Abbott raised the investigation into the police shooting of Chris Kaba.[3]

7. I am pleased to be able to inform the Committee that the investigation into the police shooting of Mr Kaba is now complete. The investigation took just under 7 months, well within the 6-9 month timeframe that we forecast shortly after we started the investigation.

8. The decision maker has determined that there is evidence a criminal offence may have been committed, and that it is in the public interest to refer the matter to the CPS for a charging decision. We have been working with the CPS throughout our investigation to ensure the timely provision of evidence to them. It will now be for the CPS to decide whether or not to prosecute the officer for an offence.

9. Decision making in relation to whether or not there is a case to answer for misconduct will take a little more time to conclude because of the statutory requirement to consult with the Appropriate Authority before making a final determination.

10. Throughout the course of our investigation we have met with representatives of the community in Lambeth to listen to their concerns and explain the investigative process. As part of our engagement with communities on this case, we produced a Frequently Asked Questions document, Police Fatal Shootings – Your Questions, which explains the differences between an IOPC criminal investigation into a fatal shooting and a police investigation into a shooting where a member of the public is suspected of killing someone. The FAQ is available on the IOPC website.[4]

Transparency:

11. Turning to broader questions regarding the publication of information on IOPC investigations; we have always been clear that public confidence in the handling of police complaints, conduct matters and deaths and serious injuries is maintained through being as open and transparent as possible in relation to our work. I have outlined the current time taken for us to complete our core investigations and produce our reports for the purposes of the Police Reform Act 2002 above.

12. We work with bereaved families to provide the information we can provide as soon as we are able to, or to explain why we are unable to give them information where we cannot. We work with police forces, coroners and other relevant parties to ensure appropriate information is released into the public domain during the course of our investigations. When we release information, we are careful to ensure we have independently verified the facts.

13. However, the point at which we can publish the findings and outcome to our investigation is often much later than the date we complete our final report. This is because we must await the conclusion of all external proceedings, whether criminal, misconduct, or coronial, before we are able to publish our summary or report. Our publication policy sets out in detail how and when we make our decisions regarding publication of final reports and summaries in our investigations.[5]

14. We are aware this can cause significant delay to the publication of the outcomes of our work, particularly given the well documented delays in the criminal justice system, in the coroners courts and the time taken to progress misconduct hearings. In addition, as we have outlined to the Committee previously, many of these processes occur in sequence rather than in parallel.

15. We continue to work with our partners to reduce the overall time taken to consider cases and bring matters to a conclusion in order to improve the speed with which we are able to make information available regarding our investigations.

16. We are aware that recent scrutiny of the publication of judgments in gross misconduct hearings has highlighted that these are often only published by police forces for 28 days. Our policy is to publish press releases and full reports on our website for a minimum of six months; summaries of our investigations remain on our website for five years. We are currently redesigning our website and considering our retention periods as part of this. In addition, the IOPC website forms part of the UK Government Web Archive, meaning information published on our website is available for research.

Public perceptions tracker

17. As I mentioned in oral evidence, we monitor public confidence in the IOPC and the police complaints system through regular online surveys of a nationally representative sample of the population. This survey is called the IOPC public perceptions tracker and is conducted by Yonder.

18. We publish our Public Perceptions Tracker annually. The 2021/22 survey is available on our website.[6] We are aiming to publish the 2022/23 survey results in early summer 2023.

A Fitness to practice model for the Police Service:

19. We are aware that the Committee has asked some witnesses their opinion on a fitness to practice model for the police service (termed license to practice by the Police Foundation).

20. As I outlined in the Times[7], we believe there is a case to be made for radical reform and serious consideration should be given to introducing a “fitness to practise” model for policing. This would set a national standard for what is expected of officers. It means they would have to meet that standard before joining the service and maintain their accreditation throughout their career.

21. The model works effectively for many professions including GPs, nurses and solicitors and there is no reason why it could not work for policing. There are at least 43 routes into policing — via the 43 police forces in England and Wales — with variable views about what is and is not acceptable, which is confusing and inconsistent.

22. Having a regulatory body ensuring only those who are fit to be officers are allowed to join or remain in the police service would implement a consistent standard applied across all forces. Adopting the fitness to practise model would mean that policing would only have officers who meet and maintain the high standards the public deserves and expects. It would separate matters of employment, allowing chief officers to dismiss officers for disciplinary matters, with a separate professional body to decide whether that officer is fit to remain in the profession or should be “struck off”.

23. A fitness to practise regime would not just root out unfit police officers but would help manage poor performance with a focus on professional development to support officers to be the best they can be.

Whistleblowing:

24. Simon Fell MP asked a number of questions regarding the safeguards in place for police whistleblowers, I would like to clarify comments made regarding police officers and the extension of complainant rights.

25. As I set out in evidence, the IOPC is a prescribed body under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 for matters that fall within our jurisdiction. In addition, we receive referrals under the Police Reform Act 2002 of recordable conduct matters that have been internally reported by police officers and staff.

26. Following the Centre for Women’s Justice Supercomplaint regarding police perpetrated domestic abuse, we have written to the Home Office to request changes to legislation to give police officers and staff reporting police perpetrated domestic abuse similar rights to complainants. Currently, because they are often serving in the same police force as the alleged perpetrator and under the direction and control of the same Chief Constable, they would not have the same rights to information or to request a review of their complaint as a complainant under the Police Reform Act 2002. It is our view that extending the rights of a complainant to officers and staff in these circumstances, with a right to review from an independent organisation, would increase confidence in the handling of such matters.

27. However, we are not advocating for a general extension of complainant rights to police officers and staff raising concerns in all circumstances.  There are many matters that are reported internally that it is appropriate for police forces to consider.

28. It is clear, following the evidence provided in a number of reviews, including Baroness Louise Casey’s Review of the Standards and Culture in the Metropolitan Police Service and the HMICFRS review of Vetting, Misconduct and Misogyny in the Police Service that confidence in the internal reporting mechanisms for police officers is low. It is our view that police forces need to improve these mechanisms to ensure their officers and staff have confidence that, when they report grievances and concerns, these will be given proper consideration and dealt with fairly, and reporters of wrongdoing will not be penalised for their reports.

I hope this further information is helpful to your inquiry.

Yours sincerely,

 

Tom Whiting

Interim Director General

Independent Office for Police Conduct

 

 

April 2023

 

 

 

 


[1] Year to Date Figures for 2022/23 financial year as at 15 March 2023

[2] Section 12, Police Reform Act 2002

[3] Q400, 15 March 2023, https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/12826/pdf/

[4] Police fatal shootings – your questions | Independent Office for Police Conduct

[5] publication-policy-for-final-investigation-reports-and-report-summaries-IOPC.pdf (policeconduct.gov.uk)

[6] IOPC_Yonder_Public_Perceptions_Tracker_Annual_Summary_Report_2021_22_Final.pdf (policeconduct.gov.uk)

[7] Only Radical Change Will Keep Rogues Out of Forces, P14, The Times, 23 March 2023