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A group of MPs are investigating whether wider reforms are needed to improve the efficiency of the police conduct and disciplinary system, due to the growing numbers of complaints recorded against police officers. The inquiry announced on Monday 28th October 2019 by committee chair Yvette Cooper MP, will examine how the IOPC operates within the police conduct and discipline system.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IPOC) investigates the most serious misconduct allegations against police officers. The Home Affairs Committee are examining its role and remit and looking at how it works alongside police forces to resolve complaints. They are also looking at whether the introduced measures which reduce the time that complaints take have made any difference.
In 2017-18 there were 31,671 recorded complaints against the police, a slight decrease from the previous year where there were 34,103 but part of a longer-term increase since 2004-5 when there were 22,898 complaints recorded. The IOPC was created in January 2018 to replace the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which was heavily criticised by many stakeholders. The government promised ‘speedier decision-making’ under the new leadership, with a new board ‘to ensure greater accountability to the public’.
The IOPC was to be given several new powers under the terms of the Policing and Crime Act 2017. These include the power to launch investigations without a police referral. There were also changes to the process for deciding whether an officer should face a misconduct hearing with the IOPC having the final decision. These changes were designed to improve transparency and accountability.
Police officers have expressed concerns about the delays in the system because when an officer is under investigation their duties are restricted. This puts additional workload on their already busy colleagues. They have also complained about the lack of time limit on when a complaint can be made after an incident.
As reported in Personnel today, committee chair Yvette Cooper said: “When the government established the Independent Office of Police Conduct in January 2018, it was with the promise of new powers, greater independence and faster decision making. These reforms were meant to increase transparency and build trust in the police complaints and disciplinary process.
“Nearly two years on we continue to hear concerns that the system is not working as it should. In this inquiry we expect to look at the IOPC’s powers and effectiveness but, given that most complaints are dealt with by local forces under the scrutiny of police and crime commissioners, we shall also look at whether wider reforms are needed to build a system in which the public can have real confidence.”
Conduct and performance lead at the Police Federation of England and Wales, Phill Matthews, said that the current system is not working and there are areas of the system where its effectiveness could be improved.
He continued “We welcome any examination of the role and function of IPOC. We have been deeply worried for some years about the standard and length of time their investigations can take to complete and have been campaigning for a 12-month time limit to be introduced to ensure that distress and anxiety cause to all those involved in the process can be minimised.”
The terms of reference of the inquiry are; the role and remit of the IPOC within the police conduct and discipline system; progress in reforming the complaints system, including speeding up decision making; How it is working with individual forces and policing bodies in order to respond to complaints; the need for the IOPC’s new powers, and their expected impact; whether further reforms are required to secure public confidence in the police conduct and discipline system.
Mr Matthews concluded, “It is only right that police officers should be scrutinised but the current system is not working as it should and we feel there are significant areas where improvement can be made to make it quicker and more effective. I hope this inquiry will shine a light into all corners of the IOPC and its practices so that police officers and the public are able to have the confidence they need in such an important organisation.”
If you have been mistreated by the police contact us today via email at email@example.com or phone us on 0151 203 1104 to arrange a consultation. Our solicitors have specialist knowledge in dealing with actions against the police and will be able to assess the best way to progress your case.
Demi Drury – Solicitor- Civil Action Against the Police
On 9th April 2017 the Claimant returned to his home address in Margate to find police officers searching his property. The Claimant approached the officers and asked them what was going on to which an officer replied he was investigating a theft.
The Claimant identified himself as the occupant of the property and he was subsequently arrested but not advised why. The Claimant was detained at the property for around one hour and 30 minutes. The Claimant was then escorted to a nearby police station and detained for around 5 hours before being released with no further action. The Claimant was not interviewed whilst he was in custody.
Mr C contacted Higgs Newton Kenyon Solicitors who accepted instructions on a no-win no-fee basis. We highlighted the following issues;
Police have numerous powers to enter and search a property, section 18 specifically deals with search of premises after an arrest has been executed of a person who controls or occupies a property. Mr C was not under arrest when the police officer’s entered and began the search of the property this rendered the search unlawful.
Under Section 28 of PACE an individual who is under arrest must be advised why, as soon as practicable if they are not then the period between when they are arrested until when they are told why would be rendered unlawful imprisonment. Mr C was not told why he was under arrest until he attended the police station around 2 hours after his initial arrest. In our professional opinion this was not as soon as practicable which would render the 2 hours unlawful imprisonment.
In very brief terms, a police officer executing an arrest must have reasonable grounds to suspect the individual has committed an offence/committing an offence and secondly the officer must have reasonable grounds for deeming the arrest necessary.
In this particular case an allegation had been made against Mr C which in our professional opinion would satisfy the low threshold test of reasonable suspicion however the arresting officers rationale for executing the arrest was to;
In our professional opinion,we deemed these reasons would not suffice in Court given that when Mr C was released he was released without any bail conditions. Further the necessity to continue the search would not be a viable reason given this undermines the use of the search warrant procedure. It was further concerning that our client was not interviewed which raises questions as to why it was so necessary to arrest Mr C.
Demi initiated a complaint to the professional standards department for Kent Police. Kent Police admitted failings in that they had entered Mr C’s property incorrectly and management action was imposed on the officers who dealt with Mr C.
Demi initiated a civil claim against the Chief Constable of Kent Police for;
Liability was admitted for the trespass to Mr C’s property however all other aspects to the claim were denied. We set out the Claimants case to the Defendant and before the issue of Court proceedings, the parties agreed to a settlement.
The police must abide by the law. Provisions are put in place to protect the publics human rights. The Police cannot look at matters in a retrospective light, if the power they are using at the time is incorrect they cannot in hindsight rely on a different power as it would be more suitable/lawful. The Defendants officers used the wrong power to enter the property and that is why they admitted liability.
Although the Defendant didn’t agree to the other aspects of the claim, the Claimant was still compensated.
This area of law is very complex and anyone who thinks they have been mistreated at the hands of the police should seek a professional opinion. Anyone wanting further advice should contact our civil liberties department on 0151 203 1104.
Case Type –
Civil action against the police
File Handler –
Demi Drury – Solicitor (Civil Actions against the Police)
On 18th September 2015 our client (“P”), was at home when his property was entered with force by Police Officers of Gwent Police. This force resulted in damage costing around £3,000. The Police officers were acting under a warrant issued by Caerphilly Magistrates Court under the Misuse of Drugs Act. P was immediately handcuffed as his home was searched however the search ultimately proved negative.
P was confused as to why his home was suspected or why the Magistrates Court would grant such a Warrant. P raised his concerns with the attending Sergeant/Inspector who confirmed the damage would be paid for by the Police force (“Defendant”).
When a warrant is applied for, the applicant must offer full and frank disclosure supporting why a warrant should be granted.
P engaged in correspondence with the Defendant from 24th September 2015 to January 2016. The Claimant experienced long delays and was constantly told to wait for a response which eventually resulted in the Defendant refusing to pay for the damage caused to his property.
In January 2016, P approached Higgs Newton Kenyon Solicitors (HNK) to act on his behalf in the matter. We were happy to accept instructions on a No-Win No-Fee agreement.
HNK had immediate concerns regarding the documents in support of warrant given pages from a Police National Computer Document and a Custody Record were missing. The pages that were missing later proved crucial in proving P’s claim that the address given to the Magistrates was incorrect.
The Defendant made an offer (£1750) in May 2016 however given this sum did not even cover the damage of the property this offer was rejected. The Claimant had no alternative but to make an immediate Judicial Review application on the grounds that inaccurate/misleading information had been put before the Magistrate.
The Defendant filed an acknowledgement of service which included the full Police National Computer Document and the Custody Record. It was noted that the pages that were previously omitted from pre-action disclosure showed that the last known address for the individual wanted was not that of the P’s address. The particular individual sought had been subject to a curfew order at a different address around 4 months prior to the incident. This information was available to the Defendant at the time of the warrant application however was clearly not presented to the Magistrate.
Mr Henry Gow (Barrister of New Bailey Chambers) for P attended the Judicial Hearing and permission was granted on the ground that the Defendants officer placed inaccurate information before the Magistrate. This meant a full hearing would be set to consider the case in full.
The full Judicial Review hearing was listed for 2nd March 2017.
In February 2017 liability was admitted by the Defendant and we agreed an out of Court settlement in the sum of £7,500.00. The aforementioned Judicial Review proceedings were subsequently vacated due to a settlement being agreed.
Professional Opinion –
Police entry to a property may be unlawful even if a warrant has been executed. Sometimes these matters can be complex and anyone wanting to contest the validity of a warrant should seek legal advice as a matter of urgency.
There is a statute of limitation in place which only permits claims to be submitted within 3 months of the incident occurring. Acting expeditiously is a must. P made his application late but due to the hard work of both Demi and Mr Gow in finding the discrepancies within the documents the Police were relying on and persuasive submissions of Mr Gow, permission for Judicial Review was granted.
The Police have a duty to offer full and frank disclosure to the Magistrates Court when applying for a warrant, if they do not then a warrant maybe issued incorrectly. The obtaining of a warrant if authorised grants the invasion of a person’s home. All the material necessary to justify its grant should be provided to the Court.
If the police fail to disclose all relevant information/documentation and a warrant is granted on inaccurate or misleading grounds, the warrant can be voided and a person subject to the warrant may be entitled to damages.
Anyone, wanting further advice should contact our actions against the police department.
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