Publications on the internet
UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 494-iv
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Home Affairs Committee
Independent Police Complaints Commission
Tuesday 13 November 2012
Keir Starmer QC and Nazir Afzal OBE
Dame Anne Owers DBE, Ruth Evans and Jane Furniss
Evidence heard in Public Questions 193 - 352
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.
Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 13 November 2012
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, and Nazir Afzal OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor, North West Area, gave evidence.
Q193 Chair: I refer everyone present to the Register of Members’ Interests where the interests of members of the Committee are noted, and welcome the Director of Public Prosecutions and Mr Afzal. This first session relates partly to our inquiry on child grooming but also to our inquiry and our monitoring of the situation post-Hillsborough. We will then take evidence from other witnesses after that.
May I start with you, Mr Starmer? Thank you for coming in. I know it has been difficult to arrange diaries, but we are most grateful to you for coming, and Mr Afzal. I want to start with child grooming, the work that the CPS is doing and the statement that you made on 24 October that the CPS had failed grooming victims. That is a very serious statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions. How did you fail the victims of child grooming?
Keir Starmer: I think that was the headline rather than my words, but the point I was trying to make was this, and it was not restricted to the Crown Prosecution Service. It was the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and, to some extent, the courts as well. What I was driving at was this, and I think this is for us the single biggest challenge when it comes to grooming. The tests of reliability and credibility that the police, prosecutors and courts traditionally use for witnesses and victims do not work for young children subject to systematic abuse. In any case, a prosecutor has to reach a decision on whether or not there is a realistic prospect of conviction. There are a number of tests for that, which are used in cases, such as when the person came forward, whether they have been consistent, whether they have given one account and not deviated from it, whether there is other supporting evidence, in sexual offences whether they have gone back to the perpetrator, etc. There are also issues relating to drink and drugs. These are obviously useful tests for any prosecutor. The problem, I think, when it comes to grooming is that whenever those tests are applied to this category of victim, you would almost invariably get the wrong results when you are assessing credibility and reliability. One of the things we did in light of the Rochdale ultimately successful prosecution was to walk through the decision making from start to finish, from when the case first came to us, and then after that to gather together other cases we have throughout the organisation.
Q194 Chair: We will come on to that in a minute, but what concerns me is the fact that clearly for years there have been victims of child grooming. This has involved the CPS, the police and social services, yet, for example, if you look at this year, before you made your announcement and before you appointed Mr Afzal-something that I welcome in respect of the action you have taken-there were no prosecutions for child grooming in South Yorkshire, for example, in the whole of this year. That is a pretty big indictment of the way in which these matters are conducted, though we know because we read about the victims and the Committee has heard evidence from others that this is going on. Mr Afzal himself in the statements that he has made has said that this is going on, but at the end of the day there have been no prosecutions.
Keir Starmer: No, I understand the concern. What we have tried to do is to walk through our decisions and to front up to where there have been problems in the past and to make sure that we are in a position to deal with them now. Part of the problem is a lot of the evidence that I think has been given to this Committee is evidence that has been collated other than by the police. There is then the evidence that the police have put together, and then there is the evidence they have passed to us. What has tended to happen in the past is that the police have presented a few cases to us but as individual cases. Our prosecutors then assessed those individual cases using the tests that I have just described and concluded that in the particular case the reliability and credibility of the witness is such that there is not a realistic prospect of a conviction. Now, that is because they have applied these traditional tests. The challenge for us-so when you look at it in that way, you can see why that could happen.
Q195 Chair: But it may well be the case that in terms of what has happened in the past there are cases where, had they not applied the tests that you were mentioning, people ought to have been prosecuted.
Keir Starmer: Well, that may be and it may not be. I mean, the-
Q196 Chair: Well, you will not know until you look at those files, will you?
Keir Starmer: No, because-having articulated the tests that, as it were, should not be applied, there is a much bigger challenge, which is if you do not apply the usual tests of credibility and reliability, what is your test of whether you are going to be able to succeed in this particular case? If you put on one side inconsistency, you put on one side late complaint, and you put on one side going back to the perpetrator, you put on one side that they may have been under the influence, put on one side they may have told inconsistencies in other accounts-which I do understand, and we have to do that; that is our challenge-there is then an even bigger challenge: what are you going to put in its place if you are now going not to over-steer and simply prosecute every case where any allegation is ever made?
Q197 Chair: Of course. But what is going to happen to those past cases?
Keir Starmer: Can I just come to that? Part of our analysis is that the key here for us is to ask the police, when we see an isolated case, what the surrounding cases are, so that we can make the links, etc. That is the process that is going on.
Q198 Chair: Sure. We will come to Mr Afzal in a second, but what are we going to do about the past cases that we have not been able to prosecute for the reasons that you very articulately and eloquently tell the Committee today? What about all those that have gone by the way?
Keir Starmer: Well, what we do, in areas such as the North West what the police are doing is actively engaging in a review of the decisions they have made in the past and we are part of that review with them, so we are looking at those decisions again.
Q199 Chair: All the cases?
Keir Starmer: Well, I am not sure it is all of the cases, but they have an approach that they have agreed as to what they will reinvestigate, because this has to start, in a sense, with the police. What we need to do is to make sure that an arrangement like that is replicated around the country so that we can go through the exercise that you rightly say needs to be gone through, which is to look at cases that have historically come to us as one-offs and see whether there are links. I think in the main it will require us to ask the police to do further work, but part of our responsibility is to say to the police there is more work that needs to be done here.
Q200 Chair: I understand that. Mr Afzal, you have now been appointed to this new post to head this network. You have been very vocal in the past about the importance of prosecuting those responsible. How are you now going to take this forward? How do you see it being different from what has been happening in the past?
Nazir Afzal: Chair, when I have given evidence before to this Committee on honour-based violence and forced marriage, I have always talked about the fact that where you have hidden criminality, as we have discovered clearly in relation to child sexual exploitation, the answer is to look, the answer is to begin to believe, the answer is to build very strong cases and preferably without relying entirely upon the victim, which is what we have had to do particularly in Rochdale. The network is in addition to my day job-I remain Chief Prosecutor for the North West-but it is about ensuring that there are specialist prosecutors throughout the country who understand, as the Director just said a moment ago, the specific dynamics about these types of crimes in order to assist the police locally about what they should be looking for in order to build stronger cases and in order to take those cases to court. I have publicly said we made mistakes in relation to the way Rochdale was dealt with back in-
Q201 Chair: "We", the CPS, or is it the network of organisations?
Nazir Afzal: Oh, absolutely, I think the evidence you have taken from every agency suggests that there were gaps, if that is a kind word, in the way that organisations have been dealing with it, whether it was local authorities or those charged with safeguarding or police, even prosecutors in this particular instance. I think that one of the things that we have learnt, one of the bits of learning, is about connecting the dots-that somebody somewhere has information. Previously, I think the Director made the point that that information is held tightly by a particular organisation and not shared more widely. What we would like to be able to do is, using the multi-agency approach that we have, ensure that people think about what that information could mean if it is added to something else that somebody else holds. What we are doing in the North West, which I can speak for, because I think that is now good practice based on our experience following Rochdale, is ensuring that we actively work with the police in identifying cases that can be strengthened and can be taken forward. You may have seen last week nine new defendants were charged just in Rochdale in relation to a new alleged network. I have something like 28 defendants just in the North West, who are already charged and being proceeded with in relation to this type of activity. You heard from Greater Manchester Police when they gave evidence that we are talking now of dozens of alleged victims and dozens of alleged suspects, and that is because we are looking.
Q202 Mr Winnick: Mr Afzal, what puzzles, I would imagine, my colleagues on this Committee but certainly myself is simply this. Until you arrived on the scene and decided to take action in Rochdale, despite all that was going on-and there was sufficient evidence, I would have thought, of these vile practices, sordid and sick, which have shocked the country, not only in Rochdale-no action was taken. What made you decide there was sufficient evidence that would stand up in a court of law?
Nazir Afzal: Firstly, I am not going to take the credit for this. Operation Retriever took place before my time in Derbyshire. There has been some good practice throughout the country and in understanding of this type of behaviour. What happened in the Rochdale case was that evidently a new investigative team, you heard from the Greater Manchester Police, were instructed to look at the circumstances around the particular victims that we were dealing with. They identified that there was a ringleader who had not been prosecuted, and they quite rightly brought it to our attention. I decided to look at the case and instructed one of my very senior and very experienced lawyers, Fran Gough, to look at it in great detail. As a result of what she came up with, it was, to use a phrase, a no-brainer on my part to be able to say that there was, in fact, sufficient evidence. Again, the Director’s point, on its own maybe there was not, but you link it up with other bits of information being held by different other agencies or by the police themselves, and it becomes a case that has some robustness about it. By reversing a decision that was taken, as you now know, in 2009, which was in my view and the view of everybody now wrong, it enabled us to maintain, I think, public confidence in being able to take this forward. What the Director has tasked me with is to ensure that whatever good practice we have developed around Rochdale and the child sexual exploitation in the North West is rolled out and used everywhere. But let’s be clear about this. This happens everywhere. It may well come in different forms. The vast majority of it takes place with white males being involved, but the point is recognising that there was a particular issue, it was one that we had to address, and we are now being seen to address it.
Q203 Mr Winnick: Do you think that in Rochdale-we know it goes on elsewhere, we know there is no particular group that has a monopoly in this vile and sick practice, we know that only too well, but do you think in Rochdale the ring has been broken?
Nazir Afzal: That particular ring has been. As I said, we have just charged another nine people from Rochdale.
Q204 Mr Winnick: Perhaps I should not use the word "ring"; I should have used "activity".
Nazir Afzal: This activity is going on and continues to go on. Bizarrely, I was driving through a certain part of the north of England and I could see it with my own eyes. I am no policeman-
Q205 Chair: You could see what with your own eyes?
Nazir Afzal: I could see grown men with young girls who clearly were not their daughters in a situation or a particular situation that caused me concern, and I actually did something with that information. The point is, I think there is a responsibility on all of us. When I first went to Rochdale, which was bizarrely after these convictions, people were saying, "Nazir, do you want a team of whistleblowers?" No, I want the members of the community, as they are now doing, providing information, providing intelligence, which enables the police to build strong cases, which enables us to build strong cases. I think that there is a lot of good, bizarrely, that has come out of perhaps the poor performance there was initially in Rochdale across all agencies. That good is something we want to ensure that everybody has.
Q206 Steve McCabe: I was interested in the point you were making there about maybe the need for specialist prosecutors and this requirement to link things up that people in different agencies seem to miss. Are you suggesting that there should be a slightly enhanced investigative role for prosecutors in these kinds of cases, perhaps a bit closer to the Procurator Fiscal system in Scotland? I am not trying to sell that idea, but I am interested that one of the persistent features of these cases seems to be the way different agencies do not connect the threads, and that seems to be a central point of your argument.
Keir Starmer: I would deal with that across the organisation because one of the things we have worked on in the last four years a lot is our violence against women and girls strategy. We have put in place specialist prosecutors. We have rape and serious sexual assault units in each of our areas, and you can only be in that unit if you have had specialist training because we realised that we needed that for ourselves. We have also tried to encourage the police to come to us early so that although we have no power of direction over them, we can ask them to look at certain lines of investigation rather than waiting, as happened, in fact, in the Rochdale case, to the very end of the police investigation. At the end of perhaps a single allegation the file comes to us months after the event. If they come early and we do our job properly, then I think that is a recipe for better success in the future. Part of the point of the network then is that while we have 13 teams of specialists across the country, what I want to make sure is that the journey that the North West has been through and the lessons that we have learnt with them are learnt simultaneously by all of our teams. What I now expect is if there is a team in Derby, Nottingham, wherever it is, that has a case, through that network they share experience with the team that has just succeeded in Rochdale, so that we are as joined up as we can be as an organisation. I accept that that was not the situation a number of years ago, but they are some of the steps we have taken to try to put that right now.
Q207 Chair: There are now a number of different inquiries into child sex abuse. There is the North Wales inquiry, as you know. There is another inquiry into North Wales. There is the Savile inquiry, which is called Yewtree. Sorry, what is the name of the Metropolitan Police inquiry? I have forgotten.
Keir Starmer: I think it is Yewtree.
Q208 Chair: It is Yewtree. You have your own inquiries up in Rochdale, then there is Rotherham and South Yorkshire. Do you think there is now a case for an overarching inquiry that will bring together all these various strands? Because the problem might be each one of these will report separately. There may be duplication but the worst part of it all is at the end of it there would be a need to bring all these various strands together. Is it perhaps time, as Mr Gamble said this morning, that you should actually have one inquiry encompassing all these different child sex abuse allegations?
Keir Starmer: I recognise there may be a case for an overarching inquiry for all the reasons that you have articulated. So far as we are concerned, the only issue really is timing. I am hoping that our review of the decisions on Jimmy Savile will not take much longer. We are now working with the North Wales team. I can see the case for an overarching inquiry at some stage to pull all of the strands together and to ensure that all of the findings are put in one place and all the best practice is brought together for everybody to share.
Q209 Chair: When would you like to see that happen? Because at the moment everyone has started their various inquiries, and there seems to be no co-ordination. I accept what you said about the CPS. You are co-ordinating good practice through your appointment of Mr Afzal to do this, but other agencies do not seem to be co-ordinating things. The National Crime Agency is there, but it is just looking at North Wales.
Keir Starmer: Yes. I am not sure about the timing. What I want to do is to ensure that we have reviewed our decisions in the Jimmy Savile case sooner rather than later, and we are pushing on with that. I hope that I-
Q210 Chair: Before Christmas?
Keir Starmer: Yes, I would hope to be able to report on that. Once I have that review, it will give me a better sense of what went on in that case. Obviously, we are working with the NCA and the North Wales Police on the inquiry there. We started the scoping work last week in a meeting with them. I just need to take stock of that, but I do accept the points you make about an overarching inquiry.
Q211 Chair: A final question on child grooming, before we turn to Hillsborough: are there any changes to court procedure that would make it easier for the CPS to prosecute cases of local grooming?
Keir Starmer: I am not sure it is procedure. We have special measures that we can apply for in these cases, but there is an issue, which is assuming we make the right decision about prosecution and assuming the case, therefore, starts, it is extremely difficult in practice to keep the victims and witnesses on board for the prosecution. It was a struggle in the North West and it is a struggle in all the other cases, because most of these youngsters do not trust the authorities, they do not think they are going to deliver for them, and we are constantly battling to keep them on board so that the challenge is not so much what happens in the courtroom; the challenge for us is, can we get from charge to getting into the court door and hold the case together for that period? There is a huge amount of support that has to go on in that period of time to ensure that the cases do reach court. When they get to court, we do have special measures.
There are issues that the court itself is concerned with through special measures and other techniques, which is the extent to which all victims, but particularly children, are sometimes put through the ordeal again when it comes to the way in which they give their evidence. There can be many days of cross-examination. One of the other features of these cases that we cannot leave out of account is that it is quite likely you will be dealing with a victim who has previously made allegations, whether to police or to social services, which may not be found to have been true. Because of the rules of evidence now, all of that can be explored in court as well. I would not say to this Committee there is a procedure we would like to see changed, but I would like the Committee to appreciate that even where we have managed to get enough evidence to charge, that journey from charge to court door is a very difficult one for us.
Q212 Chair: That is very helpful. Yes, Mr Afzal?
Nazir Afzal: Just on that point, I have never known victims who require as much support as victims of child sexual exploitation. One of the young ladies in Rochdale said, "I’m a tramp, why should anybody believe me?" We had to build her self-esteem and her confidence, never mind provide her with the bespoke witness care that we did. I think that we should not underestimate the amount of effort that we have to put in to keep them with us.
Q213 Chair: Indeed, and actually a question I ought to have put to you, which I put to other witnesses, and other members of the Committee have, over the issue of the race of those involved: do you think that there is a racial element to this? It has been said it is groups of Pakistani men and young white girls, and that is where the exploitation happens. What is your take on that?
Nazir Afzal: From my perspective, it is an issue but not the issue. The issue here is predators preying on the most vulnerable in our society. They just happen to be from a particular ethnicity. What is little known is just in the Rochdale case the so-called ringleader was subsequently prosecuted successfully for raping an Asian woman. Similarly, only last week a white man, John Tatton, was prosecuted for sexual offences against one of the victims in the Rochdale case. So you have a white man, you have an Asian female, you have a white female-it is much more complex than people would like to think it is. From my perspective, we just need to have a better and richer picture, really, in order for us to make some judgments on it.
Q214 Chair: That is very helpful. Let us now move to Hillsborough. As if you did not have enough on your plate at DPP, you now have Hillsborough.
Keir Starmer: Good to prep for two different topics.
Chair: We are not conducting an inquiry; we are monitoring outcomes. We had the families in here to see us and they were very, very firm on this. They believed that there was a possibility that people would lose track, following the excellent statement of the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and others following the publication of Hillsborough, on trying to find out who is responsible. They came to us and suggested that you as the DPP should have overall responsibility for co-ordinating all the activities post-Hillsborough; in other words, not having another inquiry but getting on with looking at the 450,000 pages of the report and prosecuting those responsible. Is this a job that you want to take on?
Keir Starmer: Well, there are a number of independent players in all this, and it simply is not possible for any single individual such as myself to take on that role, not least because I do not have a power of direction over some of the other bodies. What I think is very important is that it is as co-ordinated as it possibly can be and that we collectively deliver for the families something that has not been delivered for them for many years. We all have an obligation to work very closely together. Because a number of the investigators in the end will come to us for prosecutorial decisions, it puts us in a position where we can in the loosest sense of the word co-ordinate some of what is going on, but we cannot and should not replace the independent decision makers in those independent bodies.
One of the reasons we took the action we did, which was to say at the outset we will review the available material, is because what I did not want to happen was the various investigations to take place, at the end of that exercise different files to be submitted to us by different bodies and at that stage we would then review. What I thought we at least owed the families now was for us to say, contrary to the usual approach, we will do the review up front so that we can now help the investigators by identifying what we think are the gaps, if there are any, and advise as to where investigations might go.
Q215 Chair: That all sounds very sensible. However, there is a lack of co-ordination, is there not? The Home Secretary has written to this Committee. She does have certain powers to appoint a special prosecutor. We have no history in this country of having a person who can co-ordinate after an event of this kind.
Keir Starmer: I do not think she has power to appoint a special prosecutor. What we have to do here-
Q216 Chair: What does she have the power to do if she wants to get better co-ordination?
Keir Starmer: Well, I think the important thing at the moment is to identify what areas need to be investigated, and it seems to me-
Q217 Chair: Who is doing that?
Keir Starmer: Well, there is a team that are working away, are meeting-
Q218 Chair: Your team?
Keir Starmer: Yes, we go to meetings regularly to co-ordinate on this issue. We have had a number of meetings already and we have a number of meetings coming up. What we are trying to identify there is what needs to be investigated, who is going to investigate, how are we going to lock the thing together, not to trespass on independent decision making, to make sure that we are all locked together in this.
Q219 Chair: Who chairs that meeting?
Keir Starmer: Well, I think it varies. Some of the meetings have been chaired at the Home Office. I think there is a meeting coming up that we are convening, but contrary perhaps to the way people think we might be operating, I do not think there is any great sense that anyone wants to determine who is going to chair. We all recognise we have to play our part.
Q220 Chair: I asked that because there are different independent agencies. Nobody wants to step on each other’s toes. Is it Stephen Rimmer at the Home Office? Is it the Home Secretary? Who will be the ultimate person who will say, "This is not going fast enough. We are letting the families down for a second time. This needs to be done or that needs to be done"? You are saying you are not the person who can do that because that is not within your powers, so who does that?
Keir Starmer: Well, I am saying that my view is that the different bodies must get on with their tasks independently as they are required to do, but that we should co-ordinate and agree terms of reference, memoranda of understanding, sharing of information, etc., so that that is locked in together so that team A knows what team B is doing, and that if information is uncovered by one investigative team, another team know about it and that we as prosecutors know about it. The four areas that we are looking at are the layout and planning of the ground; the organisation on the day, including the club; the policing on the day; and the aftermath. Different bits will be looked at by different teams. That is the locking together and co-ordination. We are actually all working together hard on that.
Chair: I am sure.
Keir Starmer: There is then the question, should there be somebody outside of that who is at least able to ask that co-ordinated team how they are getting on? We are attending to that at the moment, thinking through what that body might be.
Q221 Chair: A body as opposed to an individual?
Keir Starmer: Well, I do not know whether it is body or individuals, but it obviously has to be something that we think is going to work, which does not-
Q222 Chair: So you are currently doing work to bring this all together?
Keir Starmer: It has to be something that we think will work for the purposes of the investigation and any possible prosecutions. It has to be something that does not trespass on the independence of the decision makers. It also has to be something, to my mind, that the families have confidence on. As you can imagine, there are a number of discussions going on to try to ensure that we can come up with something that fits all those criteria.
Q223 Chair: Is there a timetable for these discussions?
Keir Starmer: There is not a fixed timetable, but we are moving fast. We are having meetings probably every week just at the moment.
Chair: The is very helpful.
Q224 Michael Ellis: Director, clearly it is a massive undertaking, and I thank you for the work that you and your team have been doing on this so far. It is very important work, as no doubt you recognise. As the Prime Minister said, truth needs to be followed by justice. I am very concerned, as we all are, to have heard about police officers who were changing statements and deleting passages unhelpful to their case as they saw it. This is more than just collaboration, if true. This is actually perverting the course of justice, isn’t it?
Keir Starmer: Well, potentially it is and it is very serious, and I accept that. What I am going to avoid is saying too much about it because some of those cases may end up on my desk for obvious reasons, but I do not resist the thrust of what you are saying.
Q225 Michael Ellis: Now, serving police officers clearly will be appalled, but does the IPCC have no role as far as former officers are concerned? Do you envisage any possibility that the IPCC could have a role if an individual has left and is no longer serving as a police officer, perhaps even for some years? Is there any way that the IPCC can provide information to you as the Director of Public Prosecutions to help you deliver justice for the Hillsborough families?
Keir Starmer: I think the finer points of the jurisdiction of the IPCC might be better for the IPCC, with respect, because I know they are obviously carefully looking into that. My own view is that whoever the investigator is, there needs to be this co-ordinated response. What we cannot do is leave unturned any stone that needs to be turned over simply because we do not have the right investigative team in place. That is my major concern, but as to their specific jurisdiction I think that is really a matter for them, if you do not mind.
Q226 Michael Ellis: You are focused on building the team that can deliver this mammoth undertaking, is that what you are saying?
Keir Starmer: Yes. I do not think it is fair for the victims in this to say that there is some reason why something that needs to be investigated cannot be investigated. We owe it collectively to the families to deliver that.
Q227 Michael Ellis: How best can that be delivered?
Keir Starmer: I think by us being clear as prosecutors as to the areas that we envisage might need investigation; hence the review of all the material so that we are clear. Take the football club or even some of the planning authorities, etc.; it seems to me that the IPCC would not have jurisdiction in relation to all of the potential defendants here. We need to assess the material, work out what it shows us at the moment, what other further lines of inquiry are possible, and we absolutely need to make sure that there is a body that has jurisdiction to investigate whatever needs to be investigated. That is our responsibility, and that is what I told the families.
Q228 Michael Ellis: Could you elaborate a little on timetable as far as that is concerned? I appreciate that you want to do this thoroughly; we would all support you in that. As I have said before on this Committee, justice delayed is justice denied, and so, with that in mind, how long are we talking about?
Keir Starmer: Well, I have put a team in place. We have identified the members of our team, and we have some of the material to that team. There is a huge amount of work-
Michael Ellis: There is.
Keir Starmer: -roughly speaking, 450,000 documents. We will work through that as swiftly as we can in co-operation with the investigators.
Meanwhile and in parallel, there is the question of whether there will be new inquests, which the High Court will deal with hopefully sooner rather than later. What I want to do if at all possible is to make sure that by the time a coroner is identified, if appointed, I am in a position to have a meaningful conversation with him or her about the timetabling from there on in. I see it in stages. It would not be sensible for me to put a rigid timetable round this, but you can take it from me we are working swiftly on this. I am conscious of the fact that it is incumbent on us to deliver as swiftly as we can given the delay there has been already.
Q229 Michael Ellis: Just finally from me, you are confident about the co-ordination element? There are a number of entities that will need to be co-ordinated, aren’t there; as you say, the coroner, the Crown Prosecution Service, others-
Keir Starmer: Yes, and I am doing as much as I can, along with others who are doing as much as they can, to make sure that it is co-ordinated and it is joined up, and there is a lot of goodwill there to make sure that it happens. We have to keep on at that and not just do it at the beginning and lose it 3, 6 or 9 months down the line. I am conscious of that, and that is a discussion I had with some of the families when I met them.
Q230 Mark Reckless: Mr Starmer, this Committee is trying to clarify who is doing this co-ordinating role and how far that can be done within the legislative regime. Lord Falconer gave evidence to us on 16 October, and I think he had had a meeting with you the previous day, Tuesday, 15 October. He said, "The Director of Public Prosecutions has to make the decision finally as to whether prosecutions are brought, but he can also have a co-ordinating role making sure that there is no overlap and no unnecessary delay." He then went on to say, "The Director of Public Prosecutions was absolutely clear that if it required further investigation he will do it." Was Lord Falconer mistaken in telling us that?
Keir Starmer: I am not sure what he meant by further investigation. I was very clear with the families, and that is that we owe them a collective response, this must be co-ordinated, and we must all work as swiftly as we can to give them that co-ordinated response, and I stick by that. I am willing to play my part in that. Because in the end we will be the decision maker on any prosecutions, if we are involved early with all investigators it gives at least the opportunity of us having knowledge of the different investigations and being able to see across the piece in a way that perhaps others cannot. I do not think it allows me to trespass on other people’s independence, and I do not want to do so, but I do think that I must do all I can to play my part in co-ordinating this.
Q231 Mark Reckless: Mr Starmer, nothing I say is intended at all to be critical of you or the role that you have taken in this, and I think we all want to see justice as quickly as we possibly can for the Hillsborough families. It may be there are some issues of the current regime that may limit the co-ordination that is possible, which legislators may wish to look at. Could I just ask about another piece of evidence that we had from Lord Falconer? He said, "The IPCC is considering whether or not they should bring criminal charges". Is that possible, or would it have to be you who brought the criminal charges were that to happen?
Keir Starmer: Well, in the end we would make the decision but they take a prior decision, which is whether there is enough evidence for criminal charges to pass it across to us. They have a critical role in this, and they, of course, can look much wider at misconduct as well as criminal conduct. Their remit is much wider than ours, which is another good reason why it would not be appropriate for me to lead on their issues. But if it comes to a prosecution ultimately, we will have to decide as the CPS whether to prosecute.
Q232 Mark Reckless: The timetabling of the coroner’s reopening of the inquest relative to other investigations or potential prosecutions: is that entirely a decision for the coroner?
Keir Starmer: Well, assuming for a moment there is a coroner appointed, the position then is-and this is the general position-that if there is an investigation going on, that does not necessarily hold up the inquest procedure, but if there is a charging decision, that does have implications under the statute and rules for coroners. Usually, an inquest would then pause until the determination of those charges. That is not automatically the case, and that is one of the conversations I think I would envisage having with the coroner if we are at that stage. Again, I am very conscious of the fact that the families, as far as I understand, do not want things to go slowly because one body is finishing off what they have to do before another starts. So we have to tread carefully, but I do not think an investigation is an inhibitor for the inquest procedure continuing. If there is a charge, we will have to have a conversation about that.
Q233 Mark Reckless: To the extent that it is possible for there to be an overall co-ordinating role, is that something that you will be taking on, or is the Home Secretary taking that role or is anyone else; or is there not really scope for such a co-ordinating role?
Keir Starmer: I do not think I am making myself clear. The various bodies involved are already co-ordinating. We have met a number of times and we intend to meet in the near future. We are collectively co-ordinating this. What we have not arrived at is a final set of arrangements that are satisfactory to everybody because they have to meet a number of tests, if you like, not least, as I said, the confidence of families. But we are working hard on that, and I do not want, if I may, the Committee to be left with the impression that we are not meeting and trying to put together a co-ordinated set of arrangements, respecting, as I say, the independence that has to be respected but making sure that collectively we are delivering a co-ordinated response.
Q234 Mark Reckless: A final question if I may, Chair: if the result does take a substantial period of time, longer than the families might wish, if you come to any conclusions during that process as to the cause of those delays or if you have any recommendations as to the way the process might work better, would you be able to report back to this Committee, particularly to the extent that it is the legislative provisions that may inevitably lead to issues with the speed of this overall process?
Keir Starmer: If there are legislative issues, then of course I am very anxious that we should make progress as quickly as possible. If we hit insuperable problems, then obviously I would happily report back to this Committee. I would also want to do something about it.
Q235 Dr Huppert: It is a pleasure having you give evidence again, Mr Starmer. Just following up on that last question, are you saying there is some possibility that you might be asking for legislative change to enable better investigation or prosecution? I assume we are not talking about any retrospective criminal offences, but are you saying there is some possibility that structural legislative change would be needed?
Keir Starmer: No, I do not see it in that way at the moment. I think that it is in many ways more simple than that. We as prosecutors need to be clear as to the likely identity of offences and offenders, and we need to ensure that there is an appropriate investigator for each of those categories and that we can work in a co-ordinated way. At the moment, from a prosecutorial point of view, I have not identified any legislative issues that we need to overcome. That is not to say there could not be legislation that might smooth out one or two bits of it, but at the moment I would be very surprised if we could not put a co-ordinated set of arrangements in place to deal with the extent of the conduct that we need to look at. I can’t see any inefficiencies, certainly not on us as the CPS.
Q236 Dr Huppert: Thank you very much. If I can now move on to the general issue with the IPCC and issues around the powers the IPCC ultimately has to interview officers who were witnesses to events, you will know that there have been a number of concerns about that and officers not having to answer questions. Do you think there has ever been a situation where a case has fallen because the IPCC did not have the power to insist on interviewing an officer who was a witness to an event?
Keir Starmer: No, I do not think that is the case. One of the things I think the Committee is concerned about is why very few of the cases that have been brought have succeeded. I have done some thinking about that, but I do not think I could say there has been a case where, but for that power to interview, the case would not have fallen. It is a complicated legal issue. If you compel people to give answers, the usual result is you cannot use them in a criminal case. Therefore, whatever the arrangements are they have to be quite carefully thought through. There is obviously an advantage to have an early account. There are consequences if that is a compelled account when it comes to criminal proceedings. Whatever thinking there needs to be needs to just bear that in mind.
Q237 Dr Huppert: The IPCC currently is somewhat restricted to police officers and police staff. There are, of course, private contractors now with custody and other responsibilities. Would it be helpful if they were brought into the same remit? Would that help in ultimate prosecutions if they were in the same role in terms of the IPCC investigations of answering questions?
Keir Starmer: I am not sure. The fact that other bodies are investigated by other investigators does not inhibit a prosecution, but I can see that there is sense where some criminal justice functions are privatised and some are not but it is a team working together that it is sensible to look at all of the conduct in the round. I can see an advantage in it. I do not think it can be assumed that without it it is impossible to make progress in these other cases, but I can see a case for a more co-ordinated approach.
Q238 Dr Huppert: That is very helpful. Just one last question if I may, Chair. In 2004, the IPCC agreed to liaise with the CPS at the earliest opportunity in the most serious cases, so that there could be a lawyer allocated and there could be consultation for advice. I believe you have recently agreed a new memorandum on exactly the same issue.
Keir Starmer: I hope the Committee have it.
Dr Huppert: I think we do have it. The question I was going to ask is: is the IPCC, in your view, doing everything possible it can to help you bring prosecutions?
Keir Starmer: Yes. Over the last two years we have worked really closely with the IPCC to learn lessons about the way we conduct ourselves. One of the issues we identified was early co-ordination when it comes to investigations and possible prosecutions. We put an MOU in place. We have practical guidance in place, and that works very well. We now get very early notification of cases.
Q239 Dr Huppert: So you are happy with everything the IPCC is doing to help you?
Keir Starmer: Well, there is an issue, which I know concerns the Committee, and that is why cases in particular relating to those who die in custody in the broadest sense do not succeed at court. I think it is quite important to drill down into those to understand what the nature of the problem is.
Can I just give the Committee the figures? Because doing the best we can with the records we have, in the last 12 years we have charged individuals in relation to 10 incidents where someone has died in police custody. That includes fatal shooting, in custody itself and after contact with the police. Within those 10 incidents, that means we have charged 25 individuals plus the commissioner in the Stockwell case. When you break those down, four of those cases were for manslaughter. In the last 12 years there have been four manslaughter cases before our courts. Two of them were for positive acts, something that was done; that was a shooting in the Ashley case and a push in the Tomlinson case. Two were for failure to act, manslaughter by gross negligence, and that was a case involving victim Michelle Wood, and Dr El-Baroudy, who was prosecuted earlier this year. None were convicted. In the Ashley case the matter was withdrawn from the jury by the judge. In all the others the individuals were acquitted. The other 25 individuals that we have charged in that 12-year period were mainly for misconduct in public office, in one case health and safety at work, which usually included things like failure to carry out duties properly but not causative necessarily of death. One was convicted. One pleaded guilty to misconduct. The Commissioner was found guilty of a breach of health and safety at work provisions in the Stockwell case. All the others were either withdrawn by the court or acquitted. In a sense, the idea that no case has been brought is wrong. Can I go on, if it is helpful to the Committee, just to give you our analysis of what-
Q240 Chair: If you can do it as briefly as possible. We have other witnesses, and I know you have to be away.
Keir Starmer: I am happy to share it with the Committee in writing if that is more helpful.
Chair: That would be extremely helpful if you could do that. Thank you. David Winnick, do you have any follow-ups?
Q241 Mr Winnick: As far as death in police custody is concerned, you have given the information to my colleague. Just one point: there has been a development, has there not, in the Sean Rigg case? Would you like to give us details about that?
Keir Starmer: Well, I think it is right-
Q242 Chair: We do have the chair of the IPCC coming to give evidence immediately after you. Perhaps that is a better question for her, Mr Winnick.
Keir Starmer: I think it probably is in terms of where the current activity is.
Chair: Since it has not involved you in it?
Keir Starmer: Yes.
Chair: I am sure we can leave it to her.
Q243 Mr Winnick: The only point I would ask, Mr Starmer, is whether in fact it would have any relevance to other cases of death in custody.
Keir Starmer: Well, I simply do not know at this point. In a nutshell, the problems prosecuting the death in custody cases are these. You have to first identify what sort of a case it is. If it is a fatal shooting case, which some of them are, the biggest challenge as prosecutors is that as currently set up our law of self-defence says you take the facts as the individual genuinely thought them to be, even if he is mistaken and even if his mistake is unreasonable. In order to prosecute a police officer for a fatal shooting successfully, we have to prove before a jury that he did not genuinely or honestly believe that it was necessary to open fire, not just that he was wrong to do so, or not just that he made a mistake. Now, that is a high hurdle. When it comes, very briefly, to restraint cases, a different category of cases, the biggest issue we face is that we cannot pool culpability. If four people are holding someone down, we cannot pool the culpability of all of them. There are issues. I will elaborate, if I may, in a letter.
Chair: If you could do that that would be very helpful. Just to say to colleagues that we are running about 20 minutes late and we have other witnesses who have been waiting. I know you will bear that in mind. This is not a reflection on you at all, Mr Ellis, but you are next.
Q244 Michael Ellis: Well, having had that note, could I just ask you, then, Director, about your caseload and the investigation of serious cases? Looking at these: death in custody or following contact with the police, including shootings, nine cases; assaults, six cases; perjury, three cases; failure to investigate and falsifying records, two cases; and dangerous driving, two cases. How many of those cases involve chief constables, deputy chief constables and assistant chief constables?
Keir Starmer: I thought the Committee wanted to know about chief constables. If you give me all those ranks, I am going to have to go-
Q245 Michael Ellis: All the ACPO ranks those are.
Keir Starmer: If I may, can I-
Q246 Michael Ellis: Do you want to write to us?
Keir Starmer: I could tell you if it was chief constables, but with all the ranks, which I understand you want-
Q247 Michael Ellis: Tell us about the chief constables.
Keir Starmer: None of those involve chief constables. If you tell me, I will happily give you the other ranks when we have had the opportunity.
Michael Ellis: If you could, the ACPO ranks.
Chair: That was extraordinarily brief, Mr Ellis.
Q248 Chair: Maybe I can conclude with two very quick questions. First, you made a statement about prosecutions of those who go on Facebook and Twitter and the need for new legislation. I have to declare my interest, and I am sure those of Dr Huppert, Mr Reckless and others, as Twitter users. What exactly did you have in mind? Because there was a lot in the Twittersphere where people are obviously making allegations, and you have made a statement saying you think there ought to be new legislation to cover this; is that right?
Keir Starmer: No, I did not make a statement saying there should be new legislation. I made a statement saying that I need to issue guidance for prosecutors on the approach they should take to these cases, because section 127 of the Communications Act makes out an offence if a communication is grossly offensive. There are 340 million tweets a day, roughly speaking. There are now a billion Facebook subscribers, active users. If only a small percentage of those are grossly offensive, and looking at some of the cases I have looked at that may be an underestimate, there would be many, many cases coming before our courts, which might have quite a profound effect on free speech. What I want to do is to issue guidelines to prosecutors to help them through these difficult decisions.
Q249 Chair: Do you know when those guidelines will be forthcoming?
Keir Starmer: I am hoping in the next few weeks. We have had a number of roundtable discussions. We are working on them. I would hope before Christmas. We are doing quite a lot before Christmas, but I would hope before Christmas we will have those out of the way. But as you will have seen, there are cases coming almost on a daily basis now.
Q250 Michael Ellis: That is an unenviable task-guidelines on that subject.
Keir Starmer: It is not easy, but I don’t think I came into this job for an easy time.
Q251 Chair: You came into this job four years ago, and whenever you appear before the Committee-the last major time that you appeared before us was over phone-hacking-you seem to be going back and thinking and saying to the Committee, "We made mistakes. We should do things better." This seems to be a feature of what has been happening in the CPS, though it has changed enormously over the last four years. In respect of what you are doing at the moment, do you have sufficient resources to do the huge amount of work that people now expect of the Crown Prosecution Service? It is not a quiet organisation as it was, say, 10 to 15 years ago. It is right there in the forefront of the public debate on the criminal justice system. You are doing Hillsborough. You are doing child abuse. You are doing guidelines for the internet and many, many other routine cases that never come before the Committee. Do you have enough resources and people to do all this?
Keir Starmer: Can I just deal with the first comment and put it in context? There are about 100,000 cases going through the Crown court year on year. There are about 900,000 defendants going through the magistrates court. We have responsibility in those cases to make a number of decisions. Assume for a moment there are only two or three critical decisions in every case. That is probably 2 million or 3 million decisions that my staff have to make year in, year out. Unlike almost any other public authority, every one of those decisions is fought over in court in an open, adversarial space. That does not happen to many public authorities. The conviction rate is extremely good. The guilty plea rate is extremely good. As you will have seen from some of the honour killing cases, we have been able to bring the most difficult and most sophisticated cases to trial. The Stephen Lawrence case is another example of that. Of course, within that scale of things there will be mistakes, and I would not sit here and say otherwise. I think it is only fair to my staff to say if you look at the nature of the beast and the scale of the undertaking, the mistakes are very rare compared with the very many successes.
Q252 Chair: That is very helpful. What about resources?
Keir Starmer: So far as the resources are concerned, we are in the middle of making savings over a four-year period. What is significant about the Crown Prosecution Service, something I am very proud of, is that on our indicators we are improving year on year notwithstanding the savings that we are making. That is not to say that if somebody offered me more resources to put into any part of the business I would not gladly take it, but we are, in fact, slowly but surely improving notwithstanding the savings. That is a tribute to my staff.
Q253 Chair: The old stories about missing files are no longer making it to the papers. It seems to be a much smoother and more efficient organisation.
Keir Starmer: Well, I hope that reflects the more efficient organisation that we are now running, but we have put a huge amount into quality assurance in the last three or four years and the oversight arrangements within the organisation. With that volume, there will always be problems day in, day out, but I think and I hope there are fewer, and where they are I hope people have noticed that we are quicker and more honest and open that we have made a mistake and we act to put it right.
Chair: Excellent. Mr Starmer, Mr Afzal, thank you very much for coming. We are most grateful. Thank you.
Examination of Witness
Witness: Nick Hardwick, former Chair of the IPCC, gave evidence.
Q254 Chair: Thank you very much for coming in. I apologise for keeping you waiting, but obviously we had a number of questions for the DPP. We have called you in as part of our inquiry into the IPCC as a former chair of the IPCC, but we might have one or two questions about your position as Chief Inspector of Prisons, in particular in respect of the drugs inquiry that we have just concluded. Now that you have a bit of space between when you did the job and the job you are doing at the moment, there are calls for reform, abolition and changes. Generally speaking, are you happy with the way in which the IPCC developed during your time as the chairman, or do you think there should be changes to either powers or organisational structures? I am bearing in mind that your successor is sitting at the back of the committee room.
Nick Hardwick: My successor was a very good choice, if I may say so, Chairman. I do not say that to flatter, I was delighted when I heard that. We got the IPCC off the ground into the air and it flew, and when we started a lot of people did not think it would last more than a year. Clearly, I hope we have learnt from experience of things now that need to improve and could be done. The principle of independent investigation of the police is established, so I certainly do think that the range of reforms, most of which are set out in the IPCC submission, that we started talking about back in 2005-I checked with colleagues-now need to happen, and I think there is the appetite for making those reforms now that maybe was not present when I was there.
Q255 Chair: And strengthening the organisation, giving it more powers, more resources?
Nick Hardwick: More powers? Definitely. I will not repeat what is in the IPCC submission; I agree with those. More resources: certainly. What I will say, Chairman, and perhaps I can say as an outsider what may be difficult for them to say, is that there must be no half measures here. They need these powers quickly. We started calling for more powers years ago. If you are not careful, Anne will be through her term of office by the time they come in, so if you are going to give them more powers you need to get on with it. Also more resources: they should not be too modest about that; they need significantly more resources to deliver what the public is now asking for them to do. If they are doing it, the police are not doing it, and I would have thought they should have some of those resources, frankly.
Q256 Chair: Thank you. Now I am going to take you to one of the statements you made when you were chairman concerning the Jean Charles de Menezes case. To quote from you, "The death of Jean Charles de Menezes was a truly shocking event. An entirely innocent man on his way to work was shot and killed by armed police while he sat on a Tube train". You call for a public debate and scrutiny on this whole issue of those who are involved in these activities. Do you think that the recommendations in that particular case and the recommendations that you have made during your term as chairman of the IPCC have been acted upon?
Nick Hardwick: Some of those recommendations arising specifically from the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes have been achieved because of the degree of scrutiny and priority it got. You will remember, Chair, that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police tried to stop us doing that investigation. I did not think that would happen, and again we fought that off. So there has been real change there, but there is a problem with the way in which the IPCC’s recommendations are dealt with that has become very apparent in this job. I agree with the IPCC and others; there should be a statutory requirement on either the police and crime commissioner or on the chief constable to give a formal response to the IPCC’s recommendations, at least to make sure they have looked at them.
Certainly now, in my role as Chief Inspector of Prisons, we do follow up IPCC recommendations that have been made; before we go in and look at police custody, which we also inspect, we will check with the IPCC what they have said, what they have recommended and follow it up. But in other areas outside custody I do not know whether that has been done. So there is a mechanism now if the force or PCC had to respond to the IPCC recommendations, we and the other inspectorates would then be in a strong position to follow it up and see whether progress is being made.
Q257 Michael Ellis: Mr Hardwick, during your time as chair of the commission, did you experience any of the culture of police looking after the police? The IPCC is an entity where police are effectively investigating police, is it not?
Nick Hardwick: No.
Q258 Michael Ellis: You disagree with that; ex-police officers?
Nick Hardwick: We had some former police officers who were on the IPCC staff, and they were about a third of the IPCC staff, but commissioners were responsible for the delivery of the cases.
Q259 Michael Ellis: There is a complete distinction and separation?
Nick Hardwick: No. I have thought about this a lot since I left. As I said, when we started the IPCC it was new and the model we had to take about how do you investigate these sorts of incidents came from this, so we took a policing model and some of what we were looking at was not exactly synonymous with what the police look at. As the IPCC has gained more experience it needs to develop more of its own methodology and doctrine. It is not just who you have but how you do it. It now should have the experience to develop more of its own doctrine and methodology.
Q260 Michael Ellis: It is difficult to see who else could police it anyway.
Nick Hardwick: The way I would do it, if I were back now, I would be saying, "Look, now we have some experience, now we have who we have on staff at the moment"-not, "Do we need police officers or should we have somebody else?" but, "What are the skills and competencies and experience we now need to add to the existing team for people to feel that we are meeting their concerns?" and we are-
Q261 Michael Ellis: What about in the course of investigations seeing examples of instances where police within a station or within a force area have acted in a way to protect their colleagues-those types of instances?
Nick Hardwick: You mean protect in a sense of protect from disciplinary or criminal action?
Michael Ellis: Yes.
Nick Hardwick: I certainly think there would be individual officers and that has happened on some occasions, and that should not-
Q262 Michael Ellis: To the level of obstruction, possibly?
Nick Hardwick: It certainly does happen, and, as we were saying, on the case of Hillsborough, where it happened most dramatically, that should be regarded as a criminal offence, I think.
Q263 Michael Ellis: Certainly, but more recent examples perhaps of chief officers who may have tried to discourage you from investigating or a quiet word. Can you give any examples of that? Does that happen?
Nick Hardwick: I can certainly give an example. As I mentioned before the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police told us we were not going to be allowed to investigate the Stockwell investigation-
Michael Ellis: A former commissioner.
Nick Hardwick: A former commissioner, and that had to be resisted. I think in the end that was a significant factor in him losing his job, rightly so, and since then other chief constables have been less willing to have a go at us in that way.
Michael Ellis: Quite right. Thank you, Mr Hardwick.
Q264 Mr Winnick: You were, of course, chief executive to the Refugee Council for some eight years, and if I may say so highly regarded, Mr Hardwick.
Nick Hardwick: I was.
Q265 Mr Winnick: Let me put it to you like this, following on what Mr Ellis has said. If the organisation, the Refugee Council, had quite a number of former immigration officers, however much they would be people of integrity, would there not be just a feeling of suspicion?
Nick Hardwick: Yes, I see-
Q266 Mr Winnick: You take the point as regards the organisation we are now looking at?
Nick Hardwick: I do think of course that is true. I do not deny that is true and an issue. Certainly whenever I interviewed people obviously for the more senior roles and talked to senior police officers, one of the things I wanted them to understand was how they would be regarded and therefore how they would deal with those concerns. I would put to ex-police applicants what you have just put to me, pretty much. "This is how you will be seen. How are you going to deal with it? How do you respond to that?" If people were very defensive about that, then for me they were not up to the job. The individuals themselves had to recognise the concerns people would have and persuade me that they could deal with them when I was involved in interviewing them.
Q267 Mr Winnick: Is it your view that, whether it is the present organisation looking into the police or a replacement body-which is a possibility, I would imagine, being considered at some level or other-it would be impossible in effect for that present organisation or its replacement, unless it did have in its ranks quite a substantial number of former police officers?
Nick Hardwick: It would be very hard for a new one. The IPCC now should be in a position to develop its own staff and add to the people it has already from a wider pool than perhaps has happened in the past. Some of what you have to deal with are very practical things like the handling of evidence. You have a body to deal with sometimes. I have always thought it was difficult to see how you would manage without any police experience in doing it.
Q268 Mr Winnick: My final question, Chair; let me give you a figure. As of November last year, 8 out of 9 commissioned senior investigators and 38% of deputy senior investigators were ex-police officers. Do you think that is a rather high figure?
Nick Hardwick: To be fair, that is the same as it was in my time, and that is something that needs to change. We need to be bringing people up through the ranks, as it were, from other backgrounds, and I do think that is an important thing to do. If I may say so, I think what is very important is that the newly appointed commissioners are active in operations. Part of how it works is you have a balance. You might say the senior investigator or the investigator might be a former police officer, but it is important that the family or who you are dealing with sees an active commissioner in charge making the relevant decisions and not speaking in the sense of the police language.
There was a sense of it when I was there. One of the things I got wrong, if I may just say, is that commissioners had both a governance and an operational role. They were the board and they had roles in cases. The way we moved that was to reduce their operational role and make them more like a traditional board. If I had my time again, I would do it the other way around. I would take out their governance and board roles and give them a greater operational role in the active oversight of cases. I think that would be reassuring to families if they were clear that the person in charge of their case was somebody who by law could not be a police officer. We got off track a bit on that, I think.
Q269 Chair: Just following up from Mr Winnick’s question, what do you think a reasonable percentage should be? 8 out of 9 was the figure that he gave you. Should it be half, or less than half; a minority?
Nick Hardwick: It should move to the position where it is a minority, but the critical thing is that commissioners who by law cannot be a police officer should be seen to be actively in charge of the case.
Q270 Dr Huppert: The IPCC has announced an independent review of its work on the Sean Rigg case being run by Dr Silvia Casale. Do you think there needs to be a more formalised mechanism for returning to decisions in the light of new information?
Nick Hardwick: Yes, there should be two things. One is sometimes new information comes to light that could not have been known before and my understanding is that the IPCC could not then change its decision in some circumstances because they were quasi-judicial without a judicial review. That seems to me to be a nonsense and is something that needs to change. The appointment of Dr Casale is an excellent decision; I think she will be very well regarded. Again, I would suggest that one of the things the IPCC could do is in a sense almost build that into its processes so that an external review of the most high profile cases happens before it gets to the end. It would not be practical to do in every case, but having a fresh pair of eyes from outside the organisation coming in and looking at it rigorously would be healthy.
Q271 Dr Huppert: Just to go back to the question I was asking the Director of Public Prosecutions earlier, do you think it would be helpful to have powers for the IPCC to deal with private contractor firms doing custody and other similar roles?
Nick Hardwick: Yes.
Q272 Dr Huppert: You would like to see them more involved?
Nick Hardwick: In terms of the public, if it looks like a police officer, talks like a police officer, walks like a police officer, the IPCC should investigate it.
Dr Huppert: Fantastic; thank you.
Q273 Mark Reckless: Sean Rigg’s sister recently gave evidence to the Committee, and in response to a question I asked her she said that one thing that might give her confidence in the IPCC, which she certainly does not have currently, would be if the directly elected police and crime commissioners were, with their mandate, to take an oversight role in respect of the IPCC.
Nick Hardwick: The introduction of police and crime commissioners is a very good thing from the IPCC’s point of view, because some of the decisions or some of what people looked to the IPCC to do were in fact political questions that should have been decided by a politician. In overall questions about policing in a particular area there should be a police and crime commissioner to take those decisions and if the people do not like it they can vote him or her out rather than an unelected chair of a quango, which is what I was. It is better if it is more democratic than that.
Q274 Mark Reckless: You are suggesting that some activities that the IPCC is undertaking now or at least has in the past would better be done by them?
Nick Hardwick: For instance, the IPCC is now publishing complaints data about individual forces. I hope the police and crime commissioners will be looking at that data in detail and getting their chief constable in and saying, "Look, you are having more complaints," or, "You are not recording," or, "The IPCC is upholding more appeals against this force. What are you going to do about it?" I think that would be a good thing, and I would like to see the PCCs having a role in making sure that if forces do have to produce action plans in response to recommendations, they are delivering. It would be a good thing all round.
Q275 Mark Reckless: You suggested that the IPCC’s commissioners might better have the lead operational role in an investigation rather than having the governance focus. Could you then potentially look to the police and crime commissioners for that governance role?
Nick Hardwick: Well, no, I would separate out the board functions in the IPCC from the oversight of cases, and I think you need commissioners to have a greater degree of oversight of cases. There are some things that people looked to the IPCC to provide an answer on that were, it seemed to me, political questions about policing generally. Those political questions should be answered by a politician, in effect.
Q276 Mark Reckless: If the IPCC commissioners are taking the operational role, who is then providing the governance?
Nick Hardwick: You could have a board in which you would have some non-operational commissioners or board members in the same way you would in any other NDPB. As you would have in the Parole Board, for instance, you have Parole Board members that are responsible for overseeing cases, they do not all of them form the board of the Parole Board, and I think you can make that distinction.
Q277 Mark Reckless: But would you be content to have the elected PCCs play at least a role in-
Nick Hardwick: There needs to be a distinction between PCCs and the IPCC, not least because in a sense I do not think you could have the PCCs responsible for dealing with discipline and criminal matters; that would not be right.
Q278 Mark Reckless: Finally, you mentioned earlier we should get on with this for your successors and, hopefully, in the public interest in terms of any additional powers for the IPCC.
Nick Hardwick: Yes.
Mark Reckless: Could I ask you if you were just to pick three examples of areas where you believe Parliament could usefully give the IPCC more powers?
Nick Hardwick: I would have powers to compel police witnesses to co-operate with an IPCC investigation. They are public servants; they should be willing to give an account of what they have done. We said that back in 2005. Powers to investigate private contractors providing police-like functions, G4S or whoever it might be. Thirdly, I would pick up something that the DPP was saying. At the moment in some cases the standard defence by a police officer involved in a fatal shooting is what they genuinely believed, and it is very difficult to prove that they do not genuinely believe something. I do not understand why that test is not what they reasonably believed taking into account all the circumstances of the event. There should be a reasonableness element to that test, not just what they genuinely believed. That would be helpful.
Q279 Chair: Some time ago you warned the Government that the election of PCCs could result in an increased risk of corruption. Is that right?
Nick Hardwick: Yes, I think it is two things. The introduction of PCCs is a good thing because a lot of policing is very political and those political decisions should be taken by politicians. My concern was if you look at some of the examples from the States, if you do not get the relationship between the chief constable and the PCC right, there is a risk of corruption. That has happened in some places in the States and so what I felt the Government needed to do was put in appropriate checks and balances to avoid the risk of corruption, but on the whole it is a good thing and I hope they get a good turnout on Thursday.
Q280 Chair: A final question about your role as the Inspector of Prisons; you have produced a report about prescription drugs and the abuse of prescription drugs.
Nick Hardwick: Yes.
Chair: The Committee is very interested in this subject. Is it widespread in our prisons?
Nick Hardwick: It is. What is happening I think reflects what is happening in the community as well. What is growing now is the diversion of prescription medicines like Tramadol and Gabapentin that are prescribed too laxly and then traded in the prison, or they are stolen, or they are a source of bullying. We find now that has moved from the high-security estate where it has been a problem for some time into the prison system generally. It does not show up in some of the drug-testing regimes, and so in our view it is a bigger problem than has previously been recognised and is a real danger in prisons, because the people are mixing some cocktail of drugs that can be very dangerous, quite apart from all the social consequences and the bullying that goes on around it.
Q281 Chair: We know that 58% of those convicted of drug offences reoffend and return to prison.
Nick Hardwick: We do. We find prisons that we go into where you have 10% or 15% of prisoners telling us that they have developed a drug problem while they have been in the prison.
Q282 Chair: How do the drugs get into prison?
Nick Hardwick: As I say, sometimes they are handed out by the pharmacy to an orderly queue.
Q283 Chair: Those are prescription drugs. What about the illegal drugs?
Nick Hardwick: They come into the prison in a number of different ways. They might come in through visitors. They might come in through prisoners themselves going in and out through remand. They might be chucked in over the wall, and staff bring them in.
Q284 Chair: Do you not think there should be compulsory drug testing of prisoners either on entry or exit?
Nick Hardwick: There is normally.
Chair: On entry?
Nick Hardwick: There is random testing-
Chair: What about compulsory testing on entry and exit to prisons? Because it seems to be a place where people, as you say, learn how to use drugs for the first time.
Nick Hardwick: On the whole these things are best done on the basis where there is some intelligence to support it, so I would not be in favour of that. My own view is effective rigorously applied random testing is more likely to discourage and prevent the spread of drugs than just testing everybody, because if everyone knows they are going to be tested, then they can-
Chair: Entry and exit?
Nick Hardwick: If you know you are going to be tested, you will probably find-
Q285 Chair: No, random testing.
Nick Hardwick: I would have random testing. Random testing might work well in the prison, but the random testing needs to test for as many of the drugs that are available as is possible. At the moment it does not test for half of what is available.
Q286 Dr Huppert: One of the concerns that has been expressed about doing a lot of testing is it drives people from some drugs that are in the bloodstream for longer to other drugs that may be far more harmful. Is that a concern that you share?
Nick Hardwick: Not completely. It is important there is a rigorous testing regime, but I do not think that testing is going to tell you everything. You also need to have intelligence that tells you when somebody buys drugs, you need to have staff that are alert to what they are seeing is happening in the wings and appropriate levels of supervision. There is not one method, but drugs are a danger to prisoners, and if you have active supply reduction processes that are thoughtful and attuned to that particular set of circumstances, you make it easier for prisoners to say, "No, because I am going to get caught, and I do not want to be part of that." There is a duty to prisoners in there to do that properly.
Chair: Thank you. Steve McCabe has the last question.
Q287 Steve McCabe: Mr Hardwick, I just wanted to ask, there has been quite a lot of publicity recently about events at HMP Birmingham, where I understand they have had quite a bit of trouble. I wondered if you had any plans to have an inquiry or an investigation of what has happened there.
Nick Hardwick: Birmingham went to the private sector in October last year. We did an inspection and we published the results in January. That was very soon after it had gone into the private sector, and to be fair, at that point we saw some positive change but that was in a sense a baseline inspection. We will go back for an unannounced inspection in due course to see what has happened after they have had some time. The inspection will be unannounced, so it would not be sensible for me to tell you when now.
Q288 Chair: Mr Hardwick, thank you very much for coming in we are most grateful.
Nick Hardwick: Thank you, Chair.
Chair: Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Dame Anne Owers DBE, Chair, IPCC, Ruth Evans, Commissioner, IPCC, and Jane Furniss, Chief Executive, IPCC, gave evidence.
Q289 Chair: Dame Anne, welcome back. Ms Evans and Ms Furniss, thank you very much for coming. You have heard the evidence of the Director of Public Prosecutions. This is really almost the end of our inquiry into the IPCC, and we did promise when you came right at the start that we would have you at the beginning and we would have you at the end to give us the last word. But of course since the start of the inquiry we have had the report into Hillsborough and the very strong statement made by the Home Secretary after the panel’s decision was announced to Parliament. You have now been handed, Dame Anne, 1,444 names from one of our other witnesses, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. What exactly are you doing with these names?
Dame Anne Owers: This is obviously going to be, as we said, a large and complex investigation. The Committee needs to recognise that the investigation we have currently announced is an independent investigation into what we would call the aftermath. In other words, was there a cover-up? Why were blood samples taken? What information was released to the media and why? How did the West Midlands investigate? It is in respect of that that we have announced an investigation and that we already have, as you say, a preliminary list of names.
There are two very large tasks that we have to do in what we are calling phase one of that investigation. The first is in relation to documentation. As you will know, there are 450,000 pages of documentation. At the moment they have been returned to those people who gave them to the inquiry; they are no longer in a single place. They need to be gathered together into a place because we need the originals of those statements for obvious reasons, and documents, and they then need to be put on to a system like the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System, HOLMES, which can be used to support a criminal investigation. So that is a huge task.
Q290 Chair: You can’t really do anything with these 1,444 names until you have all that information, is that right?
Dame Anne Owers: We can’t, no. First of all we have to get the documentation in one place and on to a system, but at the same time and concurrently we have to look at the names that we have and other names that will come into the frame because there are other officers as well, the South Yorkshire police, you will understand, and to that we need to look at those and decide who needs to be investigated and as what-who may be a suspect, who may be a witness. So those preliminary pieces of work are those that we are engaged on at the moment. Jane may be able to tell you more about the detail of how that happens.
Q291 Chief: Thank you. In respect of the detail, we know that you have the list of names from David Compton. Bearing in mind what Dame Anne has just said, which of the other forces have come up with their lists of names?
Jane Furniss: It is important to recognise, Chair, that the list that Mr Compton has provided is only the start of it. There are going to be significantly more people listed from South Yorkshire. There are also the officers that are to be identified by West Midlands. There are other forces who provided officers on the day at Hillsborough and significant numbers from two or three forces and much, much smaller numbers from others. This preliminary work, as Dame Anne has said, is to identify what allegations are to be put to individuals.
Q292 Chair: Of course. I understand. If we just stick to the numbers, because I thought that that was the definitive list-
Jane Furniss: No.
Chair:-but there is obviously more.
Jane Furniss: Yes.
Q293 Chair: Are you writing to the different police forces, or are they voluntarily sending you lists?
Jane Furniss: They are identifying the people at the moment.
Q294 Chair: But do you know which police authorities they are?
Jane Furniss: We do.
Q295 Chair: You do. How many are there?
Jane Furniss: We have only in the last few days had the list from South Yorkshire of all the forces that supplied officers to the operation.
Q296 Chair: So they are giving you the list?
Jane Furniss: Yes.
Q297 Chair: How many other forces are on there?
Jane Furniss: There are three that had very significant numbers present, and then there are another 15 or more who had perhaps only one, two or three officers present on the day.
Q298 Chair: Right, and when you say significant numbers, we know the 1,444 that is stuck in our brain. How many more are we talking about-hundreds, or another thousand?
Jane Furniss: I think we are probably talking in total hundreds but towards 1,000, but I am estimating based on what I know so far.
Q299 Chair: In your estimation, 1,000 is probably the top limit?
Jane Furniss: I would think so from what I have seen so far in totality, yes.
Q300 Chair: So in total you could be looking through the names of 2,444?
Jane Furniss: I think that is at least right, yes.
Q301 Chair: In respect of the resources, have you been offered by the Home Office additional resources to deal with what must be an absolutely enormous new inquiry that has been placed right in your lap?
Jane Furniss: Yes, indeed. The Home Secretary has made it very clear to both Dame Anne and me personally that we must have the resources that we need to do this piece of work.
Q302 Chair: Right, and have you asked for any?
Jane Furniss: We are certainly asking for it. What we are doing at the moment as part of this scoping phase one is identifying what we need and there will be different resources needed at different points during the investigation, so as we have said, the documentation is a very significant challenge. Retrieving the documents that were returned to the different authorities and then logging them all on to the HOLMES system-you may have seen it in operation, Chair, in visits to the police-is a very skilled job that needs to be done by people. That will take time. Secondly, there is a-
Q303 Chair: Roughly, how long?
Jane Furniss: I could not answer that. I have asked-
Q304 Chair: Are we talking about years or months?
Jane Furniss: No, months. Months, yes.
Q305 Chair: In a few months’ time you will have put on the data; that is the first thing.
Jane Furniss: We would hope to have made substantial progress in that, but what it is also important for the Committee to know is that the panel did not receive all the documents that are available, so more documents have come to light since the panel issued its report.
Secondly, because of the level of contact we are now having with bereaved families and survivors we are already hearing from quite significant numbers of members of the public who were at the match on the day who said, "I tried to make a statement and was not allowed to," or, "I made a statement and the statement that is on the website is not the statement I made," or, "I was bullied into withdrawing information," so new are allegations coming to light as a result of us announcing what we are doing.
Q306 Chair: Of course. Now, this is very interesting; this is the first time that the Committee is hearing about this. Do you think that there ought to be a lead person dealing with the various agencies that are involved? You heard what the DPP has said; he is having regular meetings with either one or all three of you. The families came before us and said, "We think someone should be in charge to co-ordinate all this." Who is running the show?
Dame Anne Owers: As the DPP very clearly said, there are various bodies with various statutory responsibilities. Ourselves, we are investigators, the DPP is the prosecutor and there may in time be a coroner, who will obviously be a judge. What we have all said from the beginning, and we have said to the families who are worried for understandable reasons, is that what is really important is that what we do is fully integrated, that we are not waiting for each other to do something in order to start and that we do it as quickly and of course as thoroughly as we can, and so from the beginning we have been having meetings- ourselves and the DPP-to work out who is doing what.
At the moment we are leading on that investigation into the aftermath, which may of course result in us wanting to put cases to the DPP because there may be criminal charges. Simultaneously the DPP is leading on reviewing the original decision about whether prosecution should follow in relation to the deaths. There may then be investigations that need to happen as a result of that, so what we need to do is to work very tightly together so that we are complementing each other.
Q307 Chair: But there are others involved like the coroner’s service and the police and others. Surely there should be somebody, an individual, who should be responsible for making sure everything is co-ordinated, because you are not going to step on the DPP’s toes and he is not going to step on your toes, but you are separate organisations, are you not?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes, but we are separate organisations who have to work together. We work together anyway, obviously, in cases that we investigate that result in potential criminal charges, so we are accustomed to that. We have to work together. The coroner of course will say, quite rightly, he or she will be an independent judge and will not be co-ordinated by anybody, but we must make sure that our efforts are joint and that we are genuinely working together.
Q308 Chair: Can you tell us about someone like Sir Norman Bettison, who of course was referred to you? He has now resigned. Do you still investigate him because some of the families felt that the resignation might mean the end of the investigation? Those who are serving officers who were referred to you and subsequently resigned: you still continue with the investigation, is that right?
Dame Anne Owers: That is right. There are two points to make on that. One is that the investigation that we are currently doing into Sir Norman Bettison is around allegations made about his conduct following the publication of the panel’s report and the referral to us. Those are conduct matters that we are dealing with now and that we are investigating. In relation to anything that happened at or around Hillsborough, if there are criminal allegations against Sir Norman or any other officer involved, then irrespective of whether they are now serving with the police those can still be investigated by us and can still result in prosecution.
Q309 Chair: That is very helpful. Ms Evans, please feel free to chip in whenever you wish to do so and you too, Ms Furniss. Let us move to the wider issue of the IPCC. We have taken a lot of evidence in the last few weeks and months about the IPCC, and we have heard from Nick Hardwick. Just looking at the organisation that you joined a few weeks ago, Dame Anne, when you last gave evidence to us, do you yourself feel that there is a case for reform and enhancement of the powers of the IPCC, or do you take the view of the Shadow Home Secretary that maybe we should scrap the whole thing and start from the beginning?
Dame Anne Owers: I certainly do not think there is any benefit in scrapping and starting from the beginning because of all the work that has been done over the last eight years to get to where we are now. But as I said when I was before this Committee last, and as I said to the Home Secretary shortly after I was appointed, I do think that the IPCC needs greater powers, and we have laid out a menu of that in front of this Committee and in front of the Home Secretary. I also believe that the organisation is under-resourced for the job that it was set up to do. That remains the case.
Q310 Chair: It is a surprise that there are fewer commissioned staff than there are working at the Directorate of Professional Standards at the Metropolitan Police. It is extraordinary.
Dame Anne Owers: That is right. That shows you the scale of the task that we are trying to undertake.
Q311 Chair: In the last financial year you have had a budget cut of 21%.
Dame Anne Owers: I think that is right.
Jane Furniss: Not 21% in one year, thankfully-I think we would be looking rather pale if that was the case-but over the whole of the 4-year period, yes.
Q312 Chair: Despite taking this very, very heavy workload you are facing reductions in your staff and your budget.
Jane Furniss: Similarly to all the public sector, that is right, Chair, yes, we are. That is something that we have been in discussion with the Home Office about as a consequence of that, because over the last six years during which I have been the CEO I have spent each year persuading the Home Office to give me more money to do the task that we were given. We have gone from £28 million to £37 million at its highest, and at the moment we are facing a budget cut of over £5 million over the 4-year period. At the moment the Home Office are maintaining that we need to make the cuts and savings that they require while at the same time having conversations with me about more money for Hillsborough, so we are in a slightly double-minded kind of conversation with them about that.
Q313 Steve McCabe: I wonder how this is going to evidence itself in the future. Is there going to be a point where you are going to say, "Sorry, we cannot do that investigation; no resources," or are we just going to see slimmer and slimmer investigations that some people might think is a criticism that could be made at the moment?
Dame Anne Owers: I have had discussions with our very hard-pressed investigations director about this. I do not think we have come to that. I am assured that there are no cases that we feel we ought to have independently investigated that we have not been able to for resource reasons. But if one is being realistic, looking down the track if our workload continues to increase, which it is, because we are getting more appeals year on year from dissatisfied complainants, we are getting more direct referrals of serious cases that needed to be referred to us. If those two things continue to happen-if the workload continues to increase and the resources continue to diminish-then you do not need to be a mathematical genius to work out that we will have to make some difficult choices. Quality and robustness is absolutely key if we are to have public confidence. We cannot be producing investigations that do not have the confidence of yourselves, the public and the courts if they get there.
Q314 Steve McCabe: I do not wish this on you, but if you reach that point how would we know? Would you tell us? How would we find out?
Dame Anne Owers: You can be assured that we would tell you.
Jane Furniss: Since I appeared at the Public Accounts Committee in 2008 I have said the public’s expectations of us far outweigh the resource at the organisation and it is not just about size. It really is not just about the numbers of people. It is the fact that we cover England and Wales, and we know that every week there are going to be 40 referrals of serious incidents from the police, and that of those, something like 10% really need someone to get to the scene quickly. We know that is going to happen but we do not know where it is going to happen, so having staff ready to be deployed at the point they are needed-quite often, of course, in the middle of the night because that is when a lot of difficult policing takes place-that is one of our biggest challenges as a small organisation, getting the people who need to be on the scene quickly. That is a challenge and it is something we are very open about-the difficulty that creates for us.
Q315 Dr Huppert: If I heard you correctly, Dame Anne, you were saying there have not been investigations you have not been able to do for resource reasons. I am trying to understand how that fits because it would be an astonishing coincidence if you had exactly the right amount of resource. Assuming that is right, does that mean that the investigations are not being done thoroughly? How is this amazing coincidence of exactly the amount of resource to deal with exactly the number of complaints you deal with working?
Dame Anne Owers: I was probably making it sound rather too tidy. There are serious cases that we have to investigate, deaths and serious injuries for example, serious corruption, serious assaults. At the moment we have been able to start independent investigations into those serious cases. There is, if you like, an area where there are some choices to be made and all organisations have to make those choices but the investigations director is clear that there are not any cases where they have said, "This has to be an independent investigation," and it has not been done as an independent investigation. But of course what sometimes takes place is the investigation will take longer than otherwise it would. If we are going to be thorough and we are going to do the independent investigations we need to do, some of which are very complex and involve the taking of hundreds of statements and sometimes quite a lot of forensic evidence and so on, then we will not necessarily be able to complete all those investigations in the time that we would like to.
Q316 Dr Huppert: So, just to check that I understand-
Dame Anne Owers: So there are three bits-
Dr Huppert: Your response to resource constraints is that some important investigations take longer or do not start early enough, and other ones that are not the most serious investigations where you could investigate or not you do not investigate?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes, we have to make those choices; that is absolutely right.
Jane Furniss: There is a top criterion and death would be the leading priority. There are others where it would be really helpful to public confidence for the IPCC to do an independent investigation where we regretfully have to say we can’t. It is not always as clear but there is a set of criteria we use.
Chair:Ms Evans, you wanted to say something.
Ruth Evans: Just to agree; I think resource constraints and the cuts to our budget have been extremely deleterious on our work in certain respects. Not necessarily the independent investigations, as Dame Anne said, but when we are looking at community engagement and working with our stakeholders, when we are looking at quality assurance in particular, which is what we are aiming to spend a lot of resource on, we find that we are very strapped for cash. We cannot do what we should be doing with the community, with stakeholder engagement and with quality assurance. We are doing what we can within resources, but Jane, the Chief Executive, has been adept at wringing out of the cuts that we have suffered redeployment of resources. She has managed to redeploy something like £5 million as well as managing the £5 million cut that we are suffering from over the next four years.
These are sizeable sums, and it is becoming increasingly difficult. We would like to do more to inspire confidence among stakeholders and the community at large. For example, leading more independent investigations into serious corruption is something that we would like to do and we can’t do. It is a very under-resourced organisation. In my experience from the organisations I have worked with, I have not seen such paring back in ancillary functions to the core investigation function and that, you have to remember, alongside investigations is a communications department, is strategy, is engagement-all the hidden things that have really been very greatly reduced. We have kept all the back-office staff, not the front-sorry, the other way around.
Q317 Mark Reckless: Ms Evans, I wonder if one way of interpreting your answer there is that the bar standards for the General Medical Council, the Ofcom Consumer Panel and the Queen’s Counsel Selection Panel may have been somewhat overstaffed.
Ruth Evans: That is a very complicated question, examining a range of organisations over a number of years. My own philosophy is that you can achieve efficiencies, and I was on the NAO until recently. It is incumbent upon public organisations to get value and indeed organisations of professional regulators whose practitioners provide the fees. I am not talking about this here at all. You can make comparisons when you are talking, for example, about expertise employed in investigating whether you want the practitioners, the doctors, the barristers and so forth investigating cases. There I think parallels can become quite relevant and would be useful to today’s discussion, but you are asking for an academic exercise over a number of years.
Q318 Mark Reckless: Your reply was excellent; thank you very much. Dame Anne, you were saying that there were not any examples of cases where the IPCC should have independently investigated where you were resource-constrained from doing so but there were some where you could have chosen to investigate or not where you chose not to. Is it also the case that there were some cases where you could choose to investigate or could choose not to where you did choose to investigate? Is it possible that if resources were reduced, it is just a question of taking on perhaps a smaller proportion of that category?
Dame Anne Owers: I don’t think there are many where-I think if you were to ask the staff in and around the investigations directorate and to ask the commissioners, they feel that we ought to be doing more independent investigations, and so indeed do the public, rather than fewer. We have greatly increased the number of independent investigations. Last year we took on about 130 independent investigations. That already is something that this Committee and others will have had complaints from people about-"You are only doing 130 independent investigations a year." If we started cutting into that number, I think there would be really serious issues for us.
Jane Furniss: May I just add, I think if any one of you saw the list of cases that we were investigating you would find it very difficult to say, "That one ought to come off the list." That is something we talk about daily-about making sure that we are using the investigative capacity we have for the right cases. They are all cases that really raise public concern. They are either ones where someone has died, about 60% of the cases; they are ones where someone has been seriously injured; or they are ones where corruption is such that it really is felt that for reasons of public confidence we must take those on independently, for the reasons that you were discussing earlier about the police investigating the police.
Q319 Mark Reckless:What about this trend of self-referrals? Are there cases where there is a lot of media interest, there are criticisms and, say, a police authority would find the path of least resistance being to refer it to the IPCC when they might have been able to deal with the situation themselves?
Dame Anne Owers: If we feel that they could and should have dealt with the situation themselves, we will send it back. There are cases that have to be referred directly to the IPCC that are, as Jane has said, deaths and serious injuries, serious corruption, serious assault, serious sexual offences. They have to come to us. If things come to us that we feel do not need to, we would send them back and say, "These are things that you can deal with yourselves." I think you are right that there could be a tendency for people to try to push things to us that we can’t and shouldn’t deal with, in which case we do not.
Jane Furniss: We have about 2,500 referrals a year and only take about 120, 130, 150 independent investigations.
Q320 Mark Reckless: There is a lot of media interest in some of these referrals and the line to take, it is agreed, is this has all been referred to the IPCC and that just allows the debate to be shut down when it should more properly be a matter of public scrutiny and perhaps for the police and crime commissioners coming in or the chief constable to deal with that debate.
Dame Anne Owers: Whatever happens in any of those, there needs to be an investigation, doesn’t there? If we do the investigation or if the police do the investigation, then the proper scrutiny will come after the contents of the investigation are produced.
Q321 Mark Reckless: I am not sure of my specifics in the police arena, but I wonder whether I am picking up on feedback from constituents and others, that it is almost as though the reaction is that there must be an investigation. Where actually, in some of these issues, something has gone wrong and the facts are fairly clear, and someone should take responsibility, instead of that happening there and then, there is a long investigation by some body, independent or otherwise, into it. Have we gone too far down that route, at least in some areas?
Dame Anne Owers: I think, perhaps, if I play that question into the way that complaints in general are dealt with rather than investigations, which is the top end of what happens, it is certainly our view-our new statutory guidance, which will be released later this month to police forces, is that where there is a complaint from the public that is an expression of dissatisfaction, that should be dealt with as speedily as possible. If it is something that can be resolved, which is not so serious that it needs to be investigated, it is not a matter that could lead to criminal matters, it could not lead to misconduct and it is not a breach of someone’s fundamental human rights, then you should try to resolve it and you should try to resolve it as speedily and as quickly as possible.
Jane Furniss: We are upholding a lot more of the appeals that come to us when police forces fail to do that because our very strong message over the last three, four or five years has been, "Resolve the problem, if you can, at the point that the person expresses their dissatisfaction." One of the police weaknesses is that they spend too much time saying who is to blame and how should they be punished about their own behaviour, rather than what went wrong and how we put it right quickly.
Chair:Yes, we noticed this in Wales and North Wales in particular.
Q322 Mr Winnick: Sean Rigg, who had mental problems, Dame Anne, as we know, died in police custody. There has been a new development today, has there not?
Dame Anne Owers: Almost as soon as the inquest verdict came out in August, I announced that I would be commissioning an external review because unusually the inquest verdict was very different from our report. That very rarely happens. Also the family were expressing a lack of confidence in our investigation, and therefore I thought it was very important that we should have an external review so we, if necessary, could learn any lessons so that if it revealed gaps in our powers or our resources, that could be clear. That was announced in August and we were able, as you said yesterday, to announce the person who will be running that.
Mr Winnick: Tell us who.
Dame Anne Owers: Dr Silvia Casale.
Mr Winnick: For the record, yes.
Dame Anne Owers: She is being assisted by a QC and also by a forensic mental health specialist.
Q323 Mr Winnick: The review will be led, as you said, by the person who I think was recently, am I not right, the President of the European and UN Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman Treatment? Is there any sort of time limit in which the report will be finalised?
Dame Anne Owers: She has said that she expects to get the report to us before Easter next year.
Q324 Mr Winnick: Dame Anne, there is no doubt-at least it seems to me there is no doubt, but I will want to know your views-that the investigation into Mr Rigg’s case was inadequate; would you agree with that?
Dame Anne Owers: I think I would want to wait and see what the external reviewer says. There was clearly a gap between what we found and what the inquest jury said in its narrative verdict. There is clearly massive dissatisfaction from the family, and that is precisely the reason why I want someone from outside, someone very credible with a huge amount of experience from outside, to come in and define what happened.
Q325 Mr Winnick: I want to press you on this, because you say that you do not want to reach a view until the person who is looking into it with her colleague reports accordingly. I understand that. If I could just refer you to what the coroner, Andrew Harris, said, and I quote: "The level of force used on Sean Rigg while he was restrained in the prone position at the Weir Estate was unsuitable. There was an absence of leadership. This led to a failure to take appropriate control of the situation". That was the coroner. Are you saying in effect that you do not want to accept or reject what he said?
Dame Anne Owers: No, of course not, but what I want the review to do is to get to what we found, why we found what we found and why we didn’t find some of the things that we didn’t find. The whole purpose is to help our investigators to do their job as well as they possibly can. If you will recall, this is also feeding into a much wider review, which was set up before I became chair, which is looking at the way that we deal with deaths during or after contact with the police more generally. I think we are in learning mode, and if there are things to be learnt from it, we will learn them. If there are things that are about the fact that we need different powers, more resources, we will also get that out of the review.
Q326 Mr Winnick: Dame Anne, would you accept that it was the pressure of the family, particular Mr Rigg’s sister, which has led to the present situation that you have just told us about rather than the work of your commission?
Dame Anne Owers: I think that the work that the family have done is truly admirable, and we have commended them on that. I have spoken with the family and we are full of admiration for the work that the family has done, and undoubtedly they have worked very hard to get to where the situation is. I wouldn’t say that there was nothing that the IPCC did that was helpful either to the family or to the coroner because there was quite a bit of evidence that we uncovered that was useful in the inquest. There is, as you say, a gap between what the inquest found and what our investigation found, and it is my absolute determination to find out why that gap exists and what can be done about it.
Q327 Mr Winnick: Can you accept that the family and particularly the sister, who has given evidence, has she not-
Chair: She has.
Mr Winnick: I thought so. I well remember the evidence she did give, even if I have just had it confirmed by the Chair in case my memory was wrong, but would you accept the feeling of, perhaps, bitterness felt by the family and generally at what occurred? Mr Rigg dies in such circumstances, the IPCC investigates, it turns out from the family’s point of view, and it seems to be the case, that it was totally inadequate the way that the findings came about, or that the investigation was considered to be inadequate; isn’t that a reflection on the organisation?
Dame Anne Owers: I think it is certainly a reflection on the fact that relationships with the family broke down at an early stage, and that is very regrettable. I have spoken at some length with the family, with both of the sisters, the brother and also Sean Rigg’s mother. I have also attended a local community meeting at which they were present and so I know exactly what you mean about their anger and their frustration. I think the best way of dealing with that, as I say, is to have a robust look at what we did and why we did it and to see what lessons can be learnt from that. I don’t see that we can do any more; I want to do that, and I want to do it as well as we can.
Q328 Mr Winnick: Would it be right to say that pending what is being looked into, the IPCC is taking more care than previously? You may say that it always has taken care in its investigations, as one would assume it would, but would you say the lessons are such that there is a tougher attitude towards such incidents and deaths in custody?
Dame Anne Owers: I would say first of all that this was quite a long time ago, and it would be surprising if in the 4 years, I think it is, since Sean Rigg died that the IPCC had not developed its way of dealing with deaths in custody. In any event I would say that there has obviously been learning.
I think the second thing is that, as I said earlier, the whole issue of people who die during or following police contact is one that troubles the IPCC a lot and that was the reason for setting up the broader review to see whether there are further lessons to be learnt. I am very grateful for the fact that we are having an external reference group to that review. That inquest, for example, is sitting on that external reference group, and I think we can do no more than make sure that where things have not gone as well as they could we find out about that and we learn lessons from it.
Q329 Steve McCabe: You highlighted quite recently the abuse of police power and the involvement of some officers in sexual exploitation. Can you give the Committee some idea how deep a problem you think this is?
Jane Furniss: I commissioned the piece of work that you are referring to because over a number of weeks I was hearing about referrals from a number of forces of cases where officers were abusing their position, either gaining access to information, computer information, to target individuals or going on to target those individuals for sexual purposes. It seemed to me likely that if it was happening in numbers in 2 or 3 forces, then that wasn’t likely to be the only place it was happening.
Over the two-year period that the report covers we had about 5,000 referrals from the police, of which 54 cases were those of sexual exploitation. I think it is highly implausible that that is the total picture. The difficulty is-and it is a little bit similar to the situation that the DPP and his colleague were talking about earlier-as you will understand, this is a hidden crime. The women who were targeted, the young women and women who were targeted by police officers-and it is largely women who are the victims although not entirely-are often targeted because they are in a powerless and vulnerable position. They may be victims of domestic violence or other crimes in relation to which police officers are called to give them help, or they may be themselves offenders or defendants, prostitutes, drug users, where the police officer uses their position to say in terms, "If you give me what I want, I will make these charges go away."
It is very difficult to know the answer to your question about how widespread this is and I do think, while in many cases the police have regarded this as a very serious crime, too often, it seems to me from the work we did, they didn’t regard this seriously enough early enough so the early indicators were often not listened to. The early indicators of a victim saying, "This has happened to me," were dismissed as not credible, similarly again to the paedophile cases that we are hearing about.
So there is something about the police having much better systems to listen to vulnerable, powerless victims. What came out of our work was a real need for the police to do much more rigorous vetting. You would think that if you were joining the police or moving within police forces, vetting would be a very rigorous process. I have to say I was shocked to discover that information about a police officer’s behaviour in this force wasn’t necessarily passed on; so, vetting, supervision of officers, knowing where they are and what they are up to and using intelligence. What we found was that quite often colleagues of the man, once it became known that he was being investigated or had been charged, would say, "I’ve never trusted that person." It was something that ought to have been available to managers in the organisation. Sergeants, inspectors and superintendents ought to have tapped into this information in order to address it.
Q330 Dr Huppert: May I first check for the record what proportion of the total number of police complaints were investigated by the IPCC last year?
Jane Furniss: I think one of the slightly confusing things about our name is that it gives the impression that we investigate police complaints, not surprisingly given the title. We don’t, and that was never Parliament’s intention. Parliament’s intention was always that the majority of complaints would be investigated by police forces themselves. That is the system. They have to record complaints and decide how they should be investigated or resolved. The IPCC’s primary function in relation to complaints is to deal with the appeals, so when a member of the public has had their complaint investigated and isn’t happy-
Q331 Chair: What is the figure? Dr Huppert wanted a figure.
Jane Furniss: The number of appeals last year was about 6,500 and that would be in relation to 29,000 to 30,000 complaints, so it is about 18% or 16%, something like that of complaints end up coming on appeal.
Q332 Dr Huppert: You investigate all of those appeals?
Jane Furniss: We don’t investigate appeals. It is an appellate function, so it is a paper exercise. We review all the documents of how the complaint was dealt with. It is slightly complicated. I won’t go into all the detail unless you want me to, but there are different grounds for appeal.
Q333 Chair: If you could write to us on that, that would be very helpful.
Jane Furniss: Yes, of course.
Q334 Dr Huppert: Particularly coming back to the issue-we are running a bit short of time, as you will appreciate-of corruption allegations not being looked at, which we were saying earlier: as I understand it, in 2008 to 2011, 8,500 allegations of corruption were recorded by police forces, 837 only reported to the commission. The commission looked at 21 of those. Does it alarm you that there are, first, 7,500 not making it to you and then 800 not being looked at by you?
Jane Furniss: First, you need to understand that quite a lot of complaints are made about corruption when what people mean is, "I don’t like the decision that was made," and their way of explaining it to themselves is that there must be corrupt activity as a result. I don’t say that to diminish the seriousness of the numbers that you are talking about. Corruption covers a very wide range of things, because there is no legal definition of corruption. It is basically a judgment about how someone misused the power they have, so it could be a very tiny activity or it could be a very serious one. Obviously, within that, those numbers that you are quoting from our report, the range is very significant.
I think what we believe we should do, we should be able to investigate more of the corruption allegations particularly against very senior officers because that, it seems to us, is the area where we should target and prioritise our resources.
Q335 Chair: The number of senior officers who are being investigated at the moment is 9, I understand?
Jane Furniss: I think it is 10 to date.
Q336 Chair: 10 chief officers? ACPO officers?
Jane Furniss: 10 ACPO officers.
Q337 Chair: That are all the subject of a complaint?
Jane Furniss: No, not necessarily a complaint, because they may not-
Q338 Chair: There could have been a referral?
Jane Furniss: That they are all a referral, yes. They may also contain a complaint, yes.
Chair: That is very helpful.
Q339 Dr Huppert: One last very quick question, which we have raised with the previous witnesses. There is an issue about private-sector providers of related services. Would you welcome the power and responsibility to look at those?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes, absolutely. We have asked for that. If I just give the Committee an example, during the Olympic Games there were a number of agencies involved in providing security-type operations for the Olympics. It included the police in England and Wales. It also included police in Scotland, in Northern Ireland, and it included military personnel. For those people that we do not have a statutory responsibility for-Scotland, Northern Ireland, MoD-we had MOUs with all of them allowing for any conduct matters that emerged during the Olympics to be dealt with between the responsible authorities. The one group that we had no responsibility over at all was G4S.
Q340 Dr Huppert: So you would like the power to be able to investigate G4S?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes, when they are carrying out policing activities, I hasten to add. I have no desire at all to extend my empire over the whole of G4S.
Q341 Michael Ellis: Yet you did say you are already quite busy, Dame Anne.
I just want to move on to the issue of intercept evidence because there is a prohibition, as I am sure you know, on the use of intercept evidence in court in England and Wales. Do you think that that prohibition affects the ability of the IPCC to investigate cases and deliver your objectives of public confidence?
Dame Anne Owers: I think there is an issue of public confidence, and we have raised it. My deputy chair has gone public on the fact that we are unhappy. The IPCC’s role is a tiny part of a much wider picture, as I know the Committee is aware.
Where it comes to us really is at inquests. It can be possible at inquests that there is information that we can’t disclose but we can’t even disclose why we can’t disclose it because that in itself would be a breach of the law, and we do believe that changes would be helpful. At present, as the Committee will be aware, there is an inquiry going on into the death of Azelle Rodney and it is a public inquiry rather than an inquest precisely on this point.
Q342 Michael Ellis: So you think there should be some review of section 17, I think it is, of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2001, referred to as RIPA?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes. Mm.
Q343 Michael Ellis: But you accept, do you, that there are some complicated issues to look at in that and there is a multitude of different areas in which there is an interest in that prohibition being maintained?
Dame Anne Owers: Absolutely. It is a complex issue and we are really a bit player in a much bigger issue, but we are aware of the issues of public confidence.
Q344 Michael Ellis: It has caused some complications to you?
Dame Anne Owers: It has caused some complication, yes; and in relation to being able to run inquests, article 2-compliant inquests.
Q345 Michael Ellis: Did you want to add anything, Ms Furniss?
Jane Furniss: I just wanted to say that in the 8 years the IPCC has existed there have been 23 fatal shootings and in only one of those has it not been possible for the coroner to hold an inquest. So I think it is important to keep it in perspective. When it can’t be used, when there are problems-and all of us are in danger of breaking the law even by having this conversation, so I am hoping we are covered by parliamentary privilege-
Michael Ellis:I think we are all right.
Jane Furniss: You all are.
Chair:But please don’t defame anybody at this hearing.
Jane Furniss: I think it is important to keep it in perspective in terms of numbers but when it does happen-
Michael Ellis:It happens very rarely, but it can have repercussions.
Jane Furniss: It happens rarely, but when it happens it is fatal to the case, if I can put it that way.
Q346 Chair: Just finally, you mentioned the name of the organisation. Paul McKeever of the Police Federation and Derek Barnett of the Superintendents’ Association both suggested that a change of name might be desirable as well as a number of other things that they have suggested. What do you think of that, Dame Anne?
Dame Anne Owers: As I think Jane Furniss has said, there are some problems with our name, in the sense that we are not the police and we don’t investigate all complaints, but apart from that-
Chair: What would you like to be called?
Dame Anne Owers: -the front and back end, the bookends, are fine. We are independent and we are a commission. We can stand by that.
I think it creates difficulties in perception but, on the other hand, once you have a name and a brand, as many companies have found with far greater resources than we have for advertising, it becomes quite difficult just changing names.
Q347 Chair: If it could be changed, do you think that clarity would be helpful?
Dame Anne Owers: It might but it is not the top of my shopping list.
Q348 Chair: Ms Evans, you are there to scrutinise. You are a non-executive commissioner. Do they take your recommendations seriously? Have you been able to get through some of the changes that you want to see happen to this organisation?
Ruth Evans: Yes, increasingly. Not altogether. A large part of the problem has been resources. That will continue to be an issue. Certainly there are a number of areas where I have recommended change where change has been implemented.
Q349 Chair: In terms of the Savile inquiry, are you involved in any way in any of the work?
Ruth Evans: No.
Dame Anne Owers: Not as yet. What we have done in relation to both Savile and North Wales is that we have reminded those who are doing the investigation that should any conduct matters come to light in the course of their investigations those are matters that will need to be referred to us, but so far that hasn’t happened.
Q350 Mr Winnick: Could I just put this one point to you, Dame Anne? You did the job, and very well, which Mr Hardwick is currently doing, Chief Inspector of Prisons. I cannot imagine one person ever suggesting that there was a lack of independence on your part any more than the present occupant. Is that not a question of perception regarding the commission now however very different are the functions? One position, Chief Inspector of Prisons, no one has suggested in the past or present that there is any connection with the Prison Service as such, totally independent, which is not the case with the commission. The perception is somewhat different.
Dame Anne Owers: I think you are right about perception, and I think my job is to work out why there is that perception and to do my best to reverse it.
You raised with Mr Hardwick the question of the employment of ex-prison officers in the IPCC. As I said to this Committee when I appeared before you last time, when I was Chief Inspector of Prisons, and as Mr Hardwick now is, half of those who inspect prisons for the Independent Inspectorate of Prisons will have been prison governors and what is more they will go back to govern prisons after they have been to the inspectorate. As I have said a number of times in different forums, if we only focus on the issue of ex-prison officers, I think we are in danger of missing the point. The point is that what the organisation does needs to be independent. It needs to be seen to be independent, and that is clearly something that we have to-
Q351 Chair: Do you have anything to add, briefly?
Ruth Evans: Yes, very briefly, I agree with that. In the autumn we are having a specifically focused recruitment campaign. This is something that I have been concerned about. It is to get into the organisation more investigators not from a police background, but alongside that there has to be culture change and the two things have to go together. We are spending £500,000 on a recruitment campaign to get in the investigators on the basis of merit, who have the skills to-
Q352 Chair: Who are not police officers?
Ruth Evans: Who are not police officers. It doesn’t mean that they will entirely not be police officers, but we are looking very carefully at competencies.
Just going back to your question before, the General Medical Council involved lay people, and it involved doctors in investigating medical mishaps. We do, increasingly, quality-assure the investigations undertaken, and it is something that I have been, with my non-executive colleague, focusing on. Peer review, quality assurance, getting somebody alongside to have a look at investigations who isn’t from a police background, is an easy win for us. We are doing more and more of that.
Chair: Dame Anne, Ms Evans, Ms Furniss, thank you very much for giving evidence.