FIRST REPORT (HC 258): POLICE DISCIPLINARY
AND COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES
Published 15 January 1998. Government
Response (published as HC 683) received 23 March 1998
(RECOMMENDATIONS 2, 19, 21, 22,
23, 27, 29, 33, 35-37, 40, 41)
New police misconduct and unsatisfactory performance
procedures were implemented in April 1999. All the necessary Regulations
are now in place and Guidance has been issued. The Regulations
and/or the Guidance deal with inadequate performance by police
officers. The Guidance deals also with recommendation 37 but it
is early days yet and there have not yet been many cases under
the "fast track" procedures.
An amendment to the legislation to modify the
caution in disciplinary proceedings, to bring it into line with
the caution used in criminal cases, will be brought forward when
Parliamentary time permits (recommendation 21).
On recommendation 41, the Home Office issued
guidance to ensure that forces should, as a matter of course,
endeavour to provide information to complainants on the outcome
of disciplinary hearings. The guidance came into effect in April
COMPLAINTS: A NEW
5, 7, 9-13, 17-18, 38, 42)
The Government engaged the consultants, KPMG,
to undertake a feasibility study of an independent system for
investigating complaints against the police. KPMG produced their
report in April 2000 and it was used, along with the report of
a parallel Liberty study, as the basis for a Home Office consultation
There was strong support for independent investigations
for the more serious complaints but further consultation is necessary.
The Government will announce its conclusion on the details of
the new complaints system by the end of the year and the new system
will include independent investigations. The new system will address
also many of the other conclusions and recommendations concerned
with police complaints. Legislation to establish the new system
will be introduced when Parliamentary time permits.
6, 8, 16, 28-30, 39, 43)
The budget of the Police Complaints Authority
reduced significantly in real terms between 1996 and 2000. In
1999 the PCA had also to replace its obsolete IT system. These
factors led to a heavy backlog of cases and deterioration in the
turn around time in some aspects of its casework:
Dispensations overall were dealt with within
32 days, 4 days over the 28 day target;
Fully investigated cases other than supervised
cases had an average turn around time of 74 days27 more
than the previous year and 46 days over the target time.
The PCA, however, achieved some improvements
in service during the year:
A small increase in the number of supervised
cases completed within the target of 120 days from 63 per cent
to 65 per cent;
More speedy turn around of supervised cases at
the misconduct review stage. The Authority achieved an average
turn around time of these cases of 22 days, well within the target
of 28 days.
The PCA are keen to make further improvements
to the service within its existing powers. It received a modest
increase (2 per cent) in its budget for 2000-01 and is in discussion
with the Home Office about the level of funding to be made available
On other specific points raised in the recommendations:
(i) The Police (Complaints) (General) Regulations
contain a provision which enables the PCA to accept a complaint
and forward it on to the appropriate authority.
(ii) In April 2000 PCA introduced a system
of writing automatically to every complainant where the misconduct
review decision will exceed the target time of 28 days. This system
remains in operation. The PCA has also agreed in principle that
a letter should be sent to complainants whenever investigations
exceed or are likely to exceed target times.
(iii) Guidance has been issued to the police,
effective from April 1999, to ensure that in cases of deaths in
police custody, disclosure of documentary material to interested
persons before the inquest should be normal practice.
(RECOMMENDATIONS 31, 32, 34)
The management of medical retirements in most
forces has improved significantly since 1997 as a result of the
implementation of a number of good practice measures. Overall
rates of medical retirements have been reduced from 45 per cent
in 1996-97 to 31 per cent in 1999-2000. The Government will be
consulting shortly on a range of proposals for changes to the
current medical retirement regulations. Some of the proposed changes
will reflect recommendations made by HMIC.
Nearly all forces now have targets to reduce
sickness absence as part of their efficiency plans. In order to
achieve these targets, many forces are currently implementing
new initiatives, (eg: closer management review of sick leave;
improved Occupational Health, counselling services and investment
in medical support; investment in protective gear for officers;
and the availability of "restricted duty" posts for
officers returning to fitness). However, it will take some time
until these reductions will be reflected in the figures. Guidelines
on the treatment of sickness absence that have been issued by
ACPO will help reduce current sickness levels. Research is now
being undertaken by the Home Office to identify good practice,
which will be disseminated to all forces when completed.
Recommendation 34 (use of the power to reduce
the pay of officers who are sick for six or more months) has not
yet been raised at the PNB but we will do so at the next opportunity.