Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280
TUESDAY 5 MARCH 2002
280. When you say that these, basically, four
main areas of complaint should be mandatory, is it not possible
that somebody could come along to this Committee or elsewhere
and say "Ah, yes, but what about this type of complaint?
Why should that not be mandatory"? There is a difficulty
in deciding where you stop.
(Mr Wadham) There is a difficulty, but I think that
there is a great deal of consensus about trying to ensure that
the cases that are independently investigated are the most serious
end of the business. That is why people have talked about something
like 1,000 cases, and it is those cases which tend to be most
controversial and, from the points of view of the individual who
has made the complaint or the relatives of someone who has died,
those are the ones they want to see independently investigated.
I think although the range may vary a little, we could probably
all agree that we are talking about serious cases. Whether race
discrimination is a serious or non-serious issue could be debated,
but we would say, in relation to the difficulties the police have
had in the past, that is a very important category, and the presumption
should be that that should be independently investigated.
281. Again, you gave a couple of examples of
cases where you felt that the Commission should be given power
to call in or to investigate that are not specified in the Bill
as a specific complaint. Can you give us a little bit more of
an idea what you mean by that? Give us some examples of the kind
of thing you think the Commission should be able to call in on
their own initiative.
(Mr Wadham) I think we would hope that over time the
Commission, having access to significant numbers of cases of complaints
and significant relationships with local police forces, would
be able to identify themes, and would also be able to identify
hot-spots. In relation to the themes, I would hope that the Commission
would be able to concentrate on any particular problem that has
arisen. For instance, there is some concern about the way in which
the police in cars chase those people who have stolen carsor
joy riders. Some of those have led to deaths and, obviously, then
the Police Complaints Authority would be involved in that process,
but some of them have not. It may be that that is something that
the Commission would want to concentrate on in relation to complaints,
or in relation to conduct matters that come to them, whether or
not there is a complaint, and would then perhaps produce a specific
report on that issue that would help police forces and police
officers to learn from the mistakes that have been madeassuming
there were mistakes. The other example that I was giving is that
there may be particular places, either a whole police force or
a particular police station, where there are substantive problems
with how members of the public are treated by police officers.
There is also, of course, a secondary issue, which is how the
complaints are dealt with once those complaints have been made.
The Commission could deal with both the substance of what is perhaps
going wrong and, also, the issue about the procedure of how the
complaints are dealt with in that particular police station or
that particular area, so that standards of substantive policing
and the investigation of complaints are improved.
282. How would the Commission know how to do
that? Would it not mean they were going on fishing expeditions?
If no complaint has actually arisen about a particular police
station or a particular type of issue, are you not suggesting
that the Commission would be able to go on fishing expeditions,
rooting around looking for problems where there may not be any?
(Mr Wadham) Whatever the rules are on resources, I
think that is extremely unlikely. What is very likelywhich
is what is happening to the Police Complaints Authority at the
momentis that they do not have sufficient resources and
they have to be very careful about
283. Let us assume they have all the resources
in the world they need for ever.
(Mr Wadham) Of course it is theoretically possible
that this Commission, with infinite resources, could go on fishing
expeditions. However, it is also true that police officers can
go on fishing expeditions. Most police officers do not do so because
they are taking a more sensible approach and want to get on with
the job that we would all want them to do, and I would expect,
given the kinds of people who are going to be appointed to the
Commission, they will take a sensible approach as well.
284. And if they did not?
(Mr Wadham) There is, in fact, a complaints mechanism
against the Commission in the Bill. So officers who felt that
they were unnecessarily being attacked, harassed or investigated
could make a complaint.
285. What do you think the advantages are of
actually specifying in the Bill the categories of complaint that
should be investigated independently?
(Mr Wadham) I think the advantage of doing that is
for Parliament to be making a decision about which categories
of complaints are the most important and most significant and,
perhaps, at this time, most controversial. These categories, of
course, do not have to exist for all time, but the categories
I was mentioning, the ones in the Bill, were death as a result
of serious assault. We would say corruption and race discrimination,
I think, are important categories. Members of the Committee may
have other ideas, but I think that we could probably devise four
or five categories which are very problematic if the police are
engaging in those kinds of activities.
286. At the outset of your presentation you
said that this is not about the words in the Bill but about the
culture and practice of the Commission. Do you not agree that
we should actually give some discretion to that Commission? Why
are you against us giving that discretion?
(Mr Wadham) I think the Commission should be given
some discretion; that the categories should not be so mandatory
that they cannot, for exceptional circumstances or whatever the
phrase may be, not investigate a particular case. The process
should be more mandatory than it is and less discretionary than
it is, not because I am concerned about the Commission members
or their staff getting it wrong so much as there is always going
to be a resource problem. I think if the pressure is on and they
chose, for instance, not to investigate independently a case involving
race discrimination by the police, then it is going to be difficult
for that member of the public when they are confronted by a police
officer saying "Well, I am going to be investigating your
complaint. I am another police officer and the Commission has
got nothing to do with this case" or "I am doing the
investigation and I will supply my files to them and they will
make decisions". It is not quite the same thing.
287. There is very little discretion you can
give if we were to put the words in a Bill "all complaints
of assault by a police officer, all complaints of corruption by
a police officer, all complaints that include an allegation of
racial discrimination". There is very little room for manoeuvre
for a Commission there.
(Mr Wadham) Unless you then included the words "Unless
there were good reasons or exceptional circumstances why those
investigations should not be carried out by the Commission".
288. So you are looking to give the Commission
(Mr Wadham) I agree with the Police Complaints Authority
that there are individual cases that are currently subject to
a mandatory category which should not be, because it is a waste
of time. What I am trying to get across is that the Bill should
make it a presumption that the Commission should investigate those
kinds of things, albeit that they might have a discretion to avoid
that where they thought it was necessary. So I trust them a little
bit but not as much as, perhaps, the drafters of the Bill do.
289. Would you, perhaps, trust the Home Office
or the Home Secretary of the day to give directions to a Commission
instead of actually legislating?
(Mr Wadham) The issue of police complaints is a fundamental
one. It is about policing the police; it is a constitutional issue
and, therefore, I think it is a matter really for Parliament.
Of course, there will have to be regulations, one cannot avoid
that, but some of our criticism of this Bill is there is, perhaps,
too much in regulation and not enough in the Bill itself.
290. If I can take you on to the appeals procedure
now, currently the Bill allows for an appeal on the findings of
the investigation. You want to include a facility to appeal against
the manner of investigation. How do you envisage that working?
(Mr Wadham) I should confess, first, that we have
not been particularly a supporter of the appeals process, because
it seems to be part of the problem in there being too smooth a
transfer from the Police Complaints Authority to the Commission.
In that respect, we would prefer the resources of the Commission
to be devoted to independent investigation rather than dealing
with appeals from cases which are likely to be less serious. We
would say the priority is that as much of the resources of the
Commission should go into the investigation of the serious end
of the business and for there to be less priority for appeals
against more trivial kinds of cases.
291. Would you like to see specified in the
Bill trivial cases as well? I am trying to work out how you actually
want this appeals procedure to work.
(Mr Wadham) That is the first thing we say. The appeals
process is an additional provision which, of course, complainants
will want and will use but, actually, in terms of resources perhaps
those resources devoted to appeals would be better used in proper
investigation. Subject to that, now there is an appeals processand
I imagine the Government will not change its mind on this and
nor will Parliament force it to do sothere is going to
be an appeal mechanism. So, in those circumstances, we think the
appeal mechanism should work not just for the result but the investigation.
292. So your preferred option would not be to
have an appeals process, but if there is one you would want it
in relation to the manner. Would you want to see facilities to
lodge an appeal during an investigation or just after an investigation?
(Mr Wadham) The difficulty with appeals in generaland
this is something we have said to the Home Officeis that
this measure is about trying to deal with the investigation process.
If the investigation has already occurred, then it is sometimes
very difficult to re-investigate something. So, waiting until
after the event will make it much more difficult to start the
investigation afresh. So I think there are problems with waiting
till the end. Equally, the complainant will not probably be in
a position to know very much about the investigation whilst it
is going on.
293. Ideally, you would like it only during
an investigation, but you accept that if there is an appeals process
you might want it during and after. I am trying to get clarification.
(Mr Wadham) I think, in practical terms, it probably
has to happen afterwards because the complainant is unlikely to
know how the process has worked. It depends, to some extent, on
how good the Commission and the appeals are in telling complainants
about the investigation as it is going along. At the present time,
what tends to happen with complaintsand this Bill will,
hopefully, cure that problemis that complainants are asked
by a police officer to make a statement about what happened, that
statement is taken away and then the next they hear is there is
a letter from the Police Complaints Authority saying "your
complaint is not upheld". Sometimes there are more details
but not very often. Certainly they do not get the statements of
the police officers or the report of the investigating officer.
Hopefully, those difficulties will disappear once this Bill is
294. Just going back very quickly to your concept
of mandatory cases that have to go to the Commission, if we take
the case of racial discrimination, assume that we do not live
in a world of infinite resources and there is a queue of cases
backed up at the Commission. Would there be a danger that you
might encourage malicious complaints by the certain knowledge
that every complaint about racial discrimination has to go to
the Commission; therefore, you might as well lodge one because
it might help you in terms of your case going in front of the
Court? You can say "Well, of course, I have made a complaint
about the way I was treated and the racial discrimination I received,
but that is still pending in the Commission"which
is bogged down because of your amendment to the Bill.
(Mr Wadham) The first thing is that I have asked police
officers to provide evidence of these kinds of complaints. They
say people make complaints just to try and improve their position
when they are being prosecuted. I do not think that happens very
often, but even if it does it would not make any difference whether
the Commission was investigating the complaint or the police were
295. No, but if you have a mandatory set of
complaints that have to go to the Commission (and in a world of
finite resources there is always going to be a queue of cases
being looked at by the Commission) would you not encourage malicious
complaints because you would know that it might be several months
before your case was looked at?
(Mr Wadham) I would hope that the Commission could
work as quickly as the police could, so that there would not be
a distinction between cases investigated by the police themselves
and cases investigated by the Commission. As I said, I am very
happy to have a discretion for the presumption to be disapplied
in relation to some cases. I do not know whether that would deal
with the example you gave because the difficulty with any complaint
is you do not know whether it is vexatious or frivolous or malicious
until you investigate it.
296. Is not the real problem with mandatory
obligations to investigate the selection of categories? You say
racial discrimination but someone else might say sexual discrimination.
What about homophobic behaviour? You may suggest three categories
and somebody else may suggest another three, and somebody else
may suggest one and then the whole thing becomes log-jammed because
of the number of mandatory obligations.
(Mr Wadham) I accept that is a possible problem. However,
if you ask members of the publicparticularly in London
but in other cities as wellwhat they perceive the problem
to be with the police in relation to ethnic minorities, that would
be a real issue for them. They will say "We are concerned
about the nature of the policing of black people and people from
ethnic minorities". So that puts that in a different category.
It may be that in five or ten years' time those issues will have
gone away, and I hope that is the case. If your proposal is that
we should make the category discrimination in general, then we
would not oppose that, but I do not think that would make a very
significant difference to the number of cases that the Commission
had to investigate.
297. Turning to Clause 18 and the inspection
of police premises on behalf of the Commission, it gives the IPCC
access to premises but it requires 48 hours' notice. As you say
in your evidence, you consider that there may be some serious
investigations which demand immediate access.
(Mr Wadham) Looking again at that provision this morning,
I am not sure whether the provision means what we said it meant,
because I think the position is, if you look closely at 18(3),
that the 48-hour notice provision seems to only apply in relation
to 18(2)(a). That is an examination by the Commission of the efficiency
and effectiveness of the arrangements made by the force in question
for handling complaints, rather than an investigation of a complaint.
If myon the tube and hereconsideration of that is
right, then we would withdraw our concern.
298. So your feeling is that there would be
(Mr Wadham) Immediate access.
Mr Cameron: In 18(3) it looks like the 48 hours
only applies to (2)(a), does it not?
299. Where does it say that otherwise immediate
access would be
(Mr Wadham) I think it does not say that, but the
implication is that if you do not need to give 48 hours' notice
then access is immediate.