Complaints Against Police (Investigations)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th June 1969.

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Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 12:00 am, 19th June 1969

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with present procedures for investigating complaints against the police, in the light of his review of the matter; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Bedfordshire South

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the recent concern at present methods of investigating public complaints against the police, details of which have been sent to him by the hon. Member for South Bedfordshire, he will now set up an independent council to investigate public complaints against the police.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party

The Royal Commission on the Police, which reported in 1962, proposed the main features of the system for dealing with complaints which is embodied in the Police Act 1964. I keep the working of the procedures under review.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the large majority of complaints against the police are probably frivolous and ought not to be brought? Does not he further agree that whereas in most, if not all, cases justice is done, the problem is that it should be seen to be done? What steps is he taking to reassure the public of this fact?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party

My experience is that justice is done in the great majority of cases, and I would not dissent from the way that the hon. Gentleman puts his point. I am sure that it is remembered by the public that a great many of these complaints come from malicious criminals who are ill-disposed and, because the police deal with these criminals, factors combine to make them an easy target. I note with interest the opinions expressed by the Chairman of the Police Federation the other day. I should be happy to discuss the matter with the Federation, because I want to see the two elements reconciled.

Photo of Mr Fred Blackburn Mr Fred Blackburn , Stalybridge and Hyde

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in addition to so-called malicious complaints, there is a percentage of complaints which can be called trivial? Some people consider that the police show exemplary patience and do a good job under what often are trying circumstances.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party

I am obliged to my hon. Friend, and I think that that is the general view. Nevertheless, the police themselves are conscious of the need for public opinion to be satisfied about these matters, and I would not despair of making such a proposal to them. On the other hand, I wish to emphasise if I can that my experience—and it is a personal one—is that in the great majority of cases the police act in an extremely tough way against any member of their service who is found to have acted improperly.