Complaints, conduct matters and DSI matters: procedure

Part of Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:45 pm, 22nd March 2016

May I start by saying that I agree with the spirit of new clause 9? Police officers and police forces should be encouraged to honestly acknowledge their mistakes, and they should be commended for doing so with the aim of ensuring that they do not make the same mistake again. That is why the Bill introduces a range of reforms to simplify the complaints system and, importantly, to make it less adversarial. The Bill redefines a complaint as an “expression of dissatisfaction” against a police force, moving away from linking every complaint with an individual. It also provides forces with much greater discretion in how they can resolve complaints in a reasonable and proportionate manner, encouraging them to seek swift resolution with the complainant.

For allegations below the threshold of gross misconduct, regulations already provide for management, rather than disciplinary action, to be taken where appropriate, but our reforms will go further. We will bring forward regulations to integrate the recommendations of the independent Chapman review into the disciplinary system. That will refocus the system back on learning lessons, ensuring that necessary managerial interventions short of dismissal are focused on transformation.

None the less, we are clear that where a police officer commits an act of misconduct, the public and his or her fellow officers have a right to expect that that officer is held to account and that his or her actions are fully and transparently investigated. A blanket assurance that any police officer should always receive protection from facing the consequences of their actions will not achieve that. I hope that we would all agree, given the conversations we have in surgery appointments, that constituents want to see their complaints properly and fully investigated with full transparency. It is incredibly important that we deliver that.

It is not the role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to determine protection for those who admit or apologise for committing misconduct. For the IPCC to consider an officer’s contrition would be inappropriate, not least as the IPCC only investigates the most serious and sensitive allegations. The IPCC must establish the facts of the complaint and other matters and then put forward an assessment of whether there is a case to answer. Following any investigation, an appropriate sanction taking into account any mitigating factors should rightly be considered by the force or, in cases of gross misconduct, by a disciplinary panel chaired by an independent qualified person. The College of Policing is developing benchmarking guidance for chairs of disciplinary panels to assist them in making judgments about mitigating and aggravating circumstances. That also implements a recommendation of the Chapman review.

Chief officers have an important role to play through their leadership, setting the organisational culture within their forces and supporting the learning and development of their officers and staff. We heard last week from Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis that there should be a

“sense of proportionality in how we deal with conduct issues in policing.”––[Official Report, Policing and Crime Public Bill Committee, 15 March 2016; c. 19, Q16.]

Our package of reforms will achieve that, without compromising the need to ensure that misconduct is dealt with fairly and robustly to maintain public confidence in the police. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.