New regulations laid today (12 March) by the Home Secretary will ensure police disciplinary hearings are held in public and led by legally qualified chairs.
The powers are part of a series of changes that aim to make police misconduct hearings more open and visible as well as increasing protection for police whistleblowers. They include:
- Requiring disciplinary hearings are held in public [from 1 May];
- Ensuring the chair of the hearing is legally qualified [from January 2016];
- Protecting police whistleblowers from unfair disciplinary action [from 1 May];
- Allowing compensation to be withheld from chief officers who are found guilty of misconduct [from 1 May].
The Home Secretary also announced further long-term reforms today that will substantially improve the police complaints and disciplinary systems, to be legislated for in the next Parliament. These include:
- Enabling Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to decide who should receive and record complaints, assess and allocate complaints for local resolution, act as a single point of contact with complainants and take on responsibility for local resolution;
- Introducing a new system of “super-complaints” to allow charities and advocacy groups to lodge complaints on the public’s behalf about key policing issues;
- Handing responsibility to PCCs for hearing appeals into complaints dealt with through local resolution;
- Introducing new protections for police whistleblowers, including strengthening the independent routes for them to raise their concerns directly with the Independent Police Complaints Commission;
- Expanding the remit of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to enable it to inspect the Office of PCCs which take on new roles in the complaints system (though not PCCs themselves); and
- Giving new powers to the IPCC to strengthen its role as an independent oversight body.
These measures, in response to two public consultations – Improving Police Integrity and Changes to the Police Disciplinary System - build on the radical programme of police reform carried out by this government. This includes the introduction of a new Code of Ethics for police officers, measures to stop officers retiring or resigning to avoid misconduct investigations and efforts to make the Police Federation more accountable to its members and transparent to the public.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
The government has always been clear that the vast majority of police officers in this country do their job honestly and with integrity. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public. But the good work of the majority threatens to be damaged by a continuing series of events and revelations relating to police misconduct.
I have brought in regulations for police disciplinary hearings to be held in public and to be led by legally qualified chairs. These reforms, alongside the range of other measures announced today, will completely overhaul the police complaints and disciplinary systems to ensure that the system is accountable, transparent and easy for the public to understand.
The public need to have confidence that the complaints system is fair and effective and that the disciplinary system effectively holds corrupt officers, or those who are guilty of misconduct, to account for their actions.