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Circular: the new system for handling complaints against police and crime commissioners

Home Office circular 002/2012 The new system for handling complaints against police and crime commissioners Broad subject: Police service…

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Home Office circular 002/2012

The new system for handling complaints against police and crime commissioners

  • Broad subject: Police service
  • Issue date: Mon Jan 30 00:00:00 GMT 2012
  • From:
    Crime and policing group, policing directorate, police transparency unit
  • Linked circulars:
    No linked circulars
  • Copies sent to:
    Independent Police Complaints Comission Greater London Assembly

  • Sub category: Police authorities
  • Implementation date: Mon Jan 16 00:00:00 GMT 2012
  • For more info contact:

Steve Newby

  • Addressed to:
    Chief officers of police, Police Authority chief executives Mayor’s office for policing and crime

Purpose

  1. The purpose of this circular is to inform you that the Elected Local Policing Bodies (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2011 came into force on 16 January 2012 in the MPS area and November 2012 in the rest of England and Wales.

Background

  1. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 makes changes to the governance arrangements for policing in England and Wales, with the exception of the City of London police area. The act abolishes the police authorities responsible for maintaining police forces outside London and replaces them with directly elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs).  The act also abolishes the Metropolitan Police Authority and replaces it with the Mayor’s office for policing and crime (MOPC).

3. The act allows each PCC and the MOPC to appoint a deputy, known in the case of the MOPC as the deputy mayor for policing and crime (DMPC). Further, the act provides for the creation of a police and crime panel (PCP) for each police area, with the function of scrutinising the actions and decisions of the PCC or MOPC. Outside London the PCP is made up of at least one member from each local authority in the police area, and may coopt additional members, at least two of whom must not be local authority members. In the Metropolitan Police District the PCP is a committee of the London Assembly; it too may coopt members who are not members of the assembly.

4. The act provides for the making of regulations about the handling of complaints against ‘relevant office holders’, namely PCCs, their deputies, the holder of the MOPC and the DMPC. The regulations may also make provision about the recording of ‘conduct matters’, namely matters in the case of which there is an indication that a relevant office holder may have committed a criminal offence. Further, the regulations may make provision about the manner in which these complaints and conduct matters are to be investigated or otherwise dealt with.

The regulations

  1. The regulations provide for serious complaints (those which constitute or involve, or appear to constitute or involve, the commission of a criminal offence) and all conduct matters (which, by definition, involve the suspicion of a criminal offence) to be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) or by a police force under the management of the IPCC. This is to ensure that where a criminal allegation is made against a relevant office holder there is no bias or appearance of bias in the way the matter is dealt with by the local police, with whom the office holder will have a close relationship.

  2. Where the office holder is a PCC, a deputy PCC or a DMPC who is not a member of the London Assembly, the regulations provide for such complaints to be resolved informally by the PCP. Where the office holder is the holder of the MOPC (in other words, the Mayor) or is a DMPC who is a member of the assembly, the regulations provide for such complaints to be dealt with in accordance with the local government standards regime. The reason for the difference in approach is to avoid the creation of two regimes for dealing with non-criminal allegations against the Mayor and a DMPC who is a member of the assembly, bearing in mind that they will continue to be subject to the local government standards regime in any event.

  3. The regulations confer general functions on the IPCC in relation to relevant office holders that are equivalent to those discharged by the IPCC in relation to the police. They make similar provision for the IPCC to issue reports on the exercise of those functions. They apply provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002 giving the IPCC powers to conduct covert investigations, and providing for IPCC staff themselves to be subject to existing misconduct procedures when discharging functions in relation to relevant office holders. They place the same general duties on relevant office holders, PCPs and chief officers of police to assist the IPCC and give it access to premises and information as are applicable to police forces and police authorities in relation to police complaints.

  4. In relation to the initial handling of complaints and conduct matters, the regulations create a similar process to that under the police complaints regime, by which allegations are brought to the attention of the relevant PCP, are recorded by the PCP and are referred to the IPCC if they involve suspicion of the commission of a criminal offence. Where a complaint or conduct matter is referred, the Regulations require the IPCC to determine whether or not it should be investigated, and if it is to be investigated, whether this should be by the IPCC itself or by a police force under the management of the IPCC. The regulations make similar provision to that under the police complaints regime in relation to the way investigations are to be conducted, including provision for investigations to be suspended, resumed and discontinued.

  5. The regulations provide for the investigator to submit a final report to the IPCC, and for the IPCC then to consider whether the report indicates that a criminal offence has been committed and that it is appropriate for the matter to be considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). If the IPCC decides these questions in the affirmative, the report is to be sent to the DPP for consideration as to whether criminal proceedings should be brought. The regulations provide for the report to be sent to the PCP and published, subject to the removal of sensitive material.

  6. If the IPCC decides that a complaint or conduct matter should not to be investigated, the regulations provide for it to be referred back to the PCP. Where a complaint is referred back, or the PCP decides at the outset that it does not satisfy the criteria for referral to the IPCC, the regulations provide for the complaint to be subjected to informal resolution, and makes similar provision in this regard to that made in relation to the local resolution of police complaints. The regulations allow the PCP to appoint a sub-committee, a single member or any other person to achieve the resolution of the complaint. The regulations are not prescriptive as to the method of resolution or the appropriate outcome, bearing in mind that the act does not make any provision for any sanction to be imposed on a relevant office holder. It is envisaged that informal resolution will involve the PCP seeking an explanation from the office holder for his conduct and, where appropriate, an apology. The PCP retains its powers to require the office holder to attend before them and provide information, and to make a public report on the matter.

  7. In the case of the Mayor of London and a DMPC who is an assembly member, the regulations simply provide for the London Assembly PCP to pass the matter to the monitoring officer of the Greater London Authority to be dealt with under the local government standards regime.

  8. The regulations allow a PCP to delegate any of its functions, except its functions in relation to the final resolution of a complaint, to the chief executive of the PCC or MOPC or, in the case of the London Assembly PCP, the monitoring officer of the Greater London Authority. The purpose of this is to avoid the PCP being burdened with the initial handling of complaints and conduct matters.