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Policy Proposals on New Powers for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)

7th June 2014

Response to the consultation from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria


The key proposals in this consultation are:

  • Extending the IPCC remit over private sector contractors working with police forces in England and Wales.
  • Providing the IPCC with a power to obtain data from 3rd parties.
  • Establishing a statutory framework requiring response to IPCC recommendations.
  • Providing the IPCC with the powers of an equivalent authorising officer for activities set out in specific PACE codes.
  • Providing the IPCC with the power to direct unsatisfactory performance procedures (UPP) measures after a death or serious injury (DSI) investigation.

Proposal A: Extending the IPCC remit over private sector contractors working with police forces in England and Wales.

Current Position: The IPCC’s oversight of private contractors is limited to employees of contractors who have been ‘designated’ by chief officers to perform detention or escort functions for police forces. As such, private contractors performing other roles, such as call-handling, do not fall directly within the oversight of the IPCC.

Response: We agree with the Home Affairs Select Committee[1] that with the gradual evolution of the IPCCs remit to include investigation of the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA), the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) moving the new National Crime Agency (NCA) as well as police and crime commissioners it is sensible to include private sector providers of policing services to reflect the Government’s programme of opening up public and ensure that they have a measure of public accountability and ensure public confidence is not eroded. This should include statutory regulation to ensure all providers are covered and it is written in to all contracts to deliver policing support services and also included in IPCC statutory guidance on the handling of complaints.

The choice of police forces of whether to ‘designate staff’ from private sector support service providers when entering in to contracts should be removed. This will also remove the possibility of police forces abdicating responsibility and accountability by not designating staff. This was highlighted in a submission[2 ]to the Home Affairs Select Committee by the family of Sharon Maughan, who died in Worthing Custody Centre of cardiac arrhythmic failure in This custody suite was staffed by both officers under the discretion and control of the Chief Constable of Sussex and those under the control of Reliance Secure Task Management. Sussex Police had not designated Reliance which had ramifications for the subsequent investigation in to Ms Maughan’s death. In this case the IPCC had no jurisdiction to question, interview or investigate the actions of the custody suite staff.

Proposal B: Providing the IPCC with a power to obtain data from 3rd parties.

Current Position: During the course of an investigation, IPCC investigators regularly seek information from third parties, including individuals, private and public bodies. This information is often, but not always, ‘personal data’ for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 and can include the following:

  • Address details from organisations such as the Post Office or DVLA
  • Subscriber details and billing information from telephone and internet companies
  • Travel information and evidence of passenger movement from e.g. transport for London
  • Information logs and notes relating to correspondence between councils and police forces.
  • Video footage (including unbroadcast material) from broadcasting companies

Where the IPCC requests this type of information in investigations which do not contain a criminal dimension (e.g. in cases which concern misconduct), many third parties are unwilling to process this data for fear of breaching the requirements under the Data Protection Act 1998 or other relevant legal constraints. The IPCC undertakes many non-criminal investigations where such data would assist.

By comparison, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the General Medical Council (GMC), General Dental Council (GDC), the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and HMRC already have powers of varying strength that allow them to acquire information from third parties to assist them in noncriminal investigations.

Response: We would be comfortable with the IPCC being brought in line for non-criminal cases along the lines of those already in place for the CCRC, HSE and GMC. We would suggest and evaluation of the performance of the criteria round access to third party data operating by the organisations mentioned in the consultation note; GMC, GDC; HMRC etc.

The introduction of a statutory ‘information notice’ would should satisfy the substantial public interest requirement we believe is important to balance assistance for the IPCC is its investigations and upholding the integrity of the Data Protection Act and assurances to data holders that releasing information is necessary and proportionate.

It may well be necessary for information technology procedures and safeguards to be in place to ensure information for the IPCC investigations is encrypted and transmitted securely. It may well be useful to set out a protocol around information sharing in line with the data principles set out in the Data Protection Act.

Proposal C: Statutory Framework for Ensuring Follow-Up of IPCC Recommendations.

Current Position: At the conclusion of an investigation, the IPCC notifies bodies of ‘institutional failings’ identified by its investigations. The IPCC does this by issuing recommendations mostly to police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners, but which can also be addressed to other public bodies and private sector organisations. At present, there is no clear regulatory framework or mechanism to ensure these recommendations are properly followed up, enforced or monitored for progress.

This is often the focus of criticism by families and community groups, when the police or other bodies, to which these recommendations are addressed, take no action and a similar incident occurs subsequently.

By comparison, Coroners in England and Wales have a power pursuant to rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984, to make recommendations addressed to any type of body, following an inquest, requiring recipients to respond to them within 56 days.

Response: It is vital that public have confidence in the IPCC. That the public have confidence that the police will take note of recommendations and the IPCC as a result has a clear purpose.

We would support the intention to make all IPCC recommendations to bodies resulting from an IPCC investigation subject to all bodies. Any body or organisation mentioned in an IPCC report should be required to supply a published written response, on any recommendations directed at that body in a final report. This would include the publication of any responses to initial drafts and including private providers of policing support services. We consider it vital that there is no difference in statutory requirements between public and private firms when it comes to investigating incidents.  

We would hope this would restrict complaints being sent back to forces with little evidence of any note being taken and give complainants and the public a greater measure of confidence that the IPCC has a purpose and is a body fit for purpose.

We would hope the College of Policing would have a role in tandem with HMIC in ensuring recommendations from IPCC reports are collated and best practice shapes guidelines and is shared with all forces. 

We would endorse the submission by the Police Superintendents’ Association[3] to the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC), and suggested in this consultation, that the IPCCs ability to make recommendations should be enhanced with a power similar to the Rule 43 power available to coroners in England and Wales, which provides coroners with the power to make reports to a person or organisation where the coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent future deaths. Such a power could apply to police-wide practices or to particular forces.

Within this recommendation, the role of police and crime commissioners (PCC) holding the police to account on behalf of the public, provides an opportunity to reinforcing public confidence and holding the recommendations of the IPCC on the force to account. PCCs should have a scrutiny role and any statutory responsibility should consider requiring recommendations to forces from an IPCC investigation to being published on the PCC and force websites along side the written force responses to those recommendations and any force improvement action planning documentation to manage the response. This will be a step in the right direction that IPCC recommendations are contributing directly to improvements in policing practices.

Proposal D: Power to Authorise the Use of Particular Pace Powers

Current Position: Where the IPCC investigates a matter itself, the investigator has the powers and privileges of a constable – see the Police Reform Act 2002, Schedule 3, paragraph 19(4). Where the IPCC investigation includes suspicions that a criminal offence may have been committed, the power of arrest is available to IPCC investigators just as it is available to a constable. However, some powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 require authorisation from a police officer of a particular rank, which IPCC officers are unable to give. In practice, this rarely occurs, but as and when this authorisation is required under PACE, it arguably undermines IPCC independence.

Response: The proposed additional powers around interviews and search will be beneficial to the IPCC where required. We feel this measure will contribute to the stated aim of improving the level of public confidence by reinforcing the independence of the IPCC away from reliance on the police to authorise IPCC senior investigators to carry out interview and search powers.  

These are powers must be used by the designated senior and deputy senior investigators. The IPCC must ensure that powers are used only by officers who have received appropriate full training on their use and that a training programme is in place to ensure the necessary training is up to date and reflects any changes to PACE. While currently a high proportion of senior investigators are ex police officers are currently used to operating under PACE the stated IPCC aim to reduce the number of former police officers in the IPCC will require appropriate recruitment planning and training under PACE to be addressed.

Proposal E: Power to Recommend and Direct Unsatisfactory Performance Proceedings Following a Death or Serious Injury

Current Position: Death and Serious Injury (DSI) matters following police contact account for some of the most high profile and grave investigations that are taken on by the IPCC. These investigations can and sometimes do conclude that there have been failings by persons serving with the police that do not amount to misconduct but are examples of unsatisfactory performance.

Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, the IPCC was provided with the power to recommend and direct unsatisfactory performance proceedings following an investigation into a complaint or conduct matter. This power did not, however, extend to DSI matters which, as a result, have created an anomaly.

Response: We support the proposals to extend the power IPCC to direct unsatisfactory performance proceedings against a force following DSI. It would not seem logical to the public that the IPCC have powers on recommending procedural service improvements following a complaint or conduct matter but do not for some of the most serious matters arising from police contact.

We would therefore agree that it was not the intention of legislation drafted for the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011, to exclude from the IPCC the powers to recommend and direct unsatisfactory performance resulting from DSI. We support the correction of this anomaly. We envisage no credible difficulties in the IPCC exercising such a power.

1 House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Independent Police Complaints Commission Eleventh Report of

Session 2012–13 para 96 page 31

2 House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Independent Police Complaints Commission Eleventh Report of

Session 2012–13 Volume II Ev w50

3 House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Independent Police Complaints Commission

Eleventh Report of Session 2012–13, Page 24