Independent Police Complaints Commission
|Legal status||Non-departmental public body|
|Purpose||Complaints about the English and Welsh police forces|
|England and Wales|
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is a non-departmental public body in England and Wales responsible for overseeing the system for handling complaints made against police forces in England and Wales.
A parliamentary inquiry set up in the wake of the death of Ian Tomlinson concluded in January 2013 that, "It has neither the powers nor the resources that it needs to get to the truth when the integrity of the police is in doubt."
The IPCC was formally founded on 1 April 2004, replacing the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). Funded by the Home Office, the IPCC operates under statutory powers and duties defined in the 2002 Police Reform Act. It is independent of pressure groups, political parties and, in principle, of government.
It can also elect to manage or supervise the police investigation into a particular complaint and will independently investigate the most serious cases itself. While some of the IPCC's investigators are former police officers, the commissioners themselves cannot have worked for the police by law. It has set standards for police forces to improve the way the public's complaints are handled. The IPCC also handles appeals by the public about the way their complaint was dealt with by the local force, or its outcomes. The IPCC was given the task of increasing public confidence in the complaint system. It aims to make investigations more open, timely, proportionate and fair.
Since April 2006 the IPCC has taken on responsibility for similar, serious complaints against HM Revenue and Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency in England and Wales. In April 2008, it additionally took on responsibility for serious complaints against UK Border Agency staff.
The statutory powers and responsibilities of the Commission are set out by the Police Reform Act 2002, and it came into existence on 1 April 2004, replacing the Police Complaints Authority. It is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), funded by the Home Office, but by law entirely independent of the police, interest groups and political parties and whose decisions on cases are free from government involvement.
Between 1 April 2004 and 31 March 2009 the IPCC used its powers to begin 353 independent and 759 managed investigations into the most serious complaints against the police. These included deaths in police custody, shootings and fatal traffic incidents.
It also handles more than 4,500 appeals a year from members of the public about the way their complaint was dealt with by the local force, or its outcomes.
The vast majority of complaints are dealt with by the Professional Standards department of the police force the complaint is about. The IPCC's independent investigators investigate the most serious complaints, for example where someone has died following contact with the police.
There are a number of types of incidents that the police, or other agencies the IPCC oversees complaints for, must mandatorily refer to the Commission. These include deaths in police custody, shootings and fatal traffic incidents as well as allegations that an officer or member of police staff has committed a serious criminal offence.
Forces may also refer matters voluntarily to the IPCC and the Commission can 'call in' any matter where there might be serious public concern.
Once a matter has been referred, the IPCC will make a 'mode of investigation' decision to determine how it should be dealt with. This is done by caseworkers or investigators who submit an assessment to a Commissioner. The assessment will involve judging the available information and may mean IPCC investigators are sent to the scene.
The four modes of investigation are:
- Independent investigations carried out by the IPCC’s own investigators and overseen by an IPCC Commissioner. In an independent investigation, the IPCC investigators have all the powers of the police themselves.
- Managed investigations carried out by police Professional Standards Departments (PSDs), under the direction and control of the IPCC.
- Supervised investigations carried out by police PSDs, under their own direction and control. The IPCC will set the terms of reference for a supervised investigation and receive the investigation report when it is complete. Complainants have a right of appeal to the IPCC following a supervised investigation.
- Local investigations carried out entirely by police PSDs, or by other officers on their behalf. Complainants have a right of appeal to the IPCC following a local investigation.
Should new information emerge after a mode of investigation has been decided the IPCC can change the classification both up and down the scale.
IPCC Investigators are not police officers. However, IPCC investigators designated to undertake an investigation have all the powers and privileges of a police constable in relation to that investigation throughout England and Wales (Police Reform Act, 2002– Schedule 3, Paragraph 19). However, despite being established in April 2004, the first known use of these arrest powers was in 2007 when a former police officer was arrested in relation to allegations of sexual assault.
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The IPCC is overseen by a Chair, two Deputy Chairs, seven operational and three non-operational Commissioners. The Chair is a Crown appointment and Commissioners are public appointments. The IPCC's Commissioners and staff are based in IPCC regional offices in Cardiff, London, Sale and Wakefield.
The IPCC's Chief Executive, is Lesley Longstone who is responsible for running the organisation which supports the work of the Commission. Kelly is also the IPCC's Accounting Officer and is accountable to the Home Office Principal Accounting Officer and to Parliament. Susan Atkins was appointed to be the first Chief Executive of the IPCC in 2003.
As well as employing its own independent investigators to investigate the most serious cases, the IPCC has staff performing a number of other functions.
Caseworkers handle the majority of complaints that are referred to the organisation. They will record the details of the complaint and make an assessment of the case and recommend a method of investigation, which will then be passed to a Commissioner for sign off. They also assess appeals from the public concerning the outcome of police decisions regarding complaints.
The IPCC also takes a lead role in developing new policy for the complaints system and for police practices. For example, following research about the circumstances into deaths following police activity on roads a new policy was drafted. This has now been adopted by ACPO and the government is making it law for police to follow.
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The IPCC's seven operational Commissioners and three non-operational Commissioners are appointed by the Home Secretary for a five or three-year period. The Chair is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Home Secretary. Commissioners by law may not have served with the police at any time, been the Chair or a member of SOCA at any time or been a Commissioner or officer of Customs at any time. They are the public, independent face of the IPCC.
The Commission is the governing board of the IPCC, holding collective responsibility for governance of the Commission including oversight of the Executive. As public office holders, Commissioners oversee IPCC investigations and the promotion of public confidence in the complaints system (known as Guardianship). Each Commissioner also has responsibility for a particular portfolio such as firearms, deaths in custody, road policing and youth engagement.
Commissioners in making decisions on individual cases act under the delegated authority of the Commission. All appointments, which are full-time and non-executive are for a five-year term, were through open competition. The commission meets bi-monthly and dates can be found on the IPCC website.
Northern Ireland and Scotland
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The IPCC self-regulation scheme covers England and Wales; oversight of the police complaints system in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. In Scotland the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) reviews the way the police handle complaints from the public and also conducts independent investigation into the most serious incidents involving the police.
Police Action Lawyers Group resignations
In February 2008 over a hundred lawyers who specialise in handling police complaints resigned from its advisory body, citing various criticisms of the IPCC including a pattern of favouritism towards the police, indifference and rudeness towards complainants, and complaints being rejected in spite of apparently powerful evidence in their support.
The IPCC responded to these criticisms with a letter to The Guardian in which the then IPCC Chair, Nick Hardwick, acknowledged some cases could have been handled differently in its infancy, but pointed out that despite repeated requests for the group to provide contemporary examples where expectations had not been met, there had been no further cases identified.
It has been noted that "no policeman has ever been convicted of murder or manslaughter for a death following police contact, though there have been more than 400 such deaths in the past ten years alone.". Although a number of these were determined (by inquest juries) to be suicides, other cases such as that of Ian Tomlinson, were found by inquest juries to be 'unlawful killings'.
There have been a number of police officers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, including those responsible for the deaths of Hayley Adamson and Sandra Simpson.
Parliamentary Inquiry 2012
On 27 June 2012 the Home Affairs Committee announced an inquiry into the IPCC including, but not limited to, analysis of the independence of the Commission, the powers and responsibilities of the Commission and the effectiveness of Commission investigations. The Committee began hearing evidence on 17 July 2012. The report was published on 29 January 2013 and was scathing, describing it as "woefully underequipped and hamstrung in achieving its original objectives. It has neither the powers nor the resources that it needs to get to the truth when the integrity of the police is in doubt."
- Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary - similar agency, but with a focus on integrity of investigations and preventing malfeasance
- Jean Charles de Menezes (IPCC investigation into shooting at Stockwell Underground Station)
- Death of Mark Duggan
- Death of Ian Tomlinson
- Internal affairs (law enforcement)
- Death of Sean Rigg (IPCC investigation into death of Sean Rigg)
- "Home Affairs Committee – Eleventh Report: Independent Police Complaints Commission (conclusions and recommendations)". Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- Sandra Paul (9 April 2009). "G20 assault: How Metropolitan police tried to manage a death". The Guardian.
- "Independent Police Complaints Commission". IPCC. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
- Hardwick, Nick (27 February 2008). "Nick Hardwick: The criticisms of the IPCC's investigations stem from the caseload we inherited | Comment is free | The Guardian". The Guardian (London: GMG). ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- IPCC website
- http://web.archive.org/web/20160304034556/http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/index/resources/evidence_reports/corp_reports-plans.htm. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2010. Missing or empty
- "IPCC arrests and charges former Northumbria Police officer following investigation". IPCC Website (press release). 7 August 2007. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
- List of IPCC Commissioners, IPCC.gov.uk; accessed 1 June 2016.
- Crisis at police watchdog as lawyers resign
- "The camera is mightier than the sword". The Economist. 16 April 2009.
- "Ian Tomlinson unlawfully killed by Pc at G20 protests". BBC News. 3 May 2011.
- "Home Affairs Committee – Eleventh Report: Independent Police Complaints Commission". Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- "IPCC: Police watchdog 'woefully under-equipped'". BBC News. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2013.