"Serious concerns" on no time-limit for recall of retired officers to face misconduct charges

11 May 2016

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham

The Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, has today (11 May) made recommendations to reform the Police and Criminal Justice system(opens in a new window), in the wake of Hillsborough - below is the Police Federation of England and Wales' response to his proposals.

With respect to Mr Burnham’s recommendation regarding the media and ‘attributable briefings’:
Calum Macleod, vice-chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “There is an important relationship between these two entities that is needed. We believe that any concerns about relationships between the press and the police were adequately covered in the Leveson Inquiry, Part One*.

“The press provide a level of scrutiny of the police service, as is right of any public body. This allows the police to continue to serve the public interest, and in return, the press rely on the relationships they build with us to gain the information they need to report on events correctly. Any additional restrictions on this we feel would be damaging, not only to a free press but ultimately to the public who often rely on the media for information."

In respect to Mr Burnham’s recommendation that pensions could be cut for retried officers investigated for misconduct:
Calum Macleod, vice-chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “Not forgetting that pensions are not a luxury given to people who stop working so much as they are deferred pay - There are already robust rules concerning pensions, their protection and forfeits, and we do not believe there is any need to make changes to this. "

In respect to Mr Burnham’s recommendation that no time limit be put on when a retired officer can be investigated for misconduct:
Calum Macleod, vice-chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “Misconduct is, essentially, an internal employment issue. The purpose of which is to hold officers to account and in the most serious of cases, and if appropriate, prevent them from working within the organisation. In the most serious of cases, this person will be placed on a disapproved register, to ensure they cannot work again within any law enforcement agency. This is a recommendation that the Federation has previously, and still, supports.

“Clearly, if any individual is perceived to have committed a criminal act, this would be dealt with appropriately, and there rightly is no time limit on such action.

“The Federation has supported the current government proposal to allow gross misconduct proceedings to be taken against an individual in the twelve month period after they have left the service. The reason for this is to ensure that if the misconduct is proven, the individuals can be prevented from working within law enforcement agencies in the future.

“The proposal to recall an individual to face gross misconduct proceedings, including pension forfeiture, more than twelve months after they have left the service is of serious concern to us.”

In respect to Mr Burnham’s comments that the IPCC should have the power to direct findings and sanctions following investigations:
Calum Macleod, vice-chair of the Police Federation, said: “This recommendation causes serious concerns with us, and questions must be raised about the impact this would have on the IPCC’s impartiality.

“Recently appointed, legally qualified, independent chairs were introduced specifically to ensure that all proceedings were conducted fairly. We can understand the IPCC having the ability to direct a force to hold a hearing, but one must question the sense in a recommendation that also gives them the power to dictate what the outcome should be. It is almost farcical.

“Officers, just like the public, have the right to fair hearings, free from bias and outside influences.”

*From the Leveson report:
The importance of the free-flow of information (that is to say, appropriate information) between the police and the press cannot be overstated. The press have an important role in holding the police to account, and this entails building up relationships of trust with police officers thereby allowing the free exchange of information within relevant guidelines. Further, the whole concept of policing by consent requires the engagement of the public, and very often this will be best achieved through the mediation of the press.

I recommend that the term ‘off-the-record briefing’ should be discontinued. The terms ‘non-reportable briefing’ should be used to cover background briefing which is not to be reported, and the term ‘embargoed briefing’ should be use3d to cover a situation where the content of the briefing may be reported but no until a specified event or time… In my judgement, these terms more neutrally describe what are legitimate police and media interactions.