25 February 2020
Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton has welcomed calls for all IPCC legacy and long-running conduct cases to be reviewed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The national Federation’s conduct lead Phill Matthews demanded the review after the IOPC withdrew a direction to compel Bedfordshire Police to hold a gross misconduct hearing following the death of a man in custody which left five police officers in limbo for more than six years.
Commenting on the issue, Tony said: “For any officer to be under investigation for more than six years is, in my view, wholly unacceptable and damaging to their wellbeing.
“Of course, it is only right that when someone dies in custody the actions of those officers who had contact with them are investigated, but these investigations must be fair, timely and transparent.
“An urgent review of the IPCC legacy cases and other long-running investigations needs to take place so this does not happen again and to protect the welfare of officers to ensure no one else has to deal with the stress, anxiety, worry and uncertainty of being under investigation for so long.”
Leon Briggs (39) died in hospital on 4 November 2013 after becoming ill at Luton Police Station where he had been detained under the Mental Health Act.
In March 2018 the Crown Prosecution Service decided none of the five police officers and the one detention officer who had been in contact with Mr Briggs before his death should face criminal proceedings.
The IOPC pressed on with misconduct proceedings against the officers, directing their force to hold a gross misconduct hearing due to have run from 7 February to 28 February.
But on Friday, the IOPC announced it had rescinded its decision, after the Federation had flagged numerous failings regarding the disclosure process which meant the officers could not be guaranteed a fair hearing.
Michael Lockwood, the IOPC director general, contacted Phill to discuss how the process can be improved.
Phill said: “This matter must be a catalyst for change and all long-running cases must now be reviewed with the same vigour before they too come to hearings - particularly outstanding legacy cases from the IPCC era.
“If ever there was a case that exampled the need for Time Limits on police misconduct investigations, this is it.
“This case highlights all that was wrong with the old IOPC and misconduct system with some shocking errors being made throughout investigation processes.
“The IOPC has blamed the Force for offering no evidence but if they don’t believe there is a case to answer it cannot be right that the IOPC can compel that officers be put through a process which is detrimental to their health and wellbeing, and costly to the public.
“It is a shame this case could not have been pulled sooner by its investigators, and that it got to the stage where Mr Lockwood himself had to review it before rescinding the decision to direct.”
Speaking on Friday, he said: “We must remember that at the heart of this incident a man lost his life and it is only right that the actions of the officers who had contact with him are scrutinised and this has been done. I appreciate today’s developments will come as little comfort to Mr Briggs’ family and the IOPC must also look at how they deal with families who find themselves in these tragic situations.”