9 September 2021
Derbyshire Police Federation has welcomed forthcoming talks aimed at bringing an end to lengthy and damaging police disciplinary investigations.
National Federation representatives are meeting members of the House of Lords at New Scotland Yard next week and will propose an amendment to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill that will protect the mental health and welfare of police officers under investigation by introducing a 12-month time limit.
Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton welcomed the move which comes as part of the Federation’s ongoing Time Limits campaign.
He said: “The Police Federation has been campaigning for a 12-month time limit on misconduct inquiries and hopefully this will bring us a step closer to achieving that goal.
“The devastating impact of a lengthy investigation can be felt by police officers, their families and their colleagues and also by everyone else involved in the case. That is unfair, unhelpful and needs to change.
“The welfare of our members has always been a top priority and protracted investigations can have a profound effect on an officers’ mental health and well-being which is totally unacceptable.
“It is time the law was changed. A 12-month cap, with safeguards for reasonable extension where necessary and justified, should be introduced and enforced. This would bring an end to these inquiries that drag on unnecessarily for years and often benefit no one.
“Hopefully next week’s meeting with members of the House of Lords is a productive one and achieves the results we are looking for.”
More than 40 outstanding investigations lasting more than a year have been reported during the last 18 months.
Protracted police misconduct investigations are costing taxpayers millions of pounds each year with Police Federation estimates showing an investigation lasting up to six months costs £15,101 per officer but rockets to £302,012 when it drags on for five years or more.
The Home Office has added a clause to the regulations which means the Independent Office for Police Conduct, or appropriate authority, has to give an explanation if investigations last longer than 12 months but there is still no sanction.
National Federation conduct and performance lead Phill Matthews said: “Police and Crime Commissioners have absolutely no power to do anything other than welcoming the explanation.
“That can’t be right. It’s not right for our members who are still suffering the mental trauma of waiting to find out their fate, and unfair for those victims who deserve closure.”
After working with lawyers, the Federation is suggesting an amendment which would see a legally qualified person – who usually sits as a chair at disciplinary hearings – look at the investigation from the 12-month point to determine if the length of time is rational and set a reasonable deadline for the investigation to be concluded.
The proposed amendment has already gained cross-party support but the Federation is urging the policing minister to discuss the change with its officials.
Phill said: “We don’t think the policing minister understands the full impact of the discipline system on our members and the public – that is a sad state of affairs for us.
“We are not after an absolute limit, we are pushing for something which is best for the public and police officers and would welcome a discussion with the policing minister on this important topic.”
Phill said things had improved in recent years but warned the Time Limits campaign still had much work to do.
He said: “There are cases going on for years and years which have a detrimental effect on our members’ wellbeing and mental health, plus the cost to the public is phenomenal.
“One investigation dragged out for a year or more is one too many from our point of view.”