90 days from today is Sun, 25 December 2022
9 September 2021
Talks aimed at bringing an end to lengthy and damaging police disciplinary investigations are to be held next week when Police Federation representatives meet members of the House of Lords at New Scotland Yard.
The Police Federation is proposing an amendment to the forthcoming 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.
Hertfordshire branch secretary Al Wollaston welcomed the move, which is part of the Federation’s ongoing Time Limits campaign.
He said: “One of the Police Federation’s top priorities is to protect the mental health and wellbeing of its members and some of these long, drawn-out investigations can have a devastating effect on the officers involved.
“In some cases investigations have dragged on for years and years and caused incredible distress to those involved.
“The Police Federation has been calling for a time limit to protect its members but also out of respect to others involved in such protracted misconduct investigations.
“We think 12 months is a perfectly adequate period of time to conduct a disciplinary inquiry and have been campaigning for the introduction of measures to ensure they are not allowed to drag on any longer.
“Next week’s meeting with members of the House of Lords is another step in the right direction and hopefully we can get a change in the law that will put an end to these needless, unfair and hugely damaging investigations.”
More than 40 outstanding investigations lasting more than a year have been reported during the last 18 months.
Protracted police conduct 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 beneficial 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.”