8 September 2021
The Federation will be lobbying House of Lords members next week for a change in the law which would rein in lengthy and damaging police disciplinary investigations.
Representatives will be meeting with peers on 14 September at New Scotland Yard to propose an amendment to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill to protect the mental health and welfare of police officers under investigation.
As part of our Time Limits campaign, we have been pressing for the urgent need for police disciplinary investigations to conclude in an appropriate timeframe, ideally within 12 months of an allegation being made.
So far, we have successfully persuaded the Home Office to add a clause to the regulations which means the Independent Office for Police Conduct, or appropriate authority, has to give an explanation to police and crime commissioners (PCCs) as to why the investigation has hit the year mark.
However, there are no sanctions. Over the last 18 months there have been more than 40 outstanding investigations reported as having gone on for more than a year.
PFEW Conduct and Performance Lead Phill Matthews, speaking at the Emergency Services Show (8 September) explained: “The PCC has 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, we are 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 by.
Mr Matthews continued: “Things have improved over the years, but we still have a long way to go. 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.”
Protracted police misconduct investigations are costing taxpayers millions of pounds each year.
**By taking into account the average cost of running investigators’ offices, legal aid and officers performing normal duties, on restricted duties or suspended, PFEW has estimated an investigation lasting up to six months costs £15,101 per officer which rockets to £302,012 when it drags on for five years or more which is 20 times higher.
Thankfully our suggested amendment has already gained cross-party support, however we are continuing to urge the Policing Minister to discuss the beneficial change with us.
“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”, explained Mr Matthews.
“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.” he concluded.
**The analysed data covers the Metropolitan Police Service misconduct or gross misconduct investigations that were still outstanding, that is unresolved, as of 1 December 2018. We have assumed this is reasonably representative of the data we would have obtained had we been able to get data from all forces.