11 February 2022
The Police Federation of England and Wales have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, following a ruling which puts officers at risk of gross misconduct hearings in cases involving use of force.
In October 2020, The Court of Appeal found in favour of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in the case of ‘W80’, a firearms officer being investigated over the fatal shooting of Jermaine Baker in Wood Green in December 2015.
The ruling, which left police officers critically exposed in relation to use of force, decided that W80 could face a Gross Misconduct Panel and it would be entitled to consider whether the officers ‘honestly held belief that force was necessary’ was an objectively reasonable one in all the circumstances.
The Police Federation of England and Wales took the IOPC to court and won the first case. The IPOC then challenged this and won the second hearing in October 2020 and the ruling became authoritative.
In December 2021, PFEW were granted the appeal and are now awaiting a date for a hearing to challenge the current ruling which has far reaching ramifications for any officer, irrespective of rank, involved in a use of force case. The ruling provides a subtle, but very important deviation to how police officers have been trained when it comes to use of force and accounting for it.
National Firearms Lead, Steve Hartshorn says: “For several years, we have been battling against this ruling, which could have an enormous impact on officers of all ranks who are involved in or authorise a use of force. We welcome the leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and will continue to fight for our members to have this turned around.
“Officers are trained in the current criminal law application in terms of how they use & justify force. The key thing is that officers have not been trained in the new authoritative standard, despite our requests, and this could be storing up evidential issues that are not being addressed.
“We’ve repeatedly asked the College of Policing to send out updated information out to all officers in England and Wales, informing them of this change of standard and providing a basic explanation.”
“It has been suggested that officers would be confused and not understand any interim guidance, which I regard as an insult to our members. If what we are told is correct, that police officers are already working to a degree (level 6) standard and having a degree entry route in to policing, why wouldn’t they understand?”
PFEW believes the ruling impacts on every serving officer, from chief officer to PC that may have to use or authorise force. Our advice to our members is if you become involved in a Post Incident Procedure or want advice, it is important than that you seek Federation advice.