This blog provides an update on the government’s progress with reforming the police complaints and the police disciplinary system. In December 2014, the Home Secretary launched a consultation on proposals for radical reform of the police complaints system and police disciplinary system, which we covered here and here.  The consultation responses and the government’s proposed response were presented to Parliament in March 2015.

The government confirmed its intention to take forward many of the proposals consulted on in relation to reforms to the police complaints system, including to:

  • enable Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) to decide whether to take on more responsibility for key parts of the complaints system at a local level or whether to leave certain functions with the police force under their supervision
  • enable PCCs to establish the arrangements they believe most appropriate to improve the complaints system at a local level.  This may include involving local organisations or locally appointed advisory panels
  • transfer the responsibility for hearing appeals to PCCs in respect of cases handled by the police through local resolution.  The PCC can take on responsibility for the appeals directly or identify an alternative arrangement that is independent of the police force
  • expand the definition of complaint to include complaints about policing practice and service failure in addition to police conduct, to introduce a requirement that all complaints are recorded, and to replace the problematic terms ‘discontinuance’ and ‘disapplication’ with ‘no further action’
  • bring in a system of super-complaints in order to allow complaints to be made about trends and patterns of aspects of policing as well as complaints to be made on behalf of certain groups of people In respect of the proposed reforms to the police disciplinary system, the government has detailed its intention to:
  • align the performance management system with the misconduct system
  • work with policing partners to identify the best way to ensure that disciplinary appeal hearings are held regionally, with PCCs agreeing a host force in each region to lead a regional hearing centre and agreeing a model for sharing costs of hearings
  • to replace retired officers on appeals panels with lay members who are to be appointed by PCCs

These reforms mean that PCCs will take on greater responsibility and play a key part in many aspects of the police complaints and disciplinary systems.  The government is also reforming the Independent Police Complaints Commission which will be renamed ‘Office for Police Conduct’ and will have increased powers including initiating its own investigations.

The Policing and Crime Bill reflecting these reforms was introduced to the House of Commons on 10 February 2016 and we are following its passage through Parliament with interest.