14 August 2017
The police watchdog has scored a ‘spectacular own goal’ by failing to investigate a Federation complaint within its own timescales.
Phill Matthews, conduct lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), lodged the complaint after delays by the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) led to two Nottinghamshire officers being left in limbo for nearly six years before being completely exonerated.
Having registered and recorded the complaint, the IPCC promised to report back within 20 days but failed to even contact the Federation when it missed its own deadline.
Mr Matthews was forced to write to the organisation for a second time after more than a month had elapsed with no word from the IPCC. It now transpires that the complaint hasn’t even been allocated to anyone to look at as yet, as the IPCC are waiting on an outside contractor’s availability.
He said: “Given that this complaint was in part about the timeliness of IPCC investigations, I find this particularly troublesome, almost like a spectacular own goal given their reputation among our members for dragging out investigations interminably.
“Sadly this is what we have come to expect, although it gives me no pleasure to say so, given the appalling pressure this kind of thing puts on officers when they themselves are facing a lengthy enquiry.”
Mr Matthews raised a second complaint with the IPCC, highlighting their failure to resolve the first one within the agreed timescales or at the very least, contact him to explain why. The IPCC has upheld that complaint and apologised, but Mr Matthews has asked for further explanations for the delays.
In the original Notts case, the male and female PCs revealed how their own drawn-out inquiry was finally thrown out after the IPCC did not adequately respond to the legal argument put forward by the officers. They also ‘did not even bother’ to attend the misconduct hearing they themselves had ordered.
The misconduct panel was scathing in its verdict on the conduct of the IPCC whom it accused of ‘significant failings’ and ‘significantly departing from the regulatory framework.’
It went on to say: ‘the IPCC have accepted that their initial investigation was flawed’ and that ‘the IPCC explanation for subsequent delays is incomplete and inadequate’ before adding ‘it should not have taken nearly six years to resolve these issues.’ For all those reasons, it concluded ‘there cannot be a fair hearing of these proceedings.’
They also concluded that in any event they did not consider there was enough evidence presented by the IPCC to find against the officers either. The two officers faced both criminal and misconduct investigations before both were completely cleared earlier this year.
Mr Matthews added: “The imminent reform and changing structure of the IPCC presents an ideal opportunity to correct what officers feel is wrong with the organisation. This case highlights some of those issues and the Federation wants to help them change and get better for everybody’s sake.”