Guest Post: Any complaints? Why the IPCC is failing us all

Any complaints?  Why the IPCC is failing us all
Kevin Donoghue is a solicitor at Donoghue Solicitors, specializing in actions against the police compensation claims

The IPCC has recently published its police complaint statistics for 2009/2010.

Since the IPCC’s formation in 2004, every police force in the UK has recorded a rise in the number of complaints made against it. The largest increase was recorded in Northamptonshire, a staggering 425% rise in 6 years. The average increase was 113%. The IPCC’s interim Chair Len Jackson thinks that this universal increase in complaints is a credit to the IPCC themselves, saying that ‘improved confidence and access has encouraged those who previously were not inclined to complain that making a complaint is worthwhile.’ While this may be so, as an actions against the police solicitor, a more telling statistic is the fact that only 10% of these cases proved ‘misconduct’ on the part of the officers concerned.

So while (in Len Jackson’s opinion), it may have never been easier to make a complaint, it is extremely hard to prove misconduct against the police within the complaints process, as two recent cases prove.

The anti-war protester

Audrey White was a prominent anti-war protester, and a founding member of the Merseyside branch of the Stop the War Coalition. During a peaceful protest at the Labour Party Conference in 2008, Greater Manchester Police officers forcibly removed a Gordon Brown facemask she was wearing, injuring her in the process. Mrs. White’s complaint to GMP fell on deaf ears. The police denied it saying that their actions were ‘reasonable, necessary and proportionate’.

Two years and significant legal costs later they formally apologized and paid her significant compensation.

The concerned partner

51 year old Karim Allison tried to intervene when his partner was being booked for a minor traffic offence. The police officer involved took exception to Mr. Allison’s attempted involvement and produced evidence which was used to obtain a criminal prosecution against him. After a jury trial it was found that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr. Allison’s convictions were obtained using fabricated evidence.

Again, Mr. Allison’s complaints to Cleveland Police and appeal to the IPCC fell on deaf ears.

Three years later after the initial incident Mr. Allison obtained substantial compensation and the apology he ought to have received at the outset.

Spinning around

Prof. Aaron Levenstein once said, ‘statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.’

The IPCC’s press release reports that nearly 50% of complaints relate to incivility or neglecting duties. This neatly side-steps the fact that the majority of complaints relate to other, more important, things: assaults; malicious prosecution; discrimination; and harassment, telling examples of which are described in the above cases. It strikes me that the IPCC’s slant on the statistics produced benefit no one, especially themselves as an independent body. The police’s failure to apologise is usually vindicated by the IPCC (less than a third of all appeals to the IPCC are upheld). For the public, this leads to the perception that the police can aggressively deny complaints as more often than not they will be supported by their regulator.

Contrary to the IPCC’s press release spin, the above cases are not unusual in my experience. Granted I deal with a great many complaints and claims against the police. My services have never been more in demand. However, clients often come to me after the police have already rejected their complaints or unsuccessfully used the simplified local investigations process. By that point the police have usually already lost whatever goodwill they may have had.

The police, and the IPCC, should be more willing to accept responsibility for failures at the outset. As legal costs are not paid for dealing with complaints, I have no doubt that a great many people would happily accept a heartfelt apology early on, along with a promise to learn from mistakes.  This would save time, money and for the innocent victims of police misconduct, a great deal of unnecessary stress. In these straightened times, isn’t that what the IPCC and police should work to achieve?

11 thoughts on “Guest Post: Any complaints? Why the IPCC is failing us all

  1. ” By that point the police have usually already lost whatever goodwill they may have had.”

    Not that a Swuppie or someone eager to ‘intervene’ in an arrest was likely to have started out with much…

  2. I had a complaint against the police – although it was minor the officer in question decided to lie his way through the complaint and in fact boasted about the fact that “I could complain all I want to” as it would make no difference.

    I duly complained and now I find that not only has the policeman lied, his senior officer has ignored the contradictory statements made by the officer and the IPCC upheld part of my complaint – but NO FURTHER ACTION HAS BEEN TAKEN.

    The police feel they are above the law, they do not feel they should have to follow laws like we do. It’s an institutional problem the the IPCC is simply a joke. It works like any other Ombudsman – it eats up public money whilst achieving nothing.

  3. Hi refrence to karim allison who was set up by cleveland police after trying to make a complaint of racism. I was giving no opology by the police and the compensation i received was a lot less than what my solicitors made over the 4 years of mental stress i endured. in fact it was 17500 i dont see that as substantial. after what my family were put through.

  4. And I feel sure that the majority of misconduct acts perpetrated by the police go unreported – we all know that we will get nowhere by reporting misconduct by the police, so why take the risk of the reprisals. I am now an OAP andI have never been in trouble with the police – however I have seen many incidents of their abuse of authority, just as I am sure that so have many other people have also witnessed such things.
    It horrifies me how much they believe that they can get away with, and all without fearing any repercusions. I now have extremely little respect for the police and just see them as a nasty set of ‘wannabe’ bullies aided in their quest by a badge and uniform. It makes me feel very sad!

  5. I have been very maliciously treated by the police and have also gone through complaints procedures with them, yet again my complaint was not upheld. We the public have no say in right or wrong with the police. They treat you as they like and enjoy doing so without anyone telling them otherwise.

  6. When I complained to the Police concerning an arrest, it took over a year from the initial complaint, to appealling the Police outcome of that complaint, to receiving the IPCC decision. My appeal was upheld. The IPCC then sent the complaint back to the Force concerned for further investigation. It took another year to go through the whole process again. The outcome remained the same, my appeal was upheld by the IPCC. Once again, the IPCC have sent the complaint back to the force concerned for further investigation. No doubt the whole process will take yet another year to complete. And if the outcome remains the same, I predict it will again be sent back for further investigation and, will keep being sent back until the Police admit they got it wrong or, I give up appealing.

    2 years, 2 upheld appeals; just how many chances are the Police going to get before the IPCC say enough is enough?!

  7. Look at where one initial complaint turned into a massive complaint against senior officers in GMP professional Standards Branch, a Judicial Review and now a complaint being recorded by GMPA against the Chief Constable Peter Fahy. This has gone on since 2007 but we keep fighting. That is the only way things change.

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  10. Have had the same experience myself, the police seem to do what ever they like and the IPCC allow them to get away with it time and time again. They treat victims like criminals and id love to find a solicitor on legal aid to help me sue the IPCC for failing to act. Maybe then they’d be more inclined to act on peoples complaints. The IPCC told me that id withdrawn my complaint and that’s why they didn’t act, the only contact i had with them was me pleading with them to help me. Lying gits.

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