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New legislation to give the IPCC the power to compel police officers to attend interviews

On 22 November 2012 the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons. You can follow the progress of the Bill, which is being fast tracked through Parliament, here. Introducing the Bill the Home Secretary said:

“I have today published fast-track legislation that will enable the IPCC to conduct a thorough, transparent and exhaustive investigation into the Hillsborough disaster…. These enhancements are being made at the request of the IPCC and will ensure they can investigate the conduct of the police at Hillsborough in depth and without delay….” 

The Bill has two purposes:

Compelling police officers to attend interviews

First, if enacted the Act would give the Home Secretary the power to issue Regulations under Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2002 requiring serving officers to attend interviews in investigations into complaints, recordable conduct matters and Death or Serious Injury matters that are being carried out independently, or managed, by the IPCC.

The lack of a power to compel the attendance of police officers to attend IPCC interviews has been the subject of criticism in recent months. It is a power that the IPCC has sought and is the subject of at least one ongoing legal challenge.

The utility of a power of compulsion remains to be seen, since police officers who are compelled to attend an interview cannot be compelled to answer questions. Like all citizens, police officers enjoy the right to silence (albeit exercised with the risk, in certain circumstances, that adverse inferences might be drawn from the silence).

Allowing the IPCC to re-examine cases investigated by the PCA

Second, if enacted the Act will empower the IPCC to investigate complaints or conduct matters relating to conduct which took place, or circumstances which occurred before it came into being on 1 April 2004 and which have already been investigated by its predecessor, the PCA.

The amendment to the Police Reform Act 2002 will not require the IPCC to investigate historic case. It will give the IPCC the discretion to do so “if it considers that there are exceptional circumstances.”

This amendment will allow the IPCC to investigate the policing issues surrounding the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

If, as we expect it will, the Bill receives Royal Assent, we will bring you the Regulations dealing with the power to compel officers to attend interviews once the Home Secretary issues them.