Circular 023/2012: changes to the police complaints system and procedures for dealing with police officer misconduct
Home Office circular 023/2012 covers changes to the police complaints system and procedures for dealing with police officer misconduct and unsatisfactory performance.
- The purpose of this circular is to inform you of new legislation and associated guidance that will come into force on 22 November 2012 and which makes changes to the police complaints system and procedures for dealing with police officer misconduct and unsatisfactory performance in Home Office police forces in England and Wales.
- The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 makes changes to the governance arrangements for policing in England and Wales, with the exception of the City of London police area. The act abolishes the police authorities responsible for maintaining police forces outside London and replaces them with directly elected police and crime commissioners. The act also abolishes the Metropolitan Police Authority and replaces it with the Mayor’s office for policing and crime.
- Some of the new arrangements set out in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and associated changes contained in secondary legislation came into force in the Metropolitan Police Service area on January 16 2012. Remaining changes to the Metropolitan Police Service area and changes to arrangements in other forces will come into force on 22 November 2012.
- The relevant pieces of secondary legislation are:
- Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012
- Police (Performance) Regulations 2012
- Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012
- Police Appeals Tribunals Rules 2012
- The majority of the changes made by the new regulations and rules and the changes made by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act only have effect in relation to cases arising on or after 22 November 2012, and ongoing cases continue to be dealt with under the existing law.
Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012
- These regulations replace the existing 2004 Regulations of the same name. They are largely the same as the 2004 Regulations, but remove some bureaucratic processes in handling complaints against the police, and afford additional discretion and autonomy to the police service to deal with complaints, while retaining the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) oversight of the whole system and direct involvement in dealing with the most serious complaints. Please note that in places these regulations refer to the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 and the Police (Performance) Regulations 2008 which are being replaced and should therefore be read as references to the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 and the Police (Performance) Regulations 2012.
Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012
- These regulations replace the existing 2008 Regulations of the same name with modifications to reflect changes to policing governance made by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. In addition:
- They allow multiple allegations of misconduct to be considered together when deciding how the case should be handled and what disciplinary action should be imposed.
- They permit a complainant or interested person to remain in attendance during misconduct proceedings or a special case hearing when consideration is being given as to what disciplinary action should be imposed.
- They establish a new panel to conduct misconduct proceedings or special case hearings for senior officers. The panel conducting the misconduct proceedings or special case hearing will make a finding of fact as to whether or not the officer is guilty of misconduct or gross misconduct and then remit the matter to the appropriate authority for a decision as to the action to be taken against the officer.
Police (Performance) Regulations 2012
- These regulations replace the existing 2008 Regulations of the same name with modifications to reflect changes made to policing governance made by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. These regulations also revoke the Police (Performance and Conduct) (Amendment: Metropolitan Police) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/3027). In addition:
- They allow the IPCC to recommend, and ultimately direct, the institution of procedures under these regulations in a case where there has been an investigation of a complaint or conduct matter under schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002. Where there has been gross incompetence on the part of a police officer, they also allow the IPCC to recommend or direct that procedures under the Performance Regulations commence at the third or final stage, without having to pass through the preceding two stages.
- They allow the IPCC, complainants and other persons to attend a third stage meeting in which they have an interest, along the lines of the provisions applying to proceedings for misconduct.
- They add further provision about the process to be followed and matters to be taken into account in reaching a decision in a third-stage meeting.
- They ensure that the IPCC is notified of the outcome of procedures under those regulations in cases in which it has had a prior involvement.
Police Appeals Tribunals Rules 2012
- These rules replace the 2008 Rules as amended by the Police Appeals Tribunals (Amendment: Metropolitan Police) Rules 2011. Where the 2008 Rules referred to police authorities, these rules refer to local policing bodies. In addition:
- The definition of ‘specified appeal’ in these rules is changed in order to create consistency with the regulations governing police misconduct and performance proceedings. The significance of this is that, in the case of a specified appeal, the IPCC is supplied with the notice of appeal, notified of the hearing, allowed to attend as an observer and notified of the tribunal’s decision.
- These rules provide for the local policing body to designate a person to act as respondent in a case where the appellant is a chief officer of police, or a person carrying out the duties of the chief officer under specified statutory provisions. The chief officer becomes the respondent in relation to an appeal by any police officer other than the chief officer himself or an acting chief officer (the chief officer is already the respondent in appeals by police officers other than senior officers).
- These rules ensure that action taken by a person designated by a police authority as respondent before the coming into force of these rules remains valid when the person is replaced as respondent by the chief officer of police. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 contains provision to ensure the validity of action taken by police authorities on their replacement by the new policing bodies, so there is no need for these rules to make provision in that regard.
- These rules make new provision in relation to the situation where a tribunal determines that there is fresh evidence, or that there was a procedural default or other unfairness, that could have materially affected the decision appealed against. The tribunal may remit the matter for re-hearing in these circumstances. Where the original decision was made by a panel, the re-hearing will be before a fresh panel.
Home Office guidance on police office misconduct, unsatisfactory performance and attendance management procedures has been updated to reflect the changes in the statutory instruments referred to above. Other changes to the guidance have been made in response to feedback on the guidance received during a consultation process and to bring it up to date. The updated guidance is attached.