Police Law Blog European Decisions Statutory Materials

Severity assessments in misconduct investigations – where have they gone?

On some legal databases, it appears that paragraphs 19B-D of the Police Reform Act 2002 (PRA) have been repealed and that paragraph 19A has been replaced. The problem with this is (i) that the replacement provides for no severity assessment to be reformed and (ii) contrary to what appears on some legal databases, the paragraphs have not, actually, been repealed or replaced (yet).

Professional Standards Departments regularly refer to “severity assessments” as meaning the assessment (i) as to whether the conduct of the police officer concerned, if proved, would amount to misconduct or gross misconduct and (ii) what form any disciplinary proceedings in respect of the conduct would be likely to take.

“Severity assessment” is the language of paragraph 19B(4) of Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act (PRA) 2002, although the Home Office Guidance on the misconduct regime refers to assessments of conduct under reg 12 of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 as also being “severity assessments” (see paragraphs 2.128 to 2.137). Paragraph 19B applies to investigations conducted under Schedule 3 PRA, including investigations by the Appropriate Authority on its own behalf under para. 16 of Schedule 3.

Paragraph 19B is set to be repealed by the Policing and Crime Act (PCA) 2017 (schedule 5(3) para. 21), which will insert a new paragraph 19A replacing paragraphs 19A to E of Schedule 3. New paragraph 19A(5) states:

“Where this paragraph applies to an investigation the person investigating must proceed with the investigation in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State under this subparagraph.”

Confusingly, these regulations are yet to be introduced. Accordingly, section 183(5)(e) of the PCA 2017 limits the provisions of that Act’s coming into force on the day on which it was passed, being 31 January 2017, to (amongst specified sections not including Schedule 5(3)): “any other provision of this Act so far as is necessary for enabling the exercise on or after the day on which this Act is passed of any power to make provision by subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978) or to issue codes of practice or guidance.”

This means the “new” paragraph 19A is in force only insofar as it permits the Secretary of State to promulgate regulations under that section – and the “old” paragraphs 19A to E are still in force. Any new “severity assessment” for investigations under Schedule 3 PRA will be contained in regulations yet to be introduced.