PCCs call for time limits on conduct inquiries

A House of Commons committee has heard evidence about the impact of lengthy conduct investigations on officers – from Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

Gwent Police Federation branch chair Steve Thorpe welcomed the commissioners’ testimony, which he says reinforces the need to turn a key Federation campaign into reality.

The effect of lengthy investigations on officers has been at the centre of the Federation’s long-running Time Limits campaign.

It calls for a restriction on the amount of time an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) probe can last, reducing the investigation period to 12 months.

Steve said: “It’s pleasing to hear the PCCs raising their concerns with MPs and reinforces the need to make our Time Limits campaign a reality.

“It shows our campaign is having an impact and getting results. Lengthy investigations are in nobody’s interests. They place officers and their families under huge pressure, and can impact their wellbeing.

“Research from the Federation earlier this year showed they’re a huge cost to the taxpayer as well. We’ll continue to campaign on this issue to ensure the system is fair for officers and the public alike.”

The Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the role and remit of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) heard evidence from three PCCs and two academics about how police conduct complaints are handled.

North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan was among the PCCs to give evidence.

She said: “The timeliness issue was causing all sorts of issues for individual officers. In fact, the impact of it was much wider, in terms of views of lack of competency on the part of the IOPC and lack of fairness to officers.”

Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, acknowledged that progress had been made at the IOPC especially in restricting the time limit to 12 months before an explanation has to be given to the PCCs, but also mentioned that greater accountability was necessary, adding: “I wonder where the accountability is to the IOPC if they go longer than 12 months.”

Alun Michael, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, said: “We ought to look at the acceptable length of time being reduced from 12 months to something much shorter than that.”

Phill Matthews, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) national conduct and performance lead, gave evidence to the committee in late January and described the deep and damaging effects long-term investigations can have.

After this latest evidence from the PCCs, he said: “It is really positive that all seem to agree that 12 months for an investigation is more than adequate and that PCCs would like that to see that reduced and have more ability to hold the IOPC to account for the time investigations take. PFEW will continue to campaign relentlessly to ensure fairness for our members.”