Federation seeks Lords’ support for Time Limits campaign

Gwent Police Federation has welcomed the news that talks aimed at bringing an end to lengthy, damaging and costly misconduct inquiries are taking place next week.

National Federation representatives are meeting members of the House of Lords and will call for an amendment to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill that will protect the mental health and welfare of police officers under investigation by introducing a 12-month time limit.

More than 40 outstanding  police misconduct investigations lasting for more than a year have been reported during the last 18 months and are costing UK taxpayers millions of pounds.

The meeting, which will be held at New Scotland Yard on Tuesday and comes as part of the Police Federation’s ongoing Time Limits campaign, has been welcomed by Gwent branch chair Steve Thorpe.

He said: “Misconduct inquiries that drag on for years and years are unacceptable and can have a massive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our members.

“Police officers are already under incredible pressure and the stress brought on by the uncertainty of a protracted investigation can have a devastating effect on police officers, their families and their colleagues.

“The Police Federation’s call for investigations to be capped at 12 months is perfectly reasonable and has the full backing of the Gwent branch.

“Let’s hope next week’s meeting is a productive one and we can move a step closer to making these costly, time-consuming and damaging investigations a thing of the past.”

Police Federation estimates show an investigation lasting up to six months costs £15,101 per officer but rockets to £302,012 when it drags on for five years or more.

The Home Office has added a clause to the regulations which means the Independent Office for Police Conduct, or appropriate authority, has to give an explanation if investigations last longer than 12 months but there is still no sanction.

National Federation conduct and performance lead Phill Matthews said: “Police and Crime Commissioners have absolutely no power to do anything other than welcoming the explanation.

“That can’t be right. It’s not right for our members who are still suffering the mental trauma of waiting to find out their fate, and unfair for those victims who deserve closure.”

After working with lawyers, the Federation is suggesting an amendment which would see a legally qualified person – who usually sits as a chair at disciplinary hearings  – look at the investigation from the 12-month point to determine if the length of time is rational and set a reasonable deadline for the investigation to be concluded by.

The proposed amendment has already gained cross-party support but the Federation is urging the policing minister to discuss the beneficial change with us.

Phill said: “We don’t think the policing minister understands the full impact of the discipline system on our members and the public – that is a sad state of affairs for us.

“We are not after an absolute limit, we are pushing for something which is best for the public and police officers and would welcome a discussion with the Policing Minister on this important topic.”

Phill said things had improved in recent years but warned the Time Limits campaign still had much work to do.

He said: “There are cases going on for years and years which have a detrimental effect on our members’ wellbeing and mental health, plus the cost to the public is phenomenal.

“One investigation dragged out for a year or more is one too many from our point of view.”