Victims to get chance to appeal against decisions in police disciplinary cases

Victims will be given the chance to appeal when the police watchdog decides not to pursue prosecutions of officers facing disciplinary action.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) plans to introduce a victims’ right to review scheme from April, as part of an overhaul of the complaints system to make sure decisions are properly scrutinised.

The news comes after the family of Leon Briggs last week described their devastation and outrage at the collapse of misconduct proceedings of six Bedfordshire Police officers.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to bring charges over the 39-year-old’s death in 2013 after he was restrained under the Mental Health Act.

Last year, the parents of murdered teenager Shana Grice, who was handed a fine for wasting police time when reporting her killer for stalking, branded the misconduct process a “sham” after a panel decided one of the officers responsible would have been allowed to keep his job if he was still in post.

Shana Grice death
Murder victim Shana Grice, 19, was fined for wasting police time (Family handout/PA)

Just two of 14 officers and staff investigated by the IOPC over Ms Grice’s death were made the subject of publicly-held disciplinary proceedings and both left the force before they took place.

In a report published on Friday, the IOPC said: “We are developing a Victims’ Right to Review scheme, to give victims the right to request a review of our decision not to refer an investigation to the CPS.

“We are keen to ensure there is no disparity between the rights of a victim who alleges that a crime was committed by a member of the public, and one who alleges that a crime was committed by a person serving with the police.

“We envisage it will apply to criminal investigations that have been carried out or directed by the IOPC, and it will enable the individual to request that the original decision is reviewed.”

Other changes in a bid to improve the complaints process could give the body’s director general the power to order staff to re-investigate and make it easier for staff to reopen a case.

The IOPC called on the Government to bring in other reforms “without further delay” which would give it powers to present its own cases at disciplinary proceedings rather than have a police force’s professional standards department do so on its behalf.

The report said: “We called for this change as the current arrangements, where a police force presents a case even when we have had to direct them to bring proceedings, can undermine confidence in the process and outcome.

“We welcome the opportunity to play a greater role in hearings that follow our investigations, and to better demonstrate how our work ensures accountability for those who commit misconduct.

“We expect this change will increase confidence in the police discipline system, particularly among those complainants who lack confidence in the force they have complained about.

“We would again urge the Government to implement the reforms without further delay.”

The body also asked the Home Office to consider reviewing the decisions made by independent panels which oversee the hearings were “suitably consistent” and “adequately transparent and being communicated effectively to the public.”

In a letter to the body’s director general discussing the plans for improvements to the system, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The role of the IOPC is of great importance and more needs to be done to ensure that the organisation commands the confidence of the public and the police.”

She also welcomed a pledge to clear the backlog of ongoing cases which were opened before 2018 by August this year, adding: “Lengthy delays have a corrosive effect on confidence of the public and morale of the police workforce.”

The IOPC’s report said: “We recognise that some of our investigations have taken too long and we are addressing this. However, we are one part of a much wider system.”

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