Changes to the Police Complaints System

01 February 2020

SI 2020/5 Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Commencement No 10 and Transitional Savings) Regulations 2020 brought specified provisions of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 into force on the 1st February 2020. These provisions have amended the Police Reform Act 2002 in a number of ways, such as:

changing the definition of a complaint so that it encompasses wider expressions of dissatisfaction with a police force, as well as complaints against individuals serving with the police.

aiming to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the complaints system, replacing a number of complaint handling procedures and processes with a single overarching duty to handle complaints in a reasonable and proportionate manner.

The relevant sections of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 together with the changes they make to the Police Reform Act 2002 are listed below:

Section 13 of the 2017 Act inserts a new section 13A into the Police Reform Act 2002 which allows a local policing body, rather than the chief officer, to exercise certain functions in the process for handling complaints.

Section 14 amends section 12 of the 2002 Act to substitute the definition of a complaint as a "complaint about the conduct of a person serving with the police" with "any expression of dissatisfaction with a police force" and introduces further consequential amendments of the 2002 Act in Schedule 4.

Section 15 amends sections 20 and 21 of, and Schedule 3 to, the 2002 Act to create overarching duties on the "appropriate authority" (as defined in section 29(1), as amended, of the 2002 Act) to keep the complainant and interested parties informed about the handling of a complaint or matter, whether or not it is being investigated, and repeals the notification duties in Schedule 3 which are now covered by those overarching duties.

Section 16 introduces Schedule 5 to the 2017 Act which makes amendments to Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act to provide for changes to the way complaints, conduct matters and Death or Serious Injury ('DSI') matters are handled and investigated.

Section 17 further amends Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act, the effect of which, taken with amendments made by Schedule 5 to the 2017 Act, is to allow the Independent Office for Police Conduct ('the IOPC') (formerly the Independent Police Complaints Commission or IPCC) to investigate any matter without the need for a referral by the appropriate authority.

Section 18 inserts a new section 13B into the 2002 Act which enables the IOPC, in the circumstances specified in that section, to re-investigate a complaint, recordable conduct matter or DSI matter at any time if it is satisfied that there are compelling reasons to do so.

Section 19 inserts new sections 21A and 21B into the 2002 Act which set out requirements for the handling of sensitive information by, and the provision of such information to, the IOPC and its investigators.

Section 21 amends section 29 of the 2002 Act and makes similar amendments to the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 and the Police and Justice Act 2006 to clarify that the IOPC's jurisdiction with respect to law enforcement agencies which have agreements with it, HMRC and Border Force includes the territorial waters adjacent to England and Wales.

Section 22 amends sections 1 and 3 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and section 6ZA of the Police Act 1996 to provide for an explicit duty for local policing bodies to hold to account the chief officer (whether the chief constable or the Commissioner for the relevant area) in relation to the handling of complaints under Part 2 of the 2002 Act.

Section 23 amends section 23 of the 2002 Act to include a new provision allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding the delegation by local policing bodies of the exercise or performance of the powers and duties they have under Part 2 of the 2002 Act, and amends equivalent delegation powers in the 2011 Act and Local Government Act 1972 to provide that they are subject to that new provision.

Section 29(8) and Schedule 7, already partially commenced, are brought fully into force so commencing provisions concerning disciplinary measures relating to former members of the British Transport Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

Section 31 amends Schedule 6 to the 1996 Act which determines the composition of police appeals tribunals. Those tribunals hear appeals made by police officers against any disciplinary findings or outcomes (or both) imposed at misconduct hearings or accelerated hearings, or in the case of senior officers, at misconduct meetings, under the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020, and third stage performance meetings under the Police (Performance) Regulations 2020. The amendments also change the requirements as to the composition of a police appeals tribunal by replacing the requirement for a retired police officer member with the requirement for a lay member who is independent of the police and by the introduction of a "relevant person", determined by rules made by the Secretary of State, to appoint the members.

In consequence of these changes, four new regulations which establish a reformed system for handling complaints about, and related matters concerning the police for disciplinary matters, are also now in force:

Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020
These regulations revoke and replace the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012.

Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020
These Regulations deal with internal conduct matters brought to the attention of the police otherwise than under Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2002. They operate alongside the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020 which deal with public complaints and other discipline related matters arising under Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act.

Police (Performance) Regulations 2020
These regulations establish procedures for proceedings in respect of unsatisfactory performance or attendance or gross incompetence of members of police forces of the rank of chief superintendent or below excluding constable probationers

Police Appeal Tribunals Rules 2020
The Police Appeals Tribunal Rules 2020 set out the circumstances in which a member of a police force may appeal to a police appeals tribunal and the procedures governing an appeal. The rules reform aspects of the system of procedures for dealing with police misconduct and underperformance, also including the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020, the Police (Performance) Regulations 2020 and the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020.

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