Fed to reveal how lengthy complaints system comes at a price

22 January 2021

The national Federation will be giving evidence at a Government inquiry next week, as it outlines the costly impact the current police complaint system can have on officers.

On Wednesday (27 January), the Police Federation of England and Wales will address the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) as part of its inquiry into the remit of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the length of its investigations.

In giving evidence to HASC, the Federation will be highlighting the detrimental impact lengthy disciplinary investigations can have not only on police officers, but their families and their colleagues. In 2019, as part of its Time Limits Campaign, it called for a 12-month limit to be set for how long investigations could continue from the time an allegation is made.

South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne says he is pleased to hear the Federation will be getting involved with the HASC inquiry.

 “We’ve seen lengthy disciplinary investigations take an enormous toll on our officers, destroying their careers and also having an impact on their families,” says Steve.

“The Federation is ideally placed to get this across to MPs in the hope that we will see a reform of the way in which the IOPC conducts itself.”

The Federation’s national conduct and performance lead, Phill Matthews, has also welcomed the opportunity to give evidence to HASC.

“Protracted disciplinary investigations have ruined the careers of multiple colleagues, left a mark on their mental health and placed pressure on their home lives and loved ones. It is clear the effects are devastating,” he explained.

“Public trust in the system will erode if people do not think their complaints will be dealt with quickly. This issue is already something many complainants frequently express.

“We are encouraged that the IOPC is keen to work with us rather than against us. However, the issue of investigations rumbling on for more than a year still continues, and enough is enough,” he concluded.

In addition to calls for the 12-month cap on investigations, the Federation is calling for: 

• Improved IOPC investigator training, particularly in relation to post-incident procedures and disclosure 
• A move towards a system where breaching the time limit has consequences on the ability to proceed.

The Federation has already shared case studies with MPs, including a personal testimony from West Midlands PC Richard Allen-Zoarder who feels his mental health and enthusiasm for policing has been destroyed after he was subjected to conduct proceedings that he describes as a ‘massive witch hunt’.