IPCC publishes review of death investigations

Published on Monday, 17 March 2014 10:57
Written by Govtoday staff

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) today publishes a major report into the way it investigates deaths, signalling changes in approach and procedure, including ensuring the effective engagement of families.

The report follows a wide-ranging review, launched in autumn 2012 in response to a number of critical cases and feedback from families, individuals and organisations. The findings focus on independence, the conduct of investigations, and engagement with families and police officers. A key part of the review involved hearing from those who have been most affected by IPCC investigations, including critics of its work and approach, to help identify ways to improve. A progress report was published in September 2013.

Today's report sets out in detail the actions that are being taken, or are planned, to change the way the IPCC works. Earlier this month the IPCC launched a consultation on draft statutory guidance on police post-incident management, designed to achieve best evidence in investigations of deaths or serious injury.

Other actions include:

  • Strengthening the role of commissioners and increasing the diversity of staff.
  • Developing internal and external expertise in areas such as mental health, discrimination, scene management and forensic science, as part of a multi-disciplinary approach.
  • Integrating quality and customer care into our expanding work, with internal and external quality assurance processes.
  • Improving engagement with families and ensuring that they are involved in developing terms of reference and provided with meaningful and regular updates.
  • Ensuring the police officers under investigation are kept informed about progress and timescale as far as is possible.
  • Setting up a dedicated referrals team and developing this into a specialist assessment function as the IPCC expands.
  • Creating a single operations directorate.
  • Continuing to monitor police co-operation with our investigations, raising this with chief officers and others and considering whether further changes are needed.
  • Considering any relevant interaction between the police and other agencies and informing the coroner or other agencies or oversight bodies.
  • Providing further training and guidance to investigators, including scene management , the threshold for making decisions on criminality or misconduct, and conducting probing interviews.
  • Developing links with people and organisations in the community, including groups that have low levels of trust in the police and the complaints system.
  • Highlighting in reports any areas where the IPCC has been unable to gather or test evidence (including non-cooperation from witnesses) so that these can be tested in further proceedings, such as inquests.
  • Responding to the Home Office consultation with a view to improving the police disciplinary system and making it more transparent.
  • Monitoring responses to recommendations, and ensuring links with the Inspectorate of Constabulary, the College of Policing and PCCs so that they feed into standard-setting, and are implemented.

Dame Anne Owers, chair of the IPCC, said: "This publication of this report has come at a critical time for the IPCC, as we begin a period of major change and growth. This review has helped to guide the changes we have already made and those that we are planning.

"It is a model for the way we want to continue to engage with those affected by our work, and draw on outside expertise.

"I am very grateful to all those who participated and especially to bereaved families, for whom this has often meant a painful re-living of the worst time in their lives.

"The review draws on their experiences, and those of our own staff and commissioners, and police officers, as well as others who have an interest in our work.

"But these changes are not just about processes and guidance. They need to be rooted in a culture of independence and quality assurance, recognising that those directly affected are at the heart of what we do.

"This is also to the benefit of the police themselves – it is clear that, if people do not trust our independence and effectiveness, they will not trust the police service either.

"We will be reporting on progress in six months' time. I know that we will be judged, not by the quality or content of any report that we produce, but by the quality and content of the work we do, and the actions we take as a result."

The review began with a written consultation and included interviews and focus groups with staff and external stakeholders, including bereaved families. An external reference group was also set up to advise on the process.

As part of the review, the IPCC commissioned NatCen Social Research to carry out independent research into the views and experiences of bereaved families, IPCC staff and commissioners, police officers and others so that people who might not be willing to provide views directly to the IPCC could feed into the review through an independent organisation. NatCen's report of their findings has also been published today alongside the IPCC review.

Source: IPCC

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