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Vast majority of watchdog-directed hearings result in no finding against officer


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Some 71 per cent of cases ordered by the IOPC were unproven or dismissed before they could finish.

Phill Matthews has called for change

Phill Matthews has called for change

Date - 31st October 2018
By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle
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Just one eighth of misconduct hearings directed by the police watchdog against officers result in the highest possible finding, Police Oracle can reveal.

Directed misconduct hearings take place when a force believes there is no case to answer for gross misconduct against an officer but the Independent Office for Police Conduct, formerly the IPCC, disagrees.

Earlier this year Police Oracle asked the watchdog how many hearings it had made forces hold in the last five years and what the outcomes were, but the IOPC said it did not keep any records.

Since then, we have obtained data from 37 forces and can now reveal that 71 per cent of directed misconduct hearings in the five years to August 2018 resulted in no finding of either misconduct or gross misconduct against their subject.

The cases are controversial in the service because they are held once internal investigators have already concluded, sometimes more than once, that there is no prospect of a gross misconduct finding against an officer.

The period covered by this data includes cases such as that of Met PC Joe Harrington, whose hearing was thrown out in June after “unreasonable delays” occurred. It had been more than five years since misconduct proceedings began against him. It had been a total of seven years since he had been accused of assault during the London riots, and he was cleared by a jury in minutes in 2013.

He delayed his marriage as a result of the uncertainty surrounding his career, and said: "the effect on my private life was horrendous".

The stats also include the case of PC Barry Munnelly and Sgt Olumide Olufola who, in July of this year, were called to a hearing to answer allegations concerning an alleged use of force in December 2011. Ex-PC Glen Chandler was accused of giving a false statement about the incident.

It was twice investigated by the force who twice concluded there was no case to answer, before an appeal to the IPCC from the "victim" was partially upheld, judicially reviewed and the case was then considered by the CPS. The case could not proceed because of the time delay involved.

The figures do not include a case against two Nottinghamshire officers which was thrown out in 2017 after a near six-year investigation because of an abuse of process by the then IPCC, because the force is yet to answer our Freedom of Information request.

Police Federation of England and Wales misconduct lead Phill Matthews said: “These figures highlight the public finance that’s being spent on cases instead of providing policing to the public.”

He said the figures further show the “the waste of time, money and effort directing cases” that should not have been brought, with the associated increase in stress this causes officers.

Mr Matthews pointed out that as well as the drain on public finances, PCs, like Joe Harrington, who are on restricted duties for years also miss out on allowance and overtime payments.

A spokeswoman for the IOPC said that our figures are reflective of the rules they have to work under.

“We know the case to answer test is low but it has been repeatedly tested through judicial reviews and found to be appropriate," she said.

“Last year the High Court ruled that an 'investigator’s own opinion whether the case should succeed is immaterial'. So it would be unlawful for the IOPC to ignore the test and apply one, similar to the CPS, based on a realistic prospect of the case being proven. With that in mind, these figures are a reflection of the system.”

She added that a recent unsuccessful judicial review case brought by a force highlighted that the test is a matter for parliament, not the IOPC, though noted the government is reviewing the test to answer case.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are legislating for a programme of measures to improve standards of behaviour in the police and reform the handling of complaints and disciplinary procedures involving police officers.

“The reforms, due for implementation next year, will introduce greater accountability for lengthy investigations and improve how misconduct hearings are prepared and conducted to ensure a more effective, timely and fairer hearing process.

“The case to answer test is enshrined in primary legislation, but the reforms include changes to decision-making process and the government will also seek to ensure a consistent approach by all decision-makers via guidance.”


In numbers:

19 - The Metropolitan Police had 21 cases directed against a total of 49 officers – 19 of the cases were found unproven, and only one resulted in a gross misconduct ruling, where the officer received a final written warning.

5 – West Midlands Police was made to hold five hearings. Not a single allegation was proven.

4 – Greater Manchester Police held four directed hearings. No misconduct or gross misconduct was found.

9 – cases of gross misconduct were found across the country, one each at British Transport Police, Humberside, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Merseyside, the Met, North Wales and two in Northumbria.

1 - Cheshire Constabulary was the only force which outright refused to answer our request for information. Six others failed to respond within two months of being asked


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