Although civil claims can be brought against the Police, you can also lodge a complaint before the same commences in respect of the adverse effect that you have received by Police conduct.
Police complaints are internal disciplinary matters that are investigated by the said Force’s internal Professional Standards Department (“PSD”) and/or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (“IOPC”) which replaced the Independent Police Complaints Commission (“IPCC”) and oversees the internal Police complaints system for Forces in England and Wales. If successfully upheld, Police Officers receive advice, additional training, formal warnings or even dismissal.
It is important to note that there is no actual time limit on making a complaint but, if you lodge a complaint more than 12 months after the alleged misconduct, then the Force’s PSD / the IOPC can decide to not investigate your complaint unless you can provide a good reason for the delay.
If the Force’s PSD / the IOPC accept to investigate your complaint, there are three main ways within which they will deal with the same. These are:
- Local Resolution
- Local Investigation
- Referral to the IOPC
The usual approach for most complaints is by Local Resolution which can result in an apology and change of police force policy / procedures. Please note that this outcome should be confirmed in writing, that there is no right of appeal to the IOPC and that no Police Officer will have to answer to any misconduct / criminal proceedings. Usually, when a civil action is going to be brought, this approach is not considered to be appropriate.
When Local Resolution is not considered to be appropriate, Local Investigation is used which is a stricter procedure (updates provided every 28 days) and terms of reference (clear complaint allegations) are set out prior to the investigation starting. Not like Local Resolution and if successfully upheld, this can result in sanctions for the Police Officers such as misconduct / criminal proceedings and final written warnings. Usually, the outcome will be set out within a full Complaint Investigation Report and there is commonly a right of appeal to the IOPC.
When there are complaint allegations against a Police Officer’s conduct which includes a serious assault / sexual offence / corruption / abuse of position for a sexual purpose or pursuing an improper emotional relationship / criminal behaviour which is likely to lead to misconduct proceedings / discriminatory behaviour then the Force’s PSD are required to refer these matters to the IOPC.
It is important to note that, in itself, financial compensation is not payable from a successful Police complaint (although they do assist in the civil claim process) so legal costs are unable to be recovered. Due to this, you would have to privately pay a Solicitor to act on your behalf in relation to your complaint which our firm does not do. We confirm that our firm only act for clients during their complaint when we are fairly certain that a civil claim will follow. In this event, we will attempt to recover legal costs accrued in acting for you during your complaint in the event of a successful civil claim.
Even if your complaint is successfully upheld, this does not mean that you are automatically entitled to compensation. The upholding of your complaint is simply an acceptance by the Force’s PSD or the IOPC that the involved Police Officer’s or Police Officers’ conduct fell below the expected standards of professional conduct. The law in relation to proving a successful compensation claim against the Police is explained in another blog which can be accessed by clicking here.
Author: Matthew McConville