Following the publication ofÂ official statistics showing a rise in police complaints and appeals in England and Wales IPCC Chair Dame Anne Owers, said:
â€œThe 2013/14 complaints statistics show three important things.
â€œ First, during this period, police forces were not handling complaints sufficiently well. The IPCC upheld 49% of appeals by those whose complaints were not even recorded in the first place. We also upheld 44% of appeals from those whose complaints had been investigated by the local force. Overall, that amounted to a 46% uphold rate â€“ a figure that has steadily risen over recent years. There are also considerable differences between forces, in the number of initial complaints they uphold, and the number of their decisions we overturn.
â€œAs we have said many times, this reflects a complaints system which is complex, bureaucratic and over-focused on blame. We welcome the fact that the government is reviewing the whole system, and will be responding to its consultation soon. In the meantime, we have been working with forces and their professional standards departments to try to improve initial complaints handling, and the most recent figures appear to show a slight but welcome decrease in the proportion of appeals we uphold.
â€œSecondly, these figures for the first time reveal the outcome of appeals dealt with in forces themselves. Since 2013, forces have dealt with some of their own appeals, in less serious cases. The IPCC has always been concerned about this, as we consider that it is an in-force review, not an independent appeal. These figures add to that concern. It is clear that forces uphold a much lower proportion of appeals than the IPCC. For example, during this period, forces only upheld 22% of appeals against their own investigations, only half the proportion that the IPCC upholds. These are different and less serious cases, but these figures will not inspire public confidence that those appeals were dealt with robustly and fairly. We will be working with forces to look at the reasons that lie behind this considerable difference.
â€œThirdly, the number of complaints itself continues to rise, by 15%. That would not be a cause for concern if it reflected a greater public confidence in the complaints system, or improved access to it. This is unlikely to be the case: in a recent survey commissioned by the IPCC, 38% of those surveyed did not have confidence in the fairness of the police complaints system, and that was even higher among young people.
â€œThe rising number of complaints makes it all the more important that the system is, and is seen to be, fair, accessible and transparent. Better public confidence in policing crucially depends on confidence that, where things may have gone wrong, appropriate action will be taken as soon as possible. It is clear from these statistics that forces still struggle to get it right first time, and there are now serious questions about whether they get it right the second time either. We will continue to work with them to improve complaints handling. But that is not enough. We urgently need radical reforms to the system as a whole, to make it more accessible and straightforward, and to strengthen independent oversight. That is why the current review of the system is welcome and overdue.â€