On 22 July, Official Report, column 1265, I gave a statement to the House on this Government’s ongoing work to ensure the highest standards of integrity in the police.
This Government have carried out a radical programme of police reform. We have given the police greater operational independence, by scrapping national targets, while at the same time strengthening local accountability to the public through the creation of directly elected police and crime commissioners. We have reformed police pay and conditions, established the College of Policing to improve police standards and beefed up the Independent Police Complaints Commission to take on all serious and sensitive cases. Crime has fallen by more than a fifth under this Government, according to the independent crime survey for England and Wales. The reforms I am announcing today build on this programme of work.
I have always been clear that I believe the vast majority of police officers in this country do their job honestly and with integrity. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public. They have cut crime by a fifth even as spending has fallen. And the vast majority of officers do their work with a strong sense of fairness and duty. But as I have said before, the good work of the majority threatens to be damaged by a continuing series of events and revelations relating to police conduct.
That is why today, following the responses to the consultation “Improving Police Integrity”, regulations have been laid in the House to make a series of changes to the police disciplinary system.
Police disciplinary hearings will be held in public to ensure that the robust response the police take to misconduct is visible and open. Hearings will be led by legally qualified chairs.
The legislation will create a new power for police disciplinary hearing panels to remove or adjust the compensation payments due to chief officers on termination of their appointment where a disciplinary finding is made against them. Also, police whistleblowers will have protection from disciplinary action for taking the necessary steps to report a concern.
In addition to these regulatory changes, I am today publishing the Government responses to two further public consultations, following the end-to-end review of the police complaints system and independent review of the police disciplinary system, led by Major General (Retd) Chip Chapman, that I announced in the House in July.
Following the conclusions of those reviews, I launched two public consultations on reforms to improve the police complaints and disciplinary systems, proposals to strengthen protections for police whistleblowers, an extension to the remit of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, and changes to the role, powers and governance of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The reforms the Government set out will, once set out in legislation, substantially improve the handling of police complaints and police disciplinary systems in England and Wales. They will enable Police and Crime Commissioners to take on a greater role in the police complaints system, allowing them to decide how complaints should be handled in a way that makes sense for their local electorates. The changes will give Police and Crime Commissioners the power to take on responsibility for how complaints appropriate for local resolution are dealt with, as well as requiring them to take on responsibility for appeals against the outcome of complaints—appeals that are currently considered by chief constables. Alongside these changes, I will also expand the remit of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to enable it to continue to inspect the efficiency and effectiveness of the way police complaints are dealt with regardless of who carries out that work.
Alongside these structural changes, I propose a system of super-complaints for policing to allow bodies outside the police, such as charities and advocacy organisations, to raise complaints on behalf of members of the public who may otherwise be reluctant to come forward, as well as to raises issues and patterns of aspects of policing that may be harming the interests of the public.
The proposals include radical reform of the police disciplinary system, following the recommendations made by Major General (Retd) Chip Chapman in his review of the police disciplinary system.
New protections for police whistleblowers will be introduced, including strengthening the independent routes for whistleblowers to raise their concerns to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and allowing it to conduct investigations in a way that protects the identity of a whistleblower.
The reforms also introduce new powers for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, strengthening its role as an independent oversight body and building on the Government’s commitment to transfer resources to enable the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate all serious and sensitive cases.
Alongside the responses to the consultations, I am also publishing the outcomes of the triennial review of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The review makes a series of recommendations about improving the governance, efficiency and performance of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I have asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission to present further proposals regarding structural reform by the end of June.
Many of the changes the Government intend to make will require primary legislation, which the Government will introduce at the earliest available opportunity.
I am grateful to all those who responded to both consultations. Copies of the Government’s response to the consultation “Changes to the Police Disciplinary System” and the triennial review of the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be placed in the Library of the House. A copy of the Government’s response to the consultation “Improving Police Integrity (Cm 9031)” will be placed in the Vote Office.