Last year, the Government introduced wide-ranging reforms to the police complaints and discipline system, including a 12-month trigger requiring the investigating body to provide a written explanation for any delays. Significant improvements have already been made, and we will continue to monitor the timeliness of investigations conducted by both forces and the Independent Office for Police Conduct through data collection.
Even under the new Home Office system, only around 80% of police conduct investigations are resolved within 12 months. The remaining cases linger on far longer, with a detrimental effect on those involved. Does the Minister agree with the Police Federation that we need action to fix the system now—not, as the Minister has said, allowing it to bed in—as no one benefits from long drawn-out investigations?
I share the hon. Lady’s view that no one benefits from long drawn-out investigations, and it is absolutely our aspiration to shorten investigation times as much as we possibly can, bearing in mind the impact on both the officer who is under investigation and those who are making the accusation. It is worth bearing in mind that delays in investigations often happen for complex reasons, particularly in very difficult investigations, which are not necessarily within the control of the investigating body. While I understand and sympathise with the Fed’s desire to shorten investigation time, it is worth bearing in mind that our overriding interest should be in quality and thoroughness, rather than in hitting some kind of arbitrary deadline. However, I do meet regularly the director general of the IOPC and we do monitor very closely how long investigations are taking. It did inherit 538 investigations from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which it has now managed to get down to three, and I think currently it only has 30 investigations that have taken longer than 12 months.