HC Deb 27 June 1989 vol 155 cc398-400W
Mr. Wheeler

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has reached his decisions on the recommendations contained in the report of the Police Complaints Authority "Triennial Review 1985–1988.

Mr. Hurd

Yes. I announced on 14 November 1988 that a consultation document on the recommendations was being sent to the police representative bodies, the local authority associations, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Complaints Authority. The document was also being made available to anyone else on request. I have given further consideration to the recommendations in the light of the comments received.

I have decided to accept 11 of the authority's recommendations in whole or in part.

Of these 11 recommendations, three have been or will be dealt with by administrative action by my Department as follows:

I intend that recommendation (4) should be met by making available to the authority information which chief officers currently supply to Her Majesty's chief inspectorate of constabulary.

I have accepted the following recommendations which will be implemented by amendments to regulations. I have asked my officials to bring forward the necessary amendments as quickly as possible. (3) that "complaint … about the conduct" should be enlarged to embrace all such matters arising out of or in the course of the incident complained of as the authority may determine by investigation or otherwise (paragraph 1.8); (4) that chief officers be under an obligation to provide us with such information on the informal resolution procedure as we may reasonably require to enable us to fulfil the mandate of section 97(4) (paragraph 1.14); (7) that the police authority be required to deal with complaints against senior officers through a small disciplinary sub-committee, enjoined to a proper judicial approach to the task (paragraph 1.26). (5) That the words "or informally resolved" should be added to those conditions necessary for dispensation under regulation 3 on the ground that the complaint is repetitious (paragraph 1.17); (15) that the authority be given an equivalent discretionary power and propose that it be done by way of amendment of the Police (Anonymous, Repetitious Etc. Complaints) Regulations 1985, to include words such as "or vexatious, oppressive, or an abuse of the complaints system" in the description of complaints for which we can grant a dispensation from investigation (paragraph 2.29); (16) that there should be a time limit of 12 months from the date of the incident, or the latest incident, giving rise to the complaint within which to bring it to notice. There should be the usual safeguard to enable us to exercise discretion to extend the time limit where good reason for delay is shown and no injustice is likely to be caused (paragraph 2.30).

It will not be possible to give direct effect to the third of these recommendations by regulation. But I intend to bring forward amendments to regulations which will achieve the purpose sought by the authority.

I have also accepted five recommendations for action at the next legislative opportunity. (9) That the language of sections 90 and 92 be amended to make it clear beyond doubt what is intended (paragraph 1.41); (10) that the Act be amended to enable the authority to give its reasons for preferring charges at the stage of recommendations, when the chief officer must he consulted (paragraph 1.42); (11) that an alternative composition of a disciplinary tribunal should be considered (paragraph 1.45); (13a) that section 98 be restructured so as to provide: that the authority has discretion to publish such information as is reasonably necessary to inform the public of the outcome of investigations, without derogation from the principle of confidentiality between the authority, complainants and those who provide information (paragraph 2.11); (17) that the authority be granted a discretion to dispense with supervision in cases where it is satisfied on proper evidence that the injury sustained is minor, notwithstanding the definition in section 87(4), whether this is apparent from the start or becomes so only in the course of the investigation (paragraph 2.31).

The purpose of the first two of these recommendations will be achieved by administrative action pending legislation.

I propose to review the case for the following two recommendations when next contemplating legislation on the complaints procedures. (1) That there should be a definition of complaint in the Act which distinguishes between categories of complaint (paragraph 1.5); (6) that the authority should be able to satisfy itself in suitable cases that a complaint has been withdrawn by an entirely voluntary and well-informed consent (paragraph 1.17).

I have asked my officials to hold further discussions with the Police Complaints Authority and the police on two recommendations before I come to a final decision: (12) That steps be taken, perhaps by regulation, to lay down a time scale within which the various procedures necessary to bring about a disciplinary hearing are to be completed (paragraph 1.47); (13b) that section 98 be restructured so as to provide: that chief officers be restricted in the use of their copy of a report of a supervised investigation, to the purpose for which they receive their copy under the Act and that they publish no part of it (paragraph 2.11).

I have decided not to accept four of the authority's recommendations: (2) That the last word about recording or de-recording a complaint should be with the independent authority rather than with the police (paragraph 1.6) (8) that the powers described in section 88 of the Act should be extended to the authority in those cases where it appears to them that by reason of their gravity or exceptional circumstances the investigations should be supervised even if there is no complaint (paragraph 1.34); (14) that we ought to have the right to exercise the power to require the production of documents in our own name, which right is at present in doubt (paragraph 2.15); (18) that all incidents in the course of which a firearm is discharged, whether accidentally or deliberately, should be mandatorily referable to us. This would enable there to be an independent presence at the examination of the circumstances surrounding those incidents which understandably give rise to public anxiety (paragraph 2.33).

Finally, I have noted the authority's comment that the question of a lower level of summary disciplinary hearings is worthy of further discussion (paragraph 3.20).

I have been heartened by the positive response to the consultation document on the authority's recommendations and I am satisfied that the action I have outlined above will further enhance the operation of the procedures for dealing with complaints against the police.

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