This Briefing Paper gives basic factual information about the police complaints system in England and Wales to assist with constituents’ questions. It also gives brief information on the systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland, mainly for comparative purposes. Major reforms to the system in England and Wales are coming when the Policing and Crime Act 2017 comes into force.Jump to full report >>
The current system is complex, and so is the legislation governing it. In brief:
There is no further right of appeal to the IPCC’s decision, or to chief officers’ decisions on those appeals which they hear. If a complainant remained unsatisfied and wanted to pursue the matter, they would have to seek redress through judicial review, and would need legal advice.
The Policing and Crime Act 2017 will make major changes to the system when the relevant sections come into force. These include:
In Scotland, if a complainant is unhappy with the response offered by the police to a non-criminal complaint, they can refer it to the Police Investigations and Review Commission who may then carry out a review of the way in which it was handled. The PIRC can direct that the complaint must be reconsidered.
The PIRC can also investigate the most serious incidents independently.
In Northern Ireland, all complaints are investigated by the independent Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. The creation of the Ombudsman was a key part of the peace process, following criticisms of the previous system.
Commons Briefing papers SN02056
Author: Pat Strickland