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Police Reform Act 2002

Part 2: Complaints and Misconduct

15.The Government issued a consultation paper in May 2000 entitled Complaints against the Police: A Consultation Document (available on the Home Office website at This paper was based on a KPMG study commissioned by the Home Office on Feasibility of an Independent System for Investigating Complaints against the Police (ISBN 1-84082-453-0) and a study by Liberty on An Independent Police Complaints Commission (available through Liberty’s website at The paper sought views on various aspects of the police complaints system including the recording and investigation of complaints, police discipline, and openness on the part of the police, including the disclosure of reports and other information. The Government received 45 responses (28 from police bodies, 12 from other interested bodies and 5 from private individuals).

16.In response to the consultation exercise the Government issued, in December 2000, a framework document entitled Complaints against the Police: Framework for a New System (also available through the Home Office website). This document set out the emerging framework for the new complaints procedures, explained how this framework was developed, and invited further views on specific points. In light of the responses to the consultation paper and the framework document the Government has introduced the provisions in Part 2 and sections 35 to 37 of Part 3 of the Act.

17.Part 2 will create a new system for handling complaints against the police and will establish a new body to oversee this system, the IPCC. The IPCC will replace the Police Complaints Authority (originally established under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) and will be a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB).

18.The IPCC will have referred to it all serious cases falling into specified categories, whether or not a complaint has been made. It will have its own powers of investigation and will have a body of independent investigators at its disposal. It will also have the power to manage or to supervise police investigations of complaints. The IPCC will have the power to call in any case to investigate, to manage or to supervise.

19.Chief officers of police will have to co-operate with IPCC investigations. They will have a legal obligation to provide the IPCC with access to documentation or other material, allow the IPCC to copy such documentation, and allow the IPCC access to police premises.

20.Access to the complaints system will be increased. Persons other than the victim will be able to make a complaint against the police. Furthermore, complainants will be able to make their complaints via a third party or through independent organisations. Complainants will also have a right of appeal to the IPCC against the refusal by the appropriate authority to record a complaint.

21.Subject to a test relating to any risk that harm may be caused by disclosure of the information, complainants will be provided with an account of how the complaint investigation has been conducted, a summary of the evidence and an explanation of why the conclusions to an investigation were reached. A complainant will have a right of appeal to the IPCC if they feel that the written account does not provide a satisfactory explanation of the investigation. In certain circumstances, information may be disclosed to persons other than the complainant but they will not have a right of appeal.

22.These provisions are intended to provide a more robust system for dealing with complaints against the police and to increase public confidence in the complaints system as a whole.

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