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Police Reform Act 2002

Commentary on Sections

Schedule 3Part 2: Handling of conduct matters

Paragraph 10: Conduct matters arising in civil proceedings

87.This paragraph applies where a chief officer or a police authority receives notification that civil proceedings are being brought or are likely to be brought by a member of the public and that those proceedings arise from what could be described as a conduct matter. The purpose of this is to ensure that any matter that would otherwise be dealt with as a complaint or a conduct matter is recorded and dealt with as though it was a complaint or a conduct matter. This provision will ensure that such matters are dealt with appropriately, particularly where civil proceedings are settled out of court.

88.On becoming aware of such a conduct matter, if a chief officer or a police authority is satisfied that he or it is the appropriate authority, that conduct matter must be recorded. If not, it must be passed to the appropriate authority to be recorded. Thus, unlike conduct matters in other cases, where the test in paragraph 11 must be satisfied for a conduct matter to be recorded, all conduct matters arising from civil proceedings will be recorded. The appropriate authority need not record the matter if it is satisfied that the matter has been or is being dealt with satisfactorily by means of criminal or disciplinary proceedings. The reason for this is that in such a case, an investigation will have been carried out and there would be no need for a second investigation.

Paragraph 11: Recording etc. of conduct matters in other cases

89.A conduct matter is described in section 12(2) as a matter that has not been the subject of a complaint but is one which indicates that a person serving with the police may have committed a criminal offence or whose conduct may justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings.

90.Sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) provide that where a conduct matter comes to the attention of the appropriate authority and it appears to have resulted in the death of or serious injury to any person, or had an adverse effect on a member of the public, or is of a description specified in regulations, it will have a duty to record the matter.

91.Where a conduct matter has been recorded, sub-paragraph (3) requires the appropriate authority to determine if it is to be referred, either compulsorily or voluntarily, to the Commission under paragraph 13. If the conduct matter is not referred to the Commission, the appropriate authority may deal with it at its own discretion.

92.Sub-paragraph (4) prevents a conduct matter from entering the system if it has been or is being dealt with satisfactorily by means of criminal or disciplinary proceedings.

Paragraph 13: Reference of conduct matters to the Commission

93.The duties and powers related to the referral of a complaint to the Commission, as set out in paragraph 4 of this Schedule, are the same as those which relate to the referral of a conduct matter that is not the subject of a complaint.

94.One of the general functions of the Commission is to secure public confidence in the arrangements for handling conduct matters (and complaints), as set out in section 10. In order to achieve this, there needs to be provision to enable matters about serious conduct, or which attract high public interest, or which involve exceptional circumstances, to go to the Commission and for that independent Commission to determine how they should be handled.

95.This paragraph describes which conduct matters come forward to the Commission. Conduct matters will come forward to the Commission in one of four ways:

  • sub-paragraph (1)(a) and (b) place a duty on the appropriate authority to refer a conduct matter if the alleged conduct has resulted in death or serious injury (i.e. as set out in section 29(1): fracture, damage to an internal organ, a deep cut or laceration or any injury causing the impairment of any bodily function) or it falls into a category specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State – a list of specified categories will be set in regulations to ensure that all serious conduct matters are brought to the attention of the Commission;

  • sub-paragraph (1)(c) gives a power to the Commission to direct an appropriate authority to refer a conduct matter to it because it may have particular concerns about that matter;

  • sub-paragraph (2) enables the appropriate authority voluntarily to refer any other conduct matter because there may be particular concerns about the gravity or exceptional circumstances of that matter (e.g. high incidence of a particular conduct or a particular local sensitivity); or

  • where a chief officer, who is the appropriate authority, is not required to refer a conduct matter to the Commission and does not do so, sub-paragraph (3) gives a power to his police authority to refer that conduct matter to the Commission if it has particular concerns about the gravity or exceptional circumstances of that matter.

96.Where there is an obligation to refer a conduct matter to the Commission, sub-paragraph (4) requires the referral to be made within a period set in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

97.Sub-paragraph (5) provides for all these powers of referral to be exercisable at any time and, where appropriate with the consent of the Commission, irrespective of whether a conduct matter is under investigation or has already been considered by the Commission. The purpose of this is to allow a late referral where concerns arise after an investigation has started.

98.Sub-paragraph (6) requires the appropriate authority to notify the person whose alleged conduct is the subject of the recordable conduct matter providing there is no prejudice to any investigation.

Paragraph 14: Duties of the Commission on references under paragraph 13

99.Where a conduct matter has been referred by an appropriate authority to the Commission under paragraph 13, the Commission will have a duty to determine whether or not that conduct matter is to be investigated. If it determines that it is not necessary for that conduct matter to be investigated, the Commission may refer it back for the appropriate authority to deal with at its discretion and shall notify the person who committed the alleged conduct providing there is no prejudice to any investigation.

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