All IPCC legacy and long-running conduct cases should be reviewed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and there needs to be better disclosure training for officers, according to the Police Federation’s national conduct lead.
Phill Matthews made the remarks after the IOPC withdrew a direction to compel Bedfordshire Police to hold a gross misconduct hearing following the death of a man in custody which left five police officers in limbo for more than six years.
The move has been welcomed by Liz Groom, chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation.
“Of course, with any incident like this, the actions of the officers involved have to be thoroughly investigated. But the length of time it has taken is unacceptable and should not be allowed to happen again,” said Liz.
“For more than six years these officers have been dealing with the stress, anxiety, worry and uncertainty of being under investigation with no idea of how long it is all going to last. That will have had an impact on them and their families. It is unacceptable for anyone to be under investigation for that length of time – an urgent review of legacy cases needs to take place to ensure this does not happen again.”
Leon Briggs (39) died in hospital on 4 November 2013 after becoming ill at Luton Police Station where he had been detained under the Mental Health Act.
In March 2018 the Crown Prosecution Service decided none of the five police officers and the one detention officer who had been in contact with Mr Briggs before his death should face criminal proceedings.
The IOPC pressed on with misconduct proceedings against the officers, directing their force to hold a gross misconduct hearing due to have run from 7 February to 28 February.
But on Friday, the IOPC announced it had rescinded its decision, after the Federation had flagged numerous failings regarding the disclosure process which meant the officers could not be guaranteed a fair hearing.
Michael Lockwood, the IOPC director general, contacted Phill to discuss how the process can be improved.
Phill said: “This matter must be a catalyst for change and all long-running cases must now be reviewed with the same vigour before they too come to hearings – particularly outstanding legacy cases from the IPCC era.
“If ever there was a case that exampled the need for Time Limits on police misconduct investigations, this is it.
“This case highlights all that was wrong with the old IOPC and misconduct system with some shocking errors being made throughout investigation processes.
“The IOPC has blamed the Force for offering no evidence but if they don’t believe there is a case to answer it cannot be right that the IOPC can compel that officers be put through a process which is detrimental to their health and wellbeing, and costly to the public.
“It is a shame this case could not have been pulled sooner by its investigators, and that it got to the stage where Mr Lockwood himself had to review it before rescinding the decision to direct.”
Speaking on Friday, he said: “We must remember that at the heart of this incident a man lost his life and it is only right that the actions of the officers who had contact with him are scrutinised and this has been done. I appreciate today’s developments will come as little comfort to Mr Briggs’ family and the IOPC must also look at how they deal with families who find themselves in these tragic situations.”