ESSENTIAL FORENSICS

IPCC moves to stop officers conferring

Posted on | Posted in Blog

Watchdog plans guidance that says officers should be separated after deaths and serious injuries.

The police watchdog is planning to introduce guidance spelling out that officers should be separated and must not confer before giving statements about a death or serious injury.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has maintained that officers conferring to produce accounts of fatal shootings or deaths in custody damages public confidence.

After meeting the family of Mark Duggan (pictured), IPCC Deputy Chair Rachel Cerfontyne said the watchdog would “hold officers to account” if they did not abide by the guidance.

Mr Duggan was fatally shot by police in August 2011, sparking widespread disorder across England and Wales. An inquest that concluded in early January this year found that that he was lawfully killed.

Ms Cerfontyne added: “The inquest (into Mr Duggan’s death) and our own review of the way we investigate deaths, show the problems that can arise when officers confer when writing up their notes following fatal incidents.

“The guidance will cover conferring and separation of officers. Legally, we have to consult on the content of this guidance. Once agreed by the Home Secretary, we will expect police officers to comply with it and call them to account if they do not.”

Under Section 22 of the Police Reform Act that established the IPCC, chief officers and forces have a duty to regard the guidance issued by the watchdog.

A failure to do so can be used as evidence against individuals during disciplinary proceedings, a spokeswoman for the IPCC said.

Steve Evans, Secretary of the Police Federation’s Professional Standards Committee, said officers conferring after incidents should not be viewed as nefarious and was an effective way of obtaining the best account of an incident from multiple views.

He say’s “I can understand why people view it as a suspicious process. I can understand those on the other side of the matter asking ‘what are they up to?’

“But they are not up to anything. It’s just an attempt to produce the best evidence. There’s nothing suspicious about it. They’re just trying to get things right and get an accurate account, no more, no less.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We will consider the IPCC’s proposals for statutory guidance on post-incident management following death or serious injury once we have received them.”

Ms Cerfontyne also apologised for public statements made by the IPCC shortly after the shooting of Mr Duggan, which said he had fired on officers.

She continued: “Post-incident management is something that has been of concern not only to the Duggan family but to many of those we consulted in our review of the way we investigate deaths.

“We are taking steps to deal with those criticisms. In deaths that follow police contact, the police, by definition, will always be first on the scene.

“However, our senior investigators now issue instructions to them from the outset, and we are providing scene management training to our investigators. A key part of our expansion plans is to strengthen our capacity to take control of scenes at the earliest possible stage.”

Mark Williams, CEO of the Police Firearms Officers’ Association, said the IPCC’s comments were “another public attack” on its members.

“Throughout the enquiry (into Mark Duggan’s shooting) all officers complied with the regulatory guidelines under which these matters are investigated,” he said.

“The effectiveness and tactics employed by the IPCC needs urgent review so that the public and officers have faith in a truly effective and independent body.”

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