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Complaints Against The Police FAQ

Complaints Against The Police FAQ

Note that our solicitors will advise you about whether it is appropriate for you to make a police complaint.


For more information call 0370 1500 100

How do I make a complaint?

More often than not your solicitor will advise you to make the initial complaint depending on the seriousness of the allegations to either the local Professional Standards Department or alternatively directly to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It is usual practice for a detailed complaint statement to be taken by the police and you will be kept informed as to developments of your complaint at least once every 28 days.

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What is being / has been done about my complaint?

The procedure for dealing with complaints against persons serving with the police is laid down by parliament. The police force concerned is responsible for appointing a senior police officer to investigate the complaint. This officer then obtains statements from witnesses, collects any other relevant evidence and makes a report.

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How do I know that my complaint has been properly investigated?

The investigation of complaints against persons serving with the police is overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which is independent of the police. Where appropriate the IPCC may itself investigate the more serious cases, or alternatively it may decide to manage or supervise the investigation even if it is not doing so in your case you can contact the IPCC if you think that the investigation has not been properly carried out. The contact details are:-

Independent Police Complaints Commission
90 High Holborn

Telephone: 08453 002002

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Who decides whether my complaint has been upheld and whether any police officer should be prosecuted for a criminal or disciplinary offence?

The decision whether a person serving with the police should be prosecuted is made by the Crown Prosecution Service. When police enquiries are completed the Crown Prosecution Service receives a copy of the report made by the investigating officer and a copy of the evidence. The Crown Prosecution Service will deal with allegations against persons serving with the police in exactly the same way as allegations against anyone else, except that those made against persons serving with the police are dealt with not by the local CPS office which covers the area where the person works but by a different unit where the CPS staff have no connection working or working relationship.

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How does the Crown Prosecution Service decide whether to prosecute?

The conditions which must be satisfied before the Crown Prosecution Service can prosecute a person are set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Generally in accordance with the Court, the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes only when a case passes the following tests:-

• The evidential stage

Crown prosecutors must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction i.e. more likely that not.

• The public interest stage

Crown prosecutors must decide whether a prosecution is in the public interest.

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How does the Crown Prosecution Service decide whether the evidence is sufficient?

Crown Prosecutors must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction on each charge. A “realistic prospect of conviction” means that a jury or magistrate, properly directed in accordance with the law is likely to convict the Defendant of the charge alleged.

Crown Prosecutors will consider what the Defendant is likely to say in his defence and how that is likely to affect the prosecution case.

When deciding whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the Crown Prosecutor must consider whether the evidence can be used in Court and is reliable.

Generally the Crown Prosecution Service will not automatically ignore evidence where it may be challenged but must look closely at cases where this is a possibility to ensure that there is a realistic prospect of conviction.

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What if I am not believed?

It is not a question of Crown Prosecutors believing or disbelieving witnesses. The job of the Crown Prosecution Service is to assess evidence and weigh the public interest in each case. The evidence of one witness may directly conflict with the evidence of another. Crown Prosecutors assess the quality of the evidence from all witnesses before reaching a decision.

The Crown Prosecution Service will only consider bringing a prosecution if it satisfied that the evidence provides a realistic prospect of conviction. They cannot prosecute just because it appears that the allegation may be true. This does not mean that you have not been believed. The most important thing is the allegation can be proved in Court.

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What can I do if I am unhappy about the way my complaint was handled?

If you have made a complaint against the police and the Crown Prosecution Service decide not to institute any criminal proceedings and the police do not feel there is enough evidence to justify disciplinary proceedings then you may be able to appeal to the IPCC. The decisions of the IPCC cannot be overruled except by a Court of law.

The IPCC is responsible for the way complaints about the police are handled. They are also responsible for considering appeals made by members of the public about their complaint and can, where appropriate, direct the police to change their decisions or to take further action.

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Can I appeal against the outcome of a police complaints investigation?

You can appeal to the IPCC about the outcome of a local investigation by the police or an IPCC supervised investigation if:-

  • You have not been provided with adequate information about the findings of the investigation or the actions the police propose to take (or not to take).
  • In many cases the police can give you the information above by providing you with a copy of the investigating officer’s report.
  • You disagree with the findings of the investigation. Such reasons may include:-

- some witnesses were not traced and interviewed

- some parts of the complaint were not investigated

- the evidence does not support the outcome

  • You disagree with the action the police propose to take as a result of the investigation. Such reasons could include:-

- you think the proposed penalty to be brought against the police officer or member of police staff is too lenient

- you would like to receive an apology from the police about an issue which has been identified as a result of the investigation.

Please note that there is no right to appeal to the IPCC about an investigation which has been managed or independently investigated by the IPCC.

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How do I make an appeal?

You must make your appeal to the IPCC within 28 days of the date of the letter you have received from the police notifying you of the outcome if the investigation.

If you do not submit your appeal to the IPCC within 28 days, the IPCC does not have to consider your appeal. The IPCC may be able to extend this time period if you have very special circumstances or alternatively you fully explain your reasons for requesting an extension.

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How will the IPCC deal with my appeal?

Once your appeal form has been received the IPCC will send you a letter indicating the case work manager who will be dealing with the appeal and explain how you can contact them.

The IPCC will consider the information that you have given on the appeal form and contact the police to get any relevant information or paperwork. The IPCC will then make a decision as to whether the appeal can be upheld.

If the appeal is upheld the IPCC will give instructions to the chief police Officer or police authority about what they should do about your complaint. The IPCC will inform you of the instructions they have given to the police and explain what will happen next.

If your appeal is not upheld, the IPCC will write to you explaining how and why they have reached their decision.

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