Expert Calls For Clarity And Consistency Over Disciplinary Action
Legal experts have urged police forces across the UK to be more transparent and consistent following revelations in the media that 160 officers are sacked in ‘secret’ disciplinary hearings every year.
Irwin Mitchell is calling for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and other police authorities to embrace the use of public hearings and ensure that officers found to be breaching their duty of care are properly held to account.
The demands have come following an investigation carried out by The Times newspaper based on Freedom of Information requests, which revealed that hearings related to criminal activity, assaults and even carrying firearms when drunk are held behind closed doors.
It has also been suggested that the cost of suspending the accused on full pay for long periods runs into £2.7 million a year, while there was also a lack of consistency in terms of how officers are disciplined across different regions.
Irwin Mitchell represents a number of people who have suffered distress, injury or been falsely imprisoned as a result of police officers failing to carry out their duties in the correct manner.
Among the firm’s most notable cases is that of a Leeds man tasered by police while in a diabetic coma on a bus. Officers shot the victim in July 2007, weeks after the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in London, due to fears he may have been a suicide bomber
Ifti Manzoor, a specialist at the law firm who worked on that case and a number of others in which people have suffered serious injuries as a result of excessive force or misuse of equipment by police, said: “While it is pleasing to see that many officers are held to account for their failure to adhere to carry out their duties to the right standard, it is concerning to see that such cases are being dealt with in secret and with a lack of consistency.
“While the police’s role in society is vital one and the large majority of officers perform to a high standard, it is an unfortunate truth that problems and failings are seen in some cases.
“We believe that standards will only rise if information on disciplinary hearings is fully published, as this will mean that forces are publicly held to account for the failings which continue to blight their services.”
He continued: “With high-profile cases such as the death of Ian Tomlinson dominating headlines in recent weeks, it is clear that the public need to know police officers who are believed to have misused their power are fully investigated.
“Many people are also keen to discover what lessons have been learnt following failings and how measures will be put in place to prevent further problems happening again.
“This also means that offences need to be dealt with in the same manner across the board, as it is completely wrong that anyone who is heavily reprimanded in one force would only be given a slap on the wrists while working in another.
“I hope that this investigation by The Times leads to a clear change in how officers are held to account and encourages forces to be more open and honest about failings and how they will seek to improve in the future.”