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Actions Against The Police

Police Complaints Procedure

If you’ve been mistreated by the police, making a complaint can be an important step in taking action. However, the process can be complicated for more serious complaints and many are not investigated properly without legal representation.

Our expert lawyers understand the issues that surround police complaints and can help make sure your case is given the attention it needs. We could help you if you’ve been subject to:

Police complaints should be investigated either by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) or the Professional Standards Department, depending on the severity of the incident complaint of, and the police officer’s conduct dealt with accordingly.

Our specialist team of police complaints lawyers has an excellent track record helping people with all kinds of complaints against the police. We’ll use our experience and expertise to help you get the answers you deserve and ensure that the necessary action is taken.

Contact us today on 0800 028 1943 or fill out our online form.

Excellent track record in police claims
Ranked as a leading firm by top legal guides
Specialist police complaints solicitors
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Police Complaints - More Information
    • Who Can Make A Claim?
    • Anyone who believes they have been subjected to police misconduct may be able to bring legal action against the police. You can also bring a claim on someone else’s behalf if they are unable to – for example if they:

      • Are a child
      • Lack mental capacity to instruct solicitors

      You can also bring a claim on behalf of a loved one who has died if an inquest finds that the police or other authority was responsible for their death. For more information on how we can represent you at inquest, please visit our Inquests page.

    • How Long Do I Have To Make A Claim?
    • There are strict time limits in place when bringing a claim, so we always recommend getting in touch with our experts sooner rather than later.

      You have 6 years to make a claim for wrongful arrest or false imprisonment. However, you only have 3 years if you are making a personal injury claim.

      If you are making a complaint against the police, you only have one year.

      There are some exceptions that may apply, for example:

      • If you are claiming on behalf of a child
      • If you are bringing a claim on behalf of someone without the mental capacity to bring their own claim

      If you are thinking about making a claim against the police or another authority, we urge you to get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can advise you on the best action.

    • What’s The Process For Making A Claim?
    • First of all you’ll speak to one of our friendly team on the phone. You can talk to us about your situation and we’ll assess whether or not we can help you.

      If we’re able to take your claim forward, we’ll get started right away. Our expert team will look into your case in detail, compiling evidence to make sure your case is as strong as possible. Where appropriate – for example in the case of personal injury – we’ll obtain expert medical opinion to support your claim and show the impact on your life.

      Bringing a claim against the police may involve first filing a police complaint. If this is the case, we’ll be able to advise you through the process. You can find out more about how these complaints are dealt with on our Police Complaints Procedure page.

      Once we have everything we need, we’ll attempt to settle your claim. Most cases settle out of court and that is always our preferred option, but if this isn’t possible, we will support you through the trial and help you with any court appearance.

    • What Is The IPCC?
    • The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is an independent body set up to deal with complaints against the police. Anyone can make a complaint to the IPCC but they tend to only investigate the most serious claims – usually those involving severe injury or death.

      Complaints not dealt with by the IPCC should be referred to the Professional Standards Department within the relevant police force so that the conduct of the police officer/s involved can be properly investigated. However, this is often not the case, and we often find examples of both the IPCC and the Professional Standards Department not properly applying the police complaints procedure.

      This means although the correct structures are in place for people to file a complaint against the police, this doesn’t guarantee every complaint the attention it deserves.

      For this reason we advise having the experts on your side. 


    • What funding is available?
    • When we first take on your case will discuss funding options with you. Legal aid is available to bring claims against the police, provided you meet the financial eligibility criteria. If you don't qualify for legal aid, we can offer conditional fee agreements (No Win No Fee*), fixed fee, or other funding arrangements depending on your circumstances.

    • Meet the Team
    • We’ve helped clients to claim against almost every major police force in the country. Our specialist lawyers have the experience and expertise to make sure your case gets the attention it deserves.

      We have a proven track record of success in high profile cases and frequently challenge police policy and activities. Fiona McGhie on our team worked with Cerebra to update their guidelines on the arrest and detention of disabled children. We also work closely with the charity INQUEST to push for more transparency around deaths in police custody and other state detention.

      We are listed as a leading firm in the area of Actions Against the Police by the premier legal guides the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. As well as our own specialist knowledge, as a full-service law firm we can draw on the expertise of colleagues from all areas of law where appropriate to ensure your case is dealt with as comprehensively as possible.

      We promise to keep you informed throughout your case, avoiding legal jargon and explaining everything to you in plain English. However your case progresses, we’ll do everything we can to protect your best interests and take the determined action required to achieve a positive resolution for you and your family.

      Meet the team

I feel like I've taken on the world and beaten it, not just for me but for everyone else."

Mrs R, Client
Client Quote

Frequently Asked Questions

How Are Police Complaints Dealt With?

Complaints about the police can either be made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission or directly the police force concerned. Complaints that are not dealt with by the IPCC should be investigated by the Professional Standards Department within the relevant police force.

There are two ways a police complaint can be dealt with by the PSD:

  • Local resolution
  • Local investigation

Local resolution is for less serious complaints. It aims to provide you with an explanation of what happened and – if appropriate – an apology.

Local investigation is for more serious complaints, including those concerning unlawful arrest. It should involve a full investigation into the conduct of the officer, or officers, whom the complaint is about. The investigating officer will then produce a report concluding whether or not there is a case for misconduct or gross misconduct.

In the most serious cases, the IPCC will determine that one of the following type of investigation is appropriate:

  • Supervised investigation
  • Managed investigation
  • Independent investigation

The mode of investigation can be very important in ensuring a complaint is properly investigated. We recommend that you contact us at an early stage, particularly if your complaint relates to death or serious injury.

If there is evidence of misconduct, the officer(s) could be subject to:

  • Disciplinary action
  • Criminal charges

The case will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service if the officer’s conduct is deemed serious enough to face criminal charges.

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Why Do I Need A Lawyer To Make A Police Complaint?

The police complaint system is very complicated and can be difficult to navigate without legal guidance. The IPCC will only look into the most serious cases – usually those involving serious injury or death.

If the IPCC don’t deal with a complaint itself it should be referred to the Professional Standards Department of the police force concerned. However, we often find cases of both the IPCC and the Professional Standards departments not upholding complaints in circumstances where we think they should have done so.

If you do not have legal representation, you may miss valid grounds of complaint. This means investigations may not be carried out properly and you do not get the answers and assurances you need. It also means police conduct and procedure is not properly reviewed, and others may go on to face exactly the same issues in the future.

Making a complaint to the police is not the same as taking legal action against them. Pursuing legal action is known as a civil claim and it’s important to make sure this is not undermined by your police complaint – which can be the case if you do not have the appropriate legal support. We can advise you on whether you have grounds for a civil claim as well as a complaint, and can make sure your case is taken forwards in the best way.

If you’re concerned your complaint has not been investigated properly, we could also support you through the appeals process. Having a specialist lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the complaints process can be crucial in making sure your police complaint is dealt with in the best way possible.

Contact one of the team today on 0800 028 1943 – or fill out an enquiry form online and one of our experts will call you back.

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How Can Irwin Mitchell Help?

Our specialist lawyers have represented a significant number of people in a wide range of police complaints. We have a wealth of experience making sure complaints are fully investigated, often conducting our own investigation before submitting the complaint to ensure it is as strong as it can be.

We can also represent you through the appeals process if a complaint has not been successful. We have extensive experience bringing actions against the police and in some cases can help you bring a civil claim in conjunction with your complaint. The police complaint itself will not result in compensation – but a thorough investigation can reveal valuable evidence which assists a compensation claim.

The complexity of the complaints system means that it’s often very difficult for non-specialist lawyers to navigate it successfully. Our highly experienced police complaints lawyers understand the nuances and potential difficulties of the process. We’ll give you the right representation to make sure your case is given the attention it deserves and the right action is taken wherever possible.

Irwin Mitchell is recognised by the foremost legal guides as a leading firm in the area of actions against the police. We’ll use our expertise to help you get the resolution you need, giving you support and guidance along the way.

Contact our team today on 0800 028 1943 for more information.

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We're always proud to be recognised for the work we do for our clients and have been named as a leading firm in the latest legal guides - which provide information and recommendations about lawyers and law firms in the UK.


Private Client Team of the Year - Legal Business Awards 2018 Leading Firm - Legal 500 2017 UK Chambers & Partners Leading Firm 2018

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