Proceedings after a Complaint is Filed

You already filed your complaint, what next? Primarily, the police force will decide whether or not the complaint should be recorded or not. They must also consider if the complaint should be referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). Usually, a complaint is referred to the IOPC if the same is about a death or serious injury matter.

The complainant must also be promptly contacted by the relevant force/organisation, and explain how the complaint will be handled. Generally, an update on the progress of the complaint must be given to the complainant at least once every 28 days.

What is a recorded complaint? 

Recorded complaints are such that expresses dissatisfaction on the service received from a police force and such must be dealt with by the appropriate authority according to the Schedule 3 of Police Reform Act of 2002. Once the appropriate authority determined that the complaints must be recorded, they must do this without delay.

Initial Handling by the Appropriate Authority

After receipt of the complaint, the appropriate authority must contact the complainant as soon as possible. In many cases, doing this ensures the crucial success of the complaint because some can be resolved during this initial contact. At this stage, the complainant will also be provided with the name and contact details of the complaint handler and will be informed of what to expect and what process will be done.

Each complaints are assessed on a case to case basis. Sometimes, it is appropriate not to investigate the complaint and one common reason is when it is made after 12 months from the date of the incident, and there is no valid reason for the delay. Sometimes, it is appropriate that the complaint be further handled either 1) by local resolution or 2) by local investigation.

Local Resolution

Here, complaints are dealt with reasonably and proportionately otherwise than by investigation at the local level. These are considered less serious and those that won’t probably end up in court.

Reasonable and proportionate handling means doing what is appropriate in the circumstances, which is assessed on a case to case basis. The facts of the matter and the context in which it has been raised must be taken into account within the framework of legislation and guidance. A reasonable and proportionate handling includes acknowledging all aspects of the complaint, giving an impartial decision free from bias based from the evidence obtained, and working on the same in a timely manner.

Local Investigations 

Once the force/organization determines that a local resolution will not suffice, an investigation may be carried out by the appropriate authority. It must determine if there is an indication that a member of a police force or special constable may have committed a criminal offense or behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings.

Throughout the investigation, the complainant will be updated of its progress until the findings has been reached. The possible outcomes could be:

  • No further action
  • Referral to CPS
  • Case to answer or no case to answer
  • Unsatisfactory performance
  • Practice requiring improvement
  • Learning (Organisational or individual)
  • Other remedy of complainant’s dissatisfaction
  • Paragraph 28ZA recommendations (if the investigation was carried out by the IOPC or a local policing body, or under the direction of the IOPC)

Note: At the end of a local resolution or local investigation, the appropriate authority must give the complainant a letter regarding the outcome of the complaint and whether the same is subject to a right of appeal or review.

To recapitulate the proceedings, after filing a formal complaint, a police force decides if the same will be recorded, not recorded, or referred to the IOPC. The complainant will then be contacted by the police force concerned to explain how the complaint will be handled. If the complaint will not be investigated, the complainant will be informed of the decision and if he has a right to review or appeal. If the complaint will be furthered handled either by local resolution or by local investigation, updates will be given at least once every 28 days until the final resolution is reached.

This article was prepared by the Association Against Abuse of Police Powers and Privileges (AAAPPP), a UK not-for-profit organisation specializing in assisting victims of abuse of power and corruption in the UK Police.