The right to complain against the authorities is one fundamental principle in a democratic nation. This right assures every citizen that democracy is being practiced healthily, as those in power are constantly undergoing balance checks. It also ensures that the power is at the citizen’s hands.
But what if a decision on the complaint turns out unfavorable? Does this mean the complaint is closed and cannot be appealed? Not necessarily. A decision may be either appealed or reviewed, and in this article, we will show you how this works and how you can appeal a decision.
The Right to Appeal vs Review: The Distinction
You may not know it, but a complaint may still be reconsidered for further appeal or review. So what is the difference between a right to appeal and the right to review?
If you have made a complaint before February 1, 2020, you have the right to appeal your complaint to the courts. Meanwhile, complaints made after the mentioned date can be appealed for review. Note that the relevant body will only look at the process done by the office that handled the complaint. They will not reinvestigate your complaint per se.
Instances Where IOPC Handles the Appeal
Now, who handles the complainant’s appeals? This will vary in some situations, but the local police force will most likely administer the appeal. Otherwise, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) will take care of the appeal. The IOPC handles the appeals in the following instances:
- Unrecorded complaint
- A complaint made against a police officer with a rank above the chief superintendent
- If the complaint alone cannot justify criminal or misconduct proceedings
- If the complaint infringes Articles 2 and 3 of the Human Rights Act of 1998
- A mandatory referred complaint to the IOPC
- Another complaint made due to the instances mentioned above
Where to File an Appeal and What Is the Process?
Once you receive the decision (outcome letter) on your complaint and feel dissatisfied with it, the appropriate authority will send you a letter that will tell you if you have a right to appeal or review. This letter will also point to which office will handle your appeal. As already mentioned above, the appropriate authority will vary. The organization or person being complained will also be notified. The IOPC will take care of the appeal under the abovementioned circumstances. Otherwise, it will be handled by the local police force.
Take note that there is a time limit on when to file your appeal to the appropriate organization. It will be 28 days after the receipt of the outcome letter of the complaint. Say, if you have received the outcome letter on September 24, the letter must reach the authority’s desk by October 22.
Once the appropriate authority receives the appeal, they will then assess whether the handling or the final outcome of your complaint was reasonable and proportionate. The decision could be to upheld the decision of the original decision-making-body (i.e. local police force) or to not upheld.
A “final decision” to a complaint does not necessarily mean the case is closed. Remember, the police force is being diligently monitored by independent organizations, and thus, one must not fear appealing a complaint. A dissatisfied citizen means the police must deliver better and just services to its constituents. If you are given the opportunity to appeal, appeal!
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.