Time Limits: Lords asked to support Federation campaign

National Police Federation representatives are meeting members of the House of Lords for talks aimed at bringing an end to lengthy, damaging and costly conduct inquiries.

They will propose an amendment to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill that will protect the mental health and welfare of police officers under investigation by introducing a 12-month cap on investigations.

More than 40 outstanding police misconduct investigations lasting for more than a year have been reported during the last 18 months and are costing UK taxpayers millions of pounds.

The meeting, which comes as part of the ongoing Police Federation Time Limits campaign and takes place at New Scotland Yard on Tuesday, has been welcomed by Dyfed Powys Police Federation.

Branch chair Gareth Jones said: “The Police Federation has always made the mental health and wellbeing of its members a top priority and the impact on officers who find themselves at the centre of a prolonged investigation into their conduct can be truly devastating.

“We have been campaigning for a 12-month cap on such inquiries for some time now and hopefully we will soon be seeing the introduction of legislation to ensure this goal is achieved.

“There is no reason why allegations of misconduct cannot be investigated and resolved within a year but as things stand there is no time limit and they can drag on and on, causing real distress to officers, their families and their colleagues.

“Dyfed Powys Police Federation fully backs the Time Limits campaign and welcomes this important step forward.”

Police Federation estimates show an investigation lasting up to six months costs £15,101 per officer but rockets to £302,012 when it drags on for five years or more.

The Home Office has added a clause to the regulations which means the Independent Office for Police Conduct, or appropriate authority, has to give an explanation if investigations last longer than 12 months but there is still no sanction. 

National Federation conduct and performance lead Phill Matthews said: “Police and Crime Commissioners have absolutely no power to do anything other than welcoming the explanation.

“That can’t be right. It’s not right for our members who are still suffering the mental trauma of waiting to find out their fate, and unfair for those victims who deserve closure.”

After working with lawyers, the Federation is suggesting an amendment which would see a legally qualified person – who usually sits as a chair at disciplinary hearings – look at the investigation from the 12 month point to determine if the length of time is rational and set a reasonable deadline for the investigation to be concluded.

The proposed amendment has already gained cross-party support but the Federation is urging the policing minister to discuss the beneficial change with us.

Phill said: “We don’t think the policing minister understands the full impact of the discipline system on our members and the public – that is a sad state of affairs for us.

“We are not after an absolute limit, we are pushing for something which is best for the public and police officers and would welcome a discussion with the Policing Minister on this important topic.” 

Phill said things had improved in recent years but warned the Time Limits campaign still had much work to do.

He said: “There are cases going on for years and years which have a detrimental effect on our members’ wellbeing and mental health, plus the cost to the public is phenomenal.

“One investigation dragged out for a year or more is one too many from our point of view.”